Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How to Prevent Weight Gain During the Holidays

Image result for holiday eating
Source: https://hhp-blog.s3.amazonaws.com/2018/11/holiday-dinner-with-familyiStock-498303430.jpg

Over the next week many people will have several holiday gatherings to attend, such as Christmas Eve parties, family gatherings,and New Year's Eve galas. Certainly we look forward to fun parties and seeing friends and family, but these holiday parties involve lots of eating and drinking. Do not fret! There are two simple ways to stay slim during the holiday season: don’t lag on your workouts, and practice self-control when it comes to eating and drinking.

When faced with endless amounts of hors d’oeuvres, sweets, and cocktails, you should educate yourself so that you can determine those that are good choices and those that are not. In order to ensure that there will be a healthy food choice at a party, offer to bring something that you can make yourself. Consequently, you will know exactly what is in the dish and whether it is healthy or not. A good word of advice is that anything wrapped in pastry, deep fried, containing ground meat, or loaded with cheese (cream cheese included) is probably not the best option for your waistline.

When it comes to cocktails, try mixing in a calorie-free beverage (club soda, diet Sprite) into your cranberry/vodka or choose “light” beer. Drink water WITH and in between cocktails and stray away from calorie-laden ciders, any specialty drinks like “holiday punch”, and especially egg nog. On average, one serving of any alcohol will have about 120-130 calories (5 oz wine, 1.5 oz liquor, 12 oz beer)- of course that calorie number depends on the % alcohol of whatever you are drinking (1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories).

Here are my main tips to avoid overdoing it at any party:

1. Stay away from the food trays- it is true: out of sight, out of mind. Humans are naturally lazy creatures, so if you have to walk an extra few feet to get more food, you are less likely to. Furthermore, you will have more time to think about whether you want it or not (mindful eating).

2. Only put 2 pieces of food on your plate at any one time. The first two bites of any food taste the best, so you get in trouble if you load your plate with 10 mini appetizers. Place 2 on your plate and if you are really hungry for more, go back and get 1-2 more.

3. Use small plates and serving utensils. We eat with our eyes, so if you have a small plate, the food will look like more than it is. If you  use a small spoon, you will eat less at each bite which will slow down your eating.

4. BE THE TALKER! If you are talking, you can't be eating (unless you have no manners whatsoever). People tend to migrate to the food table if they have no one to talk to. So, get out there and make friends; your waistline and social life will thank you.

5. Enjoy foods you like, but don't eat unnecessary items. Surely you can eat a good meal over the holidays, but avoid eating foods just because they are there. Only eat things that are nutritious or that you rarely have access to and really appreciate.

By no means deprive yourself during the holidays, just be conscious of what you are eating and how much you consume.


Friday, December 20, 2013

My Five Holiday Party Tips

1.   Make sure you get in some form of cardiovascular exercise EVERY DAY. MAKE THE TIME!
A study published December 15th showed that a group of people who exercised for 45 minutes on mostly sedentary days filled with overeating did not experience the negative effects the completely inactive group did (decreased blood sugar control, modified gene expression in fat cells leading to unhealthy metabolic changes of genes and hormones and altered metabolism).
          Reference: December 15, 2013 The Journal of Physiology, 591, 6231-6243.

2.   THINK before you eat!
Assume each cookie or small bite-sized fancy appetizer is at least 100 calories. Choose your intake wisely and make sure it is worth those calories.

3.   Bring a healthy dish.
People enjoy when you bring something to a gathering. So, bring a low-fat vegetable-based dish that you know you can eat and rely on in case there are no other healthy dishes available.

4.   Drink water WITH and IN BETWEEN each alcoholic beverage to slow your intake.
Each drink (1.5 fl oz liquor, 5 oz wine, 12 oz beer), on average will run you at least 100-150 calories… calories increases as %ABV does. Try to choose beverages that are lower in calories like 1 shot vodka + club soda or a light beer. Try to increase volume and decrease calories.

5.   Stand AWAY from the food table.
At parties you will be more inclined to eat food if it is staring at you. Try to stand at least 6 feet away and be social- you can’t be eating if you’re talking.

        Throughout the holidays you must still be mindful of portion size, healthy eating, and exercise. You can’t just give up now and think you’ll start January 1st. Eating one large and unhealthy meal can do significant damage to your system… so just think about your food and beverage choices and try to be mindful. You should enjoy a special holiday cookie, but there is no reason eating 5 will make you feel better than eating just one. Happy Holidays! :-)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NEW! Kelly's Pantry Reading Recommendations

Check out my new blog where I will try to post a new and exciting news article every day (or every few days). This is intended for all of my blog followers and my clients to keep up to date with the latest nutrition/fitness research and recommendations. Be sure to become a follower of "KELLY'S PANTRY - RECOMMENDED READING MATERIAL" so you are notified every time I post a new article.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guest Blog Post: Benefits of Flax Seed with Ways to Incorporate it in Your Diet

The following is a post by guest blogger Kishana Sainte with some quick grammar editing done by me, (Kelly). For any questions about this blog, please visit http://www.mydochub.com to contact Kishana directly.
Picture source: http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/806978/flax-seed-recipes

Are you looking for a way to boost your health and help your body remain vibrant and energetic? 

Have you heard of flaxseed?

Flaxseed is bursting at the seams with goodness. Just take these characteristics as an example: flaxseed is made of two-thirds protein and one-third oil, one tablespoon has 40 calories, nearly 2,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids and 2.4 grams of fiber. All of these positive attributes make flaxseed a healthy food to incorporate into your daily diet for optimal health. For example, flaxseed helps regulate blood sugar, stabilizes blood pressure, reduces symptoms from rheumatoid arthritis, decreases menopause symptoms, and it helps prevent some types of cancer. Not to mention, it also is known to lower cholesterol levels.

How much should you take, exactly? Health experts agree that a daily dose of one to three tablespoons is optimum. So, what is the best way to digest these little guys? Luckily for all of us, flaxseeds are small and easily adapt to all different ways of consuming it. Here are some ways that you can enjoy flaxseed in your diet:

Ground (aka: milled) Flaxseeds: If you want to get the ultimate benefits out of flaxseed, then the best approach is to grind it up prior to using it. The grinding action helps dissolve the outer shell, releasing the beneficial essential fatty acids that are contained within. There are a few ways to grind flaxseeds, you can either grind them in a coffee grinder or purchase pre-ground seeds in any health food store. Be sure to refrigerate and ground flaxseed as it loses its positive healing properties quickly if exposed to light. One way to know if the flaxseed has gone bad is to smell it. Good flaxseed smells like a yummy, sweet nutty flavor. When flaxseed starts to go rancid it smells more chemically.
Kelly's Note: Your body absorbs flax best in it's ground/milled state

Baking: Another great way to consume flaxseed is by baking it into your favorite muffins, breads or other baked goods. Flaxseed can replace around 25 to 50 percent of the normal flour amount in almost any recipe. Stay away from adding too much as it will make your baked item hard to chew and heavy in texture.

Smoothies: Try to incorporate flax into your diet by adding it to your favorite smoothie recipe. The flaxseed actually has benefits for the drink: it makes the drink a little thicker. Try adding whole flaxseed to your mixture at the end of the blending process, adding about a half tablespoon of flaxseed for every cup of liquid.

So on your next shopping trip, be sure to purchase some flaxseed to incorporate into your diet!

About the author: Kishana Sainte writes on health & lifestyle, fitness, and food & recipes on behalf of MyDocHub, a trusted online doctor reviews and medical information website. For more information visit http://www.mydochub.com


Friday, December 13, 2013

My Ode to Oat Bran!

I searched through all my old blogs and was SHOCKED that I hadn't written one dedicated to the food I recommend the most: oat bran. I have certainly referenced oat bran in numerous blogs, but I have never given this amazing food it's own blog article, which was very upsetting to me!
Anyway, I don’t like the term “super-food”, since no one food is a complete source of everything you need. However, oat bran is one food that I recommend to every one of my clients (except for the person with an oat allergy), and if I had to choose one food to eat the rest of my life for health, it would be oat bran. I eat oat bran pretty much 7 days out of the week and honestly love it. Not many people are familiar with oat bran, or may only know about the cold cereal called oat bran. The oat bran I eat and recommend is a hot cereal that cooks just like instant oats, about 2 minutes in the microwave or on the stove!
I first learned about the powers of oat bran in college when I was researching cholesterol-lowering foods. Study after study shows that oat bran is fantastic for lowering cholesterol levels in those individuals with high cholesterol, especially the bad LDL cholesterol, because of the high levels of soluble fiber. Oat bran is made from outer layer of the oat kernel where most of the fiber and healthy fats reside.

          Oat bran works to lower cholesterol and even out blood sugar levels because of its high level of beta-glucan (soluble) fiber. When ingested, it is estimated that oat bran absorbs 25 times its volume in liquid, which is one reason why people feel so full after eating it. Personally, on days I eat oat bran I could go 4-5 hours without being hungry, whereas if I eat a high fiber cold cereal or a Greek yogurt with whole wheat toast I feel hungry about two hours later. Another benefit of oat bran is that once in the stomach, the oat bran forms a gel-like bolus that helps to absorb extra glucose and fats that are roaming around your stomach. This bolus then makes its way through your system without all the sugar and calories being absorbed.
          Ounce for ounce, oat bran is higher in fiber, protein, most B vitamins, healthy fats, iron, and many other vitamins and minerals when compared to old fashioned rolled oats. Personally, I like the texture better since it is finer and more like a cream of wheat consistency (which basically has no nutritional value!). Oat bran is also super cheap, especially if you buy it in bulk. You will be saving lots of money by subbing cereal boxes for the oat bran, and may save even more money by potentially lowering the dose of your cholesterol meds (or preventing the need to go on them!).

Below are some facts and suggestions about oat bran:

Nutrition facts (based on 1/3 c dry or 40 g): 130 calories, 3 g fat, 24 g carb (3 g soluble fiber & 3 g insoluble fiber), 1 g sugar, 7 g protein
Where to buy: The bulk bins at Whole Foods (my preferred source) or Wegmans,  or the cereal aisle of most supermarkets (check the natural food aisle if you can’t find it). Trader Joe's unfortunately has discontinued it! Common manufacturers of oat bran include Bob’s Red Mill, Hodgson Mill, Quaker, Arrowhead Mills, Mother’s, and Old Wessex.
Cooking directions: Basically, you need to add enough liquid for the oat bran to cook, so the total amount of liquid you add is up to your texture preference. I usually recommend making 1/3 c dry oat bran with 1 cup of liquid. Stick in a large bowl and microwave for about 2- 2 ½ minutes (can also cook on stove). Be sure to watch the oat bran as you may need to stop and stir it halfway through.
How to prepare: I usually make my oat bran with unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened vanilla hemp milk, or light vanilla soymilk. I always incorporate at least ½ cup of fruit which is usually a mixture of banana, apples, and some form of berry (strawberries, blueberries, or cranberries). At times I have mixed canned pumpkin into my oat bran. I always add spices such as cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, honey or agave, and some form of nut or seed (usually hemp or chia, but sometimes walnuts). Recently I have also been adding vanilla or unsweetened protein powders (like Garden of Life RAW).
Other uses: Oat bran can be added to any baked good, and there are thousands of oat bran muffin recipes out there on the internet. You can also add oat bran to smoothies, yogurt, and really wherever else you would add a cereal or seed.
Summary of benefits: First and foremost, oat bran is great for lowering cholesterol (total & LDL) cholesterol, and especially for those with already high cholesterol. Second, oat bran is great for diabetics because of it's ability to slow blood sugar absorption. That being said, it is great for everyone, because it keeps your blood sugar from rising and crashing, which can lead to hunger, irritability, and food cravings. Similarly, oat bran is fantastic for weight loss since it is VERY filling, so should keep you full and satisfied for hours after eating. Overall, oat bran is great for everyone- not just those looking to lower cholesterol or lose weight- since it is an excellent source of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and many vitamins and minerals. 
So this weekend, I recommend you go out and buy oat bran. Begin incorporating that into your diet so you know you are starting each day of this holiday season off with a healthy start!!! Because of oat brans powers, you shouldn't be craving the carbs as much in the afternoon, so hopefully it will work to help you avoid those Christmas cookies! ;-)


Picture sources:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How To Snack Like A Victoria's Secret Model

View my contribution to an article on Philly.com about how to snack like a Victoria's Secret model... and why those are healthy choices. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THANKSGIVING RECIPE: Kelly's Healthified Sweet Potato & Banana Casserole

Sweet potato casserole is a dish that is unnecessarily made with fat and sugar laden ingredients. I can almost guarantee that you can cut back on the sugar by at least 1/3 and the butter by 1/2, and no one will notice. Even with those modifications, most recipes will still be very unhealthy. When sweet potatoes are baked (ie: not boiled!), their natural sugars are drawn out and they become sweeter. If you bake them with any other fruit (apples, pineapple, banana, figs, etc), you definitely do not need to add any sugar, or at the very least, reduce it. Butter is just an unnecessary ingredient for something like sweet potato casserole if it is just mixed within the casserole. For toppings, it can serve a purpose, but within the casserole it is adding very little flavor and lots of fat and sodium.

Below is my recipe for a whipped sweet potato recipe with bananas, and be sure to check out my post from 2011 for my Sweet Potato & Apple Casserole recipe.
NOTE: This picture is not from the exact recipe, but yours should appear similar

Makes ~12 servings

Casserole Ingredients
1 tsp cinnamon
2 egg whites
2 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup light vanilla soy milk (can sub almond or skim)
1/4 c brown sugar
5 medium sweet potatoes
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas
1/2 c plain nonfat yogurt

Topping ingredients
1 tbsp light butter spread
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp honey or agave
1/3 c high fiber cereal mix (pulse in blender any combo of the following: Fiber One, All-bran, Bran Flakes, Trader Joe's High fiber cereal & mixing with KIND Healthy grain clusters or another low-fat granola)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Rinse & scrub potatoes, poke holes with a knife, then place on baking sheet covered with tin foil. Bake in oven until soft (about 45-60 min).
3. Once potatoes are cooked, place in large bowl and mix in all ingredients except for topping ingredients. Beat with blender until well mixed and whipped.
4. Pour potato mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.
5. To prepare topping, mix a high-fiber cereal with 1 tbsp light butter and 1 tbsp honey (or you can drizzle honey over top of casserole and sprinkle cereal/cinnamon/butter mix on top). Spread over top of casserole.
6. Cover casserole with tin foil and bake about 25 min.
7. After the casserole is baked, uncover and broil until topping is crisp and brown.


Nutrition Info Per serving (1/12 recipe):
120 calories, 1 g fat, 149 mg sodium, 25 g carb (3 g fiber- higher depending on cereal used), 3 g protein, excellent source of Vitamin A.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tips to Avoid Over-Consuming on Turkey Day!

People often think of Thanksgiving as an excuse to over-consume food and eat whatever you want. Yes, I do agree Thanksgiving is a time of year where there are special foods available, but I completely disagree with the fact that you need to gorge yourself in order to feel satisfied. In fact, you’ll probably feel lethargic, stuffed, and pretty gross after all is said and done. If you are at risk for heart disease, studies have shown that after just one meal high in saturated fat (think fried or cheese-based appetizers, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie, egg nog), the inner lining of the blood vessel walls have a reduced ability to expand, and the HDL’s are impaired leading to increased inflammation, and other metabolic markers are hampered 123. Thus, the risk of a heart attack would be higher after eating a rich meal than after eating one full of veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains. Here are my tips for having a healthy Thanksgiving:

  1. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio on Thanksgiving and also go for at least a 10-minute walk after your big meal. Walking afterwards will help your body soak up the extra glucose circulating around, which will decrease the risk for cell damage.
  2. During appetizers, load up on veggies and shrimp cocktail instead of cheese or fat-laden foods.
  3. Limit your alcohol intake. Each shot of liquor has around 100 calories, 8 oz of wine has 200, 12 oz of beer can vary between 95-200 depending on the ABV% (higher alcohol= higher calories). Watch the eggnog; it is calorie dense and artery-clogging enough as it is, but adding in rum will only work to increase the calorie load. Drink seltzer or club instead of alcohol, or at least in between drinks- they are carbonated, and thus filling, but contain no calories.
  4.  Cook at least one healthy vegetable-based side dish to bring to the feast. You can load up on those healthy veggies and keep your portions of all the other not-so-healthy foods small.
  5. Check out the calorie counts below for the average Thanksgiving dinner. Note that traditional stuffing is one of the worst foods in term of calories and fat content. Again, stick to vegetable-based foods.
  6. Skip “everyday” foods, unless they are non-starchy vegetables! You know what bread tastes like, so no need to add that to your calorie and carb intake for the day. Same goes for wine and most alcohols ;-)
  7. The crust is the worst part for you- skip the crust of pies and eat the inside (apple and pumpkin aren’t actually all that bad for you). The crust is primarily saturated fat with some (unhealthy) carbs. But cutting the crust off your slice of pie, you will be saving at least 100 calories! Also, don't add on anything else to that already decadent pecan pie. A small scoop of ice cream can contribute over 150 calories and more saturated fat.
  8. Think before you eat! Ask yourself if eating something is really going to add to your enjoyment for the day. Next, ask yourself how much of a food is needed to fulfill your craving.
  9. Take your time eating! Chew more often and slowly- people who do this tend to eat less and are healthier! Be the talker at the table so that you can’t be stuffing your face during the whole meal.
  10.  If you happen to eat more than anticipated, don’t beat yourself up. One day of overeating isn’t going to pack on pounds… but doing it on a weekly or daily basis certainly will ;-)
1.J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Aug 15;48(4):715-20. Epub 2006 Jul 24.
2. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jun;69(6):1135-43.
3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Mar;77(3):605-11.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November is National Diabetes Month: Know Your Risk!

Source: http://blog.awpainrelief.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/glucose-insulin-diagram.jpg

Type 2 Diabetes is on the rise and is something that everyone should be concerned about. In 2013, 24.4 million people had been diagnosed with diabetes, 5.4 million people had died of diabetes-related complications, and over $548 billion dollars were spent on health care for diabetics across the world. Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body develops a resistance to insulin that the body produces. Insulin is released when your blood sugar rises, and is what allows the sugar to enter into the cell walls. When people do not have insulin that works, blood sugar can remain very high and cause many complications such as glaucoma, neuropathy (numbness), skin infections, kidney disease, mouth sores, and a whole slew of nasty others!

Fear not, just a modest 5-10% weight loss can significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes, and for those that have it, weight loss can make a huge (positive) impact on blood sugar control. One of the biggest risk factors for developing diabetes is having a large amount of abdominal fat. When fat cells fill with fat, they tend to respond poorly to insulin, and sugar builds up in the bloodstream and damages cells. Exercise is one of the best things a diabetic can do, because you need to burn the sugar and fat that are stored in the muscle cells so that the muscle can take in more sugar and re-store fat (think of it as draining & re-fueling a battery). Furthermore, when muscles are being worked as in exercise, they do not need insulin to draw blood sugar in, whereas resting muscles do.

My Recommendation: Everyone should eat as if they have diabetes. Focus on eating only whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Diabetics do not need to avoid eating “sugar”, they just need to be conscious to pair the right foods with those they are eating that break down to sugar (meet with me and I’ll explain in more detail!). Also, eat the correct sugars- those from nature like fruits & dairy, as opposed to added sugars in soft drinks, coffee beverages, and sweets. Excess calories is what everyone should be avoiding to reduce their risk of developing diabetes, not sugar. Furthermore, EVERYONE should be exercising EVERY DAY. The benefits of contracting muscles lasts less than 24 hours, so you should be getting in some muscle-engaging movement every single day. No excuses. The risk of developing diabetes is high for many people, and the complications are nothing to mess with (blindness, ED, getting your foot amputated, going on dialysis, etc.).

3.        Dr. Gabe Mirkin “Why Excess Weight Kills”. www.Drmirkin.com

INDEPENDENCE BLUE CROSS and AMERIHEALTH Members: Personal Choice, Keystone Health Plan East, or AmeriHealth members may receive 6 free nutritional counseling sessions each year with Kelly!
*Note: Medicare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans are not covered & specific IBC plans may not be covered
AETNA Members: Aetna reimbursement depends upon your specific policy. Many plans do offer 100% coverage for up to 10 visits per year!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Carrageenan May Be Pro-Inflammatory, but it’s Not Entirely Clear….

Almond Milk Ingredient Label

The past few months I have been bombarded with people asking me for my thoughts about carrageenan, because they have heard it is a very controversial food additive that is found thousands of food products. Chances are, especially if you choose to avoid dairy, you are consuming many products that contain carrageenan.

Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed using alkalis or acid to remove it from the main source. It is added to many foods such as cheeses, almond milks, ice creams, jelly’s, and other products that would typically separate if not for this additive. Controversy has arisen due to research done on lab animals that links carrageenan to gastrointestinal diseases, inflammation, and cancer. In 2008, a study showed that “food grade” carrageenan broke down in the G.I tract and caused inflammation, which caused one of the study authors to make a petition to the FDA to ban the substance. As of April 2013, the FDA feeling on the matter is as follows:

“While no evidence in the available information on undegraded carrageenan demonstrates a hazard to the public when it is used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced, uncertainties exist requiring that additional studies should be conducted.”

Basically, the level of carrageenan breakdown in the body is still up for debate, and there is not strong evidence suggesting that it causes damaging inflammation in humans. There have not been enough studies done on humans to determine the level of breakdown, and the impact consuming other foods at the same time as carrageenan has on metabolism and inflammation.

My Recommendation: As with most of these additives, I always advise being aware of the ingredients in your foods, and trying to limit the amount foods you consume with lots of additives. I, personally, do not go out of my way to avoid carrageenan. It is typically present in low amounts in the foods it is found in, and the level of harm has not been fully established. However, if you are prone to stomach and G.I issues, it may be wise to limit the amount of carrageenan-containing food products you eat. I would rather people eat mostly whole and natural foods anyway, so then you avoid carrageenan naturally. Food additives such as thickeners and stabilizers are added to many things, but especially to foods trying to act as something else (like gluten-free breads and non-dairy yogurts). Since carrageenen and other thickeners are added to many faux-dairy products, try to choose natural low-fat dairy if you are able, or at least non-dairy foods that have no additives like Stonyfield’s O’Soy soy-based yogurt. I am a fan of almond milk for the vitamin E (see my post) and calcium, but most brands do contain carrageenan. However, my favorite Almond Milk (Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla) does not!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pre- and Pro-Biotics Explained

Over the past year or two you may have become aware of the term probiotic, and possibly, even pre-biotic.  Jamie Lee Curtis swears probiotics changed her life, but what exactly are probiotics, and do you have to eat Activia to get them???
The answer is NO! Dannon was just smart enough to have the foresight to market Activia as containing probiotics. FYI- all real yogurts contain probiotics since the bacteria make the yogurt thick and sour. So, I always think, good for Dannon! They are great at marketing, just like those companies that now advertise their products as “gluten-free”, although the food is naturally gluten-free, like pop-corn! Dannon was able to gain an edge in the yogurt market and pick up some more consumers due to a bright marketing person who was ahead of the probiotic curve. However, eating regular Dannon yogurt, Yoplait, or pretty much any other brand will provide probiotics.

Probiotics are bacteria found in the gut, and all the different types of probiotics together in your intestine make up your gut microflora. These probiotics digest certain foods that the enzymes in your gastrointestinal tract can’t digest, such as certain fibers. These non-digestible carbohydrates (i.e.: fibers) are called “pre-biotics” and are basically the food for probiotics.

Probiotics help enhance the synthesis of certain B vitamins, produce Vitamin K, and aid in the absorption of calcium. Additionally, they help to combat dangerous pathogens, thereby aiding your immune system, and help with proper digestion and bowel flow. Researchers are now linking a person’s microflora with disease risk, obesity, food insensitivities, and more. The probiotics produce short-chained fatty acids that have been suggested to help to reduce the risk of developing G.I disorders, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

So should you take a probiotic supplement? I say no… for most people. I always recommend you get vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other food molecules from real food rather than popping a pill. Pre-biotics are mostly found in foods high in fiber: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans; but also some other foods such as garlic and onions. Probiotics are found in cultured dairy such as kefir and yogurts, as well as fermented products such as Kombucha (fermented tea- check out Whole Foods!), sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, tempeh, olives, miso, and soymilk. Studies have shown benefits of taking certain probiotics for people with gastrointestinal problems like IBS- but certain strains of probiotics are more effective than others, so always do your research.

My recommendation:  Instead of popping a probiotic pill, try eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soy products, cultured dairy, and add some fermented foods to your diet like tempeh (a vegetarian meat substitute made of fermented soy- tastes meaty and delicious!) and sauerkraut. By eating more healthily you will naturally feel better, by eating more fiber you should become more “regular”, and you will be getting a healthy mix of various strains of pre- and pro-biotics. This combination should work to prevent certain diseases and keep you feeling fantastic. Be sure to drink more water to account for the higher fiber intake! ;-)


Probiotics’ Potential — Research Suggests Beneficial Bacteria May Support Immune Health
By Sharon Palmer, RD. Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 13 No. 1 P. 20

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Recs for the Best Protein Bars

Many people eat protein bars on a daily basis because they are a quick and easy snack, and one would think, a healthy choice. However, most bars out on the market have some sort of coating, whether it is a “yogurt” or a chocolate coating. Oftentimes, these types of bars are full of saturated fat, and sometimes, hydrogenated oil (trans fat!). Furthermore, many bars are loaded with tons of sugar and are not the healthiest choice as a mid-day snack. I only really recommend bars for those that will be on the road and not able to have a meal for several hours, those trying to gain weight, or very active individuals. Protein bars tend to be very high in calories, so most people are not active enough throughout the day to require a very high-calorie snack... choosing fruit, non-fat yogurt, whole grain crackers, and/or a small serving of nuts/seeds is always a better choice.

It is always best to eat real food if possible, like cottage cheese or yogurt & fruit before a workout, instead of a packaged and highly-processed product. However, if you must eat a bar, first look at the ingredients list and make sure it contains high quality and fairly-natural ingredients. These would include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and honey or brown rice syrup (instead of high fructose corn syrup as the sweetener). There are many products on the market now, especially at Whole Foods, which do contain basic and healthy ingredients, and therefore, can be a nutritious choice for a snack.

My recommendations: Below are the bars I most often recommend to clients. Of course, there are now many bars on the market that meet my criteria of containing mostly natural ingredients,  high in fiber and protein, and actually taste good. But again, try to limit your processed bar intake- a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter, or a banana and a light cheese stick can be healthy and very quick snacks pre- or post-workout.

  •  KIND Plus or KINDNuts & Spice Bars
    • Most of the bars contain around 180 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g SFA), 22 g carb (3 g fiber), 4 g protein, 50% DV Vit A, 50% DV Vit C, as well as small amounts of other vitamins and minerals
    • Each bar is made with very natural ingredients such as nuts, fruit, and honey- although glucose is added as a binder. The nuts & spice line contain <5 g sugar per bar.
    • ***I always have samples of these and give them to my clients- many delicious flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter + Protein and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt... yummm
  • LaraBars (any flavor- 1.8 oz bar)
    • Most of their bars contain 220-250 calories, 8-11 g fat (< 3 g saturated fat), ~30 g carb (3-7 g fiber), 5-7 grams protein, and are a good source of several key nutrients (potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, etc.).
    • Each bar contains less than 9 ingredients, is made only from seeds, fruit, and spices.
  • Nature’s Path OrganicOptimum Energy Bar (any flavor- 2 oz bar)
    • Most of their bars contain 200-220 calories, 3-8 g fat (< 2 g saturated fat), ~37 g carb (4 g fiber), 5-7 grams protein, and 20-25% DV calcium, 15% DV Iron
    • Each bar is made with all organic ingredients, no trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, and only quality ingredients
  • Vega Bars
    • Each bar is plant-based and contains high-quality proteins coming from pea protein and soy. These bars contain a ridiculous amount of healthy fruit and vegetable-based ingredients, and a healthier recipe compared to most bars for the dark chocolate coating.
    • These bars come in a variety of flavors, each around 250 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated), 25 g carb (6 g fiber,12 g sugar), and 15 g protein. They contain most of the major vitamins and minerals, and a whole slew of antioxidants and probiotics.
  • PowerBar Nut Naturals
    • These bars contain around 210 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g SFA), 21 g carb (2 g fiber), and 10 grams protein, and are a good source of Vit C, thiamin, iron, and riboflavin
    • Each bar contains no preservatives or artificial flavors
  • NOW (No OpportunityWasted) Energy bars w/ Manuka Honey
    • Phil Keoghan’s NOW bars are all natural bars that are gluten free and contain very healthy ingredients including chia seeds.

      Most of the protein containing bars contain around 280 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated), 42 g carb (6 g fiber, 14 g sugar), and 11 grams protein. Most are also a pretty good source of calcium too!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Study: Ruin your appetite by viewing pictures of food over and over again!

A new study out of Brigham Young University found that looking at too many pictures of food caused a decrease in enjoyment of eating those foods. The study broke participants into two groups- one group that viewed pictures of salty foods like peanuts and chips, and French fries, and another group that was shown pictures of sweet foods like cakes and chocolates. Participants were asked to rate each food based on how appetizing it was while viewing the photos. After they were shown the pictures, participants were fed salted peanuts, and asked to rate how they enjoyed eating the peanuts. The findings were as follows:

Results of the experiment showed that the participants who viewed the photos of the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts significantly less, compared with those who viewed the sweet foods, even though they had not viewed pictures of peanuts, just other salty foods.1

The explanation for these results is that overexposure increases a person’s satiation and a decreases the desire for that type of food. The study findings work to emphasize that all senses are important in hunger and satiety, not just taste and smell. One of the lead researchers noted that you have to look at pictures many times to have the satiety effect, and looking at something just a few times will probably not lead to decreased consumption.

My Recommendation: When I ask clients about food preferences, many people say they don’t like something simply because they ate it too many times as a child. Or, you may know someone that has worked at a bakery or another food establishment and doesn’t tend to eat the food there- usually these workers smell, see, and hear about the food all day long and no longer find the food appealing. If one works at a bakery and smells and sees fresh baked donuts for several hours each day, day after day, donuts no longer contain the same appeal as they did when you only got donuts once a year down the shore. If you find that you tend to overindulge in a food or have afternoon candy cravings, try looking at pictures of the food you crave over and over again before eating. If these study findings hold true, you may just end up not being that enthusiastic about eating that piece of candy, or at the very least, you will end up eating fewer pieces!


1. Medical News Today- http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267044.php
2. Jeffrey S. Larson, Joseph Redden, Ryan S. Elder, 'Satiation from Sensory Simulation: Evaluating Foods Decreases Enjoyment of Similar Foods',Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14 September 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2013.09.001

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tip of the week: Keep Cheap Protein Staples on Hand!

Too many people end up eating poorly due to lack of planning and not having healthy food staples on hand. When it comes to simple meals, you need to have quick-to-prepare and healthy protein staples in your fridge or pantry so that you can create a meal when you get back late, are tired, and do not feel like cooking. You can create a healthy meal in less time and for less money than if you were to stop and get take-out. In order to make a well-balanced meal, you need to have a protein source, LOADS of vegetables, and a whole grain at bare minimum. I always advocate keeping frozen vegetables on hand, as well as some form of whole grain you can go to such as whole grain bread products (I keep Wegman's whole wheat pita's in my freezer all the time), quinoa, or low-sodium whole grain crackers (e.g: Ak Mak whole wheat sesame or Hint of Salt Triscuits). Below are my go-to cheap and nutritious protein staples I recommend you keep around your kitchen:

Eggs:  Use 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites- make veggie omelets with a side of whole grain toast (~13 g protein per 1 egg:2 whites omelet)
Low-fat cottage cheese: My favorite brand is Breakstone’s 2% (30% reduced-sodium)- use in salads, smoothies, add to omelets, put in pitas w/ cut strawberries & cinnamon, eat with fruit or tomatoes (12-16 g protein/half cup)
Canned no-salt added beans:  You can add beans to just about anything from burritos to salads, add to a vegetable dish, or eat plain (7-10 g protein/half cup)
Frozen veggie burgers:  These cook up in <2 minutes- my favorite kind is Amy’s Texas Burger- always look for a veggie burger with some form of high quality protein (like soy) and >10 g protein per burger. The only downfall of these products is the high sodium content associated (10-20 g protein depending on burger)
Frozen shelled edamame:      Most supermarkets now even have their own generic brand of shelled edamame in the freezer aisle. Edamame are soybeans that are a complete protein source and extremely healthy and versatile. Add to stir fries, salads, or eat as a snack! (13 g protein/ half cup)
Tofu: Stick with extra firm tofu if you aren’t used to working with it. Add to stir fries, salads, or add to any dish you are making. Tofu has very little flavor and is very versatile. (1/2 pack= ~14 g protein)
Reduced-fat Swiss cheese:       Swiss is amongst the lowest in sodium content of all cheeses. When all else fails and you have no meat for your sandwich- make a grilled cheese or add cheese to the omelet to get more dairy and protein. Choose reduced-fat varieties to keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum (~7 g protein/slice)
Canned (low-sodium) tuna or salmon:      You should definitely keep these on hand! You can make fish fritters made with vegetables and oatmeal, add canned fish to salads, pastas, or make into a sandwich. Delicious, nutritious and cheap! Just be sure to get the skinless & boneless canned salmon, the other varieties may be cheaper, but definitely not worth the extra work & appearance… (12-14 g protein per 2 oz or ~¼ c)

If you keep all of these on hand you will have the ability to create a quick and easy meal at a moment's notice. Be sure to add whatever spices and herbs you want to add flavor and antioxidants to your meal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Try Almond Milk, but Read the Label!

Almond milk is very trendy right now, and rightly so. It can be a very low-calorie and tasty way to get in your “dairy equivalents”, while also providing up to 50% your daily value of Vitamin E, which is a very important antioxidant.

However, you need to know that contrary to what is often misstated on TV shows,  Almond Milk is very low in protein compared to cow or soy milks. An average cup of skim milk provides 80-90 calories and 8 grams of protein. An unsweetened soy milk usually provides about 90 calories and 7 grams of high quality protein. Almond milk, unsweetened, will only provide 30-40 calories per cup, and < 1 g of protein. Even the sweetened vanilla varieties of almond milk usually are comparable to skim in terms of calories, but do not offer the protein of soy or skim milk. Protein has 4 calories per gram, thus the reason almond milk is lower in calories than skim or soy milks.

You must also be cautious of reading the label. The reason I recommend almond milk is because it is a low-calorie way to get in a "dairy" food group serving as well as a way to get people to consume more Vitamin E without having to eat 500 calories worth of almonds. Certain shelf-stable almond milk brands provide no Vitamin E, and some are not fortified with calcium or Vitamin D. Most of the refrigerator varieties are fortified with calcium and have a decent amount of Vitamin E. However, So Delicious brand does not have the Vitamin E  which is one of the outstanding benefits of Almond Milk (it also only has 10% the daily value of calcium compared to>30% in other brands). Also, be aware that almond milk does not heat well (it curdles when heated too high) and it does not freeze well like regular milk and soy milk do.

My Recommendation: Pair unsweetened almond milks with high protein cereals like Kashi Go Lean, or use when making smoothies (I recommend the Almond Coconut Blend!). Always look at the nutrition label and make sure you are getting at least 30%the DV of Calcium, 50% DV Vitamin E, and 25% the daily value of Vitamin D. Any “dairy” type product spoils in 7-10 days of opening, regardless of the use-by-date, and almond milk certainly takes on a funky taste after about a week of being opened. The refrigerator varieties generally taste better, but if you aren’t going to go through an entire half gallon in a week, I recommend getting the smaller shelf-stable varieties (refrigerate after opening!).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review: The PVC Diet

This past summer I was given a copy of the "PVC Diet" which is a book written by Dr. Lawrence Kosinski, a gastroenterologist based in Illinois. Initially I was a bit reluctant to read the book because I am not a huge fan of diets in general. I was thinking that this book would be a real "diet", one that makes people follow strict eating rules for a short period of time, only to have them regain the weight after the "diet" is over. I'm more of a believer in teaching people how to eat for life so that they never have to "diet" again, or feel the need to detox.

However, I was pleasantly surprised within reading just the first few pages of this book. I found that the PVC diet was a quick and easy read, and I agreed with about 99% of the material. The book is incredibly educational and teaches you more than just the basics about nutrition. It is very comprehensive in terms of why you need to eat certain foods and the effects they have in the body- but the author does a great job of explaining this in a way that most college-educated people can understand. It is by no means too scientific for the average Joe to understand, which I like.

The PVC Diet is pretty much a written summary of what I tell my clients on a daily basis: why they need to eat real fiber instead of taking a fiber supplement, why eating too much protein will make you gain weight (contrary to popular belief), why cutting out all carbs is not the way to lose weight, etc. Some of the good take-a-ways are that you should eat a palm size serving of protein PER DAY, not per meal, as most people think. The doctor makes good points about the types of foods you are buying, like how buying farm-raised salmon is not any better than eating grass-fed beef in terms of omega-3 content. Corn-fed salmon are not going to have the omega-3 levels that Wild Alaskan salmon will, and are not going to supply you with the health benefits that salmon is known for.

The book also does a great job discussing the "gluten-free" trend and what is true and what is not about gluten. It also talks about how to order in restaurants and why the timing of meals is important for weight control. Basically, he covers in a quick and Sparknotes-type manner the things you need to know if you want to find balance in life through diet. If you follow the doctors suggestions, you will be eating healthier, can lose weight, and will never have to worry about dieting again.

If you are the type of person that loves diets (not sure who actually loves diets...), and needs something to read and go by, I recommend you purchase the PVC Diet and give it a try. It is a quick and easy read and will give you solid and factual nutrition information. Of course, I do also recommend meeting with a dietitian so you can get your specific nutritional needs addressed and a tailored plan to meet your lifestyle and food preferences This book can supply you with a good nutritional knowledge base, which coupled with nutrition counseling, will make you a superstar when it comes to diet and healthy eating.You can learn more about the PVC diet and even purchase a copy through their website:  http://www.pvcdiet.com/ I did not receive any compensation for writing this review on the PVC Diet; I genuinely believe it is a book that everyone should read to learn the real facts about nutrition and weight maintenance.
NOTE: If you have Independence Blue Cross (Personal Choice or Keystone Health Plan East), AmeriHealth, or Aetna, you probably will receive 6-10 completely FREE nutrition counseling sessions with me (no co-pay nor deductable for most plans- this counts as preventative care). You do not need to be a member of Club La Maison to meet with me and I do all the billing. Email me at: nutrition@clublamaison.com if you live in the Philadelphia area and are interested in setting up an appointment or inquiring further. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guest Blog Post: 10 Natural Food Snacks That Are Easy on Blood Sugar

Below is a guest blog post from Amanda Austin. For questions or comments about this posting, please contact Amanda via the contact information in the "About the Author" section at the bottom of the post.

When many people think about snacks, they consider high-sugar treats and food with added fat (think cookies or potato chips or any other vending machine goodie out there.) However, for people with imbalanced blood sugar, these types of snacks are not only fattening, they can cause blood-sugar spikes that have dangerous consequences for their health. The best snacks are pre-portioned and low in carbs; planning snacks can help you make better choices when you feel hunger pangs coming on. Here are 10 foods to try for your next snack break.

Peanut butter treat – Peanut butter has protein and unsaturated fat, which can give you long-lasting energy. Combined with the crunch of celery sticks and baby carrots, this treat will keep you from getting hungry and satisfy a craving for crunch. Three celery sticks, five baby carrots and one tablespoon of peanut butter is about 130 calories and has less than 10 grams of carbs.

Fruit Salad – The best part about this snack is that you can customize it with the type of fruit you like or the freshest in-season fruit. Mix ¼ cup fresh blueberries, one small apple, and ½ medium banana, then portion into ½ cup servings. This mixture is about 10 grams of carbs and 100 calories per serving.

Cottage cheese – Cottage cheese is another protein-packed snack that can be paired with many different kinds of fruits for a fresh, cool afternoon treat. Try ¼ cup cottage cheese and ½ cup of freshly cut peaches for a snack that is less than 10 carbs and about 90 calories per serving.

Caprese salad – Caprese salad is a delicious savory snack for afternoon cravings. Slice five cherry tomatoes and mix with 1 tablespoon low-fat mozzarella cheese. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and dash with a bit of basil. This snack has about 10 grams of carbs and less than 100 calories.

Tuna salad – Tuna is a nutrient-dense food, filled with high-quality protein and vitamins. For a quick tuna salad snack, mix a ½ can of tuna packed in water with 1 tablespoon low-fat salad dressing and ½ tablespoon sweet pickle relish. Portion into ¼ cup snack size, then spread on four saltine crackers. This snack is about 15 grams of carbs and 150 calories.

Turkey wraps – For the hours between lunch and dinner when you want something substantial to tide you over, try these easy turkey lettuce wraps. Take one slice of deli turkey and wrap in a large leaf of romaine. Add mustard for an extra bite. Each wrap has about 2 grams of carbs and less than 70 calories.

Pistachios – This “super nut” has a high level of phytosterols, a natural plant compound that may help lower cholesterol, and have the lowest calories per nut of any other kind. Twenty-five pistachios have 100 calories and 5 grams of carbs.

Edamame – An exotic name for green soybeans, edamame are fiber-rich and have protein and Omega-3 fats. Simply steam a cup, open the pods and enjoy! One cup has about 150 calories and 12 grams of carbs.

Hummus – Hummus is made from high-fiber chickpeas, and is great for snacking. Pair ¼ cup with broccoli, cherry tomatoes or carrots for a snack that is about 120 calories and 13 grams of carbs.

Oranges and Almonds – This energy boosting combo has about 150 calories and 21 grams of carbs. Oranges can give you a little extra water (and vitamin c) and almonds provide a protein punch.
About the Author:
Amanda is a social media manager for a health care organization by day and a blogger and freelance writer by night. She's also a mom to an amazing 2 year-old boy and wife to a great guy who indulges all her celebrity gossip. Amanda loves coffee, fashion, Twitter, makeup, nail polish, and cats (not always in that order.) Her work has been published on family.com and blogher.com. She has written for many websites including Now Foods. For more celebrity gossip, fashion, beauty and DIY, visit Amanda's blog, It's Blogworthy (http://itsblogworthy.com) or follow her on Twitter and Google+.