What Exactly is a Superfood?

Superfoods; the buzz word that makes some foods seem like a magic little pill of wonder. But what about these foods make them super? Why some foods and not others? What’s the criteria a food has to have to be a superfood? 

Let’s first look at the definition of a superfood: “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being”. Is this not the most vague definition? Almost any food can be considered beneficial for health and well-being. There are no requirements or specifications to consider a food super. That being said, the buzz word can be applied to pretty much anything. Check out the most common foods labeled as superfoods:

  • Dark leafy greens
    • Spinach, kale, collard greens, broccolini
  • Seeds
    • Flax, chia, hemp, sesame, poppy
  • Fruits
    • Berries, apples, pomegranates, pineapple, oranges, goji berries
  • Vegetables
    • Celery, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes
  • Beans/legumes
    • Chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, lentils 
  • Grains
    • Sprouted, popcorn, quinoa, barley, oats 
  • Healthy fats
    • Tuna, salmon, avocado, olives, nuts
  • Oils
    • Avocado, sesame, grapeseed, olive
  • Powders
    • Spirulina, acai, seaweed, pea protein, nutritional yeast, collagen
  • Sweets
    • Dark chocolate, honey, cocoa powder 

So why are some foods labeled as superfoods and some not? The answer to that is simple: marketing. When you look at this list of foods, it’s pretty much every food you’d consider to be healthy. This list could go on and on and on. You could even consider a beef burger a superfood since it has benefits to our health (high iron and protein). What marketing companies are betting on is that you go for the package that’s labeled as a superfood and also $1-2 more than the competitors. 

The moral of the story here is all foods can be considered super. There is not some magic component in them that makes them better than any other food. Yes, you want more of them on a daily basis and they have wonderful health benefits, but they will not magically make you healthy when you eat them. So next time you grab those apples or kale because they are considered a superfood, make sure you’re buying it for the right reasons. Always eat a variety of foods to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals our bodies require. The more the merrier!

Grocery Store Hacks That Rack Your Bill Up

When you head to the grocery store, do you go with a plan, a list, or an agenda? This can help keep you on track, but most grocery stores are counting on you browsing and buying more than you need. They have many methods in place that persuade you to add extra items to your cart that you didn’t plan on buying. Before you know it, a trip that should’ve cost about $130 ends up costing closer to $250-300! Sounds like Target trips, am I right? Check out the top ten tricks the grocery store puts in place to get you to buy more than you need.

  1. The Atmosphere

Grocery stores want you to walk into a bright and inviting store. This is why the produce is front and center when you enter. It’s colorful, bright, and boosts your mood. You’ll often see the floral department or bouquets of flowers in the front entrance as well. How do flowers not brighten your mood? Another quick trick is one you hear and not visualize. The music they play in the store is made to be upbeat and make you feel good. If we know anything, we know that when we’re in a good mood, we’ll end up buying more. 

  1. Layout of the store

Ever heard the advice to stick to the perimeter of the store for healthy foods? Well, this is also where the higher ticket items are. Fresh produce, meats, fresh dairy, and seafood are all on the perimeter of the store and ironically the more expensive items as well. They also strategically have the bathrooms and staple foods items like bread, milk and eggs in the back of the store so you’ll walk through the whole store to get to them. They’re counting on you adding more items to your cart while walking to the back of the store. 

  1. Reducing the price by a penny

If you look at something that’s $4.00 versus something that’s $3.99, you perceive the $3.99 item to be cheaper. It’s been researched many times that lowering the price by just a penny persuades customers to buy it. Although we know that it’s a $4 item, we’re more likely to buy it seeing the 3 in front of it rather than the 4. 

  1. Giving percentages off rather than dollars

Using percentages off makes an item seem like more of a deal rather than giving a certain dollar amount off. If a steak is $20, most stores will advertise that it’s 20% off rather than giving $5 off. Twenty percent off is only $4 off the purchase price, even though the number of the discount is higher. So although it seems like a better deal, it may not be as great as you think! 

  1. Buzzwords

They work everytime! Putting certain words on packages automatically makes us perceive it as healthy. Seeing “gluten free”, “all natural”, “high protein”, “keto”, “paleo”, “low fat” are just a few of the buzzwords that we see on foods. These don’t necessarily make foods a healthy option, but what they will do is increase the price. You’ll end up spending more on something that you may not have needed, but because it looks healthier, you just have to try it! 

  1. Bo-Go Items

Buy-one-get one free always seems like such a great deal. However, that food or drink is overpriced and then listed as “bo-go” to get you to buy two rather than one. Companies set the price to cover the 50% off and also make a profit. So next time you see this deal, think about whether or not you really need two and if it’s actually a good deal. 

  1. Increasing Demand

Creating a false sense of urgency is a great way to create demand. When you see “limited time”, “limited release”, “new flavor”, “while supplies last” and “single-batch” you’re most likely to grab it because it’s new and something that may not be there the next time you come back. The stores are counting on you wanting to try the newest item or flavor so you grab it while you can. 

  1. Product Placement 

Every item that’s placed on the shelves is placed with intention. Ever notice that the store-brand items are often on the bottom, name brand is in the middle of the shelves and the highest priced items are towards the top? Consumers are more likely to grab the foods at eye level or higher, so the cost of the foods you buy are just a little bit higher than store-brand. 

  1. Check-out line grabs

The check-out line always has candy, gum, and snacks at the ready so you can grab a pack of gum or that sweet treat you’ve been craving. These items are purposely put at arms-reach of kids in the cart so they can grab it as well. Just another way to increase your spending amount, even by a candy bar. 

  1. Paying virtually

Credit cards and apple pay have made it SO much easier to swipe or scan and everything is paid for. This ease of payment makes the cost of the bill seem unimportant and something we don’t even think about. If you were to pay in cash and have to count it out, it makes it feel much more real. The easier it is to pay, the less we’re likely to pay attention to how much we’re spending. 

Next time you hit the grocery store, make sure to have a list of items, stick to the list and try not to be persuaded by buzzwords. Of course there’s always that one thing you want to try or that grabs your attention, but now you can be more aware of some of the tactics stores are using. Moral of the story here is grab the foods that interest you, but if you’re trying to stick to a budget, beware of these strategies!

The Scoop on Protein Powders

Protein powders are always a topic of conversation and this blog is going to help break down what they are, what types may be more beneficial for you, and if you should even be taking one. Let’s first talk about what types of protein powders are out there and why they’re different. 

  • Whey – One of the most common protein powders out there, and one of the first powders produced for mass consumption. It’s a complete protein (contains all essential amino acids) and helps with muscle repair and rebuilding post-workout. Whey comes from cow’s milk. It’s the whey that is skimmed off of milk when they make it into a cheese. It’s literally the whey in “curds and whey”. For this reason, some people’s digestive systems don’t take too kindly to it. If you don’t tolerate milk-based products well, this is probably not the powder for you. Whey protein isolate has the highest protein concentration and little fat content which make it desirable for muscle building without fat gain. 
  • Casein – This is another milk-based protein powder but is absorbed much slower and longer than whey protein. This is a great protein powder to have before bed since it will supply the body with protein overnight when you’re sleeping but your body is still recovering. Make sure to look for calcium caseinate to ensure you’re getting the purest and most absorbable form of it. 
  • Soy – Soy based powders are plant-based and are also a complete protein, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids your muscles need. This is a great alternative for those following a vegan/vegetarian diet or who are lactose intolerant. It is more tolerated in the gut, but those who can’t tolerate soy would want to look at alternatives. 
  • Brown Rice – Another plant-based protein option, but it is not considered complete. You want to make sure you pair it with other plant based protein so you do meet the essential amino acid profile your body requires. Some other protein you could pair it with include hemp or pea powder. Brown rice is also hypoallergenic and very easily digestible. 
  • Pea – A great protein powder that is plant-based and should be paired with other plant proteins like hemp or brown rice. It is also highly digestible and would blend well in smoothies. 
  • Hemp – A high-fiber plant-based protein powder that also offers up healthy fats as well. This is a great choice for a vegan or vegetarian diet, but again should be paired with one or two other plant-based proteins so you get the best protein absorption. 

Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein are great choices for their muscle building benefits as well as availability of zinc and iron if you’re not vegan or suffer from allergies. However, there is a strong case for integrating plant based proteins into your diet as they are easily digestible and have been proven to fight inflammation and reduce muscle soreness more effectively than dairy proteins. 

Since one plant based protein powder alone won’t offer a complete protein, look for a product that combines several to create a full amino acid profile. Some brands that offer this include Orgain, Plant Fusion or Vega One. They provide complete proteins, omega-3s, probiotics, greens, and antioxidants all in one serving.

Protein powders can be easy, affordable, and clean; you just need to know how to pick them. Start with figuring out what protein powder would be the best for YOUR body. One powder that works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you as well. Then figure out where it fits in your schedule. It could be easier to throw it in your morning smoothie, having it with milk or water right after a workout, or right before bed if you’re taking casein. It isn’t always about paying the highest price for a powder, it’s more about what your body likes most, and keeping the ingredients clean. Watch out for ingredients like corn syrup solids, brown rice syrup, hydrogenated oils, or hidden sugars like dextrose, glucose, or palm sugar. You still want to be able to recognize and understand what the ingredients are regardless of how much protein and fiber is in a supplement. 

If you’re ever unsure about what protein powder works for you, you should always talk to a professional about it. The best way to figure out which one works best for you is to try it. Head to a local supplement store and try to get samples of products before you invest and buy one. If you’re going to spend the money, you want to make sure it’s the right product for you. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!

Multivitamins: are they necessary and do you need one?

Should you be taking a multivitamin?

Before you can answer this question, you need to first take a look at your diet and any health conditions you are currently experiencing.  

  1. Are you eating a well-rounded diet? Have you cut out any food groups?

It is important to first get your vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. You will get more nutrition from the diversity of the foods and more fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that you cannot get from supplementation. These elements of whole foods prevent diseases and improve bowel movements. However, no one person’s diet is perfect. Many people cut out certain food groups, such as dairy, for health reasons.  If this is true for you, a multivitamin may be beneficial to fill in the gaps. 

  1. Do you have a health condition that may cause you to not be able to absorb certain nutrients, or cause you to need more of a certain nutrient?

Many digestive complications such as Crohn’s disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can lead to malabsorption of certain nutrients. Over a period of time, nutrient deficiencies can develop and cause various symptoms. Talking to a dietitian and your doctor about your disease and possible nutrient deficiencies that may result can help you decide which vitamins you should be focusing on.  Getting your vitamin and mineral levels checked can reveal if you need more than what a multivitamin can offer. If this is the case, you may be recommended to take individual supplements that have higher doses for what you need. In some situations, like being pregnant, you may need more of certain nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin.

You can never go wrong with talking to your dietitian and doctor about taking a multivitamin or a specific vitamin/mineral supplement. Explain your current diet and any health conditions you are experiencing. Above all, focusing on eating more foods in their whole and natural forms will always benefit you. You cannot overdose on nutrients when eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains. However, you can reach a toxicity level from popping a higher dose of vitamins/minerals than you need. 

Above all, if you are eating a balanced diet and are not experiencing any health conditions that require you to need more of certain nutrients, you may be better off saving your money and continuing to focus on your diet!

–Tara Greenwood Penn State University Dietetics Student

Vitamin C, Vitamin D & your Immune system

Your New Best Friends for Immune Health–Vitamin C and Vitamin D

In these times of COVID-19, we are becoming more aware and knowledgeable about how illnesses spread. We know that it is important to wash our hands, refrain from sharing drinks, and be cautious of our distance between our friends and family–But how do you set your body up for success when you DO come into contact with germs? Vitamin C and Vitamin D have your back.

Vitamin C Immunity Benefits

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and plays a major role in the growth and repair of our bodies. It prepares your body to fight and then speeds up your recovery if you do end up getting sick. In other words, paying more attention to getting Vitamin C into your diet can decrease the length of time you are sick for, allowing you to recover faster and get back on track.

How can I get Vitamin C?

Vitamin C must be consumed through food because it cannot be produced by your body. Great sources of Vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kiwi. Many of these foods can be enjoyed cooked as well as raw. If you do decide to cook your fruit/veggie, be cautious around how long the food is being cooked for and how high the heat is. Too much heat for long periods of time can decrease nutrients in the food.  Microwaving or steaming are good options to minimize nutrient loss while still achieving the desired texture of a cooked food.

Vitamin D Immunity Benefits

A lack of Vitamin D has been proven to correlate with an increased risk for infection. In fact, Vitamin D used to be used to fight tuberculosis before antibiotics were created! This is because Vitamin D is expressed on your immune cells. Vitamin D decreases inflammatory processes, increases antiinflammatory processes, and helps the body better absorb minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. 

How can I get Vitamin D?

Your main source of Vitamin D is the sunshine! Try getting out of the house when taking a break from work for just 15-20 minutes to soak up the sun on your bare skin.  Spending well over this amount of time without sunscreen or protective clothing on is Vitamin D overkill and can increase risk for burns.  It may sound simple to get your daily Vitamin D dose, but over half of the world is deficient because most daily routines in this day and age require us to be inside. Vitamin D can also be absorbed through food, but these food sources are not common or accessible to many.  Vitamin D rich foods are cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna fish, orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, milks fortified with Vitamin D, sardines, and beef liver.

Should I supplement Vitamin C and/or D to make sure I am getting enough?

It is recommended to focus on getting nutrients from food sources (food and sun in the case of Vitamin D) before supplementing. Look back at the food sources for Vitamin C and Vitamin D and choose a few that you would enjoy eating.  If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to be consistent. Supplementation should fill in the gaps. However, research has shown that half of the world is not able to get enough Vitamin D from food and sunshine. Therefore, many could benefit greatly from taking a supplement. It is important to talk to your dietitian or doctor to make sure you are getting the correct amounts for you. 

  • Written by Tara Greenwood, Penn State University Nutrition & Dietetics Student

Why you should drop that diet!

What do the Keto Diet, Paleo Diet, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Noom, Atkins, and even Intermittent Fasting have in common? They’re ALL some type of fad diet. It’s another one of those “tried it, had success, and then gained my weight back” diet plan that will always stick around no matter how hard we try to stay away from them. Fad diets date back to the Victorian era in the 1900s!! They’ve been a part of our culture for as long as we’ve all been alive and that’s one reason why they’ll always stick around. They are an entire culture built on money, marketing, the scale, and before and after photos. Thankfully, what we know now versus what we knew even 20 years ago is changing and leaning more towards an acceptance of the body, and overall health; not just being as skinny as possible and shaming ourselves when we fail to meet our own high expectations. 

As defined by the medical dictionary, fad diets are defined as “ Any of a number of weight-reduction diets that either eliminate one or more of the essential food groups, or recommend consumption of one type of food in excess at the expense of other foods. Fad diets rarely follow sound nutritional principles for weight loss, which focus on ingesting fewer calories and/or consuming more energy through exercise; fad diets are generally not endorsed by the medical profession.” 

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. Any diet that restricts or eliminates food groups, creates a feeling of deprivation, and only focuses on weight loss is created to give you short-term, fast results. Nothing in a fad diet will provide healthy principles that will give a long-term result that you can live with forever. So why do we keep chasing these diets and thinking that we “just haven’t found the right one for us yet?” Among the millions of reasons, a few of the most obvious include:

  • Because they “work”
  • People get results and they get them fast (30-90 days on average)
  • Before and after testimonials showing an unrealistic improvement 
  • They give off the illusion of being “easy”
  • Organized and planned for you 
  • BIG money makers 

Let’s elaborate a bit on these points. By saying these diets work, I’m saying that you will get results and you will lose weight, but to what detriment? What happens when you stop this diet and go about your normal life again? Chances are, you’ll gain your weight right back. Diets aren’t structured to be followed for the rest of your life, they are created to give you drastic results that won’t last.

With the before and after testimonial pictures we constantly see, we think “well I want that, I want to feel and look that great”. The problem with these pictures is that you are NOT that person. Every body is completely different, and will respond differently to any diet. 

They make transformations look easy because all you see is the before and after; not the struggles that person dealt with in between those photos.

Another reason we keep buying into them is they’re all planned out and organized for us. We don’t have to think about what to eat or how to exercise, it’s already made for us. But the problem with this is that no one body is the same! We absolutely cannot put ourselves into categories of diets and expect to have the same results of someone else that we know did it. Of course, they are HUGE money makers. Every one of these includes paying more money and giving you a sense of having “skin in the game” so you’re more dedicated to following a diet. Whether it’s buying their food, using their products, or going out and buying all new food for a meal plan, you’re going to be spending more money for something that’s not necessarily guaranteed. 

I hope by now, you’re in a place where you’re ready to get rid of a diet and get on a long-term, life plan. How do we get off of the fad diet hamster wheel and into a consistent, real-life routine? We need to take time, dedication, be patient, and stay organized. Of course, meeting with a dietitian is the best way to find a healthy, balanced plan that will work for you and only you. Losing weight and feeling healthy isn’t always about the number on the scale or the number of workouts you do in a week. Feeling and looking your best is about appreciating your body and what it can do for you, as well as eating foods you genuinely enjoy and STOP restricting the foods you love.

When you stop setting rules and regulations for yourself, you’ll find a better balance between the “everything in moderation” motto we all hear so much about. 

We also have to remember that feeling and looking healthy takes time; months, years or even decades. I often say to my clients that patience is the hardest part of weight loss. We are a society of instant gratification, but when it comes to your body, this is absolutely not the case. The harder you are on yourself for what you’re not doing, the more negative self talk you’re allowing. We need to be positive, focus on the wins we have, and throw the scale away. Who cares how much you weigh when you’re feeling your absolute best and have the most energy you’ve had in years? Everyone’s healthy body looks completely different; we need to stop comparing ourselves. 

Fad diets are a part of our diet culture, and they will unfortunately never go away. So long as we keep buying into them, they will always stick around. So next time you think about starting a diet, think about your long-term goals. Working with a licensed professional will help you get around the physical and mental blocks to finding your healthiest self. Do yourself a favor and help us help you! Give us a call today!

Grillin & Chillin for a Finger-Lickin’ BBQ

That first smell of a grill sparking up and searing meats or vegetables is one of the most inviting smells of summer. Not only is your grill an awesome outdoor cooking method, but it’s also a great party-friendly way to cook a ton of delicious food! Since we’re mid-grill season, I wanted to share some great tips and tricks to make the most of your grilling experience. 

So why can grilling your food be a better option than other cooking methods? Flavor, time, and efficiency are three of the most obvious reasons. Take grilled chicken versus baked chicken; the grilled chicken is going to have a more charred and smoky flavor without adding more calories or sauces to it than a baked chicken in the oven. This is the case with pretty much every meat; steak, sausages, hot dogs, burgers, etc. Not only is the flavor deliciously enhanced in a grill, but the time you need to cook the food lowers as well. Again, baking any meat can take anywhere from 25-40 mins, but cooking a burger or dog on a grill takes a mere 10 minutes! Not to mention, who wants to heat up the house in the middle of summer with an oven when you can grill outside. 

In addition to efficiency, the amount of food you can grill at one time increases as well. Grills typically have more surface area to cook food than an oven will. Of course it depends on what you’re making, but you’re typically going to cook more at one time on the grill than in the oven. We love to save time, so why not use the grill to help you? 

Are there any foods that you’ve always wanted to grill, but never knew if it could happen? I have personally been experimenting with different foods to see what works and what doesn’t. Wings, pizza, vegetables, onion, pineapple, and watermelon are a few of the foods I’ve tried lately and let me tell you, they’ve all come out delicious. 

Some other foods you can grill that you may not have realized include eggs (cooked in a cast iron skillet), bacon, meatloaf, lasagna, avocados, peaches, and bananas. I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to get creative! Anywhere from savory to sweet can work on your grill, it’s all about using the right tools and trying something new. 

Who doesn’t love a good hack when they see one? Some grilling hacks that I hope can make your grilling experience easier are below. 

  • Using grill mats to keep foods cleaner and falling through grates.
  • Brushing ½ an onion on your grill grate to prevent sticking.
  • Grilling corn on the cob in the husk for maximum flavor and steaming, cutting off and squeezing out the corn while it’s still warm. It’ll keep the silk from sticking too!
  • Always soak your skewers in water for 10-20 minutes before using to prevent burning. 
  • When grilling fish, leave the skin on for more flavor and nutrient value (vitamin E, D, Iodine, Selenium, and healthy fats). 
  • Using tin foil to make “packs” and combo dishes. 
    • Cheesy vegetable packets
    • Mixed chicken and vegetable packets 
    • Loaded “smashed” potato packets 
    • Banana, chocolate and marshmallow packets
    • Smore’s packets

These are just a very few examples of recipes and foods you can make on the grill. If you’re not a big grill person, I hope this helps give you ideas and new ways to start utilizing it. I myself was always timid of the flames and heat, but it’s such a great way to kick off summer, and even use it all throughout the year! Check out my personal recipe for delicious turkey meatball skewers to make for your family, or for your next party. Have a wonderful summer! 

EAT OUT, DON’T SKIMP OUT!

It’s a very common question in my office from my patients: what should I do when I’m going out to eat? We work SO hard during the week to stay consistent and eat clean, but when the weekends roll around, we forget how hard we’ve worked. We want to let loose and just enjoy ourselves without feeling like all the work we did during the week is just cancelled out. The food and drinks we indulge in don’t always have to make you feel worse before another week hits us. So here are my top tips for what to do, plan, and expect for when eating out…

HAVE A PLAN

Read the menu to make a plan ahead of time. When you have a plan, there’s no decision to be made when you’re actually in the restaurant. When you go out to eat, you want to enjoy the company around you, not worry about what you’re going to order and how many calories it’s going to be! Just remember that chain restaurants are legally required to provide calories, where mom and pop type places do not have to. We’ll talk more about strategies with calorie-less restaurants…

HYDRATE 

Make sure you’re drinking water before and throughout the meal. It’s no secret that when you drink enough water, it helps lower appetite. Making sure you’re hydrated before you start eating helps keep those hunger pangs away and ultimately helps you make a more mindful decision when you’re looking at a menu. 

SHARE

Don’t be afraid to share: an app and an entree with a friend or beau. Collaborating with the person you’re dining with can not only help with portion control, but it can offer up more dishes to try, and your wallet will thank you. Getting both an appetizer and an entree will give you more dishes to try than if you were to just get one entree and forego the app. Go outside of your comfort zone and try something different. 

SIMPLIFY

Keep it simple; stay away from creams, gravies and sauces. Ordering a protein and two side dishes can often be a lot less calories than a salad. The less there is within each meal, the less calories it’s going to pack in. Watch for things that may seem healthy, but have sauce, cream or gravy along with them. Grilled chicken can be great, but not if it comes topped with cheese, heavy cream, or gravy. Forego the sodium-ladened additions and keep it simple. 

MAXIMIZE 

Try to get dishes that are 500 calories or less. This may seem like a lot of calories, but when you look at the calories on most menus, this is more difficult to find than you’d think. Most meals can easily provide 800-1200 calories, and that’s just the entree, let alone the fries and the drink you have with it. So sticking with under 500 calories per meal can help limit that overstuffed and bloated feeling after eating out. 

SNACK…ALWAYS SNACK

Snack ahead of time; never go hangry. Imagine sitting in a restaurant, your stomach is yelling at you out of hunger, and you want to make a healthy choice, but all you see is juicy burgers and chicken fingers on the menu. You’re going to say “F’ it” and order the cheeseburger because you’re literally STARVING. Making decisions when you’re hangry can be very dangerous, so never let yourself get hangry or save your calories for the day before you go out to eat. Otherwise, you’ll regret it later, stuff yourself full, and won’t be hungry for the rest of the day. 

WATCH YOUR MIXERS 

Avoid drinking your calories; try seltzer water or tea. Take the surge in craft beers for example. Many craft beers (which are the tastier ones) are typically between 200-300 calories for one, and the likelihood you’re just having one is usually slim. So it’s better to stick with a hard liquor, use water, plain iced tea, or seltzer (calorie-free) as your mixer, and you typically don’t need as many. This will keep calories low and again prevent any serious stuffed feeling after your meal. 

GET PICKY 

Try soup and salad for a little bit of everything. I often get in the mood for something hot, but I want some crunch and veggies too. I’ll get a soup and salad or chili and salad which is very filling, the portions are automatically smaller than a full entree, and you’re getting the satisfaction from different textures when you eat. Sometimes it’s better to pick on different things, than order a healthier meal you’re not really craving. The more you try to avoid that craving, the more it will pick back at you. 

NON-NEGOTIABLES

Identify your non-negotiables. What I mean by this is what to you means you’re truly enjoying your meal. If you order something because you know it’s better for you, but all you can think about is that cheesesteak that you really want, you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied and still wanting more. You often will snack on other people’s food that you’re with just to get some satisfaction. Think about what you want and order a salad with that cheese steak instead of fries. Or put cheese steak on top of your salad and skip the bun altogether. Figure out clever ways to eat the foods you love, without going overboard with other unhealthy foods. You’ll feel better AND satisfied. 

TAKE YOUR FOOD HOME 

A cardinal rule that’s been around forever, but still rings true. It’s helpful to try and eat half of your meal and take the other half home rather than just stuff the rest in your belly, because “it doesn’t seem like that much.” Going back to the calorie amounts in foods, most meals are over 1,000 calories. So by splitting up your portions in two, you’re not only cutting calories but you’re also sticking to a smaller portion that will leave you feeling lighter after a meal. Another bonus; you get to eat and enjoy your meal twice over! I don’t know about you, but to me that’s winning. 

So next time you’re ordering or eating out, think about a few of these tips and try to implement them when necessary. Eating out doesn’t mean you have to leave feeling stuffed, tired and fluffy. It’s up to us what we put in our mouths, so do yourself a favor and leave the restaurant feeling empowered, in control, and satisfied! 

TODDLER TIPS: How to encourage your littles to try new foods and eat more balanced

Let’s face it, when you’re trying to feed your toddler, it can be very challenging to say the least. It changes on a daily basis, and they’ll do anything NOT to try something new. So in this blog, I’ll provide some tips to help encourage your littles to try some new foods, and provide some fun recipes that will excite them and get them involved in the kitchen. 

PUREES FOR DAYS

Purees are one of the easiest things to not only make ahead and freeze, but to hide in a large variety of foods. From cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, and carrots, you can puree literally any vegetable to throw in different foods. A great example of this is butternut squash mac and cheese. Reflecting back to my childhood, mac and cheese was one of my favorite foods. If my mom hid pureed butternut squash in there, I never would have known the difference. It’s the same color, and gives it a nice creamy texture. You can also use puree cauliflower as an “alfredo sauce” for veggies or noodles to give them a nice, creamy texture. The key is taking the time to make the purees and having them in your freezer at the ready. It can be simple, but what the littles don’t know won’t hurt them! 

MIX-INS

I suggest this not only with toddlers, but adults as well. Mixing healthier foods in with our regularly consumed foods can help add veggies without sacrificing taste. An example of this is adding cauliflower rice to regular rice. Again, it’s the same color and they have a similar texture, but you’re still eating rice. Meatloaf is another way to hide some veggies. Throw in a mirepoix mix (carrots, celery and onion) to your meat mixture but make sure to finely mince the veggies in a food processor so you can’t even see that they’re in there! Try throwing really finely chopped spinach into eggs, as it wilts perfectly with eggs and doesn’t change the taste. If they ask what the green is, make it a positive addition (green to help your muscles grow, keep your body strong and give you energy). 

FUN SHAPES 

Ants on a log, apple donuts, fruit kabobs, and heart-shaped sandwiches are all great ways to put foods into fun shapes to encourage our kids to eat or even try foods. The more fun a food is, the more they’ll be willing to try it. See the recipes at the end of this post for ideas, but getting creative is key. The more you respond positively, so will your toddlers. 

EATING THE RAINBOW

Often when I see kids in my office I always use the rainbow approach. Sit down and show your kids the colors of the rainbow, have them even do a coloring activity of the rainbow and see if they can name just one fruit or vegetable from each color. The more involved they are and learn from you, the more eager they’ll be to try different colors. They often want to try each color rather than the actual food, but it’s a start and gets them excited to try something new. When they come up with the idea of the food they want to try, they’re much more likely to try it as well. 

IMMERSION BLENDERS ARE LIFE 

When making a simple dinner like spaghetti and meatballs, there are a ton of ways to sneak in those veggies without the kids realizing. With your sauce, add as many vegetables as you can that won’t only enhance flavor, but will puree very easily with an immersion blender. Throwing celery, onion, carrot, butternut squash, even cauliflower in a red sauce and blending it up so you don’t even see it is a great way to hide those veggies but also boost fiber. With your meatballs, you can do the same thing, like the above mentioned “hiding them in foods” post. Remember, using seasonings are always helpful to keep the flavors alive as well. 

Immersion blenders are easy to clean, don’t take up too much space and keep dirty dishes minimized since you can blend it up right in the pot that the food is in. You can also add parsnips to mashed potatoes, butternut squash to sweet potatoes, or even cauliflower to an alfredo sauce. Use your imagination! 

TRY EVERYTHING MANY TIMES OVER

They key to truly seeing if we like or don’t like a food is to not only try it multiple times, but also try it in different ways. When I was a kid, I hated brussel sprouts and now they’re one of my favorite veggies. I discovered that getting the shredded version and roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper was the most delicious way to make them! I could eat them like that every night if I had to. My point is that it’s not always about the food itself, but the ways in which you cook it. Your little may not like broccoli cooked, but may love it raw with ranch, so try it in it’s different forms. 

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Always remember how your attitude is towards certain foods. Let’s say you hate spinach. If you constantly talk about how gross spinach is or how it’s something you just need to eat to be healthy, you’re not setting the best example for your little one. When they see you not having a positive attitude towards trying new things, they won’t either. The more fun, exciting, and new you make trying a new food, the more your toddler will want to play along too! 

NOW FOR SOME INSPO…

See below for some great recipes that you can make with your little ones and also some great ways to sneak more nutrition into foods as well! 

HONEY MUSTARD HUMMUS 

Honey Mustard Hummus Recipe

This is a hit with kids and if they like honey mustard flavored things, they’ll love this hummus. It takes about 5 minutes to throw together and pair with a side of carrots, celery, or pretzels. Check out the recipe here.

APPLE DONUTS 

This is such a fun snack to make with your kids!! It’s so simple and who doesn’t love sprinkles? Simply cut your apple in thin slices, cut out the core with the tip of a spoon, top with your favorite greek yogurt, sprinkles, and devour!! 

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP “NICE” CREAM 

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Frozen bananas whipped into a puree go a long way for a healthier sweet treat. Simply add chocolate chips, cinnamon, almond milk, and you can even try to add different extracts to change up the flavor. Get your kids to pick out the toppings and switch it up every time. Check out a great recipe here.

ICE POPS

Just like ice cream, popsicles are a great frozen treat in the summer. Skip out on all the high fructose corn syrup and get the kids to make their own! Another strategy to get them to try their own creations. The possibilities are endless, but check out a great recipe here and the ice pop molds on my favorite things list under “Kid Stuff” from amazon here

PALEO PANCAKES 

These pancakes are SO good and so versatile. Ingredients are simple and you can add things like frozen berries, chocolate chips, fruited greek yogurt, you name it!

  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Spray and heat pan over medium heat and pour mixture into pan. Flip when edges are firm and flip until golden brown. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy! 


Top 5 High-Calorie Culprits

We all have those moments where we eat great, nice and clean, step on the scale a day later and think “What? I didn’t lose anything?!”. Well, lucky for you, I’ve compiled a short list of things that could be tacking on more empty calories than you think. This is not to say that you can’t have these foods, but that you should just watch your portions on them and as always, talk to a dietitian for more help!

Salad dressings

I used to be the kid that ordered a salad without dressing, I was so grossed out by it. Knowing that now, I can’t believe this was something I’d do! I love dressing on my salad as much as the next person but it’s important to make a conscious decision to try and keep calories low without sacrificing taste. My favorite salad dressing is honey mustard, which for one serving (2 tbsp), it can add as much as 200 calories to my already 300-400 calorie salad! So what can I do to help keep calories low but still get that honey mustardy taste? I made my own dressing of course! Mixing plain greek yogurt with equal parts honey and mustard was my solution and it’s one that I love doing every week.  I get more protein, lower sugar, and can have more without it being even close to the same amount of calories.

So that covers honey mustard, but what about all those other dressing out there? Try and look for greek yogurt-based salad dressings in your local grocer. They are often lower in sugar and much lower in calories by almost half! If you really aren’t into making your own dressing or really don’t want to stray away from your go-to dressing, always always always be sure to check the nutrition label in the back for serving size. You’ll typically find that serving sizes of salad dressings are 2 tbsp. Stick with that serving size and no more! Otherwise you can add hundreds of calories to a healthy meal without even realizing it.

Condiments

Oh yes, the ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise we all know and love. While these are always staples at your BBQ parties or 4th of July parties, they’re something that we’re adding to already high-calorie foods (hot dogs, burgers, pasta salads). So, what are some alternatives? Try and find a low sugar or no sugar added ketchup. The tomato-based staple can contain lots of extra sugar we don’t really need, so check your label and be sure there’s no more than 5g of added sugar. With mayo you can use greek yogurt instead. Just like the salad dressing, it will increase protein and decrease fat dramatically.

As for mustard, it’s already a low-calorie condiment, but will be higher in sodium. Fun fact: during a Spartan race I did one year, I saw a group of guys consuming mustard packets all throughout the course to stay hydrated because of the sodium content in them; GROSS! Sorry, but I’d rather do something else to stay hydrated. Relish is another condiment that’s very low in calories but adds tons of flavor to foods, so eat up!

Alcohol

We all know alcohol is calories and no one wants to hear that they should cut back or limit the amount of drinks they’re used to having. It’s more important to be aware of the ways in which alcohol can increase calories so drastically. Yes, hard liquor has sugar in it, but it’s the mixers you need to watch out for. It’s always better to use a seltzer/club soda as your mixer than sprite, coke, or any other high-calorie soda or juice for that matter. One vodka-tonic drink gets you 215 calories per drink, where a vodka-seltzer drink will only be around 75-100 calories. Be very conscious of tonic water. Many people think that because it’s “water” it’s got to be better than soda; FALSE. Tonic water is LOADED with sugar and only increases the chances you’ll be feeling your head pounding the next day. Ever had a gin and tonic hangover? Need I say more?

Butter

Butter; another great staple in our diet that only adds to the taste and deliciousness of foods. I am the first to go in on a good helping of bread and butter or loading up some cinnamon raisin toast with butter. Even though I love it, doesn’t mean I don’t watch how much of it I put on my foods. 1 tablespoon of butter can offer up about 100 calories. Butter is also high in saturated fat which increases our risk of heart disease, and boosts triglyceride and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. So what to use instead of butter? Olive oil! I always put olive oil on my vegetables before I roast or steam them. It’s also better to spray pans with olive oil rather than a spray non-stick concoction. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which offers up wonderful health benefits. Being an Omega-3 fat, it will decrease your risk for heart disease and HDL (good cholesterol), but will also lower triglyceride levels and LDL.

Cream and Sugar

The two most common foods we throw into our coffee. When I first started drinking coffee, I would load it with vanilla creamer and all the sugar I wanted until it was sweet enough. I can’t even imagine what it would taste like to me now. Limiting the sugar and creamer you put in your coffee can dramatically decrease your simple sugar intake first thing in the morning. If you add 2 tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of creamer, you’re adding upwards of 10-15 grams of added sugar just in your cup of coffee! We’re only supposed to have a total of 26-34 grams in our ENTIRE day. So luckily for us there are plenty of great alternatives to make our coffee taste just as good. Try using coconut, oat milk, or almond milk creamer. Keep in mind, getting a flavored creamer can cut down on the need to add extra sugar. Also note that changing the flavor of your coffee takes some getting used to, so be patient and give it some time! It’s so important to limit added sugar intake to decrease risk of any co-morbidities.