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Posts Tagged ‘ Breakfast ’

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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Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks.”

You can also read it HERE.

Courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

With the start of the New Year, losing a few pounds is often high on many people’s “to do” list. You may even be thinking of trying the latest fad diet, a version of the Paleo diet, or a juice cleanse.

Having spent the past 20 plus years counseling people trying to shed unwanted pounds, I know that losing weight is the easy part. Keeping if off and developing long-term healthy habits you can stick with is a far greater challenge.

If you have previously read my advice to dieters, you know that practicing portion-control is, in my opinion, by far one of the simplest and most effective ways to shed unwanted pounds for good. Ultimately, regardless of which method you try, in order to succeed at weight loss, you have to eat fewer calories.

Many fads work initially because you end up eating less, often because you omit entire food groups from your diet. By practicing portion control, however, you get to eat the foods you love (just not huge amounts every day) without cutting out certain food groups entirely. In my opinion, this is a much healthier and balanced approach. And, with a bit of planning, if you choose your foods wisely, you can often even eat more.

I’ve rounded up some portion-control tricks which can help you get 2016 off to a great start and help you shed unwanted pounds. Many of these tricks are rooted in behavior change which serve as cues to gently remind us to eat mindfully…to eat when hungry…to eat more slowly…and to eat less.

1. Go retro.

If we can return to eating smaller portions like we did several decades ago, we’d probably be a lot thinner. Back in the 1950s, portions were smaller and so were we. I’ve spent a good part of my career tracking how our food portions have grown — and how our waistlines have too. Rates of obesity increased as portions rose. This CDC graph, based on my research, illustrates this point. Large portions have more calories than small portions, so if we can trim our portions, we can cut out lots of calories which can help us to lose weight.

2. Eat a small breakfast.

I recommend that dieters eat within two hours of getting up. It doesn’t have to be a huge feast though. In fact, a smaller breakfast may actually be best. A study found that dieters who ate a small breakfast, as opposed to a large one, ended up eating less over the course of the day. Often, we think if we eat a big breakfast, we’ll eat less for lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

My takeaway message is: eat a light meal in the morning. If you are not much of a breakfast eater, no worries. Make it a brunch and ok to eat something small. I suggest you include protein and fiber, which help you feel full. Some of my favorites are a Greek yogurt and berries, a slice whole grain toast with a thin schmear of peanut butter, or a bowl of oatmeal with chopped walnuts or a little milk.

3. Cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces.

We tend to eat in units. Most of us don’t share a slice of pizza, a bagel, or a soda (or other foods which come in units) with a friend. Instead, we tend to eat the whole thing. An interesting study offers up this trick: cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces and you may end up eating fewer calories. In this particular study, when a pizza pie was cut into 16 slices — instead of the typical 8 slices — people ate less. I invite you try it.

4. Beware the health halos.

So often we get caught up with labels such as “low-fat,” “gluten free,” and “organic.” Many of us also think that if a food is good for us, we can eat as much as we want. This study found that people who thought alcohol was heart-healthy drank nearly 50% more alcohol than those who did not.

My suggestion for 2016: keep an eye on your portion size even if you think a food may be good for you. Low-fat cookies are still cookies and gluten-free crackers are still crackers. And both products do indeed contain calories which add up pretty quickly.

5. At times, you can eat more to weigh less.

Good news if you are a volume lover. As I referred to them in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, volume eaters like a large portion of food. A solution: fill up on fruits and veggies which tend to be low in calories (while also being nutritious.) Good options include berries, melons, citrus fruit, leafy greens and, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. Enjoy a large colorful salad. Just ask for the dressing on the side.

6. Souper-size it!

I am a huge fan of eating soup and “souping” seems to be a popular trend these days. What I like most about including soups in your diet is that they are filling and often times, you can eat a large portion without too many calories. In fact, people who eat a large vegetable-based soup as an appetizer often end up eating fewer calories at the rest of the meal. My favorites — minestrone, tomato kale, lentil soup, and white bean. Several caveats: skip the cream soups and go easy on salt.

7. Take out the measuring cups once in a while.

It’s a great idea when you are eating at home to occasionally measure out your food to get an idea how much you typically eat. While it is not exactly practical to measure your food when you are eating out, and I don’t suggest you weigh your food daily, finding out just how big — or small — your portion is can be quite an eye opener. For example, I’ve had clients pour their typical ready-to-eat cereal into their oversized bowl and think they are having one serving, or around one cup. After measuring it out, they are shocked that their “healthy” cereal portion is closer to three cups. Yikes!

8. Take a look at your hand.

While you don’t always have measuring cups with you, you always have your hand. Which is why I created the “handy guide” to estimating your portion size. A 3 ounce portion of meat or chicken looks like the palm of your hand and a fist looks like 1 cup pasta or rice. This method is not an exact science, but does come in handy.

9. Downsize your food packages.

Considerable research has found that we eat more if our packages are larger. Instead of surrounding ourselves with temptation, I suggest buying single-serving packages or pre-portioning your favorite snacks and putting them into baggies which you can grab when you are hungry.

10. Slow down.

When we eat more slowly, we tend to eat more mindfully, and, in turn, eat less. One way to slow down is to count your bites. A small study found that study subjects who cut their daily bites by 20 percent lost around 3.5 pounds in a month. While counting your bites may not be the most pleasurable thing to do, especially if you are hoping to enjoy your food, paying attention to how many bites you are taking ultimately slows you down which leads to eating less. While I don’t suggest you count your bites regularly, it may be ok to try once in while.

11. Eat off of grandma’s dishes.

Food portions are not the only things that grew over the years — our plate sizes have too. And research has found that we eat more if plates or glasses are large. A solution: use grandma’s dishes. A client of mine did this and lost 20 pounds, effortlessly. If we downsize our plate, we tend to eat less. A small looks bigger on a smaller plate. I invite you to eat a salad of of a big plate and a pasta or meat dish off of a smaller plate. This study found that halving plate size led to a 30 percent reduction in amount of food consumed.

12. Commit to cooking more in 2016.

When we cook, we often make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking 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. These findings don’t surprise me. Restaurant portions tend to be larger than amounts we would typically prepare at home. Foods eaten out also tend to be more caloric than home cooked meals.

We would love to hear portion-control tips that have worked for you.

Here’s to a happy — and healthy — 2016!

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5 ways to build a healthy breakfast

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

You can also read it HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few great breakfast options:

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

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

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

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

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

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Big breakfasts = more calories!

Big breakfasts = more calories!

We are often told to eat a big breakfast. The thinking goes that it will lead us to eat fewer calories later in the day. However, a new study from Germany says this is untrue. As  Nicholas Bakalar from the New York Times writes, this study, published in Nutrition Journal, found that subjects who bigger breakfasts simply ended up eating MORE calories over all. Regardless of whether the subjects, overweight or slim, ate a large breakfast, a small breakfast, or no breakfast at all, their non-breakfast calories remained the same.

So, here is the take home message. While you shouldn’t skip breakfast entirely, if you are trying to lose weight, keeping your breakfast calories low, is a good idea.

As I tell my clients, watch your portions AND stick to nutrient dense choices—foods that give you lots of nutrients for few calories. And try to include fiber and protein—both will aid in satiety so that you will not be hungry in an hour.

Here are some of my clients’ favorites:

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal mixed with 8 oz low-fat or fat-free milk. Top with berries and 2 tblpsn crushed walnuts.
  • Egg white omelet with spinach, tomato, and a slice part-skim cheese with a slice ofwhole grain toast and all fruit spread. Fruit salad on the side.
  • A cup of Greek nonfat yogurt topped with ½ cup high fiber cereal, and a cup of mixed berries. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed.

And here are some breakfast fares to avoid, especially if you are trying to lose weight: oversized muffins, jumbo bagels, fat-laden danishes and donuts.

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