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Jan. 22

5 tips for building a healthy salad

Below is my blog for Huffington Post “5 tips for building a healthy salad.”

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, I am a huge fan of salads. After all, colorful veggies are great — chock full of nutrients without too many calories. However, just because you order a salad when you go out, (while thinking you are being virtuous), does not necessarily mean that it is good for your waistline. The mantra “I’ll just have a salad” can be a dieter’s dream or a diet disaster depending on what goes into that salad.

For example, the chicken Caesar salad at The Cheesecake Factory contains a whopping 1,510 calories. That is the number of calories that certain people should eat in an entire day. It contains globs of dressings, croutons, and more. And the Quesadilla Explosion Salad at Chili’s contains 1,430 calories. Many sandwiches contain far fewer calories. Who would have guessed?

So next time you order a salad, get a custom blend if possible, and follow these tips. You’ll save lots of calories while getting plenty of nutrients.

1. Choose an assortment of deep greens.

Romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach are great choices, high in fiber, folate, and vitamin C. Skip the iceberg lettuce, which is mostly water, and not nearly as many nutrients as the deeper greens.

2. Add a mix of colorful non-starchy vegetables.

Adding an assortment of colorful vegetables are your best option, as the different colors impart different nutrients. Throw in some orange veggies such as carrots which are rich in contain beta carotene and add tomatoes which contain lycopene. Other great options are vitamin C-rich yellow and red peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, and mushrooms. You get the idea. It’s okay to throw in the kitchen sink, as they say.

3. Add a healthy protein.

Add grilled salmon, chicken breast, canned tuna, or sliced turkey as a healthy protein option. Aim for around 4 ounces (a little larger than your palm). Tofu or tempeh makes for a great vegan option. Protein is filling and also helps to stabilize blood sugar. Skip the fried chicken, fried fish, and fatty deli meats such as pastrami. And go easy on the cheese.

4. Toss in your favorite beans or legumes.

If you have the urge, toss in some beans or legumes for flavor and added fiber. Chick peas, black beans, kidney beans or lentils are great options. Aim for around 1/2 cup (looks like a cupped hand.) Beans and legumes will add more substance to the salad along with fiber and nutrients. And they will certainly keep you full. But best to skip the re-fried beans.

5. Go easy on the dressing.

Salad dressing is high in calories and fat, and we usually get way too much dressing when we order a salad straight off the menu without specifying “light on dressing” or “on the side.” It is common for a restaurant salad to contain at least a quarter of cup, or 4 tablespoons of dressing. I suggest asking for dressing on the side, and then you can control how much you add. It’s also important to watch your portion when you are home, as a mere tablespoon of oil (while containing heart-healthy fat) contains over 100 calories. When choosing a dressing, best to aim for non-creamy dressings such as balsamic vinaigrette, Italian, or use olive oil and vinegar along with your favorite spices. Skip the ranch, Caesar, and blue cheese. When eating at home, try making your own dressing with olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and fresh lemon. Or choose a low-cal dressing. Aim for 1-2 tablespoons (or a shot glass worth) of dressing.

We would love to hear your favorite salad tips and recipes.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Jan. 7

10 diet tweaks for a healthier 2015

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “10 diet tweaks for a healthier 2015.”

You can also read it HERE.

Welcome to 2015! As a nutritionist and health advocate, I am not a fan of rigid diets or New Year’s resolutions that you cannot keep. Unmet goals and resolutions just lead to frustration and feelings of failure. Instead, I am a fan of small actionable changes that you can incorporate into your day-to-day life.

What I have found in my work with private clients is that simple action-oriented steps or tweaks to your daily routine can be kept throughout the year, ultimately yielding positive results, whether it be losing weight, eating healthier, or learning to cook.

Here are some smart and simple diet tweaks that you can incorporate into your everyday routine to lead you to a healthier 2015.

1. Shop smart.

You will, likely, eat what you bring into your house. Trust me on this one. With years of experience helping clients lose weight, one of the most effective tools to eating healthier is to surround yourself with healthy food. Do not go food shopping on an empty stomach (as you will be tempted by unhealthy choices) and shop the perimeter of the supermarket first, stocking up on fresh fruits, veggies, and other real foods. Keep healthy foods around the house for you and your family that you can easily grab and eat: baby carrots, assorted berries, apples, part skim cheese, hummus, nut butters, and whole grain crackers.

2. Choose wisely.

When deciding what to eat, choose healthy food choices. Try to include protein at each meal. Healthy choices include fish, chicken or turkey breast, beans and legumes, eggs, and low-fat dairy. No need to eliminate grains and starches. Instead, pick the healthier ones: whole grains such as whole wheat breads, quinoa, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and oatmeal to name a few.

3. Be wise about portion size.

Aim for approximately 4 ounces fish or poultry (a little larger than deck of cards or your palm). As for healthy starch, stick with no more than a cup (your fist) as a side dish. Watching your portion size is by far the best way to watch calories without having to actually count them.

4. Fill up on lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories. Include tossed salads, cooked veggies, and veggie-based soups to round out your selections. And don’t skimp on fruits. Aim for around 2 cups fresh fruits daily and choose the whole fruit over the juice.

5. Cook more.

If you rarely eat at home, I suggest you try it. Home-cooked food tends to be healthier than store bought food, containing fewer calories and less salt and sugar. If you don’t know how to cook, take a cooking class or experiment with your mom’s favorite recipe.

6. Don’t skip meals.

Eating meals at regular intervals prevents you from getting overly hungry that you would just eat anything. Best to start your day with a healthy breakfast. If you are not a morning person, no need to eat a huge breakfast but do include something light, at least mid-morning. Fruit and a yogurt is a good choice. Eat a healthy lunch and dinner including vegetables/fruits, lean protein, and healthy starch.

7. Snack wisely.

Snack on whole food instead of processed foods. A piece of fruit, a small bag of nuts, whole grain crackers and cheese, or hummus and carrots are all god choices. Skip the chips and candy.

8. Hydrate healthfully.

Don’t forget to drink your water. Flavor your water with lemon, lime, or a slice of cucumber. Flavored seltzer is also a great option. Skip the soda or other sugar sweetened beverages full of empty calories and devoid of nutrients.

9. Dine out wisely.

Do not arrive at a restaurant famished. Skip the bread basket and start with a salad or a vegetable based soup such as minestrone. Choose grilled fish, chicken, or tofu and include lots of fresh vegetables. Choose dishes sautéed or steamed as opposed to fried. Choose fresh fruit for dessert, or for a special treat, share dessert with your dinner companion.

10. Enjoy!

Enjoy your food, enjoy the company you eat with, and savor each bite.

Here’s to a healthy 2015 with joy, peace, and contentment.

We would love to hear your healthy tips.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Dec. 22

Holiday tips to keep you healthy this season

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, “7 holiday tips to keep you healthy this season.”

You can also read it HERE.

The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s are filled with lots of food festivities and socializing. Whether it’s dining out, going to a holiday party, or seeing treats everywhere, from the office to the candy jar at your favorite store, the holiday season really puts our willpower to the test. However, with some planning, and simple tips, there is no reason why you can’t come out healthier — and maybe even a few pounds thinner — than you were before.

Here are some tips that I’ve successfully used with clients in my nutrition counseling practice. Even if you just incorporate a few of them into your daily routine, you are taking a step in the right direction, and by the new year, these small steps may develop into full-fledged habits.

1. Eat structured meals.

Skipping meals often leads to overeating. I’ve had many clients rationalize that they can nibble on treats because they skipped lunch. I guarantee that you will probably end up eating far more calories in these so called “treats.” Skipping meals also leaves you hungry, so you are often inclined to eat just about anything you can get your hands on when you arrive at a holiday party. I suggest eating well-balanced meals with some protein and fiber to help keep your blood sugar steady. Yogurt with fruit in the morning and a salad with grilled chicken or beans for lunch can certainly sustain you and also leave some room in your tummy for your favorite treat here or there.

2. Pack a healthy snack.

This is the season for running around, shopping, and going all morning or afternoon without much of a break. You may be hungry before your evening festivities. To avoid making the wrong choices when you get to a holiday event, pack a healthy snack before you head out for the afternoon. A piece of fruit and string cheese, a yogurt with an apple, or a single-serving of nuts make great choices to keep your hunger at bay.

3. Indulge in favorite treats sparingly and watch your portions.

This is not the time to totally ban your favorite holiday treats. In fact, I have never been a fan of entirely omitting your favorite foods, unless you have no idea how to portion control them. The important message is to choose a treat you love and savor it. For example, if you are at a holiday dessert buffet, do a lap around to check out the selections, and pick a reasonable portion of the one dessert you enjoy most. No need to skip starches entirely either; a cup of brown rice, quinoa, or butternut squash can certainly fit into a well-planned diet.

4. Stay hydrated.

Drinking enough water will keep you hydrated. So often, we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty. When I say stay hydrated, I recommend water or seltzer or herb tea. Fruits and veggies with high water content also count toward fluid. However, skip the soda, and go easy on alcohol, which will just dehydrate you even more. As I previously blogged on HuffPost, develop the healthy habit of limiting liquid calories.

5. Include plenty of fruits and veggies.

Incorporating my two favorite food groups into your eating routine will enable you to get nutrients to keep you healthy (vitamin C, beta carotene, and potassium) and fiber which will help you to feel full. Plus, fruits and veggies do not have too many calories. And what I like best is: If you eat more fruits and veggies, you may just end up eating less of the more fattening treats.

6. Stick to your exercise routine.

I know you are busy at this time of year. Keeping to your exercise regimen, however, will help you keep your weight in check, and may even prompt you to make healthier food choices. Center yourself with a yoga class to help you be more mindful or grab in a morning run which doesn’t take too much time out of your day.

7. Don’t fret.

If you overate today, don’t fret about it. Tomorrow is a new day, and get back on track without calling yourself “bad.” After all, food should never define us as people. Also, no one gained 20 pounds overnight. Weight gain occurs from a steady accumulation of overeating. So if you ate too much today, eat a little less tomorrow, and get back on track.

We would love to hear your healthy holiday tips. Happy holidays!

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Dec. 15

Calorie counts on menu boards may help us eat less

Below is my latest blog post “Calorie counts on menu boards may help us eat less.”

You can also read it on Huffington Post by clicking HERE.

After much anticipation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally announced its final regulations requiring food establishments with 20 or more locations, including restaurants, fast-food chains, movie theaters, and pizza places, to state the number of calories in their menu items. And those calories will be visible; the font size of the calorie counts must be, at least, the same size as the food item name and/or price.

The regulations came out of a 2010 provision of Obamacare. Americans spend nearly half their food budget on foods eaten away from home, and these foods make up nearly a third of the calories consumed. We ought to know how many calories are in these foods.

New York City, California, Vermont, many New York State counties, Philadelphia, King County (WA), and others have already implemented calorie labeling policies. And a handful of restaurants, such as McDonald’s, Au Bon Pain, and Panera already post calories on menu boards nationally.

Next year when these rules are set to take effect nationally, if you go to a movie theater, you will see how many calories are in your oversize jug of soda and a bucket of popcorn, both large enough to feed an entire family. I hope that after seeing this information, you will consider skipping these treats or sharing them.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in the press release: “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

Will posting calories actually help us make better choices and eat less?

While the evidence is mixed, I remain optimistic and so do other nutrition policy experts.

New York City has required chain eating establishments to post calorie counts on menu boards since 2006. As a New York City resident, I have been able to see some of the results. I recall seeing one of my favorite Starbucks treats, the marshmallow dream bar, originally contain around 400 calories when posting calories first went into effect. Today, at my local Starbucks, the treat weighs in at 240 calories.

I hope that requiring eating establishments to post calories will encourage companies to make their products smaller and reformulate them to contain less fat, sugar, and ultimately fewer calories.

Some companies, in addition to Starbucks, are already marketing healthier choices, perhaps, at least in part, as a result of calorie labeling, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nutrition advocacy group in Washington D.C. Several popular chains have introduced smaller portions on their menus, such as: California Pizza Kitchen’s “Small Cravings,” The Cheesecake Factory’s “Small Plates & Snacks,” and T.G.I. Friday’s “Right Portion, Right Price.” Other eating establishments cut calories from some of its menu items. The chain Cosi, for example, introduced a new “Lighten Up! Menu,” featuring lower-calorie versions of menu items.

And if we have absolutely no idea how many calories our favorite foods contain, we sure will know when calorie counts are posted at our favorite eating chains nationwide.

Marion Nestle , my NYU colleague, author, and nutrition policy expert says “Calorie counts work for people who look at them and understand what they mean. They certainly work for me. If I see that a slice of pizza is 750 calories (not impossible), I don’t buy it. That’s more than a third of what I can eat in a day. Everyone is always saying that education is the first line of intervention in obesity and that people have to take personal responsibility for what they eat. Calorie labeling ought to help with that.”

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at CSPI, issued a similar sentiment. She told me that “Menu labeling will allow people to make their own choices about what and how much to eat. It also provides an incentive for restaurants to improve their menus and add items lower in calories. Unfortunately, most restaurants’ regular and children’s menus are dominated by high calorie choices that are hard to fit into a healthy diet, especially given how much most people eat out these days.”

It is my hope that when adopted nationwide, requiring chain eating establishments to post calorie counts of our favorite foods will help us make better food choices and order smaller sizes while also encouraging these establishments to market healthier options with fewer calories. And, we can do as Dr. Nestle does: don’t buy foods that comprise a third of our daily calorie budget. These are certainly steps in the right direction to help reverse the obesity epidemic.

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Nov. 27

Diet mistakes not to make on Thanksgiving

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

You can also read it HERE.

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

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

1. Going hungry and skipping breakfast and lunch.

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

2. Wearing loose-fitting clothes

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

3. Treating Thanksgiving like your Last Supper

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

4. Starting a diet and banning all treats

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

5. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach

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

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

Wishing you a happy — and healthy — holiday season!

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Nov. 19

Healthy snacks to keep your hunger at bay

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

You can also read it HERE.

For the German translation, click HERE.

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

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

1. Hummus and veggies

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

2. Greek yogurt with fresh berries

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

3. Vegetable/bean soup

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

4. Part-skim cheese and whole grain crackers

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

5. Sliced apple with almond butter.

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

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

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

7. Frozen banana and peanut butter

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

8. Air-popped popcorn

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

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Nov. 3

Healthy habits to adopt now

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

You can read it HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Stock up on healthy foods.

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

2. Eat sitting down.

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

3. Drink water instead of liquid calories.

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

4. Snack on fruit instead of chips.

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

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

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

6. Chew your food well.

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

7. Put leftovers away.

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

8. To thyself be true.

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

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

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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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