The New Year is upon us. Time for resolutions, diet plans and anything else you want to start fresh in this new season. As for me, I mentioned countless times I am not a huge fan of resolutions, mostly because I think it often embraces the all or nothing mentality that gets us into trouble in the first place. So while I am not making any new resolutions, I continue to work on many lifestyle habits that are always a work in progress. One article I find very helpful is a 2014 blog from College Girl to College Girl that re-frames the way we think about our “resolutions.” Embrace lifestyle changes as opposed to radical diets.
Old: “I’m going to lose 10 lbs this year.”
Why focus on weight and appearance for your New Years Resolution? You should instead focus on feeding your body with healthy foods and listening to what it wants and needs. After all, the number on the scale is… well, just a number.
New and Improved: “I’m going to make more meals at home.”
After the holidays, we fall into a bit of a nutrition slump. We’re used to eating bigger meals, eating out with our family and friends, and sampling the wide variety of Christmas cookies! But, most of us grow tired of this and are ready to get back on our normal eating schedule. After New Years, make a resolution to make more meals at home and only eat out, let’s say a maximum of twice of week. Also, eating at home is often healthier, more nutrient dense, and lower in empty calories and more conducive to weight management.
Old: “No more desserts for me!”
Cutting out your favorite foods will only lead to wanting them more, so give yourself permission to eat your favorite foods in moderation.
New and improved: “I am going to eat at least 3 different kinds of fruits/vegetables a day.”
Instead of focusing on what you are going to cut out of your diet, focus on what you can add into your diet! Fruits and vegetables are a great place to start. Check out this recipe for banana whip.
New and improved: “I will sign up and train for a 10 mile race.” or “I will try 2 new group fitness classes a month, and work out at least 3 times a week.”
Being more physically active is a great New Years Resolution. But, if you do not consistently exercise, making a resolution to “work out more” or “exercise every day” may not be specific enough. If you like to run, try signing up for a race with a few friends. Set up a training schedule together. If you don’t like to run, find other ways.
Old: “I’m going to get the bikini body I’ve always wanted.”
What is a “bikini body” anyway?
New and Improved: “I’m going to focus on what I love about my body.”
Try committing to saying 3 positive affirmations out loud everyday. Or make a list of 10 things you love about yourself that you love about yourself that includes non-body related personality traits. Add to this list often and read it often!
Old: “I’m going on a diet.”
New and Improved: “I’m going to fuel my body with the food it needs.”
This year try to REBEL against conventional fad diets that do not provide long lasting results and can be dangerous to your health.
Old: “I am going to start eating healthier”
This is a great resolution, but it’s too vague and general. Try coming up with specific and small health goals that you can accomplish and focus in on.
New and Improved: “I am going to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night” or “I am going to eat 2-3 servings of vegetables per day” or “I will start eating breakfast” These resolutions will help you eat and be healthier and are specific and achievable.
Adapted from College Girl to College Girl: Revamp your New Years’ Resolution
In an effort to simplify my life this holiday season, a theme that resonates with me every year, I have been thinking about ways to pare down my life. This thought started with a simple trip to the grocery store where I noticed the shelves were filled with an overabundance of holiday food items, that sadly, go to waste. It goes without saying that we live in a world of abundance, particularly when it comes to food. Of course, this is not a blog about world hunger, but it certainly gives you something to think about in this season of plenty.
Obviously, being a nutrition professional, I have a love of food so I am not going to totally forgo the joy of baking, just stick to my favorites that I know will be savored by family & friends alike. My personal favorite holiday treat is Hazelnut Maple Biscotti; nothing beats this divine combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.
So, I will savor my biscotti and all the simple pleasures the season has to offer.
Hazelnut Maple Biscotti
Hazelnuts (a tree nut) are a good source of folate & dietary fiber.
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup hazelnut butter (I ground my hazelnuts which is actually pretty simple)
¼ cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-tablespoon hazelnut liquor (optional)
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup lightly toasted hazelnuts
Semi-sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate for drizzle
Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheet with parchment or silpat. In a medium bowl, cream together maple syrup, hazelnut butter and butter. Add eggs, vanilla and liquor, blending well. In a larger bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend. Make a well into dry ingredients, add egg mixture and mix until incorporated. Add nuts. (Knead by hand if necessary). On a lightly floured board, divide dough into half and roll into 2 14-inch logs. Place logs on prepared sheet, then flatten about 1 inch high. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves spring back when touched lightly. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Reset oven to 300. Slice cookies on the diagonal. Place slices flat on baking sheet, and bake for 25 minutes (a lot of this process is trial and error; I like my cookies crisp so I bake longer). Remove from oven and let cool. Drizzle with chocolate (or dip in chocolate) if desired.
There is no shortage of nutrition information on the Internet, but whether or not this information is scientifically accurate is another story. Countless purported experts are giving advice on how to eat right & exercise. That is why I loved this recent blog from appetite for appetite for health, which highlights nutrition tips from the real nutrition experts, registered dietitians. As they so aptly puts it “Dietitians follow nutrition research, and our recommendations always stem from human clinical trials conducted at reputable universities and published in top-tier medical journals. How we eat and live aligns with the totality of the science (not one new study), too, so while our tips may not be new — they do work.”
Read on for nutrition advice from the Nutrition Pros, courtesy of the nutrition experts at appforhealth.com
Enjoy a daily treat
There’s a certain mental satisfaction that comes with knowing you don’t have to eat perfectly 24/7. And although I’m a total health nut (understatement!), I appreciate having the wiggle room to be spontaneous with my kids or sample something truly special at an event or party without any guilt.
Giving yourself the allowance for a portion-controlled daily treat removes feelings of deprivation, which in turn enables you to stick with an overall healthy eating regimen. Win-win. — Joy Bauer, MS, RD, Today Show Nutritionist
Eat more of the good stuff
While nothing is really off limits, I aim to load up on the healthier foods and enjoy smaller amounts of less healthy food. For example, instead of a bowl of ice cream with a few berries on top, I’ll have a bowl of berries with a spoonful of ice cream on top. I’ll fill half my plate with veggies and have a smaller portion of protein and grains. I also choose satisfying nutrient-dense “real” foods and eat them in smaller amounts. For example, I’d rather have a little bit of a flavorful full-fat cheese than a reduced-fat cheese with not much satisfaction.
I can eat whatever I want and never feel deprived, while still maintaining my weight and getting important nutrients in my diet. — Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eat Right When Time is Tight
Eat every few hours
I plan on eating something every 3 to 5 hours. Once I’m comfortably satisfied after eating a meal or snack, I stop before becoming too full. I remind myself that I can finish what I’m eating or eat something else again in a few hours, but only if I’m hungry.
When I set myself up for regular meals and snacks throughout the day, I’ve found it’s the easiest way to keep my craving for refined, carbohydrate-rich foods like cookies and other baked goods in check. — McKenzie Hall, RD, NourishRDs
Choose an activity you love
I do an activity that I love every day — and that’s usually yoga. I find yoga extremely challenging for my body and my mind. I tell my patients all the time that exercise shouldn’t be torture, but rather enjoyable. And for every person, that could be something totally different.
If you exercise on a regular basis you could have more energy, better weight control and a little less stress. — Keri Gans, MS, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet
Make easy substitutions
I don’t believe in deprivation, so I enjoy just about everything… in moderation. I’m always looking for ways to make everyday favorites healthier without sacrificing taste. For instance, when baking, I’ll cut the sugar by 25 percent and I use canola oil in place of butter, margarine or shortening because it’s lower in saturated fat than most vegetable oils and has more beneficial omega-3s. I also love chocolate, so I make sure I eat dark chocolate rich in beneficial flavonoid antioxidants.
I don’t feel deprived so it’s easier for me to stick with an overall healthier diet 90 percent of the time. — Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, co-author of The Real Skinny
Monitor your movement
I stay active on most days (typically six times a week) and keep tabs on my daily physical activity by wearing a fitness tracker. It keeps me accountable as I strive to meet my daily goal of 10,000 to 12,000 steps (the equivalent of about five to six miles).
Wearing my tracker not only helps me track my fitness stats, but it actually motivates me to move even more than I might otherwise. I have been active for years, but I’ve learned that I really like knowing not only how far I’m going when I walk around the city or on the beach or hike, but how much time I’ve spent being sedentary. I’m always so proud when I surpass my goal and know that staying accountable gives me the positive reinforcement I need to continue. – Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, author of Younger Next Week
Make it simple
My meals are always delicious, but simple. That means no sauces, gravies or extras that often pile on a lot of extra calories. For example, at dinner I have a piece of simply prepared lean protein (grilled salmon, beef or boneless chicken), a side veggie off the grill or steamed with a squeeze of lemon and a big green salad. I also exercise every day — even if it’s only a 30-minute walk.
I get to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and weight maintenance is easy. — Kathleen Zelman, MS, RD, Director of Nutrition, WebMD
Eat fresh with frozen
I stock my freezer with plenty of frozen fruits and vegetables that I can grab at a moment’s notice for a variety of meals and snacks. I use frozen veggies to add to soups or egg or bean or casseroles, and I always have frozen berries to make my favorite smoothies with almond milk and Greek yogurt.
I get more fruit and veggie servings in my diet because I don’t have to rely on what’s in-season or what I have that’s fresh at home. Studies also show that frozen foods are often as nutritious as — and sometimes even more so — because freezing locks in the nutrients of fresh-picked produce. (Frozen raspberry-beet smoothie recipe.) —Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, Wellness Manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute
Balance your plate
I strive to fill half of my plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter for lean proteins and a quarter for whole grains. My “quarter plate” of lean proteins rotates between legumes, nuts, seeds, chicken, seafood, yogurt and milk. And my quarter grains are almost always whole grains. I indulge in good meat at restaurants, and enjoy a bit of dark chocolate, coffee and wine almost daily.
Following the balanced eating plate method and paying attention to hunger cues allows me to enjoy beautiful, scrumptious whole foods until perfectly satisfied. — Michelle Dudash, RDN, chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families
My bookshelves are lined with many cookbooks. Despite my wide variety of culinary instruction my wish list on Amazon remains filled with desired books. However, overflowing bookshelves does not always lead to motivation to create meals. Feeling uninspired this weekend I stared at my farmer’s market purchases-green beans, zucchini, squash, carrots & tomatoes. Because no particular cuisine was calling to me I thought what better way to combine this produce then a colorful late season vegetable soup. I remembered a gem of a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Herb and Garlic broth. Not having all the ingredients on hand, I improvised with garlic, carrots, fresh thyme & parsley to come up with a quick stock for my impromptu vegetable soup. Dinner ended up being a delicious, warm, homey soup served with a side of cornbread muffins. Not bad for an uninspired dinner.
Most of us know that eating fiber-containing foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are good for our health. Unfortunately the great majority of us consume less than half of the daily fiber recommendation. Never fear, food manufactures have come up with a way for us to consume our daily fiber intake without even so much as picking up a fruit or vegetable. The grocery store shelf is loaded with “high fiber” products such as cookies, brownies, bars, “fruit” snacks, drinks, muffins, and white-flour pastas and breads. A chocolate brownie with “4 grams of fiber” must be healthy, right? However, these processed foods get much of their “fiber” from something called isolated functional fibers like inulin, polydextrose, and modified starches. What exactly are these isolated “functional” fibers that they are putting into these “healthy” foods? Isolated fibers are either extracted from foods or chemically synthesized and are added to foods not naturally rich in fiber. Marketers claim that eating these fibers will lead to weight loss by making you feel full. While we know that a diet high in natural fiber contributes to satiety, most added fiber in food or drinks is unlikely to have the same affect.
The bottom line, stick with real plant based fiber rich foods (beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains) that can lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity as well as help prevent constipation. And as Nutrition Action puts it so well “added processed fibers don’t turn cookies, brownies, bars, and shakes into beans, bran, berries, and broccoli. But they do turn little white powders into bigger profits.”
One of my son Oliver’s “homework” assignments is to cook an apple dish at home. Though he isn’t really a fan of apples unless they are slathered with peanut butter; I thought at the very least this was an opportunity to expose him to the variety of ways fresh fall apples can be prepared. Selfishly, I thought it was also a great time to dust off one of my “oldie but goodie” recipes that I admit I have not made in years. The Thin French Apple Tart not only looks elegant, but also tastes divine.
Speaking of apples, one of my favorite fall activities is apple picking. If a journey to an apple orchard does not fit into your schedule, check out the Saturday morning Lynchburg Farmer’s Market or the Farm Basket for the tastiest, most flavorful apples you can find. And remember, those shiny prefect apples in the grocery store shipped from hundreds of miles away don’t even compare to a freshly picked (not so pretty) local apple.
Thin French Apple Tart
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (I usually make my own crust with whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Place dough on a lightly floured surface; roll into a 12-inch circle. Place on a 12-inch pizza pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1-tablespoon sugar mixture over dough. Arrange apple slices spoke like on top of dough, working from outside edge of dough to the center. Sprinkle apple slices with remaining sugar mixture. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes.
3. Combine honey and vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high 40 seconds. Brush honey mixture over warm tart. Serve warm.
Use a paring knife to prepare the apples for this simple dessert.
Source: David Bonom, Cooking Light
The other day as I was working out in my humid basement, sweating to the tune of a fitness instructors DVD, the message really struck me. As a nutrition professional, I know without a doubt most people will not get a ripped 6-pack or thin thighs by working out for 30 minutes a day. This body “evolution” involves so much more (diet, genetics, etc). The main reason for my “suffering” through the endless droning about transforming your body is that I actually really like to workout. Over the years I have seen a great improvement in my fitness, however, with that has come inevitable aging changes & the reality that I do enjoy eating.
Very few of us can say we have never struggled with our weight or body image. And messages like “get ripped in 30” certainly do not contribute to body acceptance. (i.e. accepting your genetic blueprint). While I certainly don’t believe that body acceptance means a sedentary lifestyle and stuffing yourself silly, dieting does not work and there are countless studies supporting this conclusion.
So what is the long-term solution? Of course, I am a proponent of movement, not simply exercise, but minimizing our daily sedentary activities. I also believe that knowledge is power, so educating yourself about the basics of nutrition is another key piece of the puzzle. In addition, I am a huge fan of Intuitive Eating principles and the 3 main principles are a great starting point for changing your lifestyle and step away from chronic dieting
1. Unconditional permission to eat when hungry & what food is desired.
2. Eating for physical rather than emotional reasons
3. Reliance on internal hunger & satiety cues to determine when & how much to eat.
Food Labels are a perfect example of simple facts that can be completely misleading. Thanks to the “creative marketing” of food companies, we are lead to believe that eating a “candy bar” will provide us just as much fiber as fruit or that a “contains whole grains” loaf of bread isn’t really white bread in disguise (reality check, it is). Whatever the label claim, you get the message; food labels are confusing and often downright deceiving.
Check out this blog post on appforhealth.com about popular label frauds
1. Made With Real Fruit or Made With Whole Grains
There are no regulations regarding the “Made With…. fill in the blank” claims so you need to look at the ingredient list to see if the product really delivers. Many products claim to be made with real fruit or whole grains, when in fact, they may have a lot of added sugars and/or lower quality ingredients. Read the ingredient list. The lower fruit or whole grains are listed on the ingredient list, the less of the ingredient it contains.
2. Lightly Sweetened
Lightly sweetened is another term that food manufacturers use that has no definition by the FDA. Some cereals boasting lightly sweetened on their label contain more added sugar than sugar-coated cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts label and look for cereals that contain 6 grams or less added sugar per serving.
3. Added Fiber
While it’s true that foods marked “added fiber” contain additional fiber (listed as polydextrose, inulin (derived from chicory root), or maltodextrin) it’s not known if these fiber additions have the same health benefits as the fiber found naturally in whole foods. These fiber additives can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach discomfort when taken in excess whereas natural fiber in whole foods does not have this effect. What’s more, they’re generally added to refined or sugar-rich foods to make them appear healthier.
4. Low-Fat or Fat-Free
Marketing a food as “low fat” or “fat-free” can take your attention off the fact that the food is loaded with added sugars or refined carbohydrates. Low-fat foods that high in low quality carbs shouldn’t be part of your everyday diet.
5. Low-Carb, Protected Carbs, Net Carbs, Digestible Carbs (Not really!)
One of the most fraudulent areas of food labeling is with low-carbohydrate foods. Products that use terms like “Protected Carbs,” “Net Carbs,” “Available Carbs,” are often bogus so don’t assume that they’re good for you, especially if you have metabolic syndrome or have diabetes. Dietitians do not subtract fiber or sugar alcohols from total carbohydrate content of foods, so you shouldn’t either!
Unbeknownst to me, my blueberry purchase at the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market last week was my last. Luckily I purchased an extraordinary amount of these juicy fruits and had plenty left for my new favorite breakfast treat Cornmeal & Blueberry Buckwheat Muffins. These muffins trump the taste of the cakey “treats” you find in coffee shops and are nutritionally superior. I have made these with freshly ground flour from Wildflour Mill, which happens to carry buckwheat flour. However, making these muffins with all whole-wheat flour is equally good.
My favorite way to eat these muffins is toasted & slathered with peanut butter…yum.
Many of us are guilty of making assumptions about people’s lifestyle behaviors based on their weight. No matter the assumption, the truth of the matter is the development of obesity is very complex, hence the countless studies looking for a cause and cure. Despite extensive research into the etiology of this disease there are still many myths that exist. I found this article to be very informative, sorting out the fact from fiction when it comes to obesity.
6 Obesity Myths & Facts Explained
Claim #1: Assessing stage of change, or “readiness to diet,” is important in helping patients who pursue weight loss treatment to lose weight.
This is the fancy way of saying that a person will only lose weight if he wants to lose it. While the researchers offer evidence refuting this as a major issue, Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D.N, says it does play into the mind of registered dietitians when they issue diet plans, despite researchers branding this one as a myth. “There is often an assumption among clients that simply showing up for a consultation will magically make them lose weight,” she says. “I wish it were that simple!” Since dieting isn’t a miracle pill, it’s totally based on a person’s willingness to stick to the plan and exercise—and if a person doesn’t have the time or energy to follow a new regimen, logically, it may fail. Still, since it is hard to study something this subjective, don’t discount this as a total myth. If you want to lose weight, you have to commit to a lifestyle change. “It is a major part of the behavior-change process,” London says. Verdict: Mostly Fact
Claim #2: Regularly eating vs. skipping breakfast is protective against obesity.
If you’re eating a Big Breakfast from McDonald’s instead of a healthy bowl of oatmeal every morning, you’ll probably see the scale creep up—which is why researchers call this presumption into question, and suggest more research. It matters what you eat just as much as when you eat—but you should eat. “We do already have substantial research to support the claim that breakfast intake is linked with lower BMI,” says London. “Many people think that skipping breakfast is an easy way to cut calories, but the habit typically leads to an increased energy intake throughout the day, making people susceptible to overdoing it at other meals.” So here’s the takeaway: eat healthy, but still eat. Greek yogurt and fruit, almond butter on an English muffin, or whole-grain cereal—there are tons of quick, healthy options. Verdict: Mostly Fact
Claim #3: Eating close to bedtime contributes to weight gain.
Don’t eat after 8 p.m.! At least that’s what common weight-loss wisdom proclaims, but London says it is mostly myth—although studies support both sides of the clam. People tend to believe this old adage, for a couple reasons. “First, much current research links people with fewer hours of sleep per night to a higher risk of overweight obesity, and eating too close to bedtime can frequently be associated with disrupted sleep,” she says. “Second, eating close to bedtime could lead to waking up ‘too full’ to eat breakfast, leading to meal skipping and then binging later on—another inhibitor of weight loss.” Overall intake of calories is more important than timing, though, says London, as the researchers suggest. As long as you’re not skipping meals, focus on hitting your goals, no matter the time. Verdict: Mostly Myth
Claim #4: Eating more fruits and vegetables will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of whether one intentionally makes any other changes to one’s behavior or environment.
Sadly, simply amping up fruit and veggie intake will not necessarily cause your waist to shrink—but eating more can help. Here’s why: “Fruits and veggies aren’t magic weight loss pills, but they do have the power to impact our intake overall due to their high water-volume and high-fiber content,” says London. “increasing intake of fruits and vegetables can displace other calories from less nutrient-dense sources, like processed foods, and is typically the ‘first line of defense’ when it comes to weight loss.” Which is why dieticians push for it. Eating too much of anything can lead to weight gain, but filling up on fruits and veggies should make you less hungry for the cake and cookies. Verdict: Mostly Fact
Claim #5: Snacking contributes to weight gain and obesity.
“This is another one that is both true and untrue,” says London, insisting that you have to snack right. “Skipping meals can lead to binging at your next meal, so very often, it’s beneficial to recommend choosing healthy, fiber and protein-rich, 150- to 200-calorie snacks to decrease total energy intake for the day.” However, snacking can backfire if you’re downing processed foods or not keeping tabs on exactly what you’re consuming—or how much. “It’s really the mindless snacking and grazing—a handful here, a handful there. That’s where we see problems with clients who can’t seem to lose weight,” London says. “Those extra calories all add up.” Verdict: Mostly Fact
Claim #6: Drinking more water will reduce energy intake and will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of other changes.
Water is often hyped as a major component in feeling full and flushing bloat, which will help you lose weight. Here’s why this one isn’t entirely true, though, as the researchers suggest: “Yes, it’s true that a lot of people are not as in touch with their ‘thirst’ mechanism or satiety cues as we’d like—it’s not easy and it is definitely the case that we often see people who mistake hunger for thirst,” says London. “That said, I think it’s difficult to say that this is totally true for everyone, not to mention the fact that fluid and hydration needs are different for everyone, based on age, sex, weight, height and physical-activity level.” Drink up and hydrate consistently with (on average) eight glasses a day, but don’t expect water to be a weight-loss miracle drink. Verdict: Mostly Myth