Category Archives: Nutrition

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Festive Feasting

Satisfy your stomach in a way that will leave your heart feeling thankful this Thanksgiving.

Can you really have both? Is it truly possible to enjoy all of your favorite holiday dishes and eat healthy simultaneously? It may sound to good to be true, but there are plenty of ways that you can treat yourself to what you love, without reaping all the negative consequences. How well does the New Year’s diet resolution plan that you use every year as an excuse to splurge during the holiday season really work anyways? 

 For most of us, if we are honest, the half-hearted resolutions are not really that motivating, and it might be time to try to start adjusting our viewpoint. Instead of sporadic dieting, what if we adopted a new way of looking at food? What if we had a way to include our favorite foods in a healthy meal pattern that we could maintain throughout the year? No more guilt-ridden holidays!

 So let’s take a look at some “food for thought”  that will help you to make this Thanksgiving season, one in which your stomach and your heart will both leave the table feeling content.Some of these simple changes that you can make, that will have a big impact on your health, have more to do with how you eat, rather than what you are actually eating. Try these tips at your next holiday gathering OR how ‘bout every time you eat!

 Revise portion size – We gain weight when the number of calories we consume is greater than the number we expend, not necessarily based on the foods we eat. While this is not an excuse to constantly eat junk, it does help us to remember than moderation is the key. Typically in the United States, the portion sizes we eat are generally 2 – 3 times the recommended amount, so try cutting back just a little bit. Have one spoonful of sweet potato casserole rather than 2 heaping spoonfuls and then going back for seconds. (Or maybe, if you need to start smaller, simply choose not to go back for seconds.) Another trick to cutting back can be to use a smaller plate. Try using a 9-inch plate and filling one half with vegetables, and then have your carbohydrate and protein rich dishes on the other side. This will help keep your food group choices in better balance, too.

Listen to your body – Often times Thanksgiving is one of those days that we feel the need to stuff ourselves to bursting with all the delicious food that we only get to eat once a year! Sometimes, we starve ourselves all day to “make room” for the scrumptious afternoon feast. Both of these behaviors override our body’s natural signals of hunger and fullness, which ultimately leads to overeating and can disrupt our body’s normal metabolism. This Thanksgiving, try to listen to your body and ask yourself: Am I eating because I feel hungry or just because it tastes so good? Also, rest for at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds, as this will allow your brain to catch up with your mouth and begin registering feelings of fullness. This will keep you from leaving the table feeling like a stuffed pig. And remember, there are almost always leftovers – so it likely won’t be the last time this week that you have a taste of that delicious turkey dressing you’ve been waiting for all year.

 Savor, Savor, Savor – This thought goes along with the last point. As you listen to your body’s hunger signals, take time to enjoy the food you are eating. Try to eat slowly, relishing each bite. While this may sound silly, you might be surprised when you are satisfied with much less.

 Food OR Family – Remember, it’s not all about the food anyway. Whether you are celebrating the holiday with family, close friends or both, keep this in perspective. Ultimately, the holiday is about reflecting on the many blessings in our lives…like FOOD!! Oh wait, I meant…friends…and family. J Whatever your situation, don’t forget to take time to be thankful.

 In addition to how you eat, you may be interested in trying to change what you eat, too. If so this next section is for you, complete with ideas for how to make each component of your thanksgiving dinner more nutritious and a few sample recipes to get you started.

  • Turkey – When it comes to the main event, your Thanksgiving turkey, one of the easiest ways to cut back on calories and fat is to simply take off the skin before you eat it. The other calorie culprit here is the gravy, so try a low-fat version by skimming off the fat from the drippings before you make it. This way you can maintain the mouthwatering flavor, without the added fat.
  • Stuffing – No stuffing recipe is the same, so convincing you to give up Grandma’s recipe may be more hardship than it’s worth. However, there are a few quick tricks that you can use to beef up your favorite recipe. First, try adding extra vegetables, and be adventurous. Onions and celery are a great place to start, but what about some colorful peppers? Second, see what kind of grains your recipe uses. Could you substitute half the amount with a whole grain like quinoa? The skies the limit here, so get your creative juices flowing!
  • Fruit – Fruit is another item that tends to be doused in sugar during the holiday season. Try cutting the sugar in your fruit recipes by one third, or try honey or agave as a sugar substitute. This natural sweetener is more potent, so you can use less without loosing the sweet flavor. 
  • Dessert – Just about everyone’s favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is dessert, but oh, the choices you have to make…pecan or pumpkin…or both? Did you know that pecan pie has nearly 200 more calories per serving than pumpkin pie? That’s not to say that you can’t have it, but for those of us who like them equally, it might make you reconsider your choice. Here, the key is definitely moderation. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just have a small piece and savor it. Another way to cut down on unnecessary calories is to choose a light whip cream instead of full fat, or just skip it all together. 

Hopefully these tips have shown you how you can still enjoy all of your holiday favorites without the added cost to your health. Remember that each change you make will have you one step closer to a healthier Thanksgiving and a healthier you!

Written by: Rachel Harrod, Dietetic Intern 


holiday setting


Image via

Image via

The holiday season is a time of celebration where families, loved ones and friends gather together to enjoy time spent with one another, reminisce on days gone by, and also create sweet memories. This fun and festive season however, is often marked with the spirit of over-indulgence. In the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many people find it hard to stick to healthy eating. This by itself is no easy feat, especially when you have delectable sweet treats, rich food, and premium alcoholic beverages screaming at you from every angle. Before you know it Christmas has come and gone, and now you face the New Year with your clothes fitting a little snug.  You’ve done ‘it’ again and managed to put on a few pounds with ‘weight loss’ or ‘join a gym’ appearing at the top of your New Year’s Resolution list, just as it did last year, and the year before that.

 If you fall into this category, you are not alone. Studies show that the average American gains between 1-2 pounds during the holiday season. Although this number does not seem significant, the pounds can add up over the years making it harder to get rid of, and may even lead to you becoming overweight.  With that being said, here are some tips for you to enjoy the holidays without adding on the dreaded holiday weight.

1.       Stay active.  If you are not expending energy but are eating calories in excess of your daily requirements, you are at risk for weight gain. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity 4-5 times a week.  Some examples including walking, biking, or even taking a dance class. Staying active will not only offset weight gain, but will boost your mood and help to relieve stress.

2.       Be mindful of your beverages. Alcohol can induce over-eating and can also pack a hefty amount of sugar and calories. This also goes for non-alcoholic drinks such as Punch and Egg Nog. Make water your beverage of choice primarily, as this does not contain any calories. You can also add lemon, lime, mint or cucumber to your water for added flavor. If you do decide to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one glass of wine or 1 bottle of beer per day.

3.       Modify holiday recipes. There are many substitutions that can be made to your favorite holiday dishes that reduce the fat and calories but still preserve the texture and flavor. Some examples would be using fat-free milk, yogurt or sour cream, in place of high-fat products such as whole milk. Apple sauce may also be substituted for oil in baked dishes. 

4.       Do not skip meals. It may sound like a good idea to skip meals during the day to compensate for a big feast later on but this is actually self-sabotage. Skipping meals may lead to a slower metabolism which contributes to weight gain. It can also lead to low energy during the day, and overeating later on.

5.       Maintain healthy eating habits. This extends to eating at least 3 balanced meals, with the inclusion of healthy snacks such as yogurt with fruit, or raw vegetables with hummus in between meals. Also, strive to eat your heaviest meal during the day while you are still active, rather than at night as this can promote fat storage.

6.       Follow mindful eating practices. This means you should eat consciously. Eat until you are just satisfied, but not stuffed. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are full. Therefore, you should pace yourself and take mindful bites of your food.  It is also a good idea to load up on fruits and vegetables which are rich in nutrients and fiber, and will keep you fuller longer, so you are less likely to overeat.

7.       Indulge with purpose. You can still make room of your favorite holiday treats by choosing to have smaller portions. Since most desserts are high in sugar, fat and calories, staying mindful of your portion sizes allows you to control your caloric intake and curb weight gain. Better still, choose fruits often as they are nutritious and also make delicious desserts.

8.       Make realistic goals. The holidays are a time of celebration, and food is an essential part of that. Rather than trying to lose weight during the holidays, it is best to focus on maintaining your current weight and enjoying the company of your loved ones.

Although the holidays can also be a stressful time, it is important to manage your stress effectively, as this can trigger increased cravings. Instead of forgoing all healthy behaviors during this season, implement the aforementioned tips so that you will be able to enjoy the holiday season to its fullest, and start off the New Year with a bang.

Eating Right On A Tight Budget

save money on food

A lot of clients, friends and acquaintances say to me quiet often that eating healthy is expensive. While there is some degree of truth to that statement (as you can definitely get a meal at a fast food restaurant for under $4, while you may have some difficulty getting fresh, wholesome produce for the same price), there are ways by which you can get more bang for your buck while still being able to eat healthy and not go broke. Here are a few tips that have been helpful for me personally and I hope you will find them useful as well.

Plan ahead: 

Determine your meals for the week, and compose a grocery list based on that plan. That way you are buying exactly what you need, and are less likely to make impulse purchases. If you don’t shop with a list, you’re more likely to waste money on items that you don’t really need.  

Get organized:

Want to be more efficient with your shopping? Take it one step further if you wish and organize your grocery list by similar items. This way, you’re not wandering around the store, and won’t be enticed by items you did not intend to buy. The longer you stay in the store, the greater the likelihood of going over budget.

Fill up:

Studies have shown that you are more likely to spend more money in the grocery store when you’re hungry, as opposed to when you’re satiated. Before making a grocery store trip, make sure you’re not ravenous.

Be coupon savvy:

Coupons are there to help you save money, so take advantage of them.  Be on the lookout for coupons in newspaper inserts. You can also find coupons online from websites like or . Sunday inserts in the local paper tend give you the most bang for your buck.  Whichever source you prefer, get to clipping!

Buy store brands:

Most grocery stores have their own alternatives to brand name products.  These store brands are typically less expensive, and are comparable in terms of taste, nutrient content and appearance. Forfeiting brand name items for the store’s brand will inevitable save you some money.

Cruise for sales:

Check occasionally for sales on items that you use often. If they are shelf stable, buy in bulk so that you have a lasting supply.

Shop seasonally:

Fresh produce that is in season gives you great value for your money. For fruits and vegetables not in season, canned or frozen packages may be less expensive than if purchased fresh. Pay attention to the nutrition label and buy low/ no added sodium, and low/ no added sugar versions.

Minimize food waste:

Make sure you pay attention to the ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates listed on items you purchase. Only buy the quantity of food that’s sufficient for you and your family to consume before the expiration date, or before it spoils.

Eating in: 

Even though it is easier to grab a meal on the go, it is a lot cheaper to cook your own meals than to dine out.  Pack a lunch to work/ school and save dining out for special occasions.  Make extra servings of freezable meals when possible. Your wallet will thank you for this smart move.

Make your own:

Cut back on convenience foods. Instead of relying on pre-packaged food items, take the time to make your own. For example, you can make your own pesto, shred your own cheese, and cut your own vegetables.

Go meatless:

Cutting back on your meat consumption is great for your wallet, as well as your health. Ditch meat at least for a day, and instead have dried beans, eggs, nuts, or lentils. These alternatives are inexpensive yet nutritious.

Choose whole grains:

Buy whole grains in bulk whenever possible. Experiment with bulgur, oats, brown rice and barley. This adds variety to your diet, while providing excellent nourishment. 

What’s in your fridge?

Fridge organization

I never thought that a time would come when I was more enthusiastic about shopping for anything else other than clothes (or shoes) But I am.

I absolutely enjoy buying groceries (hauling them up the stairs is another story though) and I get super excited whenever I plan my grocery lists for the week. And yes, the plurality of the word ‘list’ was used deliberately, as I find myself making multiple trips a week to the grocery store/farmer’s market.

There is something so darn satisfying about the whole process of planning my meals ahead, making my grocery list, filling my cart with nutritious, wholesome, non-junk food, and also cooking the stuff. With personal experience, making a grocery list prior to shopping enables me to make healthier food choices, limits impulse buys and allows me to stay within budget.

The result is a fridge and pantry stocked with yummy, honest-to-goodness stuff, which makes me feel not just cool, but really REALLY cool. Like the true nutritionista that I am.

One thing I’ve realized though is that fridge organization is very important. The way you organize the items in your fridge not only determines what and how you eat, but also how long your perishables last. So, what’s in YOUR fridge? Are you proud to show it off like I am mine? If not, you might be due for a fridge make-over and I am just the person to help =)

  • Keep the nutritious, yummy stuff in sight, at eye level. This way you’re likely to consume more of them. It also helps to group similar items for better organization, navigation and optimum space utilization.
  • Temperature is crucial to proper preservation of perishables. Check to see that your refrigerator’s temp is set to 40 degrees F or lower. If your fridge temp is higher than this, it means you are now in the temperature danger zone (Uh oh).  Keep in mind that 41°F -140°F is the temperature range in which food-borne bacteria thrive.
  • FIFO. First in, first out. This is a method of rotating your food so that you use the oldest items first. Move the older items to the front after each shopping trip. This ensures that you use them first, before they go bad.
  • The refrigerator door is great for condiments. However, you do not want to keep milk, yogurt and other perishable items here. Since it’s opened frequently, the temp fluctuates more.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get to organizing.

What’s the fuss about Whole Grains?

Whole Grains

Whole grains are unrefined grains that contain the cereal germ, endosperm, and bran, which are the essential parts of the entire grain. They are good sources of fiber, and are rich in selenium, magnesium, and potassium. The bran is the fiber-rich outer shell, which contains minerals and B vitamins. The germ is the inner core that contains antioxidants, B vitamins, and vitamin E.  The endosperm is the middle layer, containing carbohydrates and proteins. In contrast, refined grains only retain the endosperm, and contain fewer amounts of fiber and nutrients, as a result of the milling process. Examples of refined grains are white bread, white rice and white flour.

Examples of whole grains include:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn (including popcorn)
  • Farro
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Triticale (A wheat-rye hybrid)
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild rice 
  • Quinoa

Health Benefits

  • Scientific studies have shown an association between consuming whole grains as part of a low-fat diet and a reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Dietary fiber, which is a component of whole grains aids digestion by helping stool pass quickly through the intestines.
  • Whole grains seem to be associated with a reduced risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers as well as hormone-dependent cancers.
  • Dietary fiber decreases LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides and increases HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
  • Whole grains are comprised of B vitamins such as folate, thiamine and niacin, which are essential for a healthy nervous system.
  • Some scientific studies show that people who eat whole grains regularly as part of a healthy diet are less likely to gain weight over time.

How much is needed?

It is recommended for individuals to consume at least 3 servings of whole grains daily, in order to reap substantial benefits. The following measurements equate to one serving size of whole grains:

1 slice bread or 1 ounce muffin
1/2 cup cooked rice, bulgur, pasta                                                                                     
1 ounce dry rice pasta, or grain
1 cup cereal flakes or 3/4 cup cooked cereal                                                                                                                 

 Label Reading

Choose foods that name whole grain ingredients such as whole wheat, whole oats, or millet first on the label’s ingredient list.  Foods labeled with”100% wheat,”   “multi-grain,” or “bran” are typically not whole grain products. Remember: Whole wheat is a kind of whole grain. However, not all whole grain is whole wheat.

Tips to boost whole grain intake

Start your day off with eating whole grains for breakfast. Some ideas are a slice of whole grain toast, whole grain English muffin, whole grain bagel or oatmeal.

Substitute regular wheat bread for whole grain bread.

Have whole grain crackers, whole grain snack bars or popcorn as snack options.

For main dishes, switch to brown rice, quinoa or whole wheat pasta. 

Be open to incorporate other whole grains you may have never tried such as triticale or buckwheat into your meals.

Try salads with grains such as quinoa.

Thicken soups with whole meal flour.

 Bake with whole wheat or whole grain flour. 

Healthy Snacking 101

Veggie Tray

I feel as though snacking has developed a bad reputation in our society. Ever so often, I come across articles that discuss how snacking contributes to eating an excess of calories, how it promotes weight gain, and how it can be detrimental to one’s weight loss plan.

There are two sides to every story and even though snacking may sabotage your weight loss efforts, keep in mind that there is a wrong and a right way to snack.  The key  is for you to ‘snack smart’.

Here are some benefits of snacking:

  • Consuming a healthy snack between meals can suppress your hunger
  • Snacking can prevent overeating at meals by controlling your appetite throughout the day
  • Eating small, frequent snacks throughout the day keeps your metabolism revved up
  • Snacking provides necessary fuel needed to prepare and recover from exercise
  • It can help you close nutritional gaps in your diet

When choosing a snack, pick foods that satisfy your hunger, supply your body with energy, and are rich in nutrients. In order to ‘snack smart’ choose from the following food groups:

  • Fruits and Vegetables – These are nutrient dense and have low calories
  • Whole grains­ – Rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates for an efficient energy boost
  • Low fat dairy products – Excellent sources of calcium and protein
  • Nuts and Seeds – Provide protein for satiety. However, they are calorically dense  so do not  consume these in large quantities

Keep in mind that snacks that are 100 calories or less will help you stay within your daily caloric allowance. 

When in the mood for something crunchy:

Choose apples, celery sticks, carrots, and unsalted rice cakes

When in the mood for something sweet:

Try fresh or frozen fruit, Jell-O, or Low-fat or fat-free unsweetened fruit yogurt

When in the mood for something savory:

Pick unsalted nuts, low-sodium crackers, or low-sodium, low-fat popcorn

When in the mood for a drink:

Choose water, tea, plain coffee, unsweetened juices, or fat free milk

Bottom line … when done sensibly, and in moderation, snacking isn’t bad for you.  



Are Liquid Calories Expanding Your Waist Line?


Did you know that in order to maintain a healthy weight, you must balance calories consumed (food eaten) with energy expended (physical activity)? Although this may seem like common sense, most people tend to focus on calories being consumed from food alone, while neglecting to factor in additional calories that may be coming from beverages.

Even though you may be eating the right amount of calories for your weight, height, age and physical activity level, your beverages may be adding an excess amount of calories to your diet, therefore contributing to weight gain. In fact, increasing rates of obesity have been attributed to the alarmingly high proportion of calories that are consumed in the liquid form.

When you consider that the average drink portion sizes are steadily increasing, the surge of sweetened beverages, energy drinks, and specialty coffee drinks on the market, in addition to the fact that most restaurants offer free beverage refills, you can easily fall into the trap of consuming excess calories in the form of liquids.

Ponder this:

  • A medium frozen mocha coffee coolatta with cream from Dunkin’ Donuts contains 800 calories (the large contains 1050 calories!)
  • A grande (16 ounce) white chocolate mocha from Starbucks, made with 2 % milk contains 400 calories (not including the whipped cream typically added).
  • A bottle of Vitamin Water is made up of 2.5 servings so it contains 125 calories, and 33 grams of sugar. Wowzers.
  • A 16 ounce hot chocolate from Panera Bread contains 380 calories.
  • A 12 ounce McCafe strawberry banana smoothie from McDonalds contains 210 calories.

Okay, now will probably be a good idea to re-evaluate your liquid consumption, and make sensible beverage substitutions if necessary, in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Consider the following when next you reach for a beverage:

  • Choose water, to quench your thirst. It is natural, refreshing, and essential for maintaining vital bodily functions. The Institute of Medicine recommends a total daily beverage intake of 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women. Oh, and besides it contains ZERO calories.
  • Jazz up plain water by adding lemon, lime, orange, or mint.
  • Choose regular coffee with skim milk or non fat dairy creamer instead of a latte. If you must drink a latte, try a ‘skinny latte’ (meaning that it’s made with skim milk and sugar-free syrup). Also, opt for the smallest size available.  
  • Limit your intake of fruit juice to no more than 8 ounces a day. A cup of fruit juice contains 120 calories. When you drink lets say 16 ounces, 3 times a day it adds up to 720 calories. Consider diluting your juice with water to provide more volume but less calories.
  • Drink soda sparingly. That is if you can’t skip it altogether. Soda is basically sugar water, providing empty calories with no nutritional benefit. If you must indulge, you can opt for diet soda. However some studies suggest that even drinking diet soda leads to overconsumption of calories in the long run.
  • When at a restaurant, instead of getting soda refills choose water instead.
  • Limit your alcoholic beverage to one a day, and steer clear of alcoholic beverages mixed with energy drinks.

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Choose Popcorn As A Healthy Snack

popped corn
Popcorn is a whole grain food which is low in calories and also a good source of fiber. 3 cups of popcorn counts as one of your three recommended servings of whole grains per day. Air popped popcorn is only 30 calories per serving, provided you hold the butter. 

Substitute potato chips with popcorn as a healthier snack. Just make sure you steer clear of popcorn drizzled heavily with butter, cheese or caramel because those calories can add up fast. Also remember to choose brands that are low sodium.

Happy Snacking!

Wake Up And Smell The Antioxidants

Coffee please

Did you know that coffee is a significant source of antioxidants in the US diet due to its level of consumption? Also, both caffeinated and decaf coffee appear to provide similar antioxidant levels.

Antioxidants have been associated with potential health benefits which include protection against cancer. According to  recent published studies, besides keeping you alert, coffee has been linked to providing protection against type 2 diabetes, liver and colon cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. However, more research is needed to concretely establish its health benefits.

So how much coffee is too much? 3, 8 ounce cups a day is considered moderate coffee consumption. So do limit your intake to no more than 3 cups a day.