2018 New Years Resolutions

So if you are starting your year off with a goal to lose weight you’ve come to the right place! As a nutritionist I love when people are motivated to change and the new year is a great place to start fresh. Weight loss can be beneficial to your health because is has been shown in research to improve health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, etc. However, losing weight is difficult and when starting out it is kind of like saying “I’m going to build a house but I’m not a carpenter”. That is why, I and other nutritionists, are here to help lay the plan out for you to make it easier and to help you achieve your health goals this year.

Before I get into any specifics I want to take a moment to talk about my own journey with weight and why I feel that is so important.

I can tell you from my own experience that I struggled with weight since I hit puberty. I went from being 105 pounds as a young elite athlete to quickly 120 pounds to then 135 pounds. Throughout high school I fluctuated weight and picked up eating disorder habits to lose weight which I brought with me to college. In college I was able to break that cycle but I stayed at my highest weight around 140 pounds. While I had broken the eating disorder habits I was still eating poorly overall and believed many food myths. I relied heavily on the idea of  the superfood mentality and I would eat one healthy food over and over again with very little thought of diet as a whole. I also was a big binge eater because I exercised 3 hours a day and basically never ate a cookie until I ate a cookie but it wasn’t just a cookie, it was the whole box. Among many other bad habits like sleep deprivation, stress, neglecting my hunger and satiety, and of course drinking in college I look back and think well of course thats why you were overweight. However, that’s so much easier said than done. When I talk to people and as I am writing to you I hope you can also think about your eating habits over time. How have they changed? Have you made healthy steps already?  Taking a look at where you are currently will help you understand how weight gain happened over time and what is holding you back from weight loss presently.

So how did I break the cycle. Well I learned a lot about nutrition and took those easy things that I learned and made lifestyle changes in my real life. Will I ever be 105 pounds again? No, but I’m happy with where I am now.

So why don’t diets work? Most are to restrictive and involve too many changes at one time. While many diets like low carb or high protein our popular and have significant weight loss results at 6 months the long term results are varied. Most find at 1-2 years out most people regain weight lost and no significant differences in weight loss between diets. If you are looking to follow any diet this year I would challenge you to go out of your comfort zone and try MyPlate.

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So if diets don’t work, what does? There is a lot of research on lifestyle changes, as I mentioned above, that improve your chances at long term success at keeping the weight off. Lifestyle Changes are basically goals that cause a long term change in eating habits that then cause changes in overall health outcomes over time. Your goal should be to make one change at a time so you know what works for you and make your goals SMART.

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Here are my top ten ideas that have been shown to help aid in weight loss and improve health.

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  1. Add a vegetable at every meal. We know from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that Americans eat less than 1 serving a day of vegetables when we should be eating 2-3 servings per day. We also know that vegetables are low in calories and sugar, and full of antioxidants that help us fight off cancer! Along with those properties they are also full of fiber which we also do not eat enough of according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fiber helps us feel more full, keeps are bowel movements regular, prevents colon cancer, and keeps your gastrointestinal tract full of good bacteria which more research has come out to say may be influencing our weight too.
  2. While exercise hasn’t been shown to aid in weight loss it is one of the contributing factors for keeping weight off. Essentially those who are active are the most successful in long term weight loss. Even if exercise does not affect your weight it surely improves your cardiovascular system, lung capacity, muscular strength and improves bone health. Start out small! Remember you can’t help yourself if you’re injured and make sure to contact your doctor before exercising if you have an underlying medical condition.
  3. PACK YOUR LUNCH. Since I’ve started working in the workplace I can’t believe how often people eat out. Unless you have healthy options available packing your lunch can save you money and extra calories. When they’ve looked at diet quality of packed lunches versus lunches eaten out, packed lunches have a much higher diet quality overall. Therefore if you eat out often, this may be a good place to start.
  4. Drink more water. Sugar sweetened beverages are one of the biggest contributors of extra calories in our diets. Remember four grams of sugar equals 16 calories and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Added sugars will also soon be part of the nutrition facts label because it is a nutrient that we need to lower in our diets according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Less than 10% of our calories per day (approximately 200 calories) should be from added sugar. If you drink soda, gatorade, lemonade, flavored water, energy drinks check out the sugar on the back and do some math. If you drink one gatorade four times a week thats 600 calories extra per week with an extra intake of 140 grams of sugar, approximately 35 teaspoons of added sugar total! In one month thats 2400 calories right there cut out by switching to water.
  5. Measure out your portions. I mentioned in my journey above that binge eating was a real issue for me and I believe there are also many other people struggling with this too. Start out small by measuring portions when you are at home and compare them between what the recommendations are for portion sizes. Be prepared to fin that some food groups might be too big, some might be much smaller than initially thought. Even nutritionists can not eyeball this! Cornell University has done extensive research on this concept but summed up in a nutshell – our plate sizes and glasses can have a big difference on how much we eat. Therefore, measuring out can help some people have a more objective view on how much they are actually eating. I bought tupperware containers that have the amounts on them and that has been a quick easy way to “measure” without actually measuring.
  6. Make healthy food easy to grab! Cornell University also says this is a huge contributor to what we eat. Putting fruit out on the table increases our fruit consumption. Hiding or putting not as healthy foods in an opaque container decreases our consumption. Basically the easier it is to grab the more likely we are to eat it! Check out Dr. Brian Wansink’s Website Slim By Design to makeover your kitchen.
  7. Start weight bearing exercise. Most people pick up cardio to lose weight but forget about weight bearing exercises. Your metabolism is based on muscle mass so if you increase muscle mass your calorie intake needs increase. That is why men have a much easier time losing weight because they have a much higher natural muscle mass. So split some of the cardio off and add in some weights to your exercise routine.
  8. Meal planning can not only help your weight but your budget too. Meal planning dinners can help balance meals and make cooking easier. It also makes it less tempting to eat out if you already have dinner prepared. It has similar benefits to packing your lunch in that diet quality is higher when preparing a meal at home.
  9. Don’t deprive yourself. Let yourself have a little. My biggest downfall growing up was this. There is so much research on mindful eating it’s benefits for overall health and increasing diet quality. We often forget how important it is to just ask our body – am I hungry and what do I want? I really encourage you if you have binge eating habits to read books like Eating Mindfully or Intuitive Eating. There are also so many other great books and authors in this field so you are bound to find other great reads along with these.
  10. Carbohydrates are not the enemy! I say this in a loving manner but I know so many people that believe this to their core due to the Gluten free, Paleo, and other diets out their that may mislead with their beliefs. Research however shows that contrary to belief there are healthy options to eat that will also help with your waist line. Low carbohydrate diets have also been found in research to be one the hardest to follow. Therefore, I see most people giving up with these diets within two weeks because it’s just too hard. My advice, is to stock up on whole grains – they are full of fiber and protein that help keep you full and have other vitamins that white breads are stripped of. Of course use portion control too. Refer to MyPlate! Great options are buckwheat, oatmeal, quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, etc.

 

Hopefully, there is something here you can put into play this year. Feel free to share your experiences with lifestyle changes you have tried in the comments. I hope you have a very health filled 2018!

 

Kitchen Gifts That Keep on Giving

I really wanted to share my christmas list of things I absolutely can not live without in my kitchen. Many of them have to do with my last years New Years Resolution to use less plastic. I am really passionate about lowering my food waste and my impact on the food system so this decision was easy for me. However, it was also hard to navigate through at first. That is why I am really excited to share the things I found the most useful and also give ideas about the best cookware on the market that doesn’t pose risks to your health with contaminants.

If you want to learn about how plastic recycles into our food system I would highly recommend the Zooey Deschanel series “The Farm Project“. There are tons of short slips about our food system and she has a great clip on plastic and how that affects the environment and the fish we eat.

So here is my list of my top ten things I use in my kitchen daily. Descriptions are all below :).

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  1. Reusable Sandwich Bags. There are so many of these now on the market. I actually put more of these on my list this year because I currently only have two and wash them daily. We use significantly less plastic bags because of this but if I had more I wouldn’t buy any more sandwich plastic bags. Brands I love are Bee’s WrapLunch Skins(re)zip, and there are so many more. Cost wise you are looking at buying 2-3 bags for $15-20.
  2. Zwillings Chef’s Knife. My sister actually bought this for me as a housewarming gift and to be honest I was like “umm but I already have knifes”… but I was so horribly wrong. This is literally the only knife we use and we use it everyday. Best gift ever! They are costly for one knife but so worth it. Cost wise you are looking at around $70 for the Chef’s Knife.
  3. Glass Tupperware. Although I do own some plastic tupperware we really only use the glassware tupperware. I just don’t feel that overtime whether its tupperware or water bottles that chemicals don’t start to leech out so we made the switch to glassware mainly. At the time I just shopped around at TJ Maxx for deals but there are tons of great brands. I personally love the Life Factory Brand if you have kids it’s pretty kid proof but plain Pyrex are great too.
  4. Hard Anodized Non-Stick Pan. Somehow Kevin and I have made our way through multiple expensive non-stick pans because they always scratch and wear to the point where you don’t feel comfortable eating off of them anymore. Lots of people don’t realize too that as soon as a pan or skillet starts to wear it should be thrown out. While stainless steel is always a good option it is harder to clean and takes up more time so I have been looking for the best option and hard anodized is the way to go. I choose All-Clad as the way to go as a nutritionist it is known as typically the gold standard for brands but is definitely pricey. That being said I probably go through a pan every 1-2 years and these pans last a lifetime. Cost wise you are usually looking at $120 for two frying pans  but at Macy’s right now you can get two for $60.00.
  5. Norwex. I love this cleaning brand. This cloth is as easy as wash, rub together, rinse, and repeat. This one purchase has cut down so much on our paper towel use it’s unreal. The brand in general has so much to offer too for reusable cleaning products that are amazing. Cost wise for just $14 you can’t go wrong.
  6. Reusable Lunch Pals. I have three to be exact. You can never have enough in my opinion. I love the brand SoYoung because they have the cutest bags and they are made from recycled products themselves. The bag also is insulated and very high quality compared to other brands I’ve gotten.
  7. Yeti coffee mug. I actually won this mug about three years ago and I remember thinking really a mug. At the time it was like $75 for a mug and I was so confused by it. It was just a mug…… nope wrong! I bring this everywhere and even have it filled instead of getting the cups at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. It keeps my coffee or tea hot all day or my water cold all day. I use this everyday and it is life changing. Cost wise you are looking at $25 for your new favorite coffee mug!
  8. Stop using plastic bags! They are everywhere and there’s just no reason for it. Once I stopped using them I became more aware of how often they are given. I do still get them from time to time when I forget a bag but I make a point to recycle them at our local grocery store. The best thing you can do to stop using plastic bags is to stock up on reusable bags at your local grocery store and keep them in your car. I have about 10. I also have stocked up on produce bags from Norwex since I use those often too. Cost wise you could spend $20 dollars and have more bags then you need.
  9. Le Creuset Stoneware Cookware is the best! I think my mom has every kind of dish they make and it’s because they are really nice and last forever. It’s always nice to have a casserole dish that you can count on and they come in cute colors. Cost wise they are about $100 but you can also find them at TJMax for about half the price.
  10. Ninja Pro Blender. While having a big blender is nice. We’ve found that just the individual pro is great for everyday use. We’ve been making a smoothie every morning over the past year and it’s worked out just as well as my parents Vitamix. Cost wise you can get one for $60-80. (We’ve gotten a cheaper one from Walmart and that lasted for about 6 months so I would recommend against that.)

Well I hope these gifts help you pick out that perfect gift for that nutritionist or foodie lover in your life. Feel free to share your favorite gifts you given or received for the use in the kitchen!

Lifestyle Changes to Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

If the new blood pressure recommendations that came out have you rethinking your blood pressure health – well your not the only one. My fiance tends to fluctuate between 120/80 to 130/80 when we go to the grocery store but his doctor has always said its ok. Not that I wasn’t concerned before but now we are taking it more seriously. Since I was brushing up I figured I’d share with everyone. I’ve provided 10 lifestyle changes you could start below that are research based and have shown to provide modest to significant improvements in blood pressure.

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  1. Decrease your salt intake. Almost everyone has heard this before right, but it is important. To lower overall salt intake the best rule of thumb is to avoid eating out often and pay attention to the salt content of any foods that comes in a package. The diagram below from the Dietary Guidelines of Americans gives a good picture of where to start. It is rare that we add enough salt to our own foods while cooking or at the table but a good rule of thumb if you are cooking at home is that 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt equals 600 mg of sodium. The recommended amounts of sodium per day to decrease blood pressure to start is 2400 mg.  Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 6.08.01 PM
  2. Replace the salt with a salt substitute. Mrs. Dash is very popular but there are many others on the market. Dulse, a type of seaweed, is also another popular option that can be used to season foods in place of soy sauce or salt.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.57.29 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.58.17 PM
  3. Increase your potassium intake. Potassium is a nutrient of concern in the American Diet meaning we don’t eat enough of it. A diet rich in potassium reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease and can help balance a high intake of sodium for those who have hypertension. Increase your potassium intake by eating more fruits and vegetables. Foods high in potassium include but are not limited to baked potatoes, lima beans, greens, squash, bananas, carrots, milk, quinoa, and grapes. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.40.29 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.40.06 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.40.56 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.41.14 PM
  4. Include nitrates in your diet. Nitrates when digested convert to nitric oxide which has been shown to dilate blood vessels which improves blood flow and decreases blood pressure. Foods high in nitrates are beets, beet juice, leafy greens, rhubarb, broccoli, and potatoes.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.44.15 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.43.51 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.44.47 PM
  5. Include polyphenols in your diet. Polyphenols are considered a plant phytochemical that have antioxidant properties which helps to reduce inflammation and provides other health benefits throughout your body. To increase your polyphenols increase your intake of dark leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, and green and black tea. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.47.40 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.47.57 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.48.15 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.48.56 PM
  6. There is strong evidence that calcium supplements can help lower blood pressure.  As a nutritionist I would recommend trying to incorporate eating the foods first. Including low fat dairy like low fat milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, soy milk, or dark leafy greens like kale can increase your daily intake of calcium. Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.51.50 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.51.22 PM Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.51.03 PMYou also need Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium so including that in your diet also or taking a vitamin D supplement with calcium is important. Vitamin D rich foods to include are cheese, eggs, salmon, shiitake mushroom, and fortified foods like orange juice, cereal, and milk. Always make sure any supplements are not contraindicated with other medications you take.               Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.53.24 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.53.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.54.04 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.54.18 PM
  7. The research is limited but garlic may help those with hypertension lower their blood pressure. They believe this is due to the antioxidant in garlic called allicin. As always you can start just by including garlic in your diet by simply adding it as a seasoning to dishes. There is also some evidenScreen Shot 2017-11-15 at 8.59.13 PM.pngce that garlic supplements may help decrease blood pressure. Intake 2-5 milligrams of allicin is needed for desired blood pressure effects. This can be achieved through 2-5 grams of fresh garlic, .4-1.2 grams of dried garlic powder, and 300-1000 milligrams of garlic extract. Always make sure any supplements are not contraindicated with other medications you take.
  8. Increase your exercise. Shoot for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day with your doctors permission. This not only benefits hypertension but all heart health related factors and can help with maintaining a healthy weight.
  9. If weight loss has been a health goal it can also benefit your blood pressure. Studies have shown that losing weight can significantly lower your overall blood pressure. Talk to your local nutritionist about lifestyle changes that may help you achieve your weight goals.
  10. If you are looking to totally overhaul your current diet. Talk to a local nutritionist about total diets that have shown significant improvements in lowering blood pressure like the DASH diet, Mediterranean-style diet, or vegetarian diet.Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.02.28 PM.pngOK, so I hope you find something you can fit into your lifestyle and feel free to share in the comments any salt substitutes you love to use when cooking at home!

Sweet Basil Quiche Recipe

We all get into the morning rush and by the time we know it its 15 minutes until we leave and we haven’t even made our lunch yet. There are so many days I eat breakfast in my car. That is why Kevin and I love to make a recipe we can prepare the night before and enjoy all week.

I love quiches because they are like pizza. You can literally throw anything into them and they taste great. I decided to use up our gardens tomatoes and basil to make our quiche and it was perfect.

It was very easy to make. I did use a pie crust but you don’t technically need it. I baked the crust for 12 minutes at 425 degrees and then filled it with 5 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 2 cups of cheese, 1/4 tsp of salt, sprinkles of pepper, 8 cut up basil leaves, 1/4 cups of frozen spinach, and 10 chopped up cherry tomatoes. Then I baked it bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Feel free to share what you like to add to your quiche or comment on the recipe below!

Gazpacho the Cold Soup of the Summer

Gazpacho. I am now dreaming of its cool, refreshing, crisp taste. Even the name itself is cool. My mom introduced me this past weekend to the soup and I loved it. You can find the recipe we made here.

Gazpacho originated from Andalusia Spain and is very popular in the Southern tip of Spain. It is a “spicy, cold soup” made from only the freshest of vegetables. There really is no said “recipe” formulary but fresh tomatoes are vital. Flavors can also be easily added and it is typically served with bread.

This soup is perfect for this time of year as tomatoes are in season and it is hot, hot, hot in August. My mom bought a half bushel of tomatoes which was a tad bit too much if you know what I mean. Literally, a laugh out loud moment. She was able to make good use out of them though. I can’t say I helped much but my mom painstaking spent the rest of the day crushing tomatoes. After that was finished, we made the soup.

First we gathered about ten tomatoes(3-4 pounds), one zucchini, one cucumber, one onion, three cloves of garlic, a couple pinches of salt, and three tablespoons of olive oil. We then simply added those to our food processor one at a time and then blended together and that was all there was to it. We stored it in a mason jar afterwards and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. Around dinner time we pulled it back out and cooked up some shrimp as our complementary protein (lots of other meats might work). We decided to add some spice by adding cilantro and of course we had to add avocado just because. We didn’t have bread but it was noted it would have been perfect with a toasted baguette.

All in all. It was an quick, light dinner that is now staying in my rotation as a summer staple.

I would love to hear about what other ingredients you have added to your gazpacho – feel free to comment below!

Back to School Lunch Box Ideas

All of the sudden school is back and in full force. While there a million books and school supplies to worry about lunches should not be one of them. Here are some full proof lunch rules I follow to make a healthy lunch everyday for work that are easier then you think.

  1. Aim for 4-5 foods groups. Refer to MyPlate- just the graphic alone helps.                     Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 8.52.40 PM.png
  2. Pay attention to portions. Having a separated lunch box or containers that are portion sized can be a huge help. There are tons on the market that skip the whole process of measuring and/or weighing food. I use the yumbox.
  3. Make it colorful. Try for at least 3 colors! Variety is important and foods with many colors are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are especially important foods that fight oxidative stress in our body.
  4. Have fun with the food. Play with shapes and sizes of foods. It can help to make old foods new again!
  5. Make the lunch/s the night before and take the stress out of your morning. In the morning making lunches can be hectic and it gives you more time to focus on making breakfast.

Here are some of my examples. I included vegetarian options too.

  1. The Classic Peanut Butter Sandwich                                                                               Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 8.13.27 PMI made the peanut butter sandwich fun again by making little sushi rolls and hit all five food groups. You can do this with any sandwich and kids might even want to make their own. The whole wheat bread is the grain, peanut butter is the protein, mozzarella cheese is the dairy, strawberries are the fruit, and carrots are the vegetable.
  2. The Chicken Salad                                                                                                            FullSizeRender (5)Another minimal lunch where cutting up some vegetables and fruits I had on hand was the hardest part. The protein was chicken and chickpeas, vegetables was the romaine lettuce and radishes, the fruit was plums, and the dairy was strawberry yogurt. I used balsamic vinaigrette which is healthy fat to boot. There was no grain in this one but you could easily add a granola bar and call it a day.
  3. The Mediterranean Pita                                                                                                               FullSizeRender (1)Kids love avocados and hummus. I  have found a bunch of cool pita pockets at the store which are great for pizzas or hummus. The grain is the whole wheat pita, the vegetable is the avocado, romaine, and tomato, the fruit was the cantaloupe, and the protein was the plain hummus. There is no dairy but you could always pop in a cheese stick, milk, or yogurt.
  4. The Taco Bowl                                                                                                                               FullSizeRender (3)We made tacos the night before and then just cooked up some brown rice and cut up a peach and it was set. The grain was brown rice, the dairy was the cheese, the fruit was the peach, the meat was the ground hamburger, and the vegetables were the tomato and lettuce.
  5. Make Your Own Pizza                                                                                                                  FullSizeRender (2)Kids love making their own pizza! The whole wheat english muffin was the grain, the cheese was the dairy, the cucumbers, broccoli, and tomatoes were the vegetables. There is no protein or fruit in this one but you could easily add a handful of almonds and apple on the side.

Hopefully, this helps give you some ideas and helps make lunch making breeze. Feel free to share your favorite lunch box ideas below!

 

How to Cut Out the Added Sugar

Added sugar is everywhere! It has been hidden in the ingredients list and is impossible to keep track of. It also wasn’t until recently that there was even a a general guideline of how much is too much. The Kind Company is trying to bring awareness to consumers that added sugar is throughout our diets and do pose health risks to adults and children.

Why is added sugar all of the sudden in the spotlight?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has highlighted added sugar as a nutrient to decrease for Americans based on research on the American diet. Guidelines are to limit added sugar to less than 10% of your caloric intake. At the same time regulations have passed to have added sugar added to the new nutrition facts label to help Americans keep track of their intake.

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So what are some easy ways to lower your added sugar intake?

  • Stick to homemade foods and whole foods as often as you can. Added sugar is usually added during processing of foods. When you make it yourself you have the control and know exactly what is added.
  • Skip the drinks that aren’t water, milk, or 100% juice. You can easily gulp down your daily amount of added sugar with just one drink. Don’t believe me? 4g of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 9.13.38 PM
  • Get to know secondary names for added sugar in the ingredients list to be able to decipher any food label at the store. Look for anything with the ending of -ose like fructose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, or high fructose corn syrup, cane juice,  beet juice (sugar comes from sugar cane and sugar beets), agave, honey, brown sugar, among many many more. ChooseMyPlate has a small easy description on their website that’s awesome too.
    • Some foods to double check your label on are yogurts, cereals, granola bars, cakes, cookies, and canned fruits.

Hopefully these tips can help you cut the added sugar and extra calories. If you have any tips you use feel free to share below.