Healthy Tips

Probiotics: How to Find Value + Quality

I'm a huge advocate for taking probiotics to maintain a healthy gut flora.  I suppose for those that eat enough fermented foods (kimchi, kefir, etc.) then you may happily skip taking them, but I prefer knowing that I'm getting at least a good baseline of what I need in supplement form each day.  They question becomes - how to select and buy them?

Vary the Strains

Unless you have a gastrointestinal disorder or irritable bowel disease (in which case, please contact myself or another RDN that can help guide your gut health!), I typically recommend a range of strains instead of just finding one strain on bacteria within the probiotic.  There is no magic number for # of strains that should be involved but the most commonly found ones include L. acidophilus, B. bifidum, S. boulardii, and L casei.

All About the CFU

CFU = Colony Forming Units.  Despite the fact that the recommended minimum levels continue to creep up slowly, I consistently recommend at least 8 billion CFU.  This is a range that is both safe and effective.  Something as low as 1 or 2 billion might not make a huge difference in gut health and 8-20 billion safe for the average, healthy adult.  Sound like too much?  To put it in perspective, therapeutic doses start at about 112 billion and go up from there.

Storage and Resources to Purchase

Keep in a cool, dry place.  The fridge is often the best option!  I keep min in the door which helps me to remember to take it in the morning... 

LabDoor does very thorough value and quality reviews - when in doubt, check here.

In good health, enjoy!

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!

 

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?

Small Bites During the Holiday Season Add Up

Check out this adorable little video from University of Nebraska - Lincoln (which has a fantastic nutrition program for those of you out there seeking a place to study nutrition).

It is so true and so important for us to remember that all those little bites and 'sneaks' of food during the holiday season contribute calories that can add up to weight gain over the next six weeks or so. A lighthearted way to think about your own small bites..

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

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!

Tips for Healthier Cooking Practices

Creating a healthy lifestyle starts at the grocery store with food selection, but extends itself into the kitchen with the utilization of healthy cooking practices.  Here are some tips for ways to retain flavor and nutrition, but cut out excess fat, cholesterol, sugar, and calories.Photo courtesy of getcooking.com pinterest board

Cooking Methods:

  • Poach - immerse skinless chicken or fish in liquid
  • Roast - place meat on a rack so that the fat can drip off and use basting liquids that are low in salt and sugar (lemon juice, wine, low sodium juices/sauces)
  • Grill/broil - place meat on a rack for the same principle: fat drips off
  • Steam - place veggies over simmering water
  • Bake - can use covered cookwear with extra liquid, (or! use parchment paper to create a bag/covered pouch and place a cut of fish with some antipasti or chopped vegetables in - the vegetables will release fluid for the fish to cook in, creating a very lean meal)
  • Stir-fry - start with a little non-fat cooking spray or olive oil and sautee onions/garlic/etc.  Then build on that with vegetables (frozen is great for this), drained/rinsed beans, etc.  Top it off with your preference of whole wheat grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole whet pasta) for a healthy meal. 

 

Additional Food Tips:

  • Buy the 97% fat free ground red meat and turkey meat.  Per one pound add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water.  It will add moisture for a better end-product while keeping the lean profile and ensuring you're eating unstaturated fatty acids over the saturated ones.
  • Steam or bake vegetables for better nutrient retention as compared to boiling them.
  • Use one egg yolk with several egg whites for a healthier, high-protein version of your morning eggs.
  • Use your spice rack!  I know it can be intimidating, but using herbs and spices over the traditional use of salt in cooking is an important habit to create for yourself, and your family!

 

What tips do you have to share?!  You can also check out this pinterest board I made with smart and helpful tips and exchanges.  [The image at the right is on there!]  I am learning more and more about food substitutions in cooking (ex. greek yogurt for mayo or sour cream in recipes) and there are truly helpful tips available online.

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays everyone!  Sorry to not have written in awhile but December was quite the month for me.  I had my tonsils taken out almost two weeks ago now and have been laying low to recoup since.  Which meant packing in my work assignments and holiday shopping into the first two weeks of the month.  Phew.

I received a very sweet e-mail from a class from a community organization out in Wisconsin (I think?) and I wanted to reach out and comment on it.  A class at the Elm Grove Community Center was assigned to look into resources for wellness, nutrition, and staying fit and they wrote to tell me that they felt my resources page has some great links.  To Elm Grove, thank you.  I curated that page in the most ethical fashion, as one of my pet peeves is dissemination of quality information.  Nutrition based on the science.  This field is often wrought with poeple or ogranizations pushing fads that aren't healthy or nutritious for a buck, so thank you for appreciating the top-of-the-line science in nutrition.

This class also sent along a link to resources that they felt would be a nice addition to my resources page.  http://www.sofasandsectionals.com/get-off-couch   This page has links to a lot of different health and wellness topics under three main categories: Get Active, For Parents, and Be Healthy.  

I looked through a portion of the links and they link to reputable sources (public health organizations, community/educational organizations such as PBS, and governmental resources such as the CDC).  As this class requested I add this link to my resources page, I have this response:  I will comb through the links and expand to my resources with what you have provided me, however I'm sorry I will not be linking directly to the sofa page as it is a private company in the sales business.  

Thank you again for reading and sharing, that is what community is about.  Hope everyone enjoys a happy and healthy new year!!

The Joy of Soy

Protein Alternative

Soy is a high quality protein source that is low in saturated fat.  These plants naturally contain phytoestrogens and have been shown to help reduce heart disease risk when consumed in conjunction with a heart healthy diet.  Soy has been working its way into the Western diet more and more, with a market increase from $300 million in 1992 to $4 billion in 2008.  

Soy products are a great way to work a meat-free protein source into the diet.  I am a meat-lover myself, but the RD in me feels it is important to be mindful of the frequency and portion sizes of animal meats that I include.  Incorporating soy products gives more variety to my diet while staying heart healthy - always a good thing!

Food for Thought

Historically, meat was always very expensive so families would only be able to afford it once or twice a week.  A vast difference from our current environment in which people may consume a meat product twice a day.  The modernization of agriculture and role of antibiotics and hormones in current animal farming practices have changed the cost of meats to us all.  Always an interesting trend to think about...

Soy Product Options

Tofu - a processed form that comes in multiple textures and with a neutral flavor, use silken in dips and soups, use firm in stir fries, salads, and seasoned grilled kabobs

Edamame - young soybeans that can be directly consumed

Tempeh - a block of cooked whole soybeans condensed together, season and use as a meat substitute

Textured Soy Protein - defatted soy flour that has been compressed and dehydrated, consider making meatballs, chili, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce with this

Miso - a flavorful paste of fermented soybeans, often used as a seasoning base in stews/soups/sauces

Soy Meat Analogs - specific products suchs as hot dogs, cold cuts, and burgers that are made out of soy

Soy Flour and Soy Milk - exactly what you think they are, made from soy plants

Happy soy-ing!  Share any good recipes you come across!!