Archive for the ‘Knowledge’ Category

I have been really busy really lately working with a lot of new clients and especially new moms who had Gestational Diabetes (GDM) in their last pregnancy and a theme that has come up is EATING REGULARLY.   These new moms of course are busy and sometime forget to eat breakfast or go 7-8 hours without eating anything! The stress of new motherhood (or your busy workday) can over-ride your hunger cues and before you know it, when you do eat you eat way too much or just end up slowing your metabolism down and holding on to those fat stores.

Eating regularly is important for blood sugar control and this applies to everyone, not just those with GDM or Type I or II Diabetes and one way to do this is to get a healthy snack between meals so that you are not going more than 3-5 hours without eating something.

Having a healthy snack is also another opportunity to get some healthy stuff in- like fiber, protein or fruit and vegetables!  Plus having a snack with protein + fiber will keep you full longer.  Make that snack small but mighty!

How much to snack on?  Well that depends on when your next meal is going to be and how much you typically eat at a meal. A good rule of thumb is that if you are going to be eating in the next 1-2 hours, choose a smaller snack (around 50-100 calories) and if you aren’t getting to that next meal for 2-3 hours choose something a bit more substantial (around 150-200 calories).

Below are some snack ideas but even yesterday’s meal can be a snack if the portion is adjusted!

Snack ideas:

▪ Low Fat String cheese & whole-grain crackers

▪ Non/lowfat yogurt mixed w fresh fruit & 1 Tbs granola

▪ Cut-up fruit or vegetables with yogurt dip or hummus

▪ whole-wheat pita filled with hummus

▪  Corn tortilla with bean dip

▪ whole wheat tortilla filled with turkey, cheese & vegetables

▪ 1 slice whole wheat toast topped with nut butter & banana slices

▪ 1 slice of whole wheat toast with tuna salad (low fat, low sodium)

▪ Low-fat popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese or Nutritional Yeast sprinkled on top

▪ Handful of nuts mixed w a peice of fruit.

▪ Small salad topped w grilled chicken/tofu/fish (1 oz protein)

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I get a lot of vegans in my private practice– and they usually are thrilled that I can reassure them that YES a vegan diet can be amazingly healthy and then we go over there food choices together and make sure they are getting all the macro and micronutrients they need.

One that often comes up is Calcium (Ca+).  Sure we have been brainwashed into thinking that we can only get calcium from a milk mustache but actually there are plenty of vegan sources to get your RDA (for men and women under 50 years old that’s 1000mg and if you are > 60 yo its 1200mg).  Here are some ideas I recently shared with a client (who by the way- doesn’t eat nuts or seeds- which are another great source of Ca+)

Morning ideas:

Fortified juice/non-dairy milk (6 oz)   200-260mg

Fortified High Fiber Cereal (eg. Total RB) (8 oz)  1000mg

Blackstrap Molasses (1 tbsp) on toast  130mg

Lunch and Dinner ideas:

Protein Sources: per 1 cup serving

Garbanzo beans, cooked  340 mg

Soybeans, cooked   450 mg

Tofu, firm  (w calcium suffate) 400 mg

Tempeh  215 mg

Vegetables – per 1 cup serving

Turnip greens, cooked  450 mg

Nettles, blanched  428mg

Spinach, cooked  250 mg

Collard greens, cooked  260 mg

Mustard greens, cooked 100 mg

Bok choy, cooked 158 mg

Kale, cooked 100 mg

Broccoli, cooked 100 mg

Misc sources:

Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp.) 130 mg

Tahini (2 tbsp)  128mg

Dried figs (3 oz.) 100 mg

Dried apricots (3 oz.)  80 mg

Nettle (cold) infusion:

1 cup dried nettle leaf (available in most health food stores in the bulk culinary herb section)

4 cups cold water – steep overnight, strain and drink.

Nettles can also be used like spinach in soups, eggs etc…

Kale & Blueberry Salad

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I am posting this in honor of a client of mine who is working to tame her sugar cravings– she is not alone.

More and more research is showing that sugar can be an addiction and triggers the reward center in your brain in a powerful way.  Some even think its toxic (read this interesting New York Times article). That said, I think a little dark chocolate can be a beautiful (and healthy) thing. From my perspective, moderation is key and choosing a best option or healthier substitution can be easier than you think.

Whether you are a candy junkie or just can’t say no to those office cookies, here are a few tips to decrease the sugar cravings.

  • Avoid or cut down on the white stuff (foods with simple sugars and not much else).

This seems obvious but the more you cut the straight sugar out of your food choices the easier it will be to resist it next time.   This means try your coffee/tea without two heaping mounds of sugar or avoid the white flour cupcake or breakfast muffin.
Replace with: Fresh Fruit!  Nature’s candy which is more often than not has fiber to help slow down the sugar breakdown. Try whole wheat  versions of that baked good, ideally make with less sugar.  If you must add a sweetener, try a sugar that has a few (very few) minerals too (like brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup) and often have a more robust taste which enables you to need less.

  • Eat regularly and eat right.

Often times our sugar cravings are just are body telling us we are hungry and want a quick fix of glucose.  Try and eat regularly, at least a little fiber, fat and protein every 3-4 hours. By eating the right foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, lean protein) your body will feel full and is won’t be screaming for instant sugar energy.
Try snacks such as: 2 tablespoons of hummus with a cut up carrot or two or some whole wheat pita. Yogurt and berries.  2 tablespoons of almond butter and 4-6 apple slices.

  • Manage the other S’s….Sleep and Stress.

Studies have shown that sleep deprived people make poorer food choices (hello, I need instant energy because my body is so tired) and gain more weight than folks who get enough Zzzz’s. Additionally, stress is another trigger for your body to want simple sugars to get through what must be a survival crisis.

Enhance your lifestyle: Aim for at least 6-8 hours a night. Maybe your after dinner “treat” is getting to bed earlier. Find new ways to cope with stress.  Breathing techniques, a brisk walk or other form of exercise or having a good laugh all help relieve stress. Finally a medical reason to watch funny YouTube videos at work!

  • Track down Triggers

Work with yourself or a profession to identify what triggers you have around food and especially sweets.  Do you “take care” of yourself with sugar because you really want a hug?  Learn to get in touch with your true body cues of hunger with intuitive or mindful eating.

Practice Mindful eating by: slowing down when you eat, asking yourself if you are really hungry, taking 5 minutes between impulse and action.

You truly can have a sweet life with less sugar– which of these tips will you try today?


Watch my video here about sugar for the American Heart Association (AHA) or read more about sugar on the AHA website.

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Last week I led a lovely group in a herb & spice workshop at 18 Reasons and aside from making some delicious dishes with cumin ( a favorite spice) we also talked about the health properties of various spices.

Culinary herbs and spices are the grandparents of the “food as medicine” movement and have been used for thousands of years, not only to add flavor to foods but also to prevent illness and keep food safe from bacteria.

Did you know…

Adding cinnamon to your oatmeal, coffee or cous-cous can help control blood sugar and act as a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps protect against cardiovascular disease and can even help prevent blood clots.

Mint really does help with indigestion, even folks with IBS, as it helps relax your smooth stomach muscles.

Basil (a member of the mint family) also helps with indigestion and symptoms such as diarrhea and gas.

Rosemary is an anti-oxidant (cancer protective) and also an antibacterial so makes for a great meat marinade.

Getting in the habit of using more fresh and dried spices will also displace the need to flavor with salt or need loads of fat or sugar to make the dish flavorful.

Tip: You get a more potent flavor and health benefits if you buy spices like Cumin seed, Coriander seeds, Dill seed,Fennel seed and Fenugreek seeds in their whole form and grind them (use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle) right before using.

teaching a workshop on spices & health

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Perhaps it is because I have been sitting more than usual (mostly in the car and at my desk) that I wanted to devote a post to the power of moving the body.  Of course I am sitting as I write this but the sit-all-day phenomena really hit me last week after another day of bed to driving chair to office chair to dinner table chair to home office chair to bed. I was so thankful to be able to break up this routine a bit by going for a run in my neighborhood after an almost 2 hours in traffic but I am also working on ways on getting more movement in to my work day as well.

One tip includes making many more stops to the water cooler to fill up on water or hot water for decaf tea (my favorite lately is the Pomegranate White Tea from Trader Joes).  The side benefit of so much more fluid intake (which we all know is key for good health) is that it increases the trips to the bathroom.  More steps in my day!

Speaking of steps, getting a pedometer is another way to track and monitor your movement and challenge yourself to go a few more steps each day.  If you can get 10,000 steps in your day that is the equivalent of walking about 5 miles!

Steps per day Activity Level
<5,000 Sedentary
5,000-7,499 Low Active
7,500-9,999 Somewhat Active
10,000-12,500 Active
>12,500 Highly Active

Another ways to get moving from your desk job…try a trip to your co-workers cubicle to give her/him the message rather than picking up the phone or sending an email.  Take a walking lunch or walk to get your lunch instead of driving.  Finding a buddy to do this with you may keep you motivated and make it more fun too. Use those stairs as much as possible and you can even do a few “sets” of stairs if the weather is not inviting you to go outside.  Of course you can park farther away or get off at the bus/train stop just before or after yours and be sure to pick up the pace when you walk so that you can count it as exercise rather than a leisurely stroll.  We like to say think about walking as if you were late for the train.  This makes it a “moderate” intensity activity (vs jogging which would be vigorous intensity) and another good way to check is to see if you are breaking a sweat but can still talk (but not sing).

The American Heart Association and American Council on Sports Medicine recommend that to stay fit and maintain their weight most Americans get 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio for 5 days a week  OR do vigorous intense cardio for 20 minutes 3 days a week AND do 8-10 strength training exercises (with 8-12 reps of each) twice (2X) a week.   To lose weight atleast 60 minutes of cardio is recommended as well as the strength training.

You can break the 150 minute recommendation into whatever chunks suit your schedule- whether that is 10 min bursts throughout the day (but do at least 10 min) or longer chunks a few times a week.

How are you going to move more this week?

Check out the guidelines here along with some good tips on getting started.

Take a break from a hike by climbing a tree!


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Tonight was one of those nights.  I was tired after work and uninspired to cook/shop or even deal with food at all.  I knew we had some leftovers, boiled baby potatoes and string beans along with a side of grilled asparagus (some gorgeous early spring ones) but we had eaten the fish portion of the dinner last night.  A small round white light bulb went off.  Eggs! After contemplating making a quiche (too much work for the mood I was in) I just heated the pile of leftovers up in one big pan and served them with light fluffy scrambled eggs with some herbs and a splash of milk (all cooked in the same pan…less to wash).   A bit odd for dinner at first, but then I put some French music on and savored in the time dinner didn’t take to make.  Literally 10 minutes to heat up and scramble.

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast!  They are a great source of protein (~6g per egg or about 10% of your daily needs) as well as vitamins A, D and B12, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants) and the nutrient choline.  They last a while in the fridge (2-3 weeks at least) and take very little time to cook.

Of course there is the cholesterol thing (an egg contains ~ 215 milligrams of cholesterol) but I tell my clients not to be afraid of eggs since the cholesterol is still under the recommendation of <300mg/day).  If you are watching your weight, you could do the egg white thing and get all the protein without the ~5 grams of fat contained in an egg yolk. A large egg is 70 calories.

And by the way, don’t get too overwhelmed in the egg section.  While you can choose organic, fertile, free-range, different sizes and brown or white, there is no nutritional differences between them.

Got more egg questions?  Check out the American Egg Board FAQs or a handy guide from the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA/eggs)

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I think of Winter as a time for self reflection. The weather is colder, the days are shorter and you are eating more root vegetables. This can also be a nice time to get to the “root” of any behaviors you want to modify. Instead of setting overly ambitious New Year’s Resolutions, what about taking the whole winter to check-in with yourself? See where you are growing and blossoming and where you want to prune.  In my private practice I often talk about “Mindful Eating” and I think most people could benefit from slowing down and being mindful, take a minute to ask yourself “am I really hungry?” Another way to evaluate if you are being present with your food/beverages is to answer these questions regarding Emotional Eating. When you are done answering the questions, add your score and see below.  This simple scale can help you recognize if you have tendencies to eat as a reaction from an emotion rather than true hunger.

Emotional Eating Quiz

  1. Do you have a tendency to eat when you are bored, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  2. Do you eat when with friends or family, or at special celebrations, even though you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  3. Do you eat when you are sad about something that has occurred in your personal life, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  4. Do you eat when you are stressed or anxious about an upcoming event or situation, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  5. Do you tend to have strong cravings for specific foods or food combinations?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  6. Do you feel that you spend more time thinking about food than other people do?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  7. How often are you ashamed of the quantity of food that you eat?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  8. How often do you clean your plate, even after you are full, to either avoid wasting food or to not offend the person who prepared your meal?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  9. How often do you eat specific “comfort foods” when you are upset?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  10. How often do you find yourself eating, even though you are not physically hungry, in an attempt to “perk up” when your energy lags?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never


Frequently=2 points
Sometimes=1 point
Never=0 points

14-20: It is likely that you have a serious problem with emotional eating, and this is likely impacting your ability to eat a moderate and well-balanced diet. It is highly recommended that you follow the recommendations that follow to help cope with the emotional eating habits that you have formed.  Additionally you might want to work with a Dietitian or Therapist to assist you in behavior change.

7-13: You have a tendency toward emotional eating and may find it helpful to read through the recommendations that follow. It is likely that you are sometimes able to exert adequate self-control when it comes to emotional eating, but have a very difficult time doing so during other situations. It is important that you recognize what your triggers are in order to set up a “game plan” for difficult times.

0-6: You do not seem to have a tendency toward emotional eating. You may, however, want to read through the following tips in order to gain a greater understanding of others who struggle with emotional eating.

Tips for Emotional Eaters

The following tips can help you or someone you know deal with emotional eating.

Why are you eating?
The first step to quitting emotional eating is to become aware of why you are eating. Humans feel many different things on any given day, but rarely register these feelings unless they are severe or a drastic change from the norm.

What is missing?
It is important to determine if you are neglecting a part of your life. Spirituality, family, friends/social life, and creative expression are common examples of areas that are important to many people. Although each person is unique, all humans share some common needs.

What areas need more focus?
Many people eat in an attempt to fill a part of their life that was abandoned. Once you figure out what area needs more focus, you can find effective ways to gain more balance to your life and values.

Are you planning activities that do not involve food?
Many people have difficulty separating food and the fun of spending time with loved ones. Planning activities that do not revolve around food takes time and energy, but it is well worth the effort.

Are you prepared?
Preparation is key. Keeping a nutritious snack in your purse, pocket, glove compartment, or desk at work can help to stop you from reaching for the first comforting food that you come across.  This is a big thing we talk about in my private practice.

Whatever your “score” above, know that we humans are incredibly adaptable and we can change. So start a new healthy habit, or keep doing what you are doing!

Take a deep breath with gratitude before you dig in!

adapted from a professional resource on RD411.com

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