Healthy

The Wedding Wellness Workbook

Your Nutrition How-To Before 'I Do'

In my ongoing effort to stand on the shoulders of giants within this nutrition realm, I love the supportive network of RDNs that are part of the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietetic Practice Group.  I recently learned about one of these RDNs, Carlene Thomas, who runs her own company called Healthyfully Ever After.  

She is doing some fantastic work as she demystifies nutrition and helps brides focus on feeling great for their big day.  She is launching her first E-book and if this time in your life is approaching or a big event that you want to feel fab for is on the horizon, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.  Happy healthy reading!

 

Headlines and Science: Oil and Water?

The Importance of the Salacious Headline

I am constantly bombarded with questions from patients and friends about the latest nutrition headlines.  I always appreciate the curiosity, and honestly, getting even the most obscure question makes me a better clinician because I make sure to go back and read the research to answer appropriately.  But sometimes I just don't want nutrition headlines to be sexy, I want them to be accurate.

Don't get me wrong, nutrition is a constantly evolving field that is very scientifically difficult to study.  You try to design a study free of confounding factors when you're trying to exrapolate meaningful and causative (versus correlative) relationships by controlling what thousands of people eat and has to take lifestyle factors into account.  I can't do that with my patients and they're paying to hear what I have to say.

I appreciate that nutrition is a constant in the news because it helps continue to drive the conversation about our health.  Most recently, there was a particularly negative article about the role of nutrition in cancer prevention in the New York Times.  The data has been all over the place over the years as cancer and nutrition is a difficult relationship to study, but sometimes pointing that out to the lay public and oversimplifying scientific data does more harm than good.  The average American is not going to take the extra step to read the research that derives this article or check out what the American Institute for Cancer Research has to say about it or even make sure they ask their health care team about it.

I guess all I can do is comment on these stories, stay on top of the good and the bad in the publishing world, and keep a research oriented focus so that I can give my patients the best possible advice.  Just be forewarned: even when it comes to the best news outlets, don't fall prey to the salacious headline and always stay open to all sides of the discussion.

Supermarket Savvy & the Taste of Eating 'Right'

Happy National Nutrition Month all!

This year, the theme for NNM is 'Enjoy the taste of eating right!', and I just love that sentiment because food tastes great.  There are a plethora of flavors out there, and as an honest foodie, it makes me sad when I hear about people being addicted to three things: salt, sugar, fat.  This isn't because they don't have interesting flavor properties, it's because they tend to dominate, and start to slowly drown out a lot of other amazing flavors.

Real food tastes great.  Real herbs, spices, produce, eggs, cheese, poultry/meat/fish.  And the list goes on... All great.  The awesome bonus to this is the role that good food can play in meeting health goals.  That means that your health goals can be reached by eating real, whole foods.  This is not an accident.  I always joke to patients that if they were busy eating their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, they'd have little room for 'the crap'.  We laugh together, but I mean it.  

Learning how to properly grocery shop, stock a pantry, make a meal out of a few basic ingredients, and utilize a few basic knife and cooking techniques are essential life tools.  Essential life tools that become part of your roadmap to 'eating right'.

Some great resources I love to help get you there!

  • Supermarket Savvy: A virtual tool for healthier shopping aimed at consumers, chefs, and RDNs!
  • Meal Makeover Moms: Two RDN's that have dedicated their careers to developing family-friend cookbooks and spreading the news on necessary tools for a healthy kitchen.
  • MyPlate Healthy Eating on a Budget: From the MyPlate messaging, tip sheets and tools to help with meal planning for the budget-conscious household.
  • Fruits and Veggies More Matters: This public health campaign is the most important thing you can learn for meal planning.  And seasonality matters.  I beg you to check out the site and use their tools!
  • Whole Foods Healthy Cooking Guide: Great tools for the visual learner - watch their healthier cooking videos to master new kitchen techniques and use their whole grains guide to rotate in new options.
  • Healthy Aperture: A foodie-nutrition community of health & food bloggers that have uploaded their recipes with beautiful photos.  Your new free cookbook complete with professional input.
  • Fruitable: Ever wonder how to pick and store fruits and vegetables?  Use this website (launching an app soon!) to figure it out!

Have any other ones to add to the list?!  Happy cooking, and more importantly, happy healthy eating!

The Longevity Foods List

Purchased photo. And if you remember, the original banner of WittyNutrition in 2009!The Science Behind a Long and Vital Life

Aging is a process that none of us can stop but plenty of us try to slow down.  So what does it come down to?  And how can we modify our external factors?

Genetics - Unfortunately not much you can do to change this!  But what you can do is take hold of the narrative.  Talk with your family, stay aware of your personal and familial health risks, and bring these up with your team of health care providers.  This way they can help guide you and provide suggestions for minimizing risks.  Knowledge is power and will guide your decision making.  

Sleep - Even though I've said it before, I'm just going to go ahead and reinforce how important adequate sleep is to cell regeneration and hormonal balance.  Although it can be hard to do, set up good habits surrounding bedtime and don't let yourself get sleep deprived too often.

Stress - Managing stress is also important to maintaining a healthy hormonal balance.  This is a particularly important topic in encouraging healthful stress management.  That means trying to utilize behaviors such as exercise instead of smoking or drinking excessive alcohol to deal with those tough days.

Food and Drink - Ah yes, the most modifiable aspect of the discussion, and something you get an average of 21 opportunities a week to maximize.  So let's talk about the most friendly foods for fighting free radicals (yay, antioxidants), fighting cancer and chronic diseases, and aging gracefully.  Some of these superfoods are adapted from Chef and guru of cooking for optimal health, Rebecca Katz' list from her new book, The Longevity Kitchen.  Some of them are added on by yours truly based on the science of food that I speak about every day with clients.

Superfoods List

Almonds   |   Asparagus   |   Avocado   |   Basil   |   Black and Green Teas   |   Berries (all of the above but blueberries and blackberries pack the biggest antioxidant punch)   |   Cinnamon   |   Citrus   |   Coffee   |   Dark Chocolate   |   Flaxseed and Chia Seed   |   Garlic   |   Grapefruit   |   Kale   |   Kimchi   |   Leeks   |   Olive Oil   |   Onion   |   Pomegranates   |   Soy   |   Spinach   |   Sweet Potato   |   Thyme   |   Tomato   |   Walnuts   |   Watermelon   |   Wild Salmon   |   Yogurt

And most importantly - Water!  What would you add to this list?  What foods are part of your favorite go-to recipes to help you stay healthy and vital?

Personal Food Rules Part II: What this RD Eats Everyday

I have written on this overarching topic before (not even referring to Part I which was posted on Monday!) because I think that it’s important for people to understand that as RDs, we face the same challenges as you do daily.  Well a big part of my food philosophy and personal food rules is to establish very basic healthy habits to employ daily.  Here is my everyday routine:

The Routine

I have coffee with one of a few breakfasts in the morning (whole wheat toast with peanut butter and chia seeds, a chia charger and piece of fruit, oatmeal with ground chia and/or flax seeds, a high fiber cereal with a piece of fruit).  I try to eat a nice, big salad for lunch most days; my only other alternatives might be a sandwich (1-2x/week) or cup of soup.  I try to have a piece of fruit or small snack around 4PM so I don’t snack while I’m cooking dinner.  And then with regards to dinner, I generally make well balanced meals using whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat couscous) and incorporate at least another 2 servings of veggies. 

The Philosophy

As you can see, setting up my daily routine to be healthy allows for a few things: 1. I’m not making decisions on the fly and am not tempted to have something less healthy. 2. Eating healthful real foods and lots of fruits and vegetables makes my meals very volume-satisfying while not being energy dense.  3. I’m getting in plenty of fiber and protein that lasts me between meals. 4. I have identified a problem area (snacking while cooking dinner) and set up a strategy to avoid it (4PM snack).

Less Decisions, Less Problems

The way I see it, I have 21 meal opportunities weekly to eat healthfully, so if I can make my daily routine healthy enough that each week I eat at least 15-18 healthy meals without really thinking about it or putting too much effort in, then I might have 4 or 5 meals decisions left in my week.  The point isn’t to stray too far when I’m out of my routine, in fact I usually don’t because it doesn’t feel good to eat ‘poorly’.  The point is that if I do go out for a nice meal, or decide to make pizzas with friends or munch on a cheese and crackers platter, I don’t feel bad about it and I’m not compromising my health for those meals because my routine and daily choices remain intact.  This is where nutrition becomes about the lifestyle choices and not dieting.

Personal Food Rules: Part I

As a dietitian I am often asked about how I eat and if I follow a vegetarian (used to), vegan (wouldn’t be able to – I love cheese and wearing leather), pescetarian (also used to), or paleo (no thanks, I like the encouragement of real, whole foods but too much meat for me) diets. Well while I subscribe in pieces to many different diets, these are my personal food rules that I live by:

  • Mostly choose water. I genuinely feel refreshed drinking water and I don’t want to waste any of my precious energy needs on sugary and calorie-filled drinks. They are not worth it to me. Plus staying adequately hydrated helps curb the appetite.
  • Keep at least half of meals plant based. I do 1-2 meatless days per week, eat lean red meat about once a week, and keep the rest of my protein sources to chicken/turkey/fish. I tend to pick out an animal based protein source for 1-2 meals per day (on my non-meatless days). All I can say is: mmmn, seafood in New England…
  • Save butter and cream based products for special occasions. I only cook in oils and I use the healthier spreads on toast (usually Smart Balance or Olivio).
  • No pastries, minimal candy/sweets. I am one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I’d rather have a nice glass of wine with dinner instead of dessert any night of the week. This eliminates a lot of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pastries, pies, etc. The only two things I will say I like are real chocolate (nothing waxy) and gummy candy such as Swedish Fish (in fact, I request these instead of cake for my bday every year).
  • No late night snacking. I’m rarely even tempted to do so because I have a good dinner.
  • No eating out of the boxes/bags. I always serve myself snacks in a small bowl to stay cognizant of portions. I also tend not to buy snack food items because I don’t want to have it around.
  • Fearlessness with trying healthy cooking modifications. I always put extra veggies in dishes, and I’m not afraid to try making substitutions in dishes such as using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. One of my best tricks is to buy the 97% lean ground beef and add (per 1 lb of meat) 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Make my everyday routine healthy. [Stay tuned for Thursday’s Blog Post!!]

I hope this gives some insight to the food voyeurs out there (present company included) that like to understand what others’ food choices are. Do you have any food rules you live by?

Down the Nutrition Rabbit Hole

Summertime and the Living's Easy

Eee!  Day off!  I worked this past weekend and while I usually use my weekday off thereafter for errand running, today is most glorious because it is 64 degrees and sunny and I have no obligations.  No errands to run, no appointments to keep.  It's great.  And since it's gorgeous outside what do I do?  Go for my requisite run (great day for running and makes me feel good to be active) and stay inside and get lost in my own world of reading up on nutrition and following up on social media.  Well, and also maybe looking at homes on zillow I wish I could buy right now..

Rabbit Hole

Ever go down the rabbit hole when you begin looking at something online and two hours, five websites, three articles, and 15 twitter pics later find yourself coming-to?  That happened to me today and it was great because I learned a few new things about childhood nutrition and found some interesting CSPI pinterest boards that I feel compelled to share.

Better Beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages are a big contibutor to our obesity epidemic.  Additionally, the pervasiveness of "fake sugars" in drinks and products is really starting to scare the bejeezus out of the nutrition and health professional community.  With that said, I understand that 64 ounces of plain water per day can get boring, so learning about natural ways to mix up the flavoring is an important health strategy.

 Image links to CSPI Pinterest Board: Better Beverages

Fruits and Veggies: Good for Your Wallet and Health

Unfortunately healthy eating gets billed as expensive and unattainable by many but it's simply not true!  It does take more diligence, basic food prep skills, and some creativity to eat healthy on a budget but I really like how CSPI illustrates serving for serving comparisons of cost and calories for the consumer.

 Image links to CSPI Pinterest Board: Fruits and Veggies Good for Your Wallet and Health

Fruits and Veggies - Seasonality Charts

Part of enjoying fruits and vegetables is consuming them when they are in season and provide the best flavor.  Although learning about seasonality can be somewhat intimidating at first, it's well worth the investment to learn about the fruits and veggies you enjoy and incorporate into meal planning the most so that you know when to look out for them and when to steer clear because the quality just isn't there.  

I have an interesting new adventure I'm going to be sharing in the next few weeks and months, and part of that has included doing research on sasonality.  Although said final product is going to be much more fun, informative and comprehensive, here are some great charts from CUESA, a non-profit out in California that focuses on cultivating a sustainable food system.  Each photo below acts as a link to these charts.

Seasonality Charts:

Photo acts as direct link to CUESA Fruit Seasonality Chart

Photo acts as direct Link to CUESA Vegetable Seasonality Chart

Keep it Clean

                                

102!

I recently had a centenarian as a patient and at the end of our conversation I said, "Congratulations on being a centenarian!  Can I just ask - what's your secret?" (I love this question).  With a beaming smile he replied, "Keep on smiling and laughing.  And keep it clean.  No smoking, no drinking, moderation with good food."

First of all, how adorable?!  Secondly, and more importantly, how positive and simple!  It was wonderful to hear that he was able to approach his own health without any confusion or doubt.  Keep it clean.  Hearing those three words from a 102 year old made me feel like I was being told the secret to life-long well being.  It isn't always simple to execute but a time-tested approach.

As a dietitian one of my personal mantras is to try to make health and nutrition simpler and easier for my clients.  Eating clean, real food accomplishes exactly that.  I understand it takes more time and effort in terms of planning, preparation, and cooking, but look at the birhgt side... You'll feel better and can pronouce the names/ingredients of what you're consuming!

Happy Monday all!

Cooked

I've never been shy about my enthusiasm for Michael Pollan and his well-researched writing on the human engagement with the natural world (i.e. food, agriculture, food production, nutrients vs. nutrition, etc.).  I have read many of his books and am interested to delve into his new book, Cooked.  I find his writing to be lucid, insightful, and thought-provoking.

Cooked seems to be the natural next step in the progression of his writing.  It seems it is more of a journey with him through the experience of learning to cook (which should be fun as even on my best day I still feel like quite the novice!).  Now I realize this blog sounds like a PSA for his writing, but I just wanted to share my enthusiasm and invite you to join me in reading this.

Any other good nutrition and cooking books you've enjoyed recently?

8 Must Have Spices a la Martha

Whole Living

Image, courtesy of wholeliving, will take you directly to the Whole Living website link for 8 must have pantry spices.

I enjoy looking through Martha Stewart's site Whole Living.  It contains lots of helpful ideas for maintaining a healthy home (not to mention that it's filled with gorgeous photos!).  I think that it is important to remember that part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is building a healthy and functional pantry.  Utilizing your spice rack is essential to minimizing sodium in the diet.  This is a short-but-sweet post on eight must-have spices for the kitchen.  

So what are your must haves?

Mine are black pepper, red chili peppers, cumin, cinnamon, and more recently a cajun spice mix I have come across (sodium free!).

Lean and Hydrating Foods for that Summer Slim-Down

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot....

It's that time of the year (at least up here in the tri-state area) where spring is palpable, new years resolutions are long forgotten, and the warmer weather is motivating people to get outside and get in shape for the impending summer.  Maximizing fruits and vegetables is important for that slim-down because they are volume-filling, provide a variety of fantastic nutrients, and help to maintain hydration.  Combine that with lean sources of protein and it will help the energy from that meal last even longer.

With What Foods?Personal photo from a summer night last year. It was one of those obscenely hot days where one could only imagine eating something hydrating for dinner. And it was delicious. [@whitneyba Instagram]

Try to pack some of these foods into your diet over the coming months to feel good all spring and summer long!

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Cucumber - these fruits/veggies have a very high water content (all are above 90%) and also provide nutrients like vitamin C and potassium

   *Tip: Use cucumber slices to replace crackers while snacking with low fat cheese

Summer Squash, Zuccini, Peppers, Onions - practically a variety pack of nutrients, slice up these veggies and throw them on the grill with your spices of choice for a low-calorie base to almost any meal

Oranges, Grapefruit, Citrus - no more juice! fresh cut citrus can be ever-so refreshing, so load up on nutrients while enjoying these straight from the fruit bowl or cut up and leave in refrigerated water overnight for a healthy flavor-infused alternative to water

Frozen Berries and Grapes - a great snack when you're craving something sweet, these frozen fruits are filled with anitoxidants to fight off those free radicals

Greek Yogurt - with a high protein content and low fat content, greek yogurt is creamy and delicious while maintaining that envious nutrition facts profile (yes it's what we RDs check out - every time)

Grilled Chicken - it never hurts to cook up a little extra chicken to have slices to pair with almost anything for a great snack or to complete a meal (spritzed with balsamic and thrown on a lettuce salad, mixed in with quinoa and diced veggies, with some light ranch and cucmbers as a snack, oh the list goes on...)

Now go enjoy these foods and share any creative tips for incorporating healthy into the everyday!