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Enjoy these 5 whole grains for better health

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

You can also read it HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

Quinoa

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

Buckwheat

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

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

Whole corn

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

Oats

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

Farro

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to a healthy fall.

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11 tips to make your grocery trip a whole lot healthier

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

You can also read it here.

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

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

1. Shop from a list.

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

2. Enlist your family.

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

3. Don’t shop when hungry.

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

4. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first.

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

5. Choose the rainbow.

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

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

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

7. Choose packaged foods with a short ingredient list.

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

8. Don’t be fooled.

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

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

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

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

9. Don’t buy in bulk.

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

10. Try a new food.

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

11. Yes, make room for a treat.

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

Enjoy!

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Spring clean your diet with these 6 easy tips

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

You can also read it HERE.

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

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

1. Cook more.

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

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

2. Try a new food.

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

3. Spring clean your kitchen.

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

4. Eat the rainbow.

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

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

5. Get outdoors.

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

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

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Try these 10 simple tips for a healthier 2017

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Try these 10 simple tips for a healthier 2017.”

You can also read it here.

Welcome to 2017! The New Year creates an opportunity to start fresh and set simple achievable goals for getting healthier and losing weight.

As a nutritionist and wellness advocate, I have never been a fan of rigid diets or all-or-nothing New Year’s resolutions that you cannot keep. Instead, I advocate making small actionable changes that you can incorporate into your day-to-day life which can be kept throughout the year.

Planning in advance, looking at the positive, making small changes when food shopping, eating out, and eating at home can make a big difference to your overall health and weigh loss efforts.

To make your life healthier, and even help you shed some unwanted pounds, below are 10 practical suggestions to help you improve your diet this year.

1. Mind your bowls.

Food portions are not the only things that have increased over the years — our plate sizes have too. And we eat more if our plates and bowls are bigger. It makes perfect sense. Consider your favorite breakfast cereal. A recommended serving size for a starch serving at breakfast would be around 1 cup. If you pour a 1-cup serving into a big bowl, it won’t look like much and you will most likely feel deprived. Try pouring it into a smaller bowl, perhaps even a bowl from your grandmother’s set, and it will look a lot better, and you may feel more satisfied. Perhaps because for a dieter, nothing is worse than staring at a half empty bowl or plate!

Even if your cereal is a healthy whole grain, if you eat too much, the calories add up quickly. And after experimenting with clients, most of us would easily pour 2-3 cups of cereal into our breakfast bowl, thinking we are eating a healthy cereal.

A client of mine lost 20 pounds, effortlessly, when switching to smaller plates and bowls. If we downsize our plate, we tend to eat less. Give it a try! This study found that halving plate size led to a 30 percent reduction in the amount of food consumed. I offer more portion-control tricks here and here.

2. Swap refined carbs for healthy fats.

Gone are the days where going fat-free is the healthiest option. Nix the big bagels and oversize muffins and enjoy some healthy fats. Enjoy a schmear of avocado on your whole grain toast, spread your favorite nut butter on a rice cake or two, sprinkle olive oil on your salad, and don’t feel guilty! And swapping carbs for healthy fats is also good for your heart.

3. Eat more, weigh less.

Good news if you are a volume lover. As I referred to them in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, volume eaters like a large portion of food. A solution: fill up on fruits and vegetables which tend to be low in calories (while also being super nutritious and chock full of vitamins and minerals.) Good options include berries, melons, citrus fruit, leafy greens and, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. Enjoy a bowl of mixed berries at breakfast with your yogurt or oatmeal. Eat a large colorful salad every day composed of a variety of different vegetables. Just ask for the dressing on the side and hold the croutons. And as I often say, no one got fat eating too many carrots or bananas.

4. Shop from a list, don’t buy in bulk, and eat before heading to the grocery store.

What you bring into your house will ultimately determine what you eat, at least when you are eating home. So here are some shopping tips that can help you shop smart. Do not go food shopping on an empty stomach. Eat a healthy snack before heading out to the store and you will end up choosing healthier foods. I also suggest making a list of the foods you need and stick to the list. Finally, steer clear of jumbo portions; the bigger the package, the more most of us eat, even if we aren’t hungry.

5. Go meatless once in a while.

Incorporating plant based proteins including chickpeas, lentils, black beans, tofu and tempeh into your diet offer up many health benefits, ranging from weight loss to lower cholesterol and improved blood sugar. Beans and legumes are high in fiber and protein as well as vitamins and minerals such as folate, iron, and magnesium. And here’s another reason to swap red meat for legumes. According to a new study, beans and peas make people feel fuller after a meal than meat. Enjoy a split pea soup with a colorful salad or a bean-based veggie burger instead of a hamburger for a healthy meatless lunch. And at your favorite Chinese restaurant, order tofu with veggies and brown rice (with your favorite sauce on the side) instead of spare ribs with fried egg rolls. Your heart and your waist will be happy!

6. Think positive.

Rather than dwelling on the foods you cannot eat, focus on what you can eat. I tell my clients that there is no restaurant or cuisine that is completely off limits. You can always find something healthy on the menu. And you do not have to order off of the “diet” menu. For example, when going to an Italian restaurant, instead of dwelling on the fact that you shouldn’t eat garlic bread and fettuccine Alfredo, focus instead of what you can eat: start with an arugula and endive salad, minestrone soup, or grilled veggies and for a main dish, you can enjoy whole wheat pasta with veggies and fresh tomato sauce or grilled fish with sautéed spinach.

7. Roast your vegetables.

I love roasted veggies and enjoy them quite often. For a change from steamed veggies which are bland and boring for many of us, you can roast whatever veggies you have in your fridge—broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and red pepper and zucchini to name a few. For a healthy—and filling—starch option, you can also roast sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Just go easy on the oil and you won’t have to worry about the calories.

8. Write it down.

There is no better way to get a handle on what and how much you eat than by keeping food records. Don’t worry; you do not have to keep them forever. People who keep food records become more mindful of their mistakes are then able to make corrections. Food records help you see your patterns, both positive and negative ones. For example, are you nibbling mindlessly while watching TV, and how much are you really eating? By identifying your bad habits, you can easily substitute them for healthier ones. Today, more than ever, it is easy to keep food records as there are so many apps on your smartphone which you can use.

9. Want dessert? Serve yourself.

If you are trying to eat healthier, a new study found that serving yourself can help curb unhealthy indulgences. People who choose their own piece of cake and, cut it themselves, eat less of it. And, better yet, they may even end up not eating cake at all.

While serving yourself stops people from eating unhealthy foods, it didn’t stop them from eating healthy food, the study to be published later this year in the Journal of Marketing Research found. So next time you are at a dinner party and your host offers you a fruit salad, go for it, but when it comes to the cake and cookies, serve it yourself.

10. Stress less.

When we feel stressed, many of us turn to food. Comfort food, that is as opposed to healthy salads. While it may be easier said than done, worrying will not make our problems go away. To beat stress and worry, exercise regularly and develop a daily meditation practice. It is also ok to start small. And be sure not to stress about the exercise: choose an activity you love (my favorite is yoga and swimming) and schedule it on your calendar at a time that works for you so you don’t feel rushed. As for meditation, start with 5 minutes before bed and work up to a longer period slowly. For an added boost, exercise and meditation also improves your mood and your health.

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Add these 6 superfoods to your diet this fall

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Add these 6 superfoods to your diet this fall.” 

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fall is right around the corner and many superfoods will hit their peak season. The autumn harvest brings a wide variety of healthy and delicious produce, from winter squash and sweet potatoes to pears and apples. We also often tend to crave different foods as the seasons turn.

Here are some fall favorites to boost your health and your taste buds.

Apples

Apples are high in fiber and antioxidants while being low in calories. We have lots of varieties to choose from, from sweet to tart. Be sure to eat the skin which contains hearty-healthy flavonoids. As the weather cools off, I recommend a baked apple for dessert. Add spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, for an added boost of flavor and health. As an added bonus, an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away.

Winter squash

Despite its name, winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. I am a huge fan of 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 enjoy it as a filling side dish and left overs make for a yummy late afternoon snack.

Beets

Beets are a nutrition powerhouse rich in folate, iron, and fiber. Red beets contain betalains, a powerful antioxidant which gives this veggie its deep red color. Beets offer up health benefits—helping to fight cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Roasted beets make a great addition to a salad and can also be thrown into your favorite green smoothie for an added zest of nutrients and color.

Turnip greens

Greens such as turnip greens, bok choy, and kale are super nutritious and delicious. Turnip greens are one of my favorites: These greens are chock full of nutrients including vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, and fiber. They are also high in calcium and contribute to bone health; one cup cooked contains nearly 200 mg calcium. Saute them with a little olive oil, add them to a salad or smoothie, or add chopped turnip greens to veggie casseroles.

Pears

Pears contain a juicy and sweet flavor and are a good source of vitamin C, copper, and fiber. Pears are high in soluble fiber which helps lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Pears are portable and make for an easy snack. Cooking this fruit brings out its flavor, and a poached pear is a great addition to a salad.

Sweet potatoes

A nutrition powerhouse, sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene and a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. I recommend roasted sweet potato wedges tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Other super healthy foods to include this fall are cauliflower, figs, pomegranates, and pumpkin.

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7 healthy back-to-school tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 healthy back-to-school tips.”

You can also read it HERE.

childwaterbottle

As we approach the end of August, many of us are preparing for another school year for our kids. As a nutritionist, I regularly counsel parents and their children on healthy eating. The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to set the stage for the upcoming year and to create new healthy habits for the entire family.

Below are simple tips to get you going on the right foot.

1. Start the day off right.

Eating breakfast as a family is a perfect time to bond and spend quality time together while also preparing a healthy breakfast for the kids. Eggs with whole grain toast, fruit and yogurt, or whole grain unsweetened cereal with milk and berries are several great choices. I suggest that kids begin their day with a meal consisting of protein and fiber, a winning combination of nutrients that will help them feel satisfied until lunch.

2. Nix the added sugar.

I was pleased to see the American Heart Association’s announcement this week suggesting that children and teens ages 2-18 limit added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day. These new guidelines aim to help improve children’s overall diet. Kids who eat foods high in added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods that are good for their heart. Added sugar provides no nutritional benefits and is found in a wide range of food from cookies, ketchup, salad dressings, sugar sweetened cereals (even some whole grain ones!), smoothies, to sweetened yogurts. The major culprit of added sugar, however, is soda and sugary drinks including iced tea and fruit punch so I suggest limiting them from your kids’ diets. The guidelines also suggest that children and teens consume no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks a week. Sugary drinks, often called “liquid calories,” provide no health benefits.

3. Swap juice for whole fruit.

I am an advocate for feeding your kids whole fruit instead of juice. The fruit is rich in fiber and its high water content helps to keep the calories low. On the other hand, it is so easy to guzzle down too many calories from juice without even realizing it. A pint of orange juice, for example, contains around 225 calories. This is the equivalent to 2-3 cups of mixed berries, which would certainly make you feel much more satisfied. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about drinking the pint of juice but few of us would eat 3 cups of berries in one sitting.

4. Pack a healthy snack.

If you are packing snacks for your kids, here is a perfect opportunity to include at least one fruit and veggie. Smart snacks include fresh fruit (apple, pear, and bananas), Greek yogurt, baby carrots with hummus, roasted edamame, and of course a bottle of water. Nuts or nut butter squeeze packs are also great choices if a school allows nuts; if not, they are a great go-to snack when kids get home.

5. Keep portions healthy (no measuring cup required!)

Regardless of what you feed your kids, I am advocate for serving healthy portion sizes. I love using the plate method with kids (as long as the plate isn’t oversized!): at dinner, for example, fill half the plate with veggies and a quarter with protein (think fish, chicken) and the other quarter with a healthy starch (brown rice, sweet potato). To avoid overeating, limit eating in front of the TV and pre-portion snacks into 100 calorie portions. I offer more portion control tricks and tips here.

6. Skip the white food (unless it’s cauliflower or white beans).

White bread including bagels, white rice, and white pasta are refined grains and are easy to overeat. Because they contain virtually no fiber, we don’t feel satisfied after eating them. While many kids choose them by default, I’ve learned from my counseling practice that introducing kids to healthier alternatives including quinoa, whole grain pasta, and brown rice helps them get into the habit of enjoying these grains. No need for kids to cut out starch entirely. Choosing the healthier ones is a far better alternative.

7. Get moving!

Incorporating sports and exercise into your children’s daily routine is a great way to keep them healthy while also keeping their weight in check. If possible, enroll kids in after school activities where possible, enjoy a walk or bike ride with your kids whenever possible, and encourage them to move. I’ve noticed that if parents engage in physical activity, their kids will follow along.
Hope your school year gets off to a great start!

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5 ways to build a healthy sandwich

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

You can also read it HERE.

sandwich veggie

Americans love sandwiches. On a given day, more than of half of us eat a sandwich for lunch. According to a new study, however, this meal may be hurting our diet.

A new study published in the journal Public Health found that on the days that people ate a sandwich, they consumed more calories, fat, salt, and sugar.

Researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign analyzed dietary intake data from a large federal national survey of over 27,000 U.S. adults. They found that sandwiches contributed “nearly a quarter of daily total calorie intake and about a third of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium intake.”

And on days people ate sandwiches, they ate an extra 100 calories than on days they skipped the sandwich. They also ate an extra 7 grams of fat, 268 grams of sodium, and 3 grams of sugar compared to the days when they didn’t eat a sandwich.

This was because the sandwiches weren’t too healthy. The researchers reported that the most popular sandwiches were made with cold cut, burgers, and chicken.

The researchers also found that people ate slightly less fruit and vegetables on days when they ate sandwiches as compared to the days when they skipped a sandwich.

As a nutritionist, I know first hand that people love sandwiches! They are an easy go to meal, especially for lunch. If you pay attention to what goes into your sandwich, however, it can be a very healthy lunch.

Here are my easy tips to build a better sandwich.

1. Drop the bun.

You can still eat bread, but skip the white bun, roll, and all refined white bread products. My top picks are to choose a whole grain bread—whole wheat, oat, or rye bread. A whole grain pita or wrap is also a great choice. Gluten free whole grain breads, made with buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, or whole grain amaranth are also great bets.

2. Choose a healthy filler.

Choose a lean protein such as grilled fish, chicken, or turkey breast as a protein choice. If you want a burger, swap the hamburger for a veggie burger. A vegetarian sandwich made with tofu, tempeh, hummus or white beans is also a great choice. To avoid the extra sodium and fat, I suggest going easy on cold cuts and skip the cheese atop your turkey breast.

3. Size matters.

When asked “what kind of sandwich isn’t fattening,” my response is “half a sandwich,” Portion size does matter. Aim for around 3-4 ounces of protein—the size of your palm or a deck of cards. It’s ok to go a little over that, but many deli sandwiches often contain a pound of meat, enough protein for 4 people!

If properly portioned, a mid-day sandwich can, indeed, make for a good weight loss option too.

4. Pile on the veggies.

When you add on veggies—lettuce (the darker the better!), tomato, shredded carrot, peppers, and more, you add flavor, color, nutrients, crunch, and volume to your sandwich without too many calories.

5. Order the topping on the side.

When it comes to toppings, a little goes a long way. Condiments such as mustard and ketchup are high in sodium and a small amount does go a long way. Mayonnaise, cheese sauces, and creamy salad dressings are also high in fat and should be ordered on the side. One of my favorite toppings is thinly sliced avocado which adds healthy fat, flavor and moisture to your favorite sandwich.

One of my favorite sandwiches is a hummus avocado wrap filled with lots of fresh colorful veggies.

Experiment and enjoy!

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at freedigitalphotos.net

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18 tips for a healthier summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “18 tips for a healthier summer.”

You can also read it HERE.

beach

Summer is here, marking a time for travel, barbecues, and lots of socializing with family and friends. For many of us, summer is also a time to go to the beach and feel comfortable in a bathing suit. It is also a time to take off our sweaters and show off our figures.

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 all the fun summer has to offer. I enjoy traveling both for pleasure and for work, so I am always fine tuning simple strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road.

Here are several smart and simple strategies to start off your summer on a healthy track.

1. Grab a fruit.

Whether or not you are a big breakfast eater, I recommend keeping your home filled with lots of fruit which you can enjoy in the morning with a healthy protein choice such as yogurt, eggs, or nut butters. Enjoy colorful summer fruit like watermelon and also try to keep fruit on hand that you can toss in your bag and take along to avoid temptations.

2. Bring along a water bottle.

Staying hydrated is very important especially in the summer heat. People often mistake feeling hungry when they are really just dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy while traveling. And need a fizzy drink? Opt for sparkling water instead of soda and other sugary drinks. You’ll save on calories and sugar.

3. Fiber up!

Foods high in fiber keep you feeling full and also help fight disease. Skip the white bread and opt for whole grains instead. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa are some great choices. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables also ensures that you get ample fiber.

4. Get moving.

This is a great time of year to stay active. The days are longer making it a good time for an after work bike ride. Heading to the beach? Take a brisk walk. And take advantage of an outdoor swim. Personally, I prefer exercising outdoors whenever possible and as long as it’s not to hot I try to take advantage of every opportunity.

5. Be social.

When going to a social gathering, instead of focusing on the food, enjoy the company. When you talk to others, you often end up eating more slowly and you eat less. After all, as it’s hard to chew and talk.

6. Eat sitting down.

A great way to avoid nibbling is to follow this rule. Somehow, when we eat standing, we do not pay attention to what and how much we are eating. At a barbecue? Grab your plate, fill it up, and find a seat.

7. Keep a veggie platter handy.

Got the munchies? Keep veggies at arms reach — carrots, celery, red peppers — and you’ll have something nutritious to nibble on.

8. Eat before you eat.

Going to a party and not sure what your host will serve? Eat something before you go. Grab a yogurt, snack on melon, or enjoy a turkey roll-up (turkey wrapped in lettuce.) These foods will cut the edge so you don’t grab the first food you see when you arrive at your party. Avoid “saving up” and overdoing it.

9. Snack smart.

Hungry for a snack? Skip the chips and choose nuts instead. Adding a handful of nuts 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. Nuts also help keep you feeling full so you end up eating less junk later.

10. Have an attitude of gratitude.

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

11. Eat a colorful salad.

I suggest eating at least one salad per day. Fill up on an assortment of colorful veggies and you’ll get a dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and fiber without too many calories.

12. Hold the dressing.

The best way to be sure that your salad or meal is not too caloric is to ask for dressing and sauces “on the side.” Typical store-bought salads often contain 4 tablespoons of dressing, adding several hundred calories, to your meal.

13. Share, share, and share!

Eating out? Chances are the portion you are served is too big? Share your meal with you partner and you’ll be satisfied without overdoing the calories. Share an entree along with a salad. Still hungry? Opt for an extra side of mixed vegetables.

14. Write it down.

Keep a food journal from time to time and to see just how much you are eating. When my clients do this, they are often shocked at how many extra nibbles they are eating. A taste here, a bite there — calories add up quickly. And, very often, if you have to write it down, you don’t bother eating it. A great way to save calories!

15. Relax and don’t stress.

Eating should be pleasurable and should not stress you out. When you travel or go to a party, do the best you can. If you overate, don’t fret, and get back on track. One meal will not blow your entire diet.

16. Buy single-servings.

As a portion-control advocate, one of the easiest ways to eat less is to buy single servings of your favorite foods and snacks. A small bag of nuts or pretzels makes it easy to keep our calorie counts down. If you nibble right out of a big bag, you are leaving it up to willpower, and if you are like most of us, you will probably end up eating too much.

17. Keep small baggies handy.

While you may not always be able to buy single-servings, portioning out a snack into a small baggie is the next best thing. Just be sure not to nibble while you are doing this.

18. Get a good night sleep.

When traveling, you are often busy socializing which is a good thing. But be sure to get enough sleep. Most people need at least 7 hours of sleep. Put your cell phone away, and relax, as tomorrow is another day.

Happy summer!

We’d love to hear your healthy summer tips.

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7 Nutrition Secrets to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 secrets to live a longer–and healthier–life.

You can also read it here.

ADA stock photos-veggies low res

Let’s face it. We all want to live a longer — and healthier — life. Aging is inevitable but there are healthy habits we can create and foods we can enjoy to help prologue our lives. A nutrient dense diet along with a stress-free lifestyle goes hand in hand to promote longevity.

As a nutritionist, I regularly get asked how to help slow the aging process. Below are some simple tricks to help stop the clock.


1. Go meatless.

Swapping meat for fish, beans, and legumes is a great way to fight inflammation and prevent aging. Indeed, consuming fish regularly has been shown to promote brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines also help boost our intake of omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats also shown to promote heart health. Incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet by eating less meat and more legumes along with more fruits and vegetables has also been shown to fight inflammation.

2. Eat brain candy.

To keep our brains sharp and to prevent cognitive decline, what we eat can make a difference. Foods high in certain vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals may help to boost brain health. Deep red foods such as tomatoes and watermelon contain the antioxidant lycopene which fights free radicals that come with aging. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are rich in vitamins E and K which may prevent memory loss and help reduce our “brain age.” Berries contain anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Maintain your weight.

As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down so it is important to watch calories and exercise more to avoid weight gain. It turns out that maintaining a steady weight and avoiding yoyo dieting is equally important. The centenarians fromOkinawa, known to live long and healthy lives, were known to keep their calories down and their weight steady. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. Eating nutrient dense foods along with practicing portion control allows you to eat almost all of your favorite foods while helping to keep your calories in check.

4. Eat a colorful plate.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help counter free radicals, thereby helping to fight cellular damage and aging. Choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum. Try to start each meal with a mixed salad and as diet planning guides suggest, fill half of your plate fruits and veggies.

5. Skimp on added sugar.

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines set a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. This was done for good reason. A diet high in added sugar has been linked to obesity, chronic diseases, and inflammation. The 2015-2020 guidelines advise that added sugars comprise no more than 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which comes from sugary beverages. While we should skip soda, we also must watch out for other foods such as many store bought salad dressings, ketchup, and prepared foods which contain considerable amounts of added sugar. Read food labels and take note: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and honey are all other names for “sugar.”

6. Spice it up.

Seasoning your favorite foods with spices will not only enhance the flavor, but will boost your nutrient intake, and help fight the aging process. Turmeric, for example, contains the active ingredient curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve joint pain. And, for an added boost, seasoning your foods with spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

7. Keep moving.

As a nutritionist, I am a huge advocate for exercise and recommend that my clients incorporate an exercise program into their (almost) daily routine. Cardiovascular exercise including walking, biking, and swimming help keep our heart strong while strength training helps preserve lean muscle and is therefore equally important as we age.

We would love to hear your favorite anti-aging tricks.

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Spring clean your diet with these 10 simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Spring clean your diet with these 10 simple tips”

You can also read it here.

Strawberries

Along with a new season come new foods and rituals. One of the things I love most about springtime is the extra daylight. I try to take advantage of these longer days by taking a walk outdoors or biking in the park. I also love taking advantage of enjoying the seasonal produce available this time of year. From asparagus to berries, springtime is the season for healthy produce.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies along with our minds for optimal health. These 10 simple tips will help boost your health, and maybe even your mood, this season.

1. Make small shifts to your diet.

One of the key messages in the recently released 2015-2020 dietary guidelines is an emphasis on making small shifts to our diet, as opposed to radical changes which are often difficult to stick with. Think of a food habit you’d like to change and slowly ease into a new ritual by making a small shift. If you are a soda drinker, for example, shift your beverage to water or seltzer. If you tend to go hours without eating, plan for a healthy snack by bringing along an apple and a small bag of your favorite nuts. And most of us can make shifts in our diet to include more fruits and vegetables.

2. Mind your hand.

Paying attention the size of your portion is one of the best ways to keep your weight in check. While measuring your food can be a bit cumbersome and not always practical, using your hand is a simple and useful trick to help you guesstimate your portion. As I discuss in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, your portion of meat should be the size of your palm (approx 3 oz) and your side of rice should be the size of your fist (approx 1 cup.) While it’s not an exact science, as we all have different size hands, it is a helpful way to help gauge how much you eat. And if you have a bigger hand, you can probably get away with eating a bit more.

3. Get moving.

If you do not yet have an exercise routine, this is a great time to get one into place. Exercising regularly offers up many benefits — from helping us shed pounds, boost our moods, and even keep our minds sharp. In the springtime, we have the added benefit of great weather and more sunlight, a perfect time to get moving outdoors.

Research even shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you even may enjoy it more. Exercising outdoors may also help to alleviate stress and depression.

4. Swap multigrain for whole grains products.

Many of my clients are easily deceived by healthy sounding terms like “multigrain.” The term “multigrain” is defined as containing a blend of two or more grains and has little meaning when it comes to boosting your health. The grains may be healthy if they are whole rye or whole oats, for example, but they may also not be particularly healthy if they are a blend of enriched wheat flour, which is refined, and not to be confused with whole wheat. So pay attention to food labels and the first ingredient in your grain products.

5. Go green.

I am a huge fan of all things green, especially green veggies. Spinach, kale, broccoli, you name it, and if it’s green, it is most likely healthy! One of my favorite springtime produce is asparagus. Chock full of fiber, folate, vitamin K, and iron, asparagus is a nutrition powerhouse. I invite you to add asparagus to your springtime dinner routine. My favorite method of preparation is simply roasting it with a drizzle of olive oil and you are good to go.

6. Find hidden sugars lurking in your favorite food.

For the first time, the dietary guidelines call out added sugar, and advise us to limit our intake to no more than 10 percent of total calories. While we know that soda and candy are full of added sugar, we may not pay attention to the sugar lurking in our favorite salad dressing or whole gain cereal. Trying to reduce our sugar intake would be easier if every product that contained it called it “sugar.” However, so many food products on the shelves contain sugar yet call it by a different name. Be on the lookout for the following terms which are other names for sugar: sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a daily value (DV) for “added sugar” along with prominently displaying the amount of added sugar on the nutrition facts food label. This will hopefully clear up some of the confusion. But until that happens, be a food sleuth, and read the ingredient list.

7. Scoop it out.

We eat more out of large containers and when we pour out our favorite foods into a bowl or plate, we often pour too much. We also tend to overeat when we nibble right out of a jar or box of food. Consider your favorite cereal: pour it into an oversize bowl and you probably poured too much. Same with your favorite ice cream: eat a spoonful straight from a pint, and you may end up polishing off the entire container. A scoop or measuring cup to the rescue! Pour your cereal into a one-cup measuring cup or scoop, and you will hopefully stop right there. Use a half-cup ice cream scoop and it will be easier to stick to that portion.

8. Eat fat.

As a nutritionist, I advise clients to incorporate healthy fat into their diets. Healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Fats help us feel full so that we are not grabbing for that cookie an hour after eating. Nuts make for a great snack as they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. Just be sure to stick to one handful. Because fat contains more calories than carbohydrates and protein, practicing portion control is key.

9. Add strawberries to your favorite salad.

Strawberries are delicious and one of the lowest calorie fruits. They are also rich in nutrients, particularly vitamin C, an antioxidant which helps the body quench free radicals. In addition to tasting great plain (or with whipped cream, of course), strawberries will add color, flavor, and nutrients to your fruit salad or even your tossed green salad.

10. End your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and practicing gratitude leads better sleep and improved mood.Research reveals that cultivating gratitude leads to better psychological and physical health. One ritual that I love recommending (and practice myself) is to write down 5 things I am grateful for each day. While certain things can always be better, we can all find a variety of things, both large and small, to be thankful for.

Photo complements  freedigitalphotos.net by Rakratchada Torsap.

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