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14 small and simple steps to be healthier in 2018

It is now a full week into the new year, a time full of promises and hope. Whether you want to lose weight, get in shape, or just be a bit healthier this year, small and simple steps can help you to improve your well being. As a nutritionist, I help people develop healthy habits and make better food choices. I tend to be more of a fan of taking small actionable steps to improve your health than I am of making resolutions which we often never act on.

As 2017 came to an end and 2018 just began, now is a great time to assess our lifestyle, diet, and habits, and consider the tweaks we can take that could improve our health and nutrition. While no one magic pill, food, or exercise can make you healthier, these small and simple steps can certainly help get you there.

Here, I share some of my favorites.

1. Be thankful.

Before you can resolve to be healthier and eat better, it’s so important to get your head in the right place and focus on being positive. The best place to start is by expressing your gratitude for the good in your life. To get you started, jot down 5 things you are grateful for each day.

2. Get fresh air.

Whether you live in a sunny warm climate or it’s cold and cloudy, get outside. While you may not be able to do a full workout outdoors, take a walk around the block and be one with nature. It boosts your mood and helps get you going.

3. Enjoy a berry parfait.

Whether or not it is healthier to eat breakfast first thing in the morning is still a topic of debate. I advocate starting your day with something healthy even if it’s not first thing in the morning. I recommend choosing a healthy protein, whether it’s eggs, yogurt, or nut butter and adding a fresh fruit or a whole grain. If you don’t like to eat a big meal in the morning, make a yogurt parfait—Greek yogurt, your favorite berries, and a sprinkling of walnuts and flax-seeds.

4. Prep in advance.

As a clinician for over 20 years, my most successful clients planned their meals and prepped in advance. A few simple tips: always keep a variety of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand and stock your pantry with healthy choices including nuts, olive oil, beans, legumes, and whole grains.

5. Try something new.

Whether you decide try a new food (after all, there’s got to be a veggie you haven’t yet tried!), do a different workout, take a class, or travel a different route to work, changing things up gets you out of a rut. It gets you off to a fresh new start and the change is good for your brain too.

6. Be wise about portion size.  

Watching your portion size is by far the best way to watch calories without having to actually count them. Aim for approximately 4 ounces fish or poultry (a little larger than deck of cards or your palm). As for a healthy starch such as quinoa or brown rice, you do not need to skip it. Stick with a cup’s worth (your fist) as a side dish. And enjoy fresh fruits and veggies in unlimited portions. No one I know got fat from eating too many carrots or bananas.

7. Move daily.

Being active has been shown to have many health benefits, both physically and mentally. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, it improves your mood and outlook, lowers your heart rate and is good for your bones and your brain. Pick an exercise you enjoy and stick to it. Just don’t forget to breathe!

8. Eat a salad.

Eating salad may be one of the healthiest eating habits you can adopt today. Eating salads are a great way to get in a few servings of fruits and vegetables. They are packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They also fill you up so you eat less of the wrong stuff. Try mixing up your assortment of fruits and veggies to vary your nutrients.

9. Go fishing.

Fish is among the healthiest foods. It is full of nutrients, including protein and vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon is also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for brain and heart health. Include fish in your diet at least twice a week.

10. Snack smart.

Enjoying a healthy snack between meals is a great way to prevent you from being hungry and then overeating it later. My favorite snacks include an apple or pear with nut butter, cut up vegetables with hummus, a handful of nuts and berries, or 1/3 avocado with whole grain crackers. And, as I tell my clients eat before you eat! Having a light snack before heading out to dinner will help you eat less.

11. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary is a great to track your food intake. It helps to keep you accountable as well as identify your triggers and weaknesses. You can keep a food journal or you can use an app. Choose the method that is less cumbersome for you. Keep track of what you eat, how much, as well as how the food is prepared.

12. Cook more.

Home-cooked food tends to be healthier than restaurant and store bought food, containing fewer calories and less fat, sugar, and salt. If you eat out most nights of the week (and that includes ordering in!) , tweak your routine by eating home a few nights. If you don’t cook regularly, you may think you don’t know how, but give it a try and experiment your mom’s favorite recipes.

13. Souper-size it!

I am a huge fan of eating soup either as a snack or as a n appetizer. What I like most about including soups in your diet is that they are filling and often times, you get to eat a large portion without too many calories. Perfect for volume lovers! 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.

14. Say no to liquid candy.

Liquid candy is a term used for soda, sweetened iced tea, fruit punch and the like. Not only do sugary beverages contain unnecessary calories, (all from added sugars!), you often don’t even realize you are getting any calories at all, and you often eat a not so healthy snack with it. A triple wammy! Drink water instead. Sparkling water is great too. And feel free to add lemon, cucumber, sliced apple or mint leaves for added flavor.

Happy New Year. Here’s to a healthy year and to 365 days of endless possibilities.

We’d love to hear your favorite New Year’s hacks.

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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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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.

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

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Spring forward into health with these simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Spring forward with these 10 simple tips.”

You can also read it here.

With a new season often come new rituals and habits. With more daylight in the springtime, it is often easier to adopt certain habits, such as fitting in an early evening bike ride. It is also a great time to try new foods and develop new habits, in an effort to get healthier.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies–as well as our minds–for optimal health.

Below are 10 easy tips to incorporate into your life this spring. I hope you can give some of them a try, if you are not already practicing them.

1. Start your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and having an attitude of gratitude lead to stronger relationships, better sleep, and improved mood. Research reveals that cultivating gratitude not only leads to better psychological health, but also to improved physical health. While we can always find something to complain about, if we look hard enough, we can always find a multitude of things to be grateful for.

2. Get moving outdoors.

Exercising regularly offers many health benefits, ranging from managing weight to improved cardiovascular health and strength. Exercising outdoors, however, seems to provide added benefits. Research shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you also enjoy it more. People exercising outdoors report less depression and fatigue. Whether going for a morning run, a bike ride, or taking a brisk walk in the park after work, the spring season is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and be one with nature.

3. Try a new food.

As the old adage goes, “variety is the spice of life.” It turns out, variety may also be good for you, at least when it comes to making food choices. Choosing different foods of varying colors from the various food groups provides a more nutrient-dense and balanced diet. So next time you visit your favorite market, select a fruit or vegetable you have not tried before. You just might like it.

4. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary provides many benefits, from helping you shed unwanted pounds to identifying foods that may not agree with you.

Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that dieters who kept a food diary for six months lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep records. Perhaps because keeping a diary makes you more aware of certain habits such as nibbling and munching mindlessly. Keeping track of your mood may also prove useful.

5. Toss avocado into your favorite salad.

Avocados are a delicious, nutrient-dense fruit loaded with healthy fat and fiber. For an added nutrition boost, avocados seem to enhance the absorption of certain nutrients.

Research conducted by Ohio State University and supported by the Hass Avocado Board found that eating avocado with either raw carrots or tomato sauce (both rich in carotenoides, including beta carotene) significantly enhanced the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin as well as convert these carotenoides into an active form of the vitamin.

This is a great example of how eating certain foods together can impart added health benefits. So next time you are making a salad with carrots or a pasta dish with tomato sauce, toss in some avocado for an added health boost.

6. Snack on an apple

Apples are tasty, loaded with fiber, and low in calories. They are also easily portable, which is great if you are often on the go. While we are not sure if an apple a day will really keep the doctor away, new research reports that people eating an apple a day take fewer prescription medications than non-apple eaters. Certainly a good thing.

7. Add a handful of peanuts.

Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet can give you a great nutrition boost; they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, antioxidants including vitamin, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. They are also easy to pack and do not need to be refrigerated. Just be sure to stick to one handful.

8. Practice yoga

Practicing yoga has seen shown to increase flexibility and strength, boost mood, relieve stress, and more. While you can practice yoga at a studio, your local gym, or at home you can even do certain poses wherever you are and reap some benefits.

9. Include a cruciferous vegetable with dinner.

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and folate, and are low in calories. Perfect for watching weight and promoting health. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties which may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. Turns out, these veggies also taste great. Choose from cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and bok choy. Sautee your favorite veggie with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite spices and you are good to go.

10. Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Laughter seems to provide some health benefits and research finds that it may even compare to eating well and exercising to keep you healthy and free of disease. Laughter may calm the mind, relieve anxiety, and reduce stress.

And when you laugh and think positive thoughts, you are more likely to end your day on a happy note.

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

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