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Oct. 3

5 ways to build a healthy breakfast

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “5 ways to build a better breakfast.”

You can also read it HERE.

Eating breakfast is a perfect opportunity to get a healthy dose of several key nutrients including fiber, protein, and calcium. It can also be a good time to bond with your family and touch base before heading out for the day. While there has been a recent debate about the merits of eating breakfast for weight loss, it is agreed that children should eat breakfast.

What you choose for breakfast is important for improving your health, and the right breakfast may keep you feeling full and help you eat less later in the day so that you may even lose a few pounds.

Here are five simple tips that I use with clients to help build a healthy breakfast.

1. Include a healthy protein rich food.
Including a serving of protein rich food will help keep you full. A few great choices are low-fat Greek yogurt (yes, Greek yogurt is packed with protein), eggs, or egg whites. Nut butters such as almond butter or peanut butter are also great options so long as you practice portion control (a walnut in its shell is approximately 2 tablespoons worth). Low-fat milk and cheese are also good options.

2. Include a serving of fruit.
Eating a serving of fruit in the morning is a great way to get a dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. Choose a fruit in season that you enjoy. A cup of berries or melon in season is a great choice. An apple or pear is portable if you want to bring it with you. An orange or half grapefruit is another great option. Whole fruit is preferred over juice. The fruit is higher in fiber and lower in calories. And it takes time to chew so you will eat slowly and recognize that you are eating.

3. Include a whole-grain serving.
So many people are skipping carbs, in particular, healthy grains, in an effort to lose weight. Grains and carbs are not the villain. While I would recommend skipping the donuts, coffee cake, and bagels, or saving these foods for a special occasion, a cup of cooked oatmeal or a slice of whole wheat bread is a great choice to include for your morning meal. Other examples of healthy whole grains are: whole grain breakfast cereal (with at least 3 grams of fiber), brown rice cakes, a whole grain English muffin or pita, or brown rice crackers.

4. Sit down and enjoy!
As I always tell clients, eat mindfully and eat sitting down. When you eat on the go, you tend not even to remember that you are eating. It’s almost as if you rationalize to yourself “the calories don’t count when you eat standing.” But, as you know, calories do count regardless of whether you eat them standing or sitting. Better to sit down and enjoy a bowl of whole grain cereal than to eat a “healthy sounding” energy bar on the run.

5. Eat slowly.
Along with sitting down and enjoying your breakfast comes eating slowly. When you eat slowly, you tend to pay attention to what you are eating, and you eat less. Eating slowly also allows your body to register a feeling of satiation and fullness.

If you are in a rush, if you can, instead of wolfing down breakfast at home, bring a portable breakfast along with you and enjoy it when you get to work. You do not need to eat breakfast as soon as you get up. ( I tend to be a mid-morning breakfast eater.) The important point is that you eat something instead of waiting till 1 p.m. to get your first bite in.

Here are a few great breakfast options:

– A spinach and tomato omelet with a slice of whole grain toast and a half grapefruit.

– A Low-fat Greek yogurt with blackberries, strawberries, and a handful of whole grain cereal.

– A whole grain English muffin with a schmear of almond butter and a pear.

– A bowl of oatmeal made with fat free milk and topped with blueberries and a few walnuts.

Enjoy. We would love to hear some of your favorite breakfast choices.

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Sep. 21

5 easy tricks to avoid portion distortion

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “5 easy tricks to avoid portion distortion.”

You can also read it HERE.

The portion sizes of foods we commonly consume are too big. Look around and just about everything is available in jumbo sizes. Soft drinks, French fries, coffee drinks, steaks, burgers, bagels and muffins have all grown in size. Indeed, many food portions are now two to five times larger than they were 50 years ago. I discuss this phenomenon known as “portion distortion” in great detail in my book The Portion Teller Plan and my research papers.

Why are large portion sizes such a problem? Large portions are particularly problematic because the more we are served, the more we eat. Eating more translates into more calories, and ultimately, many of us, gain weight. And lots of it. It is no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.

An extensive review from Bond University found that we eat more if we are served more. The researchers reviewed 88 existing studies on the topic. They found that when people are given a portion twice as big, they will eat around a third more food. that is pretty significant and can translate into many more calories in the course of a day, a week, and a year.

Steven Holden, one of the Bond University authors, wrote on his blog, …”In addition to being substantial, the effect is robust, even pernicious. Larger portions lead to greater consumption even across conditions of bad food, where the portion size is not visible, and among people who should know better.”

So, the next time we go out to eat, or even eat at home, how can we not fall victim to this portion size trap?

Here are five easy tricks.

1. Choose the smallest size available.

These days, many foods come in multiple sizes. The small size is your best option, and is probably not even small. Consider the smallest Starbuck’s cappuccino. It is 12 ounces and labeled “tall.” It is not even called “small” ( a word often considered taboo in our oversized food culture.). Next time you have a choice on a size, order a “small” or whatever the small size may be called.

2. Steer clear of bulk sizes, at least when it comes to food.

Many of us like shopping in Costco and other warehouse stores where just about everything comes in bulk and in jumbo sizes. Bigger sizes cost less per unit (or per ounce so) they are appealing. However, try avoid them when you can. As it is often hard to resist eating a reasonable size portion. If you want to buy tissues and paper towels in bulk, no problem. But limit the cookies that come 50 to a box, or muffins that are jumbo sized and come in an eight-pack. Your waistline will be happier.

3. Mind your plate size.

The bigger the plate, the more we tend to pile on and eat. And plate sizes have increased right along with our food sizes and waistlines. Here is how you can use plate size to your advantage. Eat your salad (dressing on the side, of course) off of a larger dinner plate, and use a smaller plate for your entree. This can encourage you to eat more of a lower-calorie healthy salad and a smaller portion of your main dish, which so often consists of meat and mashed potatoes. Similarly, try using a larger bowl for your fresh berries and a smaller bowl for your breakfast cereal which most of us usually tend to over pour.

4. Eat with your stomach, not your eyes.

You know the expression, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? It certainly applies to how so many of us deal with our portion sizes. We pile on the food, taking more than we need, and then we are… stuffed. I suggest tuning in to your internal bodily signals and eat till you are satisfied. Wait before taking doubles or feeling the urge to finish what is on your plate. Eat slowly and put your fork down between bites.

5. Fill up on fruits and veggies.

Focus on including more healthy fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Because fruits and vegetables are relatively low in calories, you can have a larger portion, and the fiber will make you feel full. This may make it easier to resist the urge to overeat on processed foods and unhealthy desserts. Try including a fruit or vegetable serving with each meal and snack.

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Sep. 3

5 healthy back-to-school tips

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post: 5 healthy back-to-school tips

You can also read it HERE.

With summer coming to a close, next week is back to school for most kids. It is also a great opportunity to create new healthy habits for your kids and for the entire family. As a nutritionist counseling families and children, here are some simple tips to get you and your family off to a healthy start.

1. Eat a nutritious breakfast.

While there has been a debate recently about the merits of eating breakfast for weight loss, it is agreed that kids should not skip breakfast. Breakfast is a perfect opportunity to help your kids get a healthy dose of nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and protein. Great options include: whole grain cereal (with at least 3 grams of fiber) and low-fat or fat-free milk, low-fat Greek yogurt and fruit, or scrambled eggs and a slice whole wheat toast. And, whenever possible, try to eat breakfast as a family.

2. Limit liquid calories.

The easiest place to start is to limit sugary beverages such as soda. Sugary drinks are simply empty calories and devoid of nutrients. Try also limiting fruit juice or diluting juice such as OJ with water to reduce the sweetness and the calories. Try also helping your kids substitute sugary drinks for a glass of fat-free milk.

3. Increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Fruits and veggies are rich in nutrients including antioxidant vitamins A and C, folate, fiber, and potassium. They are also low in calories. To help your kid increase their consumption of fruit and veggies, I suggest keeping pre-washed produce available for your kids to simply grab and eat. Keep washed berries, apples, pears, and bananas on hand. Keep a bag of baby carrots and celery sticks around for kids to snack on.

4. Plan dinner as a family.

The best way to get your kids to eat healthy dinner is to engage them in the planning. Choose healthy options that everyone likes and let your kids select a veggie option and healthy whole grain option. Steamed broccoli, sautéed spinach, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice are some examples of healthy side dishes. Healthy main dish protein options include baked chicken or grilled fish. Try to make meals kid friendly and try to eat together as a family on most nights.

5. Practice portion control.

Finally, my favorite tip for families is to practice portion control. Minding your portions as well as those of your kids is, by far, one of the easiest ways to manage calories and avoid weight gain. I also love practicing portion control with kids as it allows for occasional treats instead of banning foods altogether. Portion out an occasional cookie for your kids’ snack and add additional healthy choices such as melon, berries or grapes.

We would love to hear some of your favorite healthy tips.

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Aug. 11

7 reasons to add blueberries to your diet

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post.

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, I love recommending blueberries to my clients. And I regularly eat them as well. Blueberries are healthy, low in calories, versatile, and taste great. You can throw a handful of blueberries into your yogurt, add them to a salad, or microwave frozen blueberries and eat them warm (they taste like the filling from blueberry pie — yum).

Here are seven reasons to add blueberries to your diet.

1. Blueberries are relatively low in calories.
A 1-cup serving of blueberries contains 80 calories.

2. Blueberries are chock full of nutrients.
Blueberries contain the antioxidant vitamin C, manganese, and are full of fiber, with nearly 4 gram of fiber per 1 cup serving.

3. Blueberries may promote cardiovascular health.
Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to heart health and a reduction of other chronic diseases. Blueberries may also help lower blood pressure. A study conducted on obese subjects with metabolic syndrome, found that those who consumed a blueberry beverage over an eight-week period had a decrease in their blood pressure when compared to those who consumed a placebo beverage.

4. Blueberries may improve insulin sensitivity.
study found that drinking blueberry smoothies helped pre-diabetic obese adults improve insulin sensitivity. Anthocyanins, compounds in blueberries that give them their blue hue, contain antioxidant properties, which may contribute to improved insulin sensitivity.

5. Blueberries may contribute to brain health and improve cognitive function.
study found that object memory loss that occurs normally with aging can be not only prevented but also reversed by feeding older rats blueberries. Furthermore, the improvement persisted for at least a month.

6. Blueberries may help fight cancer.
Blueberries contain the antioxidant anthocyanins which may play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of cancer. Further, recent research has demonstrated that breast tumor growth can be reduced in mice supplemented with blueberries.

7. And finally, blueberries taste great.

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Jul. 31

FDA to update food label serving sizes

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “FDA to update food label serving sizes.”

You can also read it HERE.

FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is seeking public comment on the proposed revisions to the food labels (NOTE: deadline August 1).

You can still comment on the following:

1. Serving Sizes: Docket FDA-2004-N-0258

2. Nutrition and Supplement Facts Label: Docket FDA-2012-N-1210

Below are my comments on FDA’s proposal to update the serving sizes.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg
Commissioner
Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Re: Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments; Docket No. FDA-2004-N-0258 (Formerly Docket No. 2004N-0456)

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

I strongly support the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposal to revise the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for certain food and beverage products. I have been researching trends in growing portion sizes as well as educating clients and students on understanding information about food label serving sizes and the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and weight management.

Below I make the following points:

I. I strongly support the FDA’s proposal to revise the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for certain products;
II. FDA should revise serving sizes for additional foods;
III. FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations.
IV. FDA should require that serving size information be displayed in ounces instead of gram weights.
I appreciate the chance to comment. I urge FDA to expeditiously finalize this rule, as well as the companion proposal regarding revisions to the Nutrition Facts Panel.

I. I strongly support the FDA’s proposal to revise the Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for certain products.

I strongly support the FDA’s proposal to revise the serving size for certain foods and beverages to reflect the way Americans eat today. Labels that list the nutrition information for outdated serving sizes may be deceptive to consumers, and I commend FDA for its recognition of the need to revise the RACCs for specific foods. I also commend FDA’s proposal to require that packaged foods and drinks typically consumed in one sitting be labeled as a single serving, and that manufacturers declare the calorie and nutrient information for the entire package.

As FDA notes, the original RACCs were established using U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey data from 1977-1978 and 1987-1988. Consumption patterns have changed over the past few decades. For example, on average, American adults aged 20 and older consumed 240 more calories per day in 2009-2010, when compared to levels in 1971-1975, mostly due to increased portion sizes of foods and beverages.

The portion sizes of commonly consumed foods have increased considerably since the late 1970s; one reason for the increase in obesity rates may be that people are eating larger food portions, and therefore, more calories. The trend toward growing portion sizes has been observed for packaged foods and drinks as well as energy dense foods served in the highest selling takeout places, restaurants and fast-food outlets. Many food portions are now two to five times larger than their original size.

II. FDA should revise serving sizes for additional foods.

Using consumption data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), 2003-2008, the agency proposes to modify an existing RACC if the median consumption increased or decreased by at least 25 percent, compared to the RACC established in 1993. The FDA states that it also took into account other factors when deciding to modify an existing RACC, including information from citizen petitions, industry comments, and market trends. I urge the FDA to consider:

• Pegging the proposal to set new RACCs only for changes of 25 percent or greater neglects some categories that deserve re-evaluation due to their impact on public health. Under the law, FDA is required to define the reference amounts for foods based on the amount of food customarily consumed. See Pub. L. 101.9(b)(1); 58 F.R. 44039 et seq. Therefore, I urge FDA to update the RACCs based on actual food consumption data as opposed to allowing for a 25% or greater change

III. FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations.

I recognize that the RACCs used to calculate serving sizes are required to be based on the amount of food people customarily consume, and are not recommended amounts of food to eat. However, given the likelihood of confusion among some consumers, I strongly recommend that the FDA include clarifying language on the label by either: 1) denoting the serving size provided as a “typical” serving size or 2) including a footnote to clarify that “the serving size is based upon the amount typically consumed, and is not a recommended portion size.”
Other ideas for communicating a similar distinction should also be tested in consumer research by the agency. I also support additional education efforts to increase consumer understanding of the meaning of the change in serving sizes, as FDA suggests in its proposal.

IV. FDA should require that serving size information be displayed in ounces
instead of gram weights.

From my experience as an educator and clinician, few people understand the meaning of gram weights, as we do not rely on the metric system in the U.S. While I applaud listing food amounts in common household measures ( cups, tablespoons) as well, I urge the FDA to require that serving size information be displayed in ounces instead of gram weights. The term “ounces” as opposed to “grams” is used by USDA’s MyPlate.gov and is also more easily recognizable to US citizens.

References

Food and Drug Administration, Food Labeling; Serving Sizes, Jan. 6, 1993, 58 FR 2229, at 2236-2237.

Ford ES, Dietz WH, “Trends in energy intake among adults in the United States: findings from NHANES. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:848-53.

Young LR , Nestle M. Reducing Portion Sizes to Prevent Obesity: A Call to Action. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:565-568.

Young LR, Nestle M. The contribution of increasing portion sizes to the obesity epidemic. Am J Pub Health 2002;92:246-249.

Nielsen SJ, Popkin BM. Patterns and trends in food portion sizes, 1977-1998. JAMA 2003;289:450-453.

Young LR. The Portion Teller Plan. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, Random House, 2005.

Young LR, Nestle M. Expanding portion sizes in the US marketplace: Implications for nutrition counseling. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103:231-234.

Food and Drug Administration, Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed at One-Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments, Mar. 3, 2014, 79 FR 11990, at 12008 (hereinafter, 79 FR at _______).

Juan W, “Memorandum to file: Consumption estimates for foods for infants and children 1 through 3 years of age and for the general food supply for individuals ages 4 years and older in the United States by general category and product category using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2008 (NHANES 2003-2008) compared to the 1993 RACCs, and Proposed Changes to RACCs.” Feb. 11, 2014.

79 FR at 12007.

US Department of Agriculture. MyPlate. Washigton, 2011. www.choosemyplate.gov

Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, CDN

Author, The Portion Teller Plan (www.portionteller.com)
Nutrition Consultant/Registered Dietitian in private practice
Adjunct professor of nutrition, Dept of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University

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Jul. 23

5 healthy foods you can easily overeat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Portion alert: 5 healthy foods you can easily overeat.”

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, I counsel many clients who know what foods to eat to lose weight and be healthy. However, even the most educated of consumers may have trouble determining how much to eat of these foods. It is possible that eating too many of even the right foods can prevent you from losing weight. Hence, the need for a reality check and tips for portion control!

Here are five foods that are easy to overeat along with my suggestions.

1. Ready-to-eat cereal.

We know to stay away from sugar-sweetened cereals and choose a cereal where the first ingredient is a whole grain. However, pouring your healthy whole grain cereal into an oversize bowl can often spell disaster. It is a bigger problem for dense cereals like granola. In fact, it is easy to consume several hundred calories of granola in one sitting without realizing it.

As I discuss in my book The Portion Teller Plan, I advise clients watching their weight to eat approximately one ounce of ready-to-eat cereal. A one ounce serving of cereal can range in volume from ¼ cup of granola to approximately 1 cup cereal flakes to 2 cups puffed wheat.

My tip: It is important to read the food label and measure out the volume of cereal you plan to eat before pouring it in your bowl.

2. Nuts

Nuts are healthy. They contain healthy fats and also help us to feel full. However, it is easy to eat too many nuts. Especially if you are eating them straight from an oversize jar or at a bar when having a drink with a friend.

The recommended serving of nuts to eat is 1 ounce. That translates into a handful (a golf ball’s worth) or the amount that can fit into an Altoids tin.

My tip: When home, I suggest portioning out several servings worth and placing them in baggies to avoid over-nutting.

3. Olive oil.

We hear that a green salad drizzled in olive oil is healthy. This is true. After all, greens are super nutritious and olive oil contains monounsaturated heart healthy fat. But… olive oil still contains calories, at least 100 calorie per tablespoon.

The recommended serving of olive oil or an olive oil based salad dressing is 1-2 tablespoons, an amount that will fill a shot glass. When eating out, we are often served a salad with at least 4 tablespoons of salad dressing!

My tip: Next time you order a salad out, ask for the dressing on the side.

4. Hummus

Hummus, or chick pea dip, is a super healthy snack. Hummus contains protein and healthy fats. Fresh veggies dipped in hummus makes for a great snack. However, it is easy to overdo it, especially if you buy the jumbo tubs of hummus or if you are nibbling at a cocktail party.

I suggest eating approximately 2 tablespoons worth of hummus as a snack. This looks like a walnut in a shell.

My tip: Add baby carrots, celery, and red pepper for crunch, volume, and a boost of nutrients.

5. Fresh squeezed orange juice

I’ve written previously I suggest swapping a glass of juice for an orange. You will gain fiber and the mere fact that you are chewing your food helps you consume fewer calories. but fresh squeezed OJ can be healthy. However, it is easy to guzzle down a pint’s worth in the blink of an eye. Especially since it is hard to buy a smaller size.

The suggested serving size for juice is 4-6 ounces. That is approximately half a glass worth.

My tip: Next time you buy a pint of fresh squeezed juice, share it three ways or save the rest for another day.

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Jun. 27

Court rejects NYC portion cap for sugary drinks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Court rejects NYC portion cap for sugary drinks.”

You can also read it HERE.

New York City lost its final appeal to limit the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.

In a 20-page report, the New York State Court of Appeals issued its final decision on the Portion Cap Ruling. Justice Pigott wrote:

We hold that the New York City Board of Health, in adopting the “Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule,” exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority. By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council of New York.

The Portion Cap Ruling, commonly known as the soda ban, was to restrict the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and delis.

The decision is disappointing and a defeat to public health advocates urging the government to curb the sale of oversize sugary drinks thought to be a major contributor to America’s obesity crisis.

Dr. Mary Bassett, the commissioner of health for the city, issued the following statement:

Today’s ruling does not change the fact that sugary drink consumption is a key driver of the obesity epidemic, and we will continue to look for ways to stem the twin epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes by seeking to limit the pernicious effects of aggressive and predatory marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods.

Mayor Bill De Blasio also expressed his disappointment in the court’s decision. As written in Capital New York:

“We are extremely disappointed by today’s Court decision that prevents the city from implementing a sugary drink portion cap policy,” de Blasio said in a press release. “The negative effects of sugary drink over-consumption on New Yorkers’ health, particularly among low-income communities, are irrefutable.”

As a nutritionist and portion size advocate, I too was disappointed with the court’s decision.

Portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years and rates of obesity have skyrocketed. In the 1950s, a soda at McDonald’s was 7 ounces; today, the company sells a quart-size soda nearly five times larger than its original size. KFC sells a half-gallon size with nearly 800 calories.

As I told Food Navigator USA:

From a consumer perspective, this was not about banning soda. This was about how much is reasonable for one person. There are a lot of factors that contribute to obesity. One very major one is the fact that what used to be a normal size is now called “mini.”

Indeed, we need to change our food environment if we want to reduce obesity rates and encourage consumer to select healthier food choices. That means selling smaller size portions of foods and drinks that provide no nutritional value. In my opinion, curbing the sizes of sugary drinks was certainly a good place to start.

I applaud the health department’s efforts and hope that we can all work together to promote a healthier food environment for our children to grow up in.

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Jun. 25

5 Ways to Build a Better Burger

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post. “5 Ways to Build a Better Burger.”

You can also read it HERE.

Summer is the season for barbecues. That often means burgers and hot dogs. As a nutritionist, I suggest limiting our intake of red meat and processed foods. However, if you want to indulge in an occasional burger, here are five ways to build a better one.

1. Top your burger with sliced tomato.

Instead of using ketchup, opt for fresh tomatoes, which are low in calories and sugar and contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C.

2. Add fresh avocado to your burger.

Instead of adding mayonnaise to your burger, try adding several slices of fresh avocado instead. Not only is avocado moist and delicious, it offers up health benefits as well. A UCLA study found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a lean burger, rather than eating a burger alone, may curb the production of compounds that contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is a risk factor that may be associated with heart disease. An added benefit to eating avocado is that it contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and the antioxidant vitamin E.

3. Choose a whole wheat bun.

Instead of grabbing for a white bun, use a whole wheat bun instead. A whole wheat bun is more nutritious, boosting your fiber intake and your intake of vitamins and minerals including magnesium and folate. Current guidelines suggest that we limit our intake of refined grains and choose whole wheat products instead.

4. Go single.

Watch your portion size by choosing a single hamburger patty instead of the double and triple burgers we so often see at fast-food chains. Indeed, a double burger will give us twice the calories and fat as would a single burger.

5. Try a veggie burger.

Eat a bean-based veggie burger instead of a regular hamburger. Bean and legumes are a great plant based protein while also contributing to heart health. Not only do veggie burgers taste great, they are rich in soluble fiber and devoid of saturated fat and fairly low in calories.

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Jun. 9

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle While Traveling

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post. “How to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling.”

You can also read it HERE.

This is the season for traveling and summer vacations. While we often do lots of research to find a great travel destination, we often do not have a plan to stay healthy while we are away.

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time this season teaching clients how to stay healthy, lose weight, and keep it off while enjoying summer vacations. I also enjoy traveling for fun and travel for work as well, so I am always fine tuning simple strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle while being out of town.

Here are five simple and painless strategies to implement while taking on your next trip.

1. Drink a lot of water.

Staying hydrated is very important while traveling. Often, especially when flying, you may feel sluggish and fatigued due to dehydration. People also mistake feeling hungry when they are really just dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy while traveling. If you are going to an exotic location, find out in advance about the safety of drinking the tap water and then plan accordingly. If you are taking a road trip or a bike trip, always keep some water on hand.

2. Watch your diet.

Be mindful of what and how much you eat. As I tell clients, vacations are not a time to begin a diet. It is also not a time to go completely overboard. I suggest enjoying the local cuisine but do not overdo it. Planning in advance helps a lot. Identify the local cuisine that you want to try and plan your eating around that. If you want to enjoy local pasta in Italy, for example, skip the bread. An occasional alcoholic drink is also okay, but best to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner as opposed to on an empty stomach. When it comes to food and drink, think moderation.

3. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies.

One of the easiest ways to keep your eating plan in check and to avoid going overboard is to be conscious of including fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. I suggest incorporating a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Try to include a fresh fruit serving in the morning with breakfast or as a mid morning snack, and include some kind of vegetable dish with lunch or dinner. It can be a fresh salad, a cooked vegetable, or a healthy soup option.

4. Eat structured meals.

Eating structured meals is one of the best ways to keep your diet in check. Try for a healthy breakfast including some protein to keep your blood sugar in check. A Greek yogurt with fruit, eggs with whole wheat toast, or whole grain toast and peanut butter are some good choices. Try to skip the pastries, especially in the morning. Do not skip lunch. If you are on the run, be mindful to sit down and enjoy a healthy lunch even if it is a quickie. A salad with grilled fish or tofu, a turkey sandwich, or a veggie burger is a good choice. If you want to indulge in the local cuisine, that is ok on occasion, but think portion control. And skip the fried foods. Finally, don’t go totally overboard at dinner.

5. Get active.

One of the best ways to explore a new location is to walk, walk, and walk. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes so that you can get plenty of exercise. Other types of exercise, such as swimming and biking, are also great, especially in summer months. Find out if there is a pool where you are staying, or better yet, if possible, book a hotel with a pool. Regardless of what exercise you choose to do, the most important point is to incorporate it into your day and do it.

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May. 20

Smart snacks that can help you lose weight

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “5 smart snacks that can help you lose weight.” You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist doing counseling on healthy eating and weight loss, clients often ask me about if they can include snacks in their diet and exactly what constitutes a healthy snack. Many people — especially dieters trying to shed pounds — are under the impression that snacking is not a good idea when trying to lose weight, but this isn’t the case. The truth: it depends on what you are snacking on. Oftentimes, snacking is a good thing, as it could satiate you until your next meal and prevent you from overeating at dinner.

I tend to suggest including a reasonably portioned snack that contains a mixture of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat. Doing so will sustain you and help you feel full for a longer period of time, without breaking the bank calorically. Below I suggest smart snacks that you may want to add to your eating plan, which may actually help your weight-loss efforts while contributing to your overall health.

1. Greek-yogurt parfait
Try blending a Greek low-fat yogurt with a mix of strawberries and bananas topped with 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed. This is a great snack as it will provide you with a blend of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. The flaxseeds will provide you with heart-healthy, omega-3 fats, while the fruit will provide a boost of fiber that will keep you full for longer.

2. Veggies and hummus
Mix your favorite veggies with 2 to 3 tablespoons hummus. When it comes to veggies, try to get a blend of colors to maximize your nutrients. Some of my favorites are red peppers, carrots, cucumbers and broccoli. This is a smart snack as the veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients including antioxidants while the hummus contains a blend of healthy fat and protein.

3. An apple with nut butter
Slice an apple and add a tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of your favorite nut butter — almond or peanut butter taste great. The fruit contains few calories and lots of fiber while the nut butter will provide you with a blend of protein and healthy fat, which will sustain you for a while. Because nut butters are high in fat, and therefore, calories, it is important to watch your portion.

4. Whole-grain crackers with part-skim cheese and sliced tomato
Choose your favorite whole-grain crackers and include a serving (up to 1 ounce) with your favorite part-skim cheese. Some examples include: 2 to 3 rye crisps topped with part-skim cheddar cheese and sliced tomato. You can also modify this to include a “fun” serving of whole grain such as 3 cups air-popped popcorn (yes, 3 cups!) or three-quarters of a cup whole-wheat pretzels and add a part-skim mozzarella stick and a few cherry tomatoes. The whole-grain serving is high in fiber and low in fat, while the cheese provides protein, calcium and some fat. The tomato gives you a healthy dose of vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene.

5. Your favorite vegetable bean soup
I am a soup lover and I must confess that I include soup in my diet even in the hot summer months. Soup makes for a great snack, as it is filling and you tend to eat it more slowly than you would a crunchy snack, especially if it is hot. Bean soups are a great choice, as they contain the perfect blend of protein and carbohydrates and plenty of fiber. Some healthy choices include a bowl (12 ounces) of lentil soup, split-pea soup or white-bean soup. Instead of waiting until you join your dinner companion at a restaurant and ordering soup as an appetizer, if you are hungry in the late afternoon, have the soup as a snack and it will sustain you for several hours.

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