Friday, December 30, 2011

Here's to 2012!

The New Year is upon us and so is the time to sit down and reflect on the year that has passed - the good, the bad, the ugly and all the fabulousness in between.  Most of us tend to whip out a piece of paper and pen to scribble down our 2012 Resolutions - a list of all the things we hope to achieve in the coming year.  Whether you lose the list on January 1st or tack it to your fridge for the next 12 months as a constant reminder, the desire to become the best version of yourself is suddenly at the forefront of your consciousness.

Whatever your goals and desires are for 2012, make sure that your health, both physical and mental, is at the top of the list.  One thing that was very prevalent to me this year was the basic ability we have to take advantage of our health and body.  Life is crazy...everyone is super busy and super stressed.  We race through life, eat on the go and have to-do-lists that are a mile long.  So it's pretty easy to forget the engine that gets us from here to there.  If not loved and cared for, the engine will break down and some times, the damage is irreversible.

Currently in my dietetic internship and getting a very intense, up-close look at all the units within a hospital, I have become hyper aware of how delicate our seemingly indestructible engines can truly be.  Our health and overall well-being is easily forgotten but when it goes array, the guilt for being haphazardous with something so tangible is overwhelming.

Here is my hope for you in 2012- love your body, treat it with care, feed it nutrient-dense, delicious, and simply processed foods, exercise, smile, breathe, sleep, laugh, hug, juice, kiss, indulge in moderation, and never take your health for granted.  Our bodies are fragile but can be powerful and strong if given all the right ingredients.

I am abundantly thankful for my health, my family, friends, and the ability to continue to write about something I have a love and passion for - health and nutrition.

Here's to the best year yet!

In happiness and health,

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Interested in the slow food movement and want to know more???!!!  You must watch an amazing documentary called INGREDIENTS.  The movie discusses the importance of supporting our local farmers and shunning the highly processed and environmental detriments of huge food conglomerates.




Good for the body.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mastering the Meal Plan

A few weeks ago I wrote this blog for Child Care Info (I am their Nutrition Contributor) and I felt it was really important to share with my followers here at Nutrition Concierge. 

Many of my clients consistently struggle with meal planning and this post simplifies it so it doesn't consume too much of your precious time. 

Take a read!

Every week it’s seems to be the same old dilemma.  Like an unexpected curve ball being thrown at you every night (even though we all know that’s not the case).  What should I make for dinner?  And besides that, you dream of having it be a healthy, nutrient dense meal that everyone in the family will love.  Sometimes this seems to be an insurmountable task. 
So let’s make it simple and break it down into smaller pieces so the whole puzzle doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  Oh yeah…we will also make sure it’s healthy AND tasty!

1.     WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE NIGHT?  First things first…what is your favorite night of the week to get settled and plan for the week ahead?  Most people will say Sunday night, which seems the most logical.  The family is settling down from the high-energy weekend and getting ready for the work and school week ahead.  But maybe Friday is your night.  Whatever night it is, use this time to plan your family’s meals for the week ahead.  Browse through your cookbooks, magazines, the Internet, or wherever you gather recipes and begin to feel inspired!

2.     START WITH YOUR PROTEIN!  The easiest way to start the meal planning process is to pick a few different types of protein to use as the main component of your weekly meals.  This will make all the smaller pieces easily fall into place.
o   Buy in Bulk:  The best thing to do is buy your protein in bulk so you can use it a variety of different ways during the week.  Frozen bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts are great to use at a moments notice.  You can quickly thaw as many as needed and avoid wasting unused chicken.  Same goes for fish and shellfish.  Costco and Sam’s Club have great organic varieties of these frozen foods, in addition to pork, lean red meat, and turkey.  Also check out Trader Joe’s frozen protein selection.
o   Go Vegetarian: To keep down the cost of your main dish, try some vegetarian options.  Beans and legumes are a low cost, nutrient dense choice when putting together the perfect dinner.  These options can also be purchased in bulk, prepared quickly, and stored easily.  Great to have on hand when all else fails or you are much too tired to cook an elaborate meal. 
o   Eggs: The perfect protein:  Don’t be afraid to incorporate eggs into your dinner.  They are simple to make, delicious, and are a complete protein.  Brown rice sautéed with veggies and an over-easy (or over-medium) egg on top is such a healthy dinner and can be made in a snap.  It’s a big hit in our house!

3.     SUPER SIDES! Now that you have the main component of your meal, add some super sides.  This can be as simple as brown rice with steamed broccoli or something more complicated such as a quinoa dish or butternut squash mac & cheese.
o   Great Grains:  Like I said before, buying your grains in bulk is the cheapest and easiest way to always make sure you have it in the kitchen cabinet.  Brown rice, whole wheat pastas, couscous, quinoa, and polenta are some great choices that the whole family will enjoy.  Spice it up with adding veggies or the chosen protein for the night.  Whole Wheat pasta with grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and pesto is a yummy, nutrient-filled dinner.
o   Vary your Veggies:  I know you have all heard it before but mix up your veggies and branch out from the same old trend.  Purchase local produce from your farmer’s market and incorporate it into new dinner ideas.  If you can’t buy fresh, remember that frozen is just as nutritious (sometimes even more so) and is such an easy make!  Most grocery stores sell frozen blends of different veggies, which will be more appetizing for even the pickiest palate.
o    Sauce it up:  Who doesn’t love to “dip”?  Condiments are a kitchen necessity, so make sure you have a few different kinds on hand.  Ketchup (go for the more natural variety), mustards, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, soy sauce (or Bragg’s Amino Acids), Teriyaki sauce, salad dressings (always the lite variety), and/or olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette can spice up any simple meal.  And if your little one doesn’t love the meal in front of them, maybe a little sauce will bring it to life!
All in all, planning is the most important aspect of your weekly dinners.  If you take the time before the week begins, you won’t feel so frazzled during the week and will be able to enjoy the time with your family.  Remember to keep it simple.  The more simple it is, the healthier the meal turns out.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

To be, or not to be Organic

Do you remember when you first started seeing the word ORGANIC at the grocery store?  Did you understand what it meant?  It may have sounded like such a foreign word that you dismissed it, especially when you realized how much more expensive the item was compared to it's non-organic counterpart.  Today, the word ORGANIC is everywhere and not on just high priced produce.  From organic face wash and tissues, to organic beef and crackers, consumers have the choice in purchasing everything organic (and spending a little extra dough) or not.  But what are the health implications of not choosing the organic product?  Let's discuss.

What does "organic" really mean?  The word organic states that the product, whether it be produce or tissues, are grown/manufactured without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMO's), sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.  Additionally, it stipulates that organic animals may not be given any antibiotics or growth hormones.  The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has STRINGENT guidelines for becoming an organic food processor and they define it as the following......

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

The real question is whether or not the organic product is a "healthier" version of the non-organic.  And herein is where the debate lies.  Many people (myself included) believe that organic products, ESPECIALLY produce, are healthier for your body than the non-organic.  As is the case with the "DIRTY DOZEN".  Many studies have shown that purchasing the non-organic variety of these 12 can contain extremely high levels of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer residue.  They have a very porous-type skin which easily soaks up the chemicals and is then is absorbed by your body after consumption.  I really love this list on what fruits and veggies make up the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean 15".  By switching over to organic for the Dirty Dozen, the Department of Agriculture estimates that you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by 80%-90%.  I would say that is significant enough to shell out the extra $$$$ for these fruits and veggies.

Another thing to think about regarding the whole organic trend is the nutrition-based science emerging to back up the importance of riding our bodies of these nasty toxins, especially our children's.  A recent study published in the Pediatrics Journal whose focus was the data collected from about 1,140 children that were participating in the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  The researchers looked at the pesticide-byproducts found in their urine and concluded that children with higher levels of a very common pesticide, neurotoxic organophosphate, were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.  More specifically, 119 children in the study met the criteria for ADHD.

There are about 40 different strains of this dangerous pesticide, neurotoxic organophosphate, that are registered with the EPA and have been linked to colony collapse disorder (the disappearance of our honey bees), childhood leukemia, and a myriad of other health issues that will continue to plague our bodies unless we stop buying foods filled with pesticides.

My advice is to buy the organic variety when you can, especially the fruit and veggies on the Dirty Dozen list.  Remember that highly processed foods still contain a large amount of pesticides if their primary ingredient is corn or soy.  That said, junk food is still junk food regardless if it's organic or conventionally grown.  Don't be fooled by clever marketing.

The most important thing you can do is to become educated on this topic, continue to eat a variety of local fruits & veggies, and always buy what's right for you and your family.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Dirty "D" Word

I really despise the word "diet".  I think the minute we put that word into our head as an action we are going to take to achieve whatever goal, it sets us up for failure.  It's subconsciously telling our brain and body that we can't have something, we need to change something about our behavior, and of course, we expect our brain and body to respond on cue.  Except that is not the case.  The minute we start depriving ourselves of something we love, we want it even more!

So how about we eliminate the word "diet" from our vocabulary and focus on four other words: balance, variety, moderation, and exercise.  These words encompass healthy eating, losing weight, and optimal nutrition but don't set you up for failure like the word "diet" can to your body, mind, and soul. 

Instead of going on a "diet" every other Monday and feeling like a failure by Wednesday, incorporate a new healthy and positive outlook by incorporating these words into every aspect of your life.  Here's how...

BALANCE:  Every day we strive to achieve balance in our lives.  Whether it's balancing family, exercise, friends, work, or some time to yourself, we are constantly searching for the perfect balance.  But what about the food you eat?  Are you making sure that you are getting all the important nutrients in your diet that help energize you throughout the day?  Is one food more dominate than another in your diet?  Nutritional balance is composed of consuming the three macronutrients in proper amounts.
  • Complex Carbs: This is your #1 source of energy and fuel and is the only source of fuel for the brain.  Carbohydrates should comprise about 45-65% of your diet.  This includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.  Emphasize the fruits and veggies.  
  • Lean Protein: The body needs protein to provide the building blocks for generating lean muscle mass and should make up 10-35% of your diet.  Make sure it's lean protein - chicken, fish, white meat turkey, eggs, low-fat dairy, soy, whey, legumes & grains, nuts & seeds.  But don't overdo it on the protein.  Contrary to popular belief, lots and lots of protein won't build bigger muscles.  You will store it as fat and put a ton of pressure on your kidneys and liver to excrete the nitrogen (byproduct of protein breakdown).  However, when paired with a carbohydrate, it slows the absorption and keeps you fuller for longer periods of time.
  • Healthy Fats: Listen, we aren't in the early 90's anymore.  Fat is not bad!  Stop thinking fat will make you fat.  It's a fallacy.  Healthy fat is essential to the human body as it transports fat-soluble vitamins, generates heat, cushions your organs, and makes your skin, hair, and nails look beautiful.  20-35% of your diet should be composed of healthy fats in the form of oil (olive, coconut, flax, rapeseed, sesame seed), nuts, avocado, nut butters, and fatty fish.  
If you would like more information about what types of foods to eat and in what quantity, check out the new and improved USDA nutrition guide, My Plate.

VARIETY:  Do you ever find yourself eating the same thing over and over?  Yeah, me too.  Sometimes I get on a kick and realize I have had brown rice like 5 nights in a row.  Make a pact with yourself to get out of your "food box" and try something new!  Studies have shown that people who eat the same things on a regular basis are deficient in many essential nutrients.  Whether you are lacking iron or Vitamin D or your B vitamins, your food rut can be costly on your health, well being, and palate.
  • Hit up the Farmer's Market in your area.  Choose a fruit or veggie that you have always been too apprehensive to try.  There are a million recipe and cooking websites out there that will give you healthy and tasty recipes for just about any food item. Here are a few I like..
  • Eat the colors of the rainbow!  If your plate is as colorful as a rainbow, it will ensure that you are getting so many amazing different nutrients.  Here is a list of fruits and veggies divided up by color group: Rainbow of Fruits and Veggies

MODERATION:  Going back to the deprivation thing....don't tell yourself you can't have something.  It's just a waste.  I promise that you will end up eating whatever it was that you banned from your diet and then some.  And then some more.  Moderation in life, in food, in EVERYTHING, is key.  But sadly, most Americans lack moderation.  Hence the huge portion sizes that are expected when we dine in and out of the home.  Here's how to keep the moderation in your diet alive and kicking!
  • Portion Sizing:  I know I have discussed this before but it's the quickest way to start dropping the lbs.
      • Read the label - don't eat 6 servings when 1/4 cup is 1 serving.  Be conscientious about how much you are putting in your body
      • Palm of the hand = 1 serving of protein (determine how many servings you can have per meal)
      • Clenched fist = 1 serving of whole grains or vegetables
      • Tennis ball = 1 piece of fruit
      • Thumb = 1 serving of chocolate/cheese
  • Leave it at the store: If there is some type of food that you absolutely love, only purchase it when you are allowing yourself the time to indulge.  Otherwise, if it's in the house, sometimes the temptation can be much too overwhelming.  And that is when overeating can occur.  I love the pre-made cookie dough from the store but I only buy it when I decide it's time to indulge and only make the serving size.  So what if there are only 2 cookies on the pan!  I satisfy my craving but don't overdo it at the same time.  Practice willpower!  We all have it...some just need to tap into it a little more than others.  
I believe that you can enjoy all of your favorite indulgences by consuming them in moderation.  Have pizza, cake, cookies, chips, french fries.  But don't overdo it.  And don't do it every day. Enjoy life!

EXERCISE:  Last but not least....exercise, exercise, exercise!  Calories in, calories out.  That's about as simple as it can get.  Just because you did the Stairmaster for 30 minutes doesn't mean you can reward yourself with a burger and fries.  Remember pre-and post-exercise nutrition.  It will make a WORLD of difference in your energy levels and ultimate goals.  Refer to my blog, Tapping Into Your Exercise Nutrition, for more information about how to fuel your body and prevent huge hunger spikes upon completing your work-out.

So let's agree to forget about the word "diet" and merely make "lifestyle changes".  Focus on balance, variety, moderation, & exercise and soon all of your weight loss and health goals will easily morph into reality.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

USDA debuts MyPlate in place of MyPyramid

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama presented the government's new version of the slightly archaic design, MyPyramid. Fittingly, this new design is called MyPlate. Instead of the 2 dimensional pyramid with a heavy focus on grains, dairy, and protein, the new design is in the shape of a plate.  Divided into three sections (looks similar to a circle graph), one half represents fruits and/or vegetables, one quarter whole grains, and one quarter lean protein.  Attached to the plate is a small side of dairy (fat-free or low-fat). 

One of the main goals the government set out to achieve with MyPlate is to teach Americans proper portion sizes, by demonstrating that you can enjoy your favorite indulgences but in small quantities.  Furthermore, the USDA also stresses serving small portions at every meal.  Most importantly, the change in design addresses high sodium and high sugar intake.  On the USDA website, they advise Americans to watch their salt consumption by decreasing their intake of frozen foods, soups, and breads, in addition to decreasing sugary beverages and replacing with water.

I believe that this is a MUCH more useful and adaptable representation for how to nourish yourself and your family.  People don't eat off pyramids.  They eat off plates.  And I think that people GREATLY benefit from seeing a visual of how to build your plate for every meal.  The USDA and the government really got it right this time around!  Don't you think?

So how do you build your plate with the new recommendations?

- Again, make this half of your plate.  The best ways to cook veggies is to steam or lightly saute them with olive oil.  No frying in butter or covering them in a cream-based sauce.  Keep it simple.  Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil.  As for fruits, try to buy fresh.  Ditch the canned fruit - most are soaking in high fructose corn syrup and contain a ton of sugar.  Lastly, frozen fruits and veggies are a great buy and are sometimes more fresh than "fresh" (unless you are buying your produce at the Farmer's Market).

GRAINS - Grains should represent about one quarter of your plate and be the whole grain kind.  Abundant in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, you want to include brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, and/or oatmeal to your plate.  Stay away from white, processed carbohydrates.  These lack essential nutrients and are a waste of calories.

PROTEIN - Lean protein should be the final quarter of your plate.  Stick to choices low in saturated fat and calories.  Turkey, white meat chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, eggs, beans, soy, or any other vegetarian type of protein can be included.  Grill, bake, broil, or saute are the perfect methods to keep it lean and low-fat.  Skip the deep frying!

DAIRY - The last component to MyPlate is dairy.  Choose fat-free or low-fat (1%) in place of full fat dairy.  Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt can all be purchased in low-fat or fat-free options and are just as tasty.  Just be careful of the sugar content. Stay away from yogurt that has more than 12 g of sugar per serving (some even have as much sugar as a candy bar).  Greek yogurt is the best!

If you would like more information about MyPlate or suggestions for age-based serving sizes, please visit the USDA's website -

Here's to hoping MyPlate will help Americans develop healthier eating habits!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Antioxidants - Nature's Super Power

Antioxidants are always being touted as a MUST for your diet.  But what they do and their importance to our diet and our bodies is a bit confusing.  Here's the lowdown on nature's super powers.

Every day, our bodies are exposed to oxidation and free radicals.  Free radicals are unavoidable.  They are spawned from the environment - pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, herbicides, pesticides, gas fumes, toxic chemicals, etc, etc.  But it doesn't stop radicals can also be formed from derivatives of our bodily functions - metabolism, stress, and some are produced by the immune system to neutralize viruses and bacteria.  The most common form of free radicals in the human body is oxygen (I know...that sounds so strange since we couldn't live without it).  The oxygen molecules moving around inside our bodies become electrically charged and try to steal electrons from other molecules, which can lead to DNA damage or extensive molecular destruction.

The accumulation of free radicals can normally be handled and neutralized by our body but when excessive free radicals build up is when damage occurs.  And this damage can be devastating and sometimes, deadly.  For example, when you cut an apple and leave it out, it turns brown. That is called enzymatic oxidative browning.  And that is what is happening in our bodies if we don't consume antioxidants.  Excess free radicals in the body can cause cancer, heart disease, eye disease, declines in memory, and MANY other degenerative diseases.  And as with everything else, this accumulation increases with age.  

Now here's where the importance of antioxidants come into play.  Antioxidants are the "free radical fighter".  We need them and our bodies love them.  They are like a little army in our body, killing and capturing the free radicals.  Or in biochemistry terms, they neutralize that electric charge (remember the oxygen molecule) and and prevent the free radical from taking more electrons from other molecules.  So you saved the precious molecules in your body, killed the free radicals, and prevented damage.  Sounds amazing, right?

What should you eat to make sure you are getting enough antioxidants to protect your body from free radicals?  First and foremost, a diet abundant in fruits and vegetables is your best bet.  Fruit and veggies are the best sources for antioxidants so make sure to eat 5-9 servings per day to get the benefit of these free-radicals scavengers.  Additionally, antioxidants can be found in meat, nuts, and whole grains.

Here are some antioxidants and food sources that should always be a staple in your diet.
  • Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) - carrots, peaches, cantaloupe, dark-green leafy veggies, egg yolks, milk, mozzarella cheese
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) - oranges, red & yellow peppers, lemon, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, kale
  • Vitamin E (Tocopherols) - green leafy veggies, vegetable oils, egg yolks, almonds
  • Lycopene - tomatoes (most abundant), papaya, grapefruit, apricots
  • Lutein - dark-green leafy veggies - kale, collard greens, spinach
  • Selenium - this is a mineral, not a vitamin but still has high antioxidant properties - grains, onions, milk, veggies (depends on selenium content of soil)
  • Resveratrol - this polyphenol (a type of antioxidant) is being herald as a great antioxidant that helps decrease bad cholesterol, increases good cholesterol and protects against artery damage.  Its found in red wine and grapes.  But easy on the alcohol!  Excessive drinking can cause oxidative damage, increasing free-radicals.  One glass a night!
Here are some other foods that have serious super powers!    
  • Blueberries
  • Acai berries
  • Cherries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cinnamon
  • Wheat Grass
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Kiwi
Again, making sure to consume a diet rich in fruits and veggies will help ward off many serious diseases as you begin to age.  And start with prevention NOW!!!!  Don't wait until it's too late. 

P.S. - To prevent your apple from browning, spritz lemon on it.  This antioxidant (Vitamin C - Ascorbic Acid) will prevent oxidation.