Monday, December 1, 2014

Don't Lose Focus During the Holidays: Continue to Eat Healthy and Exercise, NO EXCUSES!

We have marked the beginning of the “holiday” season with our Thanksgiving feast and now are moving onward into the crux of holiday party season. Most studies estimate that the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is about one pound. While that does not seem like a lot, it is, considering that most Americans don’t ever lose that pound and the weight is gained in just a little over one month. In order to help prevent the weight gain and just to stay healthy during this time, I preach five main things:

1.Practice mindful eating
By eating mindfully, you should be aware of EVERYTHING you are putting in your mouth. I tell all my clients to THINK before you eat anything, no matter what it is! Each truffle of chocolate will be about 80 calories, each cookie is approximately 100 calories, and each ounce of cheese is over 100 calories. So, at a party if you eat a cube of cheese, one chocolate chip cookie, and a piece of chocolate, you are already in almost 300 calories without even having any other hors d'oeuvres, your meal, or any alcohol.

2. Stay physically active EVERY day
You should be doing some cardiovascular activity every single day of your life. You should never have off days, especially during a time when you may be indulging more so than other times of year. Some people use lack of time due to work as an excuse not to exercise, so certainly don’t use your vacation days as an excuse either- otherwise you will never exercise! Vacation days allow you plenty of time (24 hours) to travel, visit family, relax, and EXERCISE! No matter where you may be going, do some research and figure out ways you can get in exercise. Even if it is just a brisk walk around your aunt’s neighborhood, that counts. Try to get in more intense exercise if possible- jog, jump rope, do jumping jacks and burpees, pack a workout DVD or go on You Tube, do something!!! Using your muscles is incredibly important, especially after you eat, to reduce the rise in blood sugar which will help prevent cell damage and fat storage.

3. Continue to eat 90% healthy
My rule with clients is that you should eat healthy/clean 90% of the time, and allow yourself some “wiggle room” 10% of the time- meaning that you should be allowed to have a piece of chocolate, drink a glass of wine, or try a small piece of your mom’s lasagna if that’s what really makes you happy. This rule should not go out the door during the holidays. Sure, there are foods that are special to you during the holidays and bring back good feelings, but the more you eat of them doesn’t correlate with the better you’ll feel (it’s often the reverse). So yes, you can eat them… in small quantities! There is no reason why 1 normal slice of pie will make you any happier than two bites- many studies show the first bite is when your brain lights up and is most excited about the flavor. This is called sensory specific satiety, which basically means that food gives you decreased pleasure as you continue to eat the same thing. So again, practice mindful eating and notice when you are eating just to eat and not actually enjoying it!

4.  Don’t plan on dieting in the New Year
Allowing yourself to go crazy and eat whatever even just one day a week sets you up for failure since it can really pack on the calories. Furthermore, many people report to me that it then causes them to crave bad foods like sugar and fatty dishes for a few days after. If you spend a whole month eating poorly, you can gain weight, but more importantly, you are harming your body- some studies show just one meal can markedly increase blood lipid levels, and a high carb intake can raise triglycerides. Again, high blood sugar damages cells, so during this time you will be experience more cell damage and accelerated aging. Putting things off in the future for what you can do now is never a good idea. You will feel healthy and energetic if you eat healthy, so why not do something that makes you feel good instead feeling like a slug? Refer to my blog from last year on how to prevent weight gain during the holidays.

5.  Limit alcohol intake
Most parties are centered on alcohol, but for some reason, holiday parties and dinners tend to highlight some of the most calorie dense varieties. For example, hot cider is usually a mix of apple cider (1 cup= 120 calories) with at least a shot of whiskey or rum (minimum 100 calories) and many have added brandy, sugar, and/or honey which contributes even more calories. Egg nog is pretty terrible for you with about 350 calories per cup, over half your daily value of saturated fat, and over 20 grams of sugar… WITHOUT the alcohol! Add a shot, and your tacking on another 100 calories. Even if wine is your preferred beverage choice, it is still more calorie dense than drinking a can of coke (12 fl oz wine ~ 300 calories, 12 fl oz Coca Cola ~ 140 calories). I am not advocating you drink soda instead, but just be aware that wine is not your weight loss friend. For more about alcohol, read my previous blogs on wine  and alcohol.

So this holiday season, treat each day as a normal day where you should eat healthy and exercise. Sure, have a special treat or a drink here and there, but don't throw out the whole month of December as an excuse to pack on the pounds. It's a lot easier to eat a cookie than burn it off- so each extra cookie, drink, cheese cube, etc. will just make your life come January harder. Think before you eat and try to stay on track- no need to throw all your hard work out the window because it's holiday season. Many of my clients do not gain weight during this time, and some actually lose- so it is possible!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Keeping your Waistline HAPPY at HALLOWEEN: How to Choose your Candy

Halloween is coming and most likely you feel obligated to buy candy for the little kids running around the neighborhood. While of course I would recommend buying something healthy to give them, you probably don't want to get the reputation of the lamest/ most disliked neighbor on the street. But having candy on hand at all times comes with its challenges: If you throw it away, that is wasteful. If you give it to someone else, you are sabotaging their health. It’s a lose-lose situation. Regardless, you should be able to “indulge” once in a while and have a piece. Whenever buying candy, I always recommend buying the mini’s. That way you can have one little bite that can help satisfy your craving for sweets. Keep in mind that each “mini” still runs you about 30-50 calories, so if you pop a few, the calories add up.

When it comes to health, unnatural sources of sugar are the enemy. High blood sugar (caused by eating sugar and not using it through physical activity) is one of the main causes of inflammation and increased abdominal fat. Thus while candies like Swedish Fish and Skittles may be fat free/low-fat, they do cause a sharp spike in your blood sugar almost immediately after consumption. They also cause cavities. If you are going to have candy, I recommend eating candies that aren’t made of only sugar, but that also have fat and protein to slow the spike in blood sugar. As far as candy goes, the best you are going to find are those that contain nuts. Nuts are natural and they contain fat, fiber, and a little protein. While candies that contain nuts are higher in calories than pure sugar candies, they theoretically might cause you to store less fat you would after eating a pure sugar candy. In theory, your body won’t be hit with sugar all at one time after consuming a candy that contains nuts, and has more time to use the sugar as it's being released into the blood stream. So, if you move after eating it, you are more likely to use the sugar than when it is hit quickly as with candy corn. Some examples of candies containing nuts are Almond Joy, Snickers, Mr. Goodbar, Peanut Chews, Hershey’s with Almonds, Peanut M & M’s, Baby Ruth, and Pay Day to name a few.

Even if you are eating a candy that contains nuts, realize I am in no way saying these are good for you. Most of these candies have sugar as the first or second ingredient, as well as corn syrup and palm oil, all of which are terrible for you. Peanut Chews still have hydrogenated oil, which is trans fat, and very very bad for you. Furthermore, you should never eat a candy and just sit down and be sedentary after eating. If you are going to eat candy or any treat for that matter, you better be moving afterwards. If you want to indulge, make sure you are active afterwards so your muscles can soak up that blood sugar instead of letting it damage cells, cause inflammation, and be stored as fat.

My Recommendations:

The best generic brand Halloween candies as far as nutritional value goes (in my book) are Peanut or Almond M & M’s, PayDay, Almond Joy, and Snicker’s. If you can find any of these in dark chocolate, that is a better way to go since they tend to be lower in sugar and slightly higher in antioxidant value. Again, even the “mini” varieties of these contain almost 50 calories and are mostly sugar and unhealthy fats- so indulge wisely! Please refer to a very helpful chart from for help discerning between the bars.

Moral of the story, you are allowed to eat candy. However, try not to eat it every day, and if you do, choose a small piece and get moving afterwards! Happy Halloween!

Picture: Source:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Help Support the Breast Cancer Research Fund!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In an effort to bring more awareness, I have been asked to post about a charity auction where all proceeds from the auction go to the BCRF. They are auctioning off three very cool chairs in the color pink, of course.

To see the chairs and place a bid, visit:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Addendum to Low Carb vs Low Fat Blog post- New Asian Diet study

new study on Asian Americans helps to show that switching to a higher fat and protein Western diet [thus much LOWER in carbohydrates than the traditional diet] increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the study, the researchers had to re-adjust calories to PREVENT people from losing weight on the traditional Asian diet which consists of 70% of calories from carbohydrates, 15% from protein and 15% from fat, and providing 15 g fiber/1,000 kcal. Furthermore, when people switched to this higher carb/higher fiber diet, LDL levels dropped, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Almost all participants GAINED WEIGHT on the higher protein and fat Western diet: 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 16% from protein and 34% from fat, and providing 6 g fiber/1,000 kcal. One of the researchers stated: "It was almost impossible to prevent people from losing weight on the Asian diet, and that was not because the food wasn't good!" he says. "And almost everybody gained weight on the western diet, and we had to work very hard so they didn't gain too much."  Moreover, insulin resistance increased significantly when switching from the Asian diet to the Western. This study goes to prove it is the quality of those calories and fiber content coming from food that matters, not necessarily how high or low carb it is for weight loss and health.


William C. Hsu, Ka Hei Karen Lau, Motonobu Matsumoto, Dalia Moghazy, Hillary Keenan, George L. King. Improvement of Insulin Sensitivity by Isoenergy High Carbohydrate Traditional Asian Diet: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Feasibility Study. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e106851 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0106851


Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Should Cut Out Carbs to Lose Weight... right???

A few weeks ago I received many emails from confused clients after the New York Times published an article reporting the findings of a new study showing that a low-carb diet beat a low-fat diet for weight loss. Unfortunately, since this was the headline across most major news outlets afterwards, many people took the basic headline of this study for fact. News articles came out displaying a slab of fatty meat and saying that what we used to think was bad for us now proves to be healthy. Before I could respond to any clients, I had to dive deeper into the study since “low-carb” and “low-fat” is meaningless unless you know exactly what the researchers considered a “low-carb/fat” diet and what the participants actually filled those calories with.

I personally do not think that most health professionals profess “low-fat” diets to patients/clients since we have so much research on healthy mono-unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (flax, hemp, fish oil, etc. ) and their positive impact on health, especially heart disease risk. In fact, for the majority of my clients, I mandate strongly encourage them to consume ½ oz- 1 oz nuts or seeds per day, use avocado as a condiment and in salads (so consume almost every day) and seafood at least 3x/week. When someone is on a low-fat diet, most of their calories will typically come from more added sugars and refined grains, which is undoubtedly related to weight gain and linked to elevated triglycerides and an increased risk of most of our major diseases (diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc). You definitely need an appropriate balance of fats: carbs: protein for optimal functioning- but this ratio depends on your body type and activity level.

In the study as reported by the New York Times, and a follow-up blog article noted, participants in the low-carb group met with nutritionists regularly and were told to limit carbs to <40 g per day. At the end of the study, the low carb group was consuming, on average, 127 g/day whereas the low-fat group was eating 198 g/day (so doing the real low carb thing did obviously not prove to be sustainable).The low-carb group was encouraged to get their fats from healthy sources like the nuts and seeds as opposed to red meat and high-fat dairy. They were also instructed to try to choose fish and leaner proteins and increase consumption of vegetables and beans. Over the course of the study, the “low-carb” group kept saturated fat calories to ~13%, which is nearly impossible if you are consuming all high-fat dairy and high fat meats like many headlines would like this study to prove. So, basically, the “low-carb” group was eating a pretty healthy diet overall. 

Because the low-carb group was eating mostly healthy sources of fat and encouraged to include beans and veggies, this group did have better health-related outcomes compared to low-fat. This goes along with the knowledge we have that healthy fats are important for improving blood lipid profiles. So, you cannot take from this study that all carbohydrates are bad since even the low-carb group was encouraged to consume less processed foods and eat beans (which contain carbs!). As readers, we don’t know exactly what each participant was consuming… the TYPES of foods are very important as are the calories. Their changes in cholesterol and heart disease risk might have to do more with the fact that they were eating more healthy fats and less refined carbs.

For this study, the participants were not told a specific calorie goal, but both groups did cut their calories from beginning to end, on average, by about 500 calories. By the end of the study (12 months), the low-carb group was averaging close to 50 calories fewer than the low-fat group, which can add up to around a 5 lb. greater weight loss per year. This is extremely important to account for, since the study reported that the low-carb group lost 3.3 kg [7.26 lbs] more than the low-fat group over a year.

After this study of 148 participants was published, a meta-analysis study came out comparing low-fat and low-carb diets finding no difference in weight loss. Most of the studies on low-carb diets show they do produce quicker weight loss, but when followed for longer periods of time, the low-carb dieters tend to regain weight.
 Thus, I like to base my recommendations on meta-analysis since they account for a much larger sample size and various methodologies. Most large controlled trials show very beneficial results on blood lipids and CVD risk for individuals consuming whole grains, fruits, and well as weight loss. There is very little evidence to support a primarily meat-based diet for lowering cholesterol and weight long term.


First, never take a news headline as fact; always read the actual study before you formulate your own opinion! I think the big takeaway of this study is that if you cut your calories and fill them with healthy foods ( beans, fish, healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, and tons of veggies) you will lose weight and lower your risk for heart disease. I would like them to do this study again but matching calories and comparing a “low-carb” (<30% calories from carb) and a moderate carb (40-50% calories from carb) which is filled with carbohydrates from ONLY whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and beans. With previous research and meta-analyses, I would expect that the moderate grain group might have better results with blood lipids and longer term adherence. As I frequently mention, most people I know who cut their carb intake too low have a very hard time maintaining that and tend to be the people that binge on junk food or overeat when they go out. I truly believe if you eat only whole grains, TONS of veggies, fruits, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, and include nuts, seeds, and avocado, within your calorie budget you will be successful at losing weight, improving health, and feeling good! If you want to read another summary of this, I recommend the Harvard Medical School’s article on this topic.



2. Bazzano L, et al "Effects of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets: a randomized trial" Ann Intern Med 2014; DOI:10.7326/M14-0180.



5. Bradley C. Johnston, Steve Kanters, Kristofer Bandayrel, Ping Wu, Faysal Naji, Reed A. Siemieniuk, Geoff D. C. Ball, Jason W. Busse, Kristian Thorlund, Gordon Guyatt, Jeroen P. Jansen, Edward J. Mills. Comparison of Weight Loss Among Named Diet Programs in Overweight and Obese Adults. JAMA, 2014; 312 (9): 923 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.10397


7. Picture Source:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Substitute When You Have Food Restrictions: NOW Foods Allergen Chart

Below is great information and a very helpful allergen chart courtesy of NOWFOODS ( Please direct questions and comments to

Allergies and food restrictions may sound like a bummer for eating your favorite foods, but with some smart substitutions, you can still find ways to enjoy your diet without feeling like you’re missing out. Whether you’re avoiding dairy and gluten, following the Paleo Diet, or are a vegan, there are food replacements and substitutions to help supplement your diet- you just need to get creative!

For baking, there are many substitutions for flours and baking grains if your dietary needs call for it. Almond flour can be substituted for white flour in low-carb or gluten-free diets. Brown rice flour can be directly substituted for white flour in baking allergen-free breads, pancakes, and muffins, and white rice flour is a great gluten-free substitute for wheat flour. Quinoa is another complete protein with a mild flavor that can be substituted for rice, and if you’re allergic to chocolate but have a sweet tooth, carob powder is a sweeter, less rich substitute for chocolate.

To incorporate natural sweeteners in your diet, agave nectar is a popular choice to help you avoid table sugar in your diet; its taste is similar to honey or maple syrup and it has a low glycemic index. Brown rice syrup and date sugar are great for usage in baked goods, and lactose (or “milk sugar”) can be a sweet addition to children’s milk for those who are not allergic to milk. Turbinado sugar is a healthier alternative to white and refined brown table sugars, but avoid it if you’re allergic to cane sugar.

When cooking with oils, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, rice bran oil, and virgin coconut oil are excellent for replacing corn or soybean oils in salad dressings or as cooking oils. If you need a thickening agent but are avoiding eggs, white flour, and/or wheat, agar powder, guar gum powder, and xantham gun powder can add smooth textures to foods while also thickening them.

Finally, to add more protein to your diet, use buttermilk powder and soy milk powder. Dry roasted soybeans are a great treat as a high-protein snack food, and textured soy protein nuggets and granules can be used as a meat substitute in foods such as veggie burgers, veggie chili, and more.

A dietary restriction doesn’t mean you have to eat only lettuce for the rest of your life. Use these ideas to start spring boarding creative recipe ideas, and enjoy your food!

See that chart below for a more detailed outline of grains and how they fit into restrictive diets:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Minimizing Hangovers

Due to popular request and the time of year... I am re-posting this blog on hangovers. I hope this information makes for  more energetic Saturday and Sunday mornings!

The summer is a time when people tend to drink more than they do the rest of the year....barbecue’s, Whitebrier Happy Hour, having friends over for tropical drinks, and/or enjoying a nice cold beer (or two) after a long work week. For some people, all of these events are fun at the time, but the next day proves to be a dreadful experience due to the loathed HANGOVER.

A hangover occurs after the blood alcohol has returned to zero after excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is toxic to the body, so it makes sense that drinking large quantities would wreak havoc on the body. Symptoms of a hangover can include, but are not limited to, headache, weakness, inability to concentrate, decreased activity, fatigue, thirst, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, chills, and shaking.

There are many reasons people experience hangovers including dehydration, changes in immune and endocrine metabolite production, build up of toxins (e.g: acetylaldehyde), gastritis, decreased sleep quality and duration, fatty liver, hypoglycemia, congener content of drinks (metabolites that flavor, scent, and color alcoholic beverages), alcohol withdrawal, and due to the obvious fact that alcohol is absolutely toxic to the human body. Alcohol is poison, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t feel that great after drinking it!

If you do choose to drink more than one to two drinks in a day, there are certain measures you can take to minimize the risk of a hangover and to ameliorate the symptoms once you experience them. While there is not a ton of research on hangovers, a few studies have been done in which I draw my recommendations from.

My recommendations to minimize hangovers:

1. Abstain from alcohol!!! (duhh)
2. Drink small, non-intoxicating amounts
…or…. If you must indulge:
3. Consume alcohol that has few congeners (pure ethanol, vodka, and gin)
4. Consume water with and between drinks
5. Consume alcohol with fructose-containing foods such as fruit and fruit juice
6. Consume solid foods that contain carbohydrates with and after drinks (such as bread)
7. Be sure to get a good nights sleep
8. Eat bland cracker-type foods to help with nausea and hypoglycemia
9. Antacids may help with nausea and gastritis
10. Ibuprofen may help with headache symptoms, just be sure not to consume until the next day since your liver cannot process both the alcohol and drugs at the same time!
11. Make sure you have a folate-rich diet which is needed to metabolize ethanol. Folate is found primarily in leafy greens and whole grains.
12. Exercise!

If the thought of a hangover isn’t reason enough to discourage you from drinking, here is some approximate calorie information on some popular alcoholic beverages:
Alcohol and Calorie Content

Alcohol Name
Serving size
Estimated Calories
Blue Moon Belgian White Beer
12 fl oz
Wine- red or white
5 fl oz
Martini glass
Bloody Mary
4 fl oz
Shot of liquor (vodka, rum, gin, etc)
1.5 fl oz
Long Island Iced Tea
12 fl oz
Pina Colada
6 fl oz
Rum & Coke
10 fl oz
Old Fashioned
4 fl oz

If you get a hangover, you most likely didn’t just have one of these drinks. Do the math to see how many hundreds of calories you consume in just a short period from having “a few” drinks. If you start with a Pina Colada, but ease up and just have two light beers afterwards, you’ve already tacked on almost 550 calories to your daily totals. Visit my blog on beer and nutrition for more information: 
 If you are the type that can down a bottle of wine in a night… try to think of it as soda. Most people wouldn’t drink more than a liter of soda in one sitting, so why is alcohol any different?

So at your parties or weddings this weekend I want you to THINK before you DRINK. Think about whether the alcohol is worth the calories and the consequences. Do not drink in excess no matter how high of a tolerance you think you may have- alcohol is toxic, so too much can easily kill you. Have fun, drink responsibly, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Chapman, LF. Experimental induction of hangover. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol 5(Suppl. 5):67–86, 1970.
"Liver and Alcohol Breakdown." UBM Medica Australia, 21 Sept. 2009. Web. 26 June 2012. <>.
Pawan, GL. Alcoholic drinks and hangover effects. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 32(1):15A, 1973.
Swift R, Davidson D. Alcohol hangover: mechanisms and mediators. Alcohol Health Res World 1998; 22:54–60.
Verster, J. C. (2008). "The alcohol hangover-a puzzling phenomenon". Alcohol and Alcoholism 43 (2): 124–126

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Maintain Lean Muscle as You Age

As people age, many assume they are destined to gain weight and get brittle bones. However, if you maintain a healthy diet and incorporate regular physical activity, this does not need to be the case. The average American is extremely inactive. For example, many people use climbing the stairs in their house, parking at the far end of the parking lot, and walking the dog for five minutes outside as their exercise for the day. Sorry to be blunt, but this is just normal daily activities and should not count towards exercise, especially if you have a sedentary office job the rest of the day. Your heart rate should be elevated (due to physical activity) at minimum thirty minutes a day and exercise should be challenging in order to get the most benefit. As you get older, a sedentary lifestyle makes you extremely prone to accelerated muscle loss, weight gain, osteoporosis, depression, and early death, among other harmful effects.

Sarcopenia is the term used to describe muscle loss along with a decrease in muscle strength and/or muscle performance, typically beginning at age 25. However, the older you get, the faster your muscles lose strength due to inactivity. Losing strength puts adults at risk for falls, decreases immunity and wound healing ability, slows the metabolism, and decreases glucose disposal (1). Thus the risk for morbidity increases and many studies show that weaker adults tend to die earlier than those who have more lean muscle. In one interesting study (2), healthy young adults who were placed on bed rest for 28 days lost 2% of their total lean leg mass.  In comparison, healthy older adults who were placed on bed rest for only 10 days lost 10% of their total lean leg mass while consuming the same RDA protein as the healthy younger group. This study was quite significant because it shows that the older adults lost 3x more muscle in only 1/3 the time as healthy young adults (1).

So, as you get older it is incredibly important to keep very active. You are not destined to have a slowing metabolism and become a frail geriatric. You must keep moving all day long and participate in regular resistance training to encourage protein synthesis and muscle strengthening. As you get older, you must work harder at your workouts to get the same results as when you were younger. However, you can still maintain a rockin’ solid body if you work hard. The benefit of getting older is most people have more free time on their hands (ie: retirement). Use this as an opportunity to engage in activities that are social and keep you active instead of falling into the typical adult who spends more than ¾ of their day in sedentary activities. I encourage people to (at least) stand up every 20 minutes- every time you are inactive you are breaking own lean muscle. Sit less move more!

To prevent the breakdown of muscle, people must incorporate resistance training on a regular basis. Try to incorporate resistance training that works every major muscle group at least 2-3 times per week to prevent muscle breakdown. You must also consume lean protein and carbohydrates in order to build muscle. Try to spread carbs and protein throughout the day, as this can help prevent your body from going into muscle stores for energy.

To summarize, just keep moving as you get older! Make sure you are getting your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes per day, but keep moving all day long! Don’t let your life just pass you by sitting on the couch, go outside, see people, nature, and enjoy moving! You start breaking down muscle in your 20’s which is why many people begin to gain weight…. It doesn’t have to be that way! If you work hard your metabolism will not slow much at all as you get older.

If you are interested in learning how to eat to preserve lean muscle for your body, schedule an appointment with me at Club La Maison! Many insurance plans cover up 6-10 nutrition sessions per year at 100% with a dietitian including Independence Blue Cross, Highmark Blue Shield, Aetna, AmeriHealth, and Administrator plans. If interested in scheduling an appointment, please email me at:


1. National Dairy Council Webinar on 7/23/14: “Aging and Muscle Loss: Too Young to Worry? Think Again!
2. Paddon-Jones et al. 2004; Kortebein et al. 2007
3. Cruz-Jentoft Age Aging 2010;39(4):412-23; Burton et al. Clin Interv Aging. 2010; 5:217-28. Review
4. Roubenoff, 2003
5. The Journals of Gerontology, August, 2012
6. Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine, July 24, 2014,
7. Picture Source:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eat More Seafood!

The FDA has worked with the EPA to come out with new guidelines that promote increased seafood and fish consumption in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Over the years, pregnant women have cut back on their seafood consumption due to fears of the mercury levels in fish being harmful to the growing fetus. However, most of the commonly eaten fish and shellfish are low in mercury and critical for optimal neurological development of the fetus. Low mercury seafood includes salmon, shrimp, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, pollock and cod. The FDA’s key message is:

“Eat 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week from choices that are lower in mercury. The nutritional value of fish is important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood.” (1)

There has been extensive research indicating that fish have incredible health benefits and people that eat fish regularly tend to live longer and healthier lives. Fish and shellfish are extremely lean sources of protein, rich in vitamins, minerals, and many contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Your body does not make EPA and DHA on its own, as it must convert these from plant-based sources of omega-3’s that you consume…but the conversion rate is low and typically inadequate, and low in men. The omega-3 fatty acids are shown to be anti-inflammatory and incredibly important for heart, brain, and eye health.

The goals of the new guidelines are to promote that people eat low-mercury fish 2-3x per week (8-12 ounces total), avoid the fish highest in mercury (tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel), limit white albacore tuna to 6 oz/wk, be aware of fish advisories when harvesting your own fish, and stay within your calorie needs when adding more fish to your diet. Most white fish filets are about 4 oz, whereas when you eat a meal out you can easily get a tuna or salmon filet that runs you 6-8 oz.

The push for these new guidelines is because many pregnant women (and people in general) have completely cut seafood out of their diet. It seems that women were fearful since the FDA set guidelines in 2004 limiting seafood consumption to 12 oz per week. Many women were misinformed and instead of keeping their intake to the 12 oz per week, they decided to cut it out altogether. High intakes of omega-3’s through seafood and fish oil supplements shown to have a positive influence on gestational age and birth weight, which are important determinants of infant morbidity, mortality, neurological development, and risk for obesity later in life (3). In addition to eating seafood while pregnant, it is encouraged that people of all ages and life stages consume fish regularly to obtain all the health benefits. For children, choose smaller portions appropriate for their age and size.

Fish is usually the healthiest option when eating out at a restaurant (assuming it isn’t breaded and fried), and is a super quick protein to cook when you are running low on time. A fish filet cooks much quicker (5-7 min) than chicken breast, and is a great staple to have on hand in your freezer. I also encourage people to try some more exotic seafood, like calamari, and incorporate shellfish like oysters and mussels into your diet since they are great sources of zinc (important for your immune system & reproduction!) and iron. Don’t be afraid of the cholesterol in shellfish like shrimp since shrimp are virtually fat free and have no saturated fat. In fact, eating seafood, whole grains, and vegetables for dinner is a winning combo to actually reduce your blood cholesterol levels. Below is a chart from the Environmental Worker's Group of good and not-so-good seafood choices:


4. Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, Emmett P, Rogers I, Williams C, Golding J. Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. Lancet. 2007 Feb 17;369:578-85

Friday, June 20, 2014

Guest Blog Post: When Paying for Organic Really Does Make a Difference

Below is a guest blog written by Christine Case-Lo, representing Healthline, web-site that is a great resource for medical information and includes many helpful health tools.

Buying all organic sounds like a great idea. We all want to eat healthy, use more natural products, and have a smaller footprint on our environment. But the expense can get overwhelming. That coveted organic label sometimes can double the price of an item.

Is it worth it? What does healthier eating really mean? Is organic more nutritious or less harmful?

Organic food does not necessarily contain more nutrients than conventionally grown food. A 2012 review in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at forty-five years worth of scientific literature on the topic. Researchers determined that there was little evidence that organic food had more nutrients. However, that same review said consuming organic food reduced exposure to pesticide residue in produce. Organic meats were also less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Pesticides in Produce

Pesticide exposure is a real concern, especially for growing children and pregnant women. Pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, and birth defects.

The Environmental Working Group maintains a list of popular produce items ranked by their pesticide content. These twenty items are a good place to start investing in organic:

1. Apples
2. Strawberries
3. Grapes
4. Celery
5. Peaches
6. Spinach
7. Sweet bell peppers
8. Nectarines (imported)
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry tomatoes
11. Snap peas (imported)
12. Potatoes
13. Hot peppers
14. Blueberries (domestic)
15. Lettuce
16. Kale/Collard Greens
17. Plums
18. Cherries
19. Nectarines (domestic)
20. Pears

The good news is the EWG also maintains a list of the “Clean Fifteen”. These are produce items that don’t contain a lot of pesticide. These are pretty safe to buy as conventionally grown:

1. Avocado
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Frozen sweet peas
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet potatoes

 Antibiotics in Meat and Hormones in Milk

Organic milk and meat can be pricey as well. It might be worth it if you are concerned about exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and hormones. The EWG recently reported the results of federal testing of supermarket meat. Tests showed significant levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81% of ground turkey, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef and 39% of chicken breasts, wings and thighs.

How to avoid exposure? A 2011 study showed that poultry farms that converted from conventional to organic and who had stopped feeding antibiotics to their stock reduced levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Meat raised without antibiotics is less likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Many people purchase organic milk to avoid exposure to rBGH. rBGH is a hormone given to dairy cows to increase milk production. It is not given to cows on organic farms. However, doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics did not advocate buying organic milk. According to the AAP, the bovine growth hormone found in conventional milk is not active in humans. Most of the hormone is destroyed during pasteurization.

Cows are also treated with estrogen supplements on conventional farms. The AAP states that the levels of estrogen in conventional cow’s milk are much lower than the level of sex hormones found in human breast milk. There should not be a high risk with exposure in children drinking conventional milk.

But organic milk may have some unique benefits. Studies have shown that full-fat organic milk, from cows that been allowed to graze, has a higher level of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are protective against cardiovascular disease.

Ultimately the impact of cows on the environment is considerable. The methane they produce from intestinal gas is a source of greenhouse gas. The AAP suggested that cows treated with hormones to increase milk production might actually have a lower impact on the environment, since fewer cows are needed to produce the same amount of milk.

Lean Green Clean

 Organic living isn’t just about food; it’s about reducing your impact on the environment. But choosing the “organic” cleaner, the “green” storage container, or “earth-friendly” weed killer doesn’t have to be budget busting.

Many pricy but toxic cleaning products can be replaced with white vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda pastes. Inexpensive glass mason jars are a great alternative to plastic storage containers.

Weed killers like Roundup containing glyphosate have been shown to be highly toxic in pregnant women. Killing weeds with boiling water, salt or undiluted vinegar is safe and inexpensive. Those are all effective ways to kill weeds without adding toxins to your environment.

Making the decision to go organic doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Every little bit has a positive impact on your health and the environment. Making smart produce choices, looking for antibiotic-free meats, and making your own cleaning products are good ways to go organic without breaking the bank.

-All 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. (2014) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from
 -EWG’s Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce. (2014) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
-Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? (September 2012) The --Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
 -Smith-Spangler, C. et al. (September 2012) Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? Annals of Internal Medicine. 157(5): 348-366. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from
· Benbook, C. (December 2013) Organic production enhances milk nutritional quality by shifting fatty acid composition: a United States-wide, 18-month study. PLOS One. 8(12):e82429. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from
· Jakuboski, S. (July 2011) the Dangers of Pesticides. Scitable by Nature Education. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from
· Sapkota, A. (November 2011) Lower prevalence of antibiotic-resistant enterococci on US conventional poultry farms that transitioned to organic practices. Environmental Health Perspectives. 119(11): 1622-1628. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
· Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets. (2013) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
· Forman, J. et al. (October 2012) Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. Pediatrics. Published online DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2579. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
-Benachour, N. and Seralini, G-E. (2009

About the Author: 

Christine Case-Lo loves helping people understand more about health and science issues that impact their lives. Christine is a work-at-home mom, a writer and a special needs advocate. She has degrees in medical coding, bioengineering and pharmaceutical chemistry. Educational writing has been a passion of hers since childhood. She's been contributing to Healthline for two years.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Exercise increases the diversity of gut bacteria

If you are my client, you know I feel that exercise is just as important to health as eating healthy. The benefits of exercise far surpass just the fact that you are burning calories. Exercise is extremely important for reducing stress, increasing self confidence and elevating your mood, improving sleep, and SO SO SO many more things. Thus I always require that my clients are as active as possible- ideally getting in something cardiovascular EVERY day. The average person does not need a day off if you are working different muscle groups and are using a variety of ways to get in your physical activity throughout the week.

Below is an article that references yet another study that demonstrates how exercise is more than just about the calories burned, in fact, it can improve your microflora/probiotics/gut bacteria which I have blogged about previously:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Join a CSA to Increase Your Veggie Intake, Food Knowledge, and Your Cooking Repertoire!

Picture Source:

It is the beginning of summer and most CSA’s have just begun. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture”, where consumers can buy a “share” from a farm and enjoy whatever is growing on that farm for the season. Typically, each week, you pick up a box of whatever produce is growing on the farm. How much and what types of produce you get depends on whether you buy a full- or half- share, some half-shares only offer vegetables and no fruit. However, some CSA’s also offer the choice of meats, cheeses, eggs, flowers, and anything else that can be produced on the farm. The pick-up location depends on the farm, but some CSA’s have pick-ups at Whole Food’s in the parking lot, or for example, we had a CSA pick-up location here at CLM a few years ago.

There are many benefits to joining a CSA, not just limited to my points below:

1. SUPPORT THE LOCAL ECONOMY: You support your local economy by keeping the money local (instead of buying your fruit from California or Argentina…). You support the farmers in your surrounding area, which in turn, will make your town more aesthetically pleasing- wouldn’t you rather look at a farm than a parking lot or cookie-cutter houses that all look the same?

2. DECREASE CARBON EMMISSIONS: Each mile produce has to travel is another mile of fuel usage. For example, if you get your produce from Mexico, think about the miles and gas a truck goes through getting the produce from Mexico to PA.

3. MORE FLAVORFUL PRODUCE: Each day produce is no longer growing the taste begins to dwindle. When it is very fresh, it always tastes better- a prime example is Jersey tomatoes (which I pick up on the way to/from the shore, thus, it is local for me…).

4. MORE NUTRITIOUS PRODUCE: Each day produce is in transport or sitting in the supermarket it is losing nutrients. Most nutrient loss occurs due to light and oxygen exposure.

5. INCREASED VEGETABLE INTAKE: Many weeks, you will receive over 8 different vegetables for the week from your CSA pick-up. If you are a single person going through 2 different types of kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers, beets, and carrots, you will probably have to eat at least 2 cups of vegetables each day, if not more. I love CSA’s for this fact. In an ideal world I have my clients eating at minimum 2 cups of solid vegetables each day, ideally 5 cups. A CSA certainly helps if the buyer is a person who hates waste- then you make sure you consume all the veggies given ;-)

6. INCREASE VEGETABLE VARIETY AND INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE & COOKING SKILLS: So many of members at CLM bring in something from their CSA and ask me what it is. Most of the time I know what it is, but to be honest, there are several times when I have no idea… especially when it comes to peppers. This is a great opportunity for you to Google what vegetable family it might be in and look at the different varieties. Then, you can Google the recommended ways to eat it. Typically, I always say you can’t go wrong cooking in a stir fry, roasting, or steaming. If you have kids, this is an excellent opportunity to get them interested in trying new foods!

If you are interested in joining a CSA, visit to find CSA’s in your area. For another article on CSA's, visit Philly Magazine's article Eat Fresh: 11 Community-Supported Agriculture Programs in PhiladelphiaThey do tend to be more expensive than if you bought produce at Gentiles in Newtown Square… but you get all the benefits mentioned above, and most are “Certified Naturally Grown” farms. For example, a farm in Montgomery County, Two Miles Micro-Farm at the Permanent Future Institute offers CSA shares from April-September, with a half share (22 weeks) costing $375.00.

My Recommendation:

I definitely recommend families try to partake in a CSA at least once in their life. If you are hesitant or don’t think you can eat all the produce, maybe do a half-share with a friend to get started and see how that goes. If the cost is too much, try going vegetarian during the duration of the CSA (which won’t be difficult due to the amount of veggies you get!). You will re-coup the money you would have spent on chicken and beef by opting for lentils and edamame instead. A CSA that is $375 for 22 weeks averages out to just about $17/week… which isn’t bad at all knowing that you will be healthier, supporting the local farmers, and getting fresher produce (amongst all the reasons listed above). For those of you who do belong do a CSA or plan to join (and you live nearby), if you ever have any extra produce you don’t want… feel free to hand it off to this girl ;-), I guarantee I will not let it go to waste!