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Nov. 20

5 sensible tips to keep from becoming an obesity statistic

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “5 sensible tips to keep  from becoming an obesity statistic.”

You can also read it HERE.

We received bad news from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) about the current state of obesity in the United States (U.S.). Despite some improvements to our current food environment (soda consumption is down, food manufacturers are removing artificial ingredients), obesity is still on the rise. Compared to 2003 when just 32 percent of Americans were obese (defined as a body mass index greater than 30), the most recent data collected in 2014 reveals that 38 percent of the U.S. population is obese. These results come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NANES), the largest federal health and dietary intake survey conducted by CDC.

The report also reveals a drastic health inequality between genders and ethnicities. About 38 percent of adult women were obese from 2011 to 2014 as compared with 34 percent of men. And obesity rates were highest among black and Hispanic women.

Clearly, our food environment remains to be challenging for many of us. We are surrounded by temptations, food is available 24-7, portion sizes are too big, we eat out, we don’t cook enough, and junk food is cheap and heavily advertised. These, and other factors, help to explain why we eat too much. And, on top of that, many of us don’t get enough exercise.

While lots more needs to be down on a policy level — subsidizing fruits and vegetables, capping oversize portions, taxing soda and junk food, and limiting food marketing to children — there are lots of things YOU can do to keep from becoming an obesity statistic.

Here are five sensible tips to get you started.

1. Don’t go hungry.

Eat regular meals and snacks. (And keep them healthy, of course.) By eating at regular intervals, we tend not to get too hungry which helps us resist temptations. As a practicing nutritionist, I advise my clients to pack healthy snacks such as an apple and a small bag of nuts or baby carrots and a single-serve hummus to keep hunger at bay.

2. Rightsize your portions.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity. Large portions contain more calories than small portions and the more we are served, the more we eat! Practicing portion control is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps you can take to help you lose weight. Wrapping up leftovers, purchasing smaller sized snacks, and eating off of smaller plates are a few simple things you can do.

3. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

I like the advice of the U.S. Department of Health’s (USDA) which suggests that we fill up half of our plate with fruits and veggies. Not only are fruits and veggies healthy and low in calories, when we fill up on them, we tend to eat less of other less nutritious foods. I always suggest having a colorful plate!

4. Create a healthy kitchen environment.

Keeping a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, making junk food invisible, and putting that box of cereal in the cupboard are a few things you can do to keep your kitchen healthier.Decluttering your kitchen counter and keeping healthy foods handy may even help to prevent weight gain.

5. Cook more.

When we cook more, we tend to make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking meals at home was associated with a slightly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also found that in eight years of follow-up, those who ate more home-cooked meals had smaller weight gains and a lower risk of obesity.

We would love to hear healthy tips that have worked for you.

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Nov. 5

5 Kitchen Tweaks That Could Lead to a Slimmer Waist

Here is my latest post for Huffington Post: “5 kitchen tweaks that could lead to a slimmer waist.”

You can also read it HERE.

“If you want to be skinny, do what skinny people do,” says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design.

Dr. Wansink and colleagues recently conducted an interesting study on 300 kitchens in Syracuse, NY and found a correlation between participants’ weights and their kitchen counters. The researchers found that the “presence of fruit on the counter was associated with lower body mass index (BMI)… but the presence of foods such as candy, cereal, soft drinks, and dried fruit were associated with weight differences that ranged from 9.4 to 14.4 kg,” translating into roughly 20-30 pounds.

While such results found a correlation — as opposed to a cause and effect — between what is on your counter top and your weight, nonetheless, we can take away some useful pointers which may help us slim down.

As a nutritionist and author specializing in portion control and dieting, I believe that our environment is a huge factor affecting our eating habit. If we are served large food portions, we eat them. Similarly, if we leave candy lying around on our counter top, guess what? We will, most likely, eat it!

For the good news, how we set up our home environment, especially our kitchen can help us make healthier food choices. After all, as most of us know, leaving our food choices up to willpower is not the best idea.

Here are five simple things you can do to create a healthier kitchen environment. You may even lose a few pounds along the way.

1. Place a fruit bowl on your counter.

Keep fresh fruits handy. As Dr. Wansink’s study suggests, it’s a great idea to keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter.

2. Munch on baby carrots.

I’d also suggest keeping fresh vegetables in your refrigerator at arms reach. Baby carrots, celery, red peppers, you name it!

3. Put that box of cereal away!

If you love ready-to-eat cereal, aim for healthier whole grain varieties, and equally important, do not keep the cereal box sitting out on the kitchen counter. Put it away in the cupboard where you can’t see it. Seeing food, often translates into eating food!

4. Make junk food invisible.

Keep healthy food, including fruits and vegetables, in clear containers and unhealthy foods, such as candy and cookies, in opaque containers. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind!”

5. Follow the rule of one.

Keep only one bag of candy and one type of cookies in your kitchen at a time. The more variety we have, the more we tend to eat. This is a great concept when trying to eat a more colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables. But when it comes to candy and junk food, I suggest not having too many choices around.

We would love to hear your kitchen makeover tricks.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

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Oct. 22

7 tips to nourish your body and soul

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “7 tips to nourish your body and your soul.”

You can also read it here.

With a new season comes changes and often a time for new beginnings. If you are at all like me, transitioning into the fall and winter seasons are more difficult than moving into spring and summer where the days are longer and the meals often lighter.

As the weather gets colder, we often have different food preferences as well as exercise habits. The days also get shorter, which can affect both our moods and our food preferences. However, there is lots of good we can cultivate as we transition into the fall season.

Here are seven tips to nourish your body and your soul.

1. Enjoy the beauty of nature.

As the weather cools off, the leaves begin to change (at least in many locations), and the colors are breathtaking. Many people consider it one of the most incredible times of the year. Spending time outdoors, whether it be taking a hike or just going for a brisk walk, is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of nature. It is a great way to take advantage of the changing seasons.

2. Start your day with hot cereal.

When the weather cools off, I love starting my day with hot cereal. Oatmeal or mixed whole grains make for a nutritious and satisfying breakfast, high in fiber and rich in nutrients. Top your favorite whole grain hot cereal with berries, flax seeds, and chopped nuts as a great way to boost your nutrient intake.

3. Smile.

Putting on a happy face is a great way to boost your spirits. Smiling may improve our mood, reduce our stress levels, and also make us more attractive, and even younger.Smiling increases our endorphin levels, hormones which make us feel happier. People who smile also appear to be more self confident.

The next time you are not feeling in a great mood, put on a smile, and there is a good chance, you will feel better. As the saying goes, fake it till you make it.

4. Warm up with soup.

This is a great time of year to enjoy soup. I am a huge soup fan. Soup makes for a great hot meal (or snack) with huge benefits. Soups are filling and a nutritious, and a great way to boost your intake of healthy vegetables, especially if you are in the mood for something more satisfying than just a salad. At this time of year, I tend to prefer split pea, lentil, mushroom barley, and minestrone soups. An added bonus: If you start your meal with a healthy low-cal soup, you may actually end up eating less over the course of the meal. Because soup is so high in water, it helps fill you up without too many calories. One caveat: Many store bought soups are high in sodium, so you may want to make your own soups and freeze them.

5. Go apple picking.

This is a great time of year for many of us to go apple picking. I love the different varieties of apples available in New York at this time of year. As I previously discussed, apples are high in fiber, antioxidants, low in calories, and an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away. As the weather cools off, I love eating a baked apple for dessert. Add spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, for an added boost of flavor and health.

6. Enjoy winter squash.

Despite its name, winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. I am a huge fan of both butternut and acorn squash. Not only are these winter squashes nutritious, they are also versatile and, best of all, filling. One cup cooked butternut squash contains only 80 calories, over 6 grams of fiber, and is also rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. It tastes great roasted, lightly sauteed in olive oil, or pureed into a soup. I often enjoy it as a filling side dish or even as a late afternoon snack.

7. Get a massage.

I love getting a massage to help me relax and de-stress. Massage therapy, however, offers up many additional health benefits. Some research has found that massage therapy can be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, headaches, soft tissue strains, and even mild insomnia. My favorite is an aromatherapy massage which provides an added boost. Inhaling the aroma of essential oils (my favorite is lavender) may stimulate brain function, improve mood, and perhaps even increase cognitive function.

We would love to hear your favorite fall rituals.

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Oct. 7

9 Foods This Nutritionist Stocks in Her Kitchen

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, 9 foods this nutritionist stocks in her kitchen.

You can also read it HERE.

The people we surround ourselves with help to contribute to our happiness. In food speak, the foods we surround ourselves with, help keep us healthy.

As a nutritionist, I have seen first hand that our environment plays a huge factor guiding our food choices. If our “default” environment is filled with large portions of junk food, it becomes increasingly difficult to make healthy food choices. If, on the other hand, we keep healthy foods handy, we are more likely to make more nutritious food choices.

While everyone — including me — loves to indulge on occasion, eating well at least 80 percent of the time is the key to staying healthy. And surrounding ourselves with nutritious foods certainly helps us to make healthy food choices.

Here are nine healthy foods I try stock in my kitchen regularly.

1. Greek yogurt

I make sure to keep Greek yogurt in my refrigerator at all times. It tastes great and contains protein which helps keep me full along with the mineral calcium necessary for bone health. Greek yogurt is a great snack and the sky is the limit as far as nutrition goes; adding ground flax or chia seeds, nuts, and your favorite fruit adds a huge nutrition boost. Greek yogurt is also rich in good bacteria called probiotics known to have a multitude of health benefits, among them aiding in digestion.

2. Almonds

Almonds are packed with nutrients and are a filling and flavorful snack. They contain protein, vitamin E, heart-healthy fats, along with the minerals calcium and magnesium. I try to pack a one ounce serving — 23 nuts to be exact — in a small tin or baggie to take along with me if I will be out all day.

Almonds are also very versatile and make for a delicious addition to both fruit salads and green salads. I also love sprinkling slivered almonds into my morning oatmeal or yogurt.

And you have no reason to avoid eating nuts if you are watching your weight. Even though they are high in fat, research found that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control total calories. One caveat: include a handful of nuts instead of chips (the key word being “instead of.”)

3. Oatmeal

Not only does oatmeal taste delicious, it is also filling, chock full of fiber, and lower in calories and sugar than many breakfast cereals. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol level, making it a great choice to prevent heart disease. Oatmeal also contains magnesium and potassium, two minerals also good for your heart.

4. Apples

I love eating apples especially in the Fall season in New York. Apples are high in fiber, antioxidants, low in calories, and an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away. I enjoy an apple (Fuji is my favorite) as a snack most days and also love making baked apples to enjoy while home. I suggest buying organic apples and eating the entire apple along with the skin.

5. Blueberries

These tiny blue-colored berries are among my favorite fruits. Not only do they taste great, they are relatively low in calories and pack in nutrients including vitamin C, manganese, and fiber ( 4 gram of fiber per 1 cup serving). I often eat them by the handful or throw them into yogurt, smoothies, or salads. Frozen blueberies also taste great after nuking them in the microwave for a minute or so.

6. Peanut butter

I must confess that I love peanut butter and find it hard to stick with just a tablespoon or two even though I have spent a good part of my life studying portion control. If you can get a handle on your portion (2 tablespoons look like a walnut in a shell), peanut butter makes for a great snack or even a quickie mini-meal for kids and grown ups (remember peanut butter on whole wheat bread with sliced bananas). Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and contains protein which helps you to feel full.

7. Broccoli

I am a huge fan of eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit not just because they are healthy and relatively low in calories but because they taste great. Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables and is a true nutrition powerhouse. A cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family, broccoli is high in the antioxidant vitamins A and C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can help ward off cancer. While I prefer fresh broccoli, I always keep a bag of frozen broccoli on hand for a rainy day. Sautee broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and you are good to go.

8. Olive oil

While olive oil is high in fat and calories, and should be used sparingly (1-2 tablespoons as a serving on a salad), it is rich in monounsaturated fat and contains many health benefits, among them controlling cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels. I always keep a bottle of extra virgin olive oil handy — in a cool dry place — to toss on salads, drizzle on fish, and add zest and flavor to my favorite vegetables.

9. Avocados

Avocados taste great and add zest to a meal. They are also rich in healthy nutrients — including heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E and potassium — while also keeping your hunger at bay. I love to add avocado to a salad or spread it on whole grain crackers as a late-afternoon snack.

We would love to hear which healthy foods you stock in your kitchen.

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Sep. 18

Size Matters! Simple Strategies to Overcome Portion Distortion

Below is my post for Huffington Post, Size Matters! 10 simple strategies to overcome portion distortion.

You can also read it HERE.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity.

When results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a federal survey assessing the health of Americans, were released back in the mid-1990s with the scary statistic that the average American adult gained 8 pounds, I immediately suspected that it was due, at least in part, to growing food portions. However, back then, virtually no one was talking about portion sizes, at least as it related to obesity.

So I decided to conduct my doctoral dissertation exploring U.S. portion sizes and trace the history of food portions. Indeed, my research found that American food portions began to explode in the 1980s continuing through the 1990s and into the present. This increase in portion sizes parallels rising obesity rates, and is a perfectly logical explanation to explain rising obesity rates in the U.S.

Now, 20 years later, a comprehensive report from researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge, analyzed results of over 60 studies involving more than 6,700 participants and found that larger portions and oversize tableware contribute to overeating. The study, published on Sept. 14, 2015, in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that people consumed more food and drink when given bigger portions, plates, or silverware. And they ate more food regardless of if they were thin or overweight, male or female, hungry or not hungry.

We know that eating too much can lead to obesity, which increases our risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

As a long-time portion size researcher and educator, I believe that if we can make changes to our environment to reduce the availability and appeal of large portions and practice portion-control strategies on an individual level, we can make great strides to reduce obesity.

The University of Cambridge researchers concluded that efforts to reduce portion sizes could reduce caloric intake by up to 29 percent and (527 calories a day) among U.S. adults and up to 16 percent among U.K. adults. That is pretty significant and can make a huge difference in helping us all slim down!

As written in the University of Cambridge news release: “Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption. Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Gareth Hollands, a behavior and health researcher at the University of Cambridge.

“There has also been a tendency to portray personal characteristics like being overweight or a lack of self-control as the main reason people overeat,” Dr. Hollands added.

The study suggests that legislation, price incentives, and marketing strategies may be needed to help bring about significant reductions in our food portions. As I wrotehere, I couldn’t agree more.

In the meantime, here are some simple things you can do to combat portion distortion.

1. Purchase single-serving portions.

2. Eat off of your grandmother’s dishes. They are sure to be smaller than your current plates.

3. Use smaller glasses and utensils too.

4. Avoid serving food family-style. Plate out your portion in the kitchen. If you are still hungry, you can get up for more.

5. Fill up half of your plate with nutritious fruits and vegetables. No one got fat eating too many carrots or berries.

6. When eating out, share an entrée with your dinner companion. Order an extra salad or vegetable side dish.

7. Wrap up leftovers. They make a great accessory.

8. Steer clear of all-you-can eat meals and deals. Resist the bargain. And remember, volume does not mean value!

9. Eat mindfully–sitting down, without distractions such as watching TV and talking on the phone. And do not straight out of the container.

10. And, finally, wherever you are, eat slowly and enjoy your company.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

We would love to hear your tricks on how to overcome oversize portions.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter:

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Sep. 2

Will new food labels encourage us to eat…more?!

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, Will new food labels encourage us to eat…more?!

You can also read it HERE.

In February 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with Michelle Obama announced an overhaul to the nutrition facts label required on all packaged foods. Among the proposed changes includes updating the serving sizes.

As FDA states, “These updates would reflect the reality of what people actually eat, according to recent food consumption data. By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

The food labels have not been revised in over 20 years, and the current serving sizes are based on portions typically consumed in the 1970s and 1980s.

We eat larger portions than we did 20 years ago, so current serving sizes are smaller–often much smaller–than what people actually eat. As I’ve written in my book The Portion Teller Plan and research articles, these serving sizes may be confusing to people trying to follow dietary advice.

In a previous piece I wrote for Huffington Post, while I commended the FDA for using more realistic serving sizes, I also offered a note of caution: in particular, that FDA is not telling consumers to actually eat more.

“For the good news, as I discussed on CBS Morning News, the serving sizes will be more realistic and reflect what people really eat. Many people today just glance at the calories and think that whatever amount they eat is a serving. For the ice cream example, a consumer reading food labels will now see 400 calories displayed instead of 200 calories. This may mean that you would think twice before scarfing down the entire pint.

A note of caution: FDA is not telling us to eat more. At least, the agency is not advising us to eat a bigger portion of ice cream. Rather, the agency is informing us as to the calorie and nutrient content in a standard serving size which is more in line with what we really do eat…. It would be useful if FDA follow up with nutrition education materials to further educate the public on the relationship between portion sizes, calories, and obesity.”

While there are clearly benefits to FDA requiring that manufacturers use more realistic serving sizes, a new study, published in the journal Appetite, addresses some potential problems with larger serving sizes. The study explores how consumers interpret the new serving sizes, and how they affect the amount of food they would serve themselves.

In one of several experiments, the researchers showed subjects two different labels for mini chocolate chip cookies–the current label which states 3 cookies as a serving and the proposed new label which lists 6 cookies as a serving. The subjects exposed to the proposed label served themselves significantly more cookies than those exposed to the current label.

Results of all four experiments found that people misinterpret serving size information. The majority of subjects believe that the serving size on a food label refers to how much they should eat. The researchers also found that the increased serving sizes on the proposed Nutrition Facts label can lead people eat more and purchase more food.

Uh oh! This is troubling, especially in a society where many of us already eat too much.

The researchers write, “We found that people misinterpret serving size information, with the vast majority of consumers incorrectly believing that the serving size refers to how much can/should be consumed.”

Lead author Steven Dallas, a doctoral candidate at New York University’s Stern School of Business wrote me the following in an email message: “Our research shows that the increased serving sizes of the proposed label lead consumers to serve more food for themselves and others. Since excessive consumption is a key contributor to obesity, this is a worrisome effect of the proposed label.”

Results of this study confirm that consumers may incorrectly view serving sizes as recommendations. Hopefully, FDA will take these findings into account when finalizing its serving-size rulings for the new food labels.

The authors conclude in their paper, “FDA should be encouraged to consider ways to correct this misinterpretation, such as by mandating the addition of a serving size definition to the proposed Nutrition Facts label. The definition could inform consumers that the serving size refers to how much of the product a typical person consumes in one sitting, and does not refer to how much of the product can be healthily consumed in one sitting.”

I agree!

In my comments last year to FDA on the proposed serving-size change, I suggest that FDA should pro-actively address concerns about the possible unintended consequence that some consumers view serving sizes as portion recommendations. I wrote, ” 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.”

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on the new proposed serving sizes.

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Aug. 5

A prize may encourage us to eat less

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “A prize may encourage us to eat less.”

You can also read it here.

Portion sizes have grown over the past 50 years, and so have our waistlines. As I found in my portion-size research, the fact that Americans are eating too much is a perfectly logical explanation to explain the current U.S. obesity crisis. While there is some good news on the horizon suggesting that we are finally beginning to eat less, we still have a long way to go.

Researchers from University of Southern California (USC) conducted several interesting experiments encouraging both kids and adults to select smaller portions. The results, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that people will often choose a smaller portion when offered some kind of incentive or prize.

The researchers conducted three experiments, all offering some kind of incentive to choose the smaller portion.

As discussed in USC News, “In the first experiment, sixth-graders were offered the choice between a 9-inch sandwich and a 4.5-inch sandwich and inexpensive earbuds. The majority chose the latter. In a second experiment with adults, half-sized portions were paired with the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card or the chance to win 10,000 frequent-flyer miles accepted by all major airline loyalty programs. The majority chose the incentive and made that choice consistently over three days. In a third experiment, the researchers got similar results in a real restaurant setting with customers who came in with the intention of buying a full-sized sandwich, but opted for the half-size and a chance to win a $10 lottery.”

As you can see, the incentive offered does not need to be anything fancy or expensive. And the subjects consistently chose the smaller portion-plus-incentive option even when it was priced the same as the larger portion.

And, best of all, at least from a public health perspective, the smaller portion will not leave you hungry.

The researchers tracked total calories consumed in the second experiment and found that subjects ate fewer calories when compared to their baseline day.

The research findings could be a great way to help reduce our calorie intake and fight obesity along with its associated health care costs.

USC marketing professor Deborah MacInnis wrote me in an email: “Incentivizing consumers to choose smaller portion sizes not only offers opportunities for lower daily calorie intake, it also has the potential to help consumers realize that smaller sized portions won’t leave them hungry.”

She also wrote, “As consumers, we value our freedom of choice. Laws and regulations remove freedom of choice and can backfire by creating resistance and reactance. Giving consumers the opportunity to choose between a full sized version and a smaller version with an uncertain incentive preserves freedom of choice while motivating policy-consistent (and health promoting) behaviors.”

Here are some take away messages.

1. As a nutritionist and portion-size researcher, what I found most interesting was that the subjects were not hungry after choosing the smaller portion. This lesson applies to all of us. We can usually be satisfied with less food. We can always order more food later if we are still hungry.

2. Consider leaving over some food, wrapping up leftovers, or sharing an entree next time you visit your favorite restaurant.

3. How about treating yourself to a reward? Perhaps splurge on a massage if you choose the smaller portion.

4. If you are a parent, try encouraging your kids to choose the smaller — healthier — portion, by offering a small non-food prize or reward. Your kids will probably prefer the prize more than the extra food.

5. It may be economically feasible for the food industry to sell smaller portions. If you are a restaurant owner, consider adding some kind of small incentive encouraging diners to choose the smaller portion. Just be sure not to offer them a free dessert, which would defeat the whole purpose.

Want to learn some portion-control tips and tricks without the reward? I discuss them here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter:

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Jul. 27

Eat these 5 foods to help boost bone health

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, Eat these 5 foods to help boost bone health.

You can also read it here HERE.

Our bones tend to remain strong through early adulthood. As we age, however, our bones tend to become thinner. And when a woman enters menopause, she loses additional bone. Men and women alike, however, can get osteoporosis, a disease characterized by breaking bones. It happens when you make too little bone, lose too much bone, or both.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis. About 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men ages 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Good news you can control. The foods that you eat — as well as other lifestyle habits — can affect your bones. To build strong bones, several key nutrients play a pivotal role, including calcium and vitamin D. Calcium supports the structure of your bones while vitamin D improves calcium absorption. Other key nutrients to build strong bones include vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.

To boost bone health, include these five foods in your diet.


When we think about calcium, we tend to think milk, and for good reason. An 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk contains under 100 calories and around 300 mg of calcium, and 30 percent of the calcium recommendation for a 50-year-old. If you are not a milk drinker, try blending it with your favorite fruit and making a smoothie. Choose a brand that is fortified with vitamin D to get additional bone-health benefits.


Eating a serving of yogurt each day is a great ways to get your daily intake of calcium. Yogurt is portable, tasty, and packed with nutrients. Yogurt also contains probiotics, shown to promote gut health. Yogurt makes for a great breakfast option and also an easy snack. While Greek yogurt contains less calcium than regular yogurt, I tend to prefer it due its higher protein content helping to promote satiety, a feeling of fullness. Even if you are lactose intolerant and have a hard time digesting milk, you can probably eat yogurt without a problem.

Turnip greens

While most of us know that dairy products are good for our bones, we rarely think of fruits and vegetables as being linked to bone health. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is healthy for a multitude of reasons, one being that it contributes to stronger bones. Produce contributes antioxidants and polyphenols, in addition to vitamin K, magnesium and potassium, shown to promote skeletal health.

Greens such as turnip greens, bok choy, and kale are also rich in calcium. Turnip greens are one of my favorites: one cup cooked contains nearly 200 mg calcium, and 20 percent of the calcium recommendation for a 50-year-old. These greens are also chock full of other nutrients including vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, and fiber. Sautee them with a little olive oil, add them to a salad or smoothie, or add chopped turnip greens to veggie casseroles.


Got prunes? Move over milk. Prunes, also known as dried plums, may help strengthen bones, prevent bone loss, and perhaps even reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis. In fact, research found that eating just 5-6 medium prunes per day may do the trick. Prunes also contain plenty of fiber (helping our digestive help), vitamin C, and are alkalizing to the body, which may help to protect our bones.


While we know that fatty fish, including salmon and sardines, are good for our heart (thanks to its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), believe it or not, fatty fish have also been linked to skeletal health. In addition to being an excellent source of protein and omega-3s which help support skeletal health, salmon is rich in vitamin D which improves calcium absorption and bone health. A 4-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains around 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D, the recommended intake for adults under 70 years old. While we can get vitamin D from sunlight, nearly half of Americans are deficient in this vitamin, and few foods are naturally rich in this bone-protecting nutrient.

Still think your diet is low in calcium and vitamin D? Try taking a supplement. While I recommend that you get your nutrients from foods, if your diet is low in calcium or vitamin D, a supplement may help fill the gap.

While you can take calcium in pill form (citrate or carbonate are preferred), if you are the type to forget to take it, try ending your lunch or dinner with an Adora, a yummy chocolate supplement. Each wafer provides 500 mg calcium and 500 IU of vitamin D. Be sure to stop at just one. Additional calcium will not provide any added benefits for bone health. In fact, too much calcium can lead to kidney stones and other problems. So proceed with caution, and as I like to say, practice moderation.

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Jul. 2

9 tips for a guilt-free July 4th BBQ

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, 9 tips for a guilt free July 4th BBQ.

You can also read it HERE.

The 4th of July marks the season for summer barbecues. For many of us, that means burgers, hot dogs, and more diet disaster. But it doesn’t have to be.

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time educating clients on how to stay healthy, or even lose a few pounds, when attending summer BBQs and parties. While I know lots of people who simply decline invitations to parties for fear of overeating, I generally suggest that you enjoy the company of great friends and family, and make some wise food choices as well.

These days, most hosts, offer some healthy choices in addition to the usually barbecue fare. So, it is not too difficult to choose health.

Here are 9 simple and painless strategies to try at your upcoming July 4th barbecue.

1. Eat before you go.

Eating a healthy snack before heading to your summer food fest may seem silly, (after all, you are going to eat at your party, no?), but it is actually one of the best ways to fend off overeating. Eating a healthy snack, preferably with fiber and protein, will cut the edge off your hunger so that you don’t arrive at your party famished and ready to eat anything. Some good choices include: a yogurt with fruit, hummus and baby carrots, or an apple with a thin schmear of nut butter.

2. Wear tight fitting clothes.

Wearing tight fitting clothes is a simple way to remind you not to overeat. After all, you don’t want to see your belly bulge. For men, this means wear a belt. It would be great, of course, if we listened to our internal hunger as a cue to stop eating. But unfortunately, so many of us are not in tune with our bodies in that way. While we are working on it, wearing tight fitting clothes can help.

3.  Drink a glass of water or seltzer before eating.

Oftentimes, we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty. So I suggest starting off with a glass of water or flavored seltzer as a way to hydrate.  Also, if we drinking water, we are less likely to guzzle down sugar-laden soda.

4. Do a lap around the buffet line before filling up your plate.

Check out what foods are available instead of starting at the beginning of the buffet table and piling up on everything in sight. When we survey the selections first, we can pick a few healthy choices while also choosing a small portion of our favorite treat food. Taking a treat also makes it easier to skip the high calorie unhealthy foods we can do without.

5. Choose something green.

Yes, I know it’s July 4th and we’ll be patriotic for dessert (more on that later), but be sure to fill up in some greens: mixed lettuce, spinach, kale, cucumbers, celery, or broccoli. Your host will probably offer at least one of these healthy vegetables.  These green veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants—a great way to fill up. Another healthy green option is choose some guacamole which contains heart-healthy unsaturated fat.

6.  Try a veggie burger.

These days, with so may people following vegetarian diets, many hosts offer veggie burgers, a healthy addition to a summer barbecue. Give it a try. Top your burger with tomatoes, fresh avocado and you’ve got a super healthy meal. Free of  artery clogging saturated fat.

7.  Go bun-less.

I often suggest skipping the refined white bread and choosing a whole wheat bun, if available, or skip the bun altogether. Choosing a fresh salad and topping it with a burger makes for a delicious and nutritious meal. And you save room for a healthier starch option.

8.  Enjoy corn on the cob

If you decided to skip the bun, corn on the cob makes for a great starch option. Corn on the cob is high in fiber and will keep you feeling full for a while.  And fresh corn on the cob also tastes delicious right off the grill.

9. Be patriotic for dessert.

Here’s how to be patriotic—enjoy a delicious fruit salad for dessert. Choose red cherries, fresh blueberries, watermelon, and pear. If your host doesn’t make a fruit salad, offer to bring one.

We would love to hear your healthy tips.

Happy 4th! Safe travels.

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Jun. 19

12 healthy swaps in time for summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, 12 healthy swaps in time for summer.

You can also read it HERE.

Summer is right around the corner, marking a time of barbecues, outdoor eating and gatherings with family and friends. It is also means going to the beach and wearing (while also feeling comfortable in) your favorite bathing suit.

To enjoy the summer season and social gatherings that go along with it, it is important to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. It is no surprise that as a practicing nutritionist, this is one of my busiest seasons.

Here are several healthy — and simple — swaps to make this time a healthy season. Try to incorporate at least one swap per day and you will be on your way to a healthier summer.

1. Wake up practicing gratitude instead of complaining.

Be grateful for the good things in your life, instead of the bad things. While we can all finds things in our lives that could be better, things could also be a lot worse. Starting your day with a grateful heart opens us up to receive all of the miracles that life has to offer.

2. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of a bowl of granola.

Not only is oatmeal filling and contain fiber, it’s also lower in calories and sugar, when compared to granola. While a half cup serving of oats contains just 1 gram of sugar, many varieties of granola contain upward of 10 grams of sugar.

Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and also for weight control. Oatmeal also contains minerals, including magnesium and potassium, which promote heart health.

3. Top your oatmeal with fresh blackberries instead of sugar.

Blackberries taste sweet and are high in antioxidants and fiber while adding bulk to your portion of oatmeal. Sugar, on the other hand, is nothing more than empty calories

4. Drink sparkling water instead of soda.

Soda contains pure sugar, is liquid candy and a waste of calories. Swapping soda for sparkling water can save you hundreds of calories. For flavor, add a splash of lemon, lime or cucumber or throw in a few fruit flavored ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze).

5. Eat a salad made with kale instead of iceberg lettuce.

In general, the darker the green, the more nutrients it contains. While iceberg lettuce is mostly water, kale is richer in nutrients and antioxidants such as folate, fiber, and vitamins A and C.

6. Top your salad with grilled salmon instead of steak.

Salmon contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids known to prevent blood clots and promote heart health. Red meat, including steak, on the other hand, is high in saturated fat.

7. Toss cherry tomatoes instead of croutons into your salad.

Adding tomatoes to your salad will boost your intake of antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin C without contributing too many calories. Croutons, on the other hand, contain few nutrients and are mostly empty calories.

8. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Engaging in unstructured exercise such as taking the stairs or parking your car a few blocks away from where you are going is a great way to rev up your metabolism. Taking the stairs is also a great way to boost lean body mass.

9. Snack on peanuts instead of chips.

Hungry for a snack? Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of healthy unsaturated fats which may benefit the brain as well as the skin. Peanuts are also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E. And even better, eating peanuts may protect against major causes of death.

10. Eat ‘spaghetti’ primavera made with spaghetti squash instead of white pasta.

Not only will you save lots of calories by swapping pasta for spaghetti squash, the squash will also give you a healthy helping of folate, vitamin C, fiber and magnesium. And even better, you can enjoy a generous portion without having to worry about gaining weight.

11. Enjoy fresh corn on the cob instead of mashed potatoes.

It’s great to take advantage of produce in season. Corn on the cob is fresh and sweet while also containing a healthy dose of fiber. It is also portion controlled so it is hard to overdo it as you would mashed potatoes.

12. Swap your salt for a dash of turmeric.

Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to reduce the amount of salt you ingest.Turmeric, in particular, not only adds a zesty flavor but it also contains anti inflammatory properties which may promote health.

Wishing you a wonderful summer. We would love to hear your favorite summer swaps.

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