Browse these articles showcasing some of the food and nutrition-related subjects that I deal with day-to-day.
June 14, 2018
How to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling
School’s out for summer and some of the best weather of the year is upon us. Many people work tirelessly to diet, exercise and get bathing suit-ready and then, once they hit the road or simply relax in the neighborhood for the summer break, somehow all progress is lost. Think about it… how many people do you know that lose weight and keep it off all summer long? Perhaps too many lazy days at the beach or poolside, delicious cook-outs and trips to the ice cream parlor get the best of you. Perhaps it’s just a matter of being away from home that disturbs a normal eating/exercising routine. Let’s face it, road stops along the interstate highways are not generally known for their healthy food options.
Here are some pointers for keeping yourself healthy this summer – on vacation (away) OR staycation (at home).
- Better-for-you most of the time: Tell yourself that it’s ok to enjoy splurging – just not all of the time. Aim to select better-for-you choices two to three meals per day because in reality, there will be plenty of times when available options may not be the best and you’ll want to enjoy a treat.
- Meal choices matter: While Belgian waffles with whipped cream and a side of bacon sound delicious, you simply shouldn’t indulge in this kind of treat all the time if you’d like to manage your weight and your health while you’re out of your normal routine. And no, the sliced strawberries on top don’t make it a healthier choice. Instead, choose this once in a weeks’ time, opting instead for leaner options like protein-packed eggs with fruit and whole grain breads, or a satisfying bowl of oatmeal with dried nuts and fruit, on other days. Lunches that minimize white breads (think: less subs and more salads) will reserve calories for indulgent dinners and snacks that you won’t want to pass up. Dinners that include two servings of vegetables (think: one cooked and one raw) and limit heavy pastas or breads will help you manage calories, again, saving for the real splurges.
- Pack snacks: Be cautious not to fall victim to a huge appetite and a road-side pitstop or beach-side snack stand serving only high sugar, high saturated fat foods and drinks. Instead, pack healthful snacks and beverages that can tide you over when you’re on the road. When possible, carry a cooler and some small ice packs to keep fruit and vegetables fresh, grainy and fibrous crackers, nuts and seeds or trail mixes, from going stale. Plain or flavored waters and decaf herbal teas are excellent choices to stay hydrated while on the go.
- Commit to a bit of exercise every day: Within your travel schedule, you may include things like a bike ride or a hike, which is terrific! On non-workout days, prepare a list of simple exercises you can do to keep up some calorie burning, and stick to it. In fact, do it together with those you’re traveling with, whether friends or family. Make it a challenge for yourself and/or the group. Set reminders in your calendar if need be, but get it done. A sample set is below.
|Monday||5 push-ups10 squats
15 side-kicks (alt right and left)
|Repeat three times|
|Tuesday||5 jumping jacks10 front lunges (alt right and left)
15 second plank hold
|Repeat three times|
|Wednesday||5 burpees (push up, stand, jump, repeat)10 side lunges (alt right and left)
15 ab crunches
|Repeat three times|
|Thursday||5 twisting sit ups10 mountain climbers
15 sit ups
|Repeat three times|
|Friday||5 push-ups10 front leg lifts (alt right and left)
15 step-ups (alt right and left)
|Repeat three times|
|Saturday||5 tricep dips (lean on edge of the bed)10 globe jumps
15 second low plank hold
|Repeat three times|
|Sunday||Focus on stretching:Standing toe touch
Standing straddle (reach right and left)
Standing full body stretch
|Hold each for 10 seconds; repeat 3 times|
Recognize the effort you’ve already put in to get ready for summer, and how much work it would take to recoup those gains if you lose that control. Promise yourself you’ll try to stick with it and don’t let excuses stand in your way. Respect yourself enough to stay healthy — even when you’re on the go.
March 2, 2018
At-home exercise: Online content makes it simple to keep up when it’s hard to get out
Are you ready to put this winter behind you and move forward to spring? It would be nice to say that with the good weather coming in, you’ll surely be more apt to get outside for exercise and get yourself out to the gym more. But in reality, having workout options at home is a lot more practical.
With access to the internet at your fingertips, you can dial-up all sorts of free active content that used to be reserved for the gym or outdoor workouts. Looking around you, perhaps you have at least one modern convenience that can open up new options for indoor activities and give you the perfect way to avoid skipping a workout. Do you have one or more of the following in your home?
- Smart phone
- Smart TV
- Online gaming system
If you’ve never had the reason or initiative to explore online, try typing in some of these key search terms into your browser’s search engine and see the multitude of images, print materials and videos with full on-demand access, that you can use anytime that you have the time.
Key Search Terms + Modifiers
Examples of Workouts by Type:
- Dance fitness
- Balance exercises
Examples of Workouts by Age Group:
Examples of Workouts by Level of Difficulty:
Apps and common social media platforms are also a great place to begin your search. You’d probably be surprised to see how many free and subscription-based trainers are now posting online content, which you can stream through any of the devices listed above. Some key terms to search might include: public access workouts, fitness, exercise and trainers.
Maybe you’ll find a trainer that you connect with – and with regularly refreshed content and often times, prompts and reminders — this really beats digging out dusty VHS tapes and DVDs you might have sitting in your media cabinet.
Don’t hesitate to ask a family member to help, if you could use that support. Best of luck, and let us know if you find something you love.
It is known that the brain relies upon good blood flow to function properly. Is it within your power to support this blood flow and help preserve brain function? Yes, it is. See these updates on specific nutrition pointers that have been shown to support the health of our critical blood flow, and the health of the brain.
Healthful Fats Shown to Help
Did you know that fats are a critical component of every cell and have many important functions within the body? Fat also makes up 60 percent of the brain! You actually cannot live without it — but science now illustrates that choosing the right type of fat is what matters most. Make sure your diet includes polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) and monounsaturated fats (omega-7, 9). Polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids are also important, but research shows most people obtain enough from the average diet, and more than this may instead be linked with negative effects, such as inflammation.
|Fatty Acids||Scientific Names||Sources|
|Omega-3||eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)||oily fish including salmon, mackerel, Atlantic herring, albacore tuna, lake trout, sardines,dietary supplements, some fortified foods|
|alpha linolenic acid (ALA)||Canola oil, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts,dietary supplements|
|Omega-6||conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)||Dairy foods, some meat|
|linoleic acid (LA)||Meat, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil; processed foods made with these oils|
|Omega-7, Omega-9||Oleic acidPalmitoleic acid||Avocado, canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil|
The Mediterranean area of the world is home to a wide variety of cultures and ways of eating. However, the people in this region of the world do share dietary patterns that are associated with lower death rates, fewer chronic diseases and may promote healthy aging.
Key elements of this eating pattern:
- Colorful plant-based fruit and vegetables
- Grain products, mostly whole grains
- Beans, peas, lentils
- Fish and shellfish
- Lean protein
- Yogurt (and fermented dairy products), cheese
- Healthful mono- and poly-unsaturated oils like olive, canola
- Nuts and dried fruits
- Herbs and seasonings
- Less sugar, saturated fat, salt
Make adjustments to your diet to include more of these healthful elements, and seek out dietary supplements to help fill in the gaps. Give it a thought, and take action for better brain health.
Duyff RL. 2017. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 5th Ed. New York, NY. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Nutrition in the Rainbow
It has been said time and again that the foods we choose should naturally represent the colors of the rainbow. For fruits and vegetables, more color means greater the potential antioxidant inclusion, and in most cases, more nutritional power. Then it follows, that eating more of these colorful foods can help maximize the health benefits gleaned from the foods you choose.
Natural plant nutrition compounds – also known as phytonutrients – vary by their color and it is important to keep variety in your diet to ensure each of these colors is represented.
- Red – The most common nutrient related to the natural color red is lycopene. Present in tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon and papaya, lycopene has long been associated with health benefits including men’s health and heart health.
- Orange + Yellow – Seen everywhere at this time of year in pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes, the orange and yellow color of foods comes from alpha- and beta-carotene, compounds that help keep eyes healthy and the immune system in check.
- Green – Finding the plant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin is easy in green-colored foods, including spinach, kale and collards. Also related to the health of our eyes, an abundance of research links these nutrients to a decreased risk for cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Blue – Blueberries are known for their high antioxidant content – anthocyanin, in particular – and have been linked with our defense against various poor-lifestyle-related diseases.
- Violet – Flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins, are unique elements common to berries, red wine grapes and grape juice and lend their naturally colored blue and purple hues. Their antioxidant properties are related to several health benefits, including heart health.
Brightly colored summer fruit is a prime opportunity to take in the colorful goodness that nature provides for us. Nutrition-conscious people eat-up the widely-available, local farmer’s market-fresh berries, greens, peppers, and lettuces through the warmer months while they last. We can shift to colorful root vegetables and leafy greens in the fall, and seek out new delicious and comforting recipes that help keep up with the change in weather. Winter brings us the best orange, green, pink and yellow citrus fruit, cruciferous cabbages and Brussels sprouts; and in spring time we love leafy Swiss chard and rhubarb.
Remember that sourcing frozen and canned fruits and vegetables is always a great option, as frozen produce is most always flash-frozen to capture the best it had to offer on the day it was harvested.
Foods and nutrients may be good for your health, but they only qualify as “nutritious” if the body can access all they have to offer. Try getting a child to eat their broccoli and you may understand the point.
Absorption: Nutritional Access
Getting nutrients into the bloodstream means the body can use them for all life-sustaining bodily functions. But how do they get into the bloodstream? Optimally, pre-digested foods and fluids would enter intravenously, direct into the bloodstream for complete absorption. This is unlikely for most, however, and although we get some interaction through the surface of our skin, our primary access point is through the mouth, where the process of digestion begins. As breakdown starts, foods and fluids mash, mix and move, and absorption of valuable elements occurs throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
Absorption: Not a Perfect System
It would be ideal if 100% of what we provide to the body was available for absorption – 100% bioavailability — though for many reasons the processes of digestion and absorption just do not work with perfect efficiency. For example, foods that have very high fiber content, very high fat content, or those eaten within a large meal may simply have too many interfering factors to absorb everything as it passes through. Sometimes we simply take more than the body needs, whereby the excess is simply excreted. Certain combinations of foods, juices and medications have also been shown to adversely affect the absorption of certain nutrients. Additionally, specific chemical reactions and substances (i.e., catalysts and precursors) are sometimes necessary for nutrients to cross tissue barriers and break them down into usable forms. Without the right conditions, some foods, vitamins and minerals will just pass through the digestive tract with poor bioavailability, unabsorbed.
How to Optimize Bioavailability
There are certain factors that can assist in getting the most out of what you take in.
- Cooking, chopping and blending can soften fibers and release nutrients; cooking with oil may further bring out nutrients (e.g., cooked carrots, tomatoes stewed with olive oil)
- Stimulating breakdown in the mouth by chewing can help maximize absorptive opportunities
- Pairing certain foods and beverages, minerals and macronutrients can also support optimal absorption (e.g., protein with iron, vitamin D with fat)
- Pairing certain micronutrients together may help as well (e.g., iron with vitamin C)
- Avoid food and nutrient interactions that are known to compete for absorbency, which would reduce the possibility of getting all you need (e.g., calcium and other micronutrients)
- Do your research on vitamin mineral supplements that come in more bioavailable forms; some naturally have this feature (e.g., krill oil is more dissolvable than fish oil), while some contain special ingredients to enhance absorption
Particularly for those needing to correct a noted deficiency, keep these things in mind to maximize what you’re obtaining from your daily food and beverage intake.
August 4, 2016
Farmer’s Markets: A Nutrition Resource Beyond Produce
We just love that farmer’s markets are on-trend these days, because they give us easy access to some of the freshest seasonal produce available and a tremendous nutritional resource. So many towns – both large and small – across the country now host them with regularity outdoors through the warm weather months, and bring them indoors through the cold stretches, too.
Aside from produce, however, market goers know that you can find a host of other fun items, as well (think: homemade candles, fresh baked goods and handmade jewelry). But did you know that they can also be a central resource for nutritional value – beyond the obvious fruits and vegetables, that is? Here are a few of the highlights we seek out:
Agriculture – Supporting local farmers and food distributors means access to food that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get you, which means both a fresher product and less toll on the environment. Look for flash frozen fresh berries – which can capture their most potent nutritional value; local honey – which has been reported to support seasonal allergies; jams and jellies – which often help people enjoy a wide variety of powerfully nutritious fruits including elderberries, apricots, quince, rhubarb, and more.
Aquaculture – Waterfront towns often have vendors selling fresh fish and shellfish and what a treat to get them fresh from that morning’s catch. We’ve seen fresh trout, salmon, bluefish, fluke, flounder, lobster, clams, mussels, and more. What a great resource for lean protein and a rich supply of healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Health and Wellness Offerings – At a community gathering place like a farmer’s market, the local town’s social and cultural organizers might post residential health and wellness opportunities. If you don’t see any postings, be sure to ask around about things that keep both your mind and body moving such as yoga, dance classes, walking/running/biking groups, motivational speakers, social gatherings, library-sponsored book club meetings, and more.
Local Business – Health professionals looking to increase local awareness of their shops or services may also take a table at the marketplace. Consider having a conversation with a nutritionist, fitness center representative, massage therapist, life coach, etc. You may just walk away with new plans to improve your lifestyle and the inspiration you needed to better yourself.
Vitamin and Supplement Distributors – Often times, the local nutrition center will prepare a display with their latest nutritional offerings, best-selling products, and new item introductions. Ask them about what might be right for you. Perhaps your diet could use a daily multivitamin or dietary supplement.
Now it’s your turn to go look for local Farmer’s Market listings and see what great things you can find.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest and easiest diets to follow. With its focus on plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, it’s no surprise that it’s healthy for your heart, your waistline and your brain.
In fact, a recent study published in the journal Neurology indicated that adhering to the Mediterranean diet, including eating more fish and less meat, benefited the structure of the brain, while another study indicated that the Mediterranean diet enhanced with extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts appears to improve cognition compared with a low-fat diet.
Changing your eating habits isn’t always easy but the Mediterranean diet is one of the simplest to follow. It isn’t restrictive and offers a variety of delicious options.
The following are some of the main foods of this diet that you should include in your daily routine for their health benefits.
Vegetables and fruits
You already know that plenty of fruits and vegetables are part of any healthy diet and the Mediterranean diet is no exception. In fact, some experts recommend getting up to 9 servings a day, emphasizing more on vegetables than fruits. Nevertheless, both are low in calories, have tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and are filled with fiber to help you feel satisfied.
What to choose: Focus on leafy green vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale and spinach, but be sure to also include all colors of the rainbow. Aim for two servings at every meal and include vegetables with your snacks. Blend a green smoothie for breakfast, fill your salad with extra veggies, or pair slices of peppers with hummus for a healthy and delicious snack.
Fish and seafood contain omega 3-fatty acids, including EPA and DHA. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy, may help with inflammation, support brain health, and may even ward off the blues.
What to choose: Aim for at least two servings of fish a week. Fish higher in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, mackerel, lake trout and herring. Some fish, such as tuna, may contain high levels of mercury and contaminants, so stick with canned chunk light if possible or eat canned salmon instead. If you’re not a regular consumer of fish, consult your healthcare practitioner about taking an omega-3 supplement such as krill oil to get these important fatty acids in your diet.
Beans and legumes are good for your blood sugar, blood pressure and are heart healthy. They’re also low in fat, an excellent source of iron, folate, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. Since they contain protein and fiber, they contribute to keeping you feel fuller longer.
What to choose: Beans are versatile in any meal and as a source of protein can easily replace meat in many dishes. Serve a crudité with black bean dip, make lentil soup or add peas to a grain dish. If you have a hard time digesting these foods, don’t worry, there’s a solution! Taking digestive enzymes right before your first bite will help break down the complex carbohydrates that can be responsible of the discomfort.
Fiber-containing grains, especially whole grains, are healthy for your heart, blood sugar, and blood pressure and they can help you maintain a healthy weight. Plus, whole grains contain a variety of nutrients, filling fiber and some even contain protein.
What to choose: Include a serving of whole grains at every meal. Try quinoa oatmeal, add barley to a vegetable soup or swap your regular wrap for a whole-grain sandwich.
Unlike saturated fat present in butter, the monounsaturated fat in olive oil is heart-healthy, as it helps supports healthy cholesterol levels, and it also is a good source of vitamin E, an important antioxidant.
What to choose: The highest quality of olive oil is extra virgin because it is produced without any solvents and under temperatures that do not degrade it. Extra virgin olive oil offers a more pronounced flavor of fresh olive. It’s a good idea to include olive oil in your meals by using it to roast a batch of root vegetables or to cook your fish. It can also be used with an oil mister to spray on your salad or cooking pan.
Nuts and seeds
Like olive oil, nuts and seeds are good sources of monounsaturated fat. Nuts and seeds also contain magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6 and fiber, which can help ward off hunger. Some nuts and seeds, including walnuts, ground flaxseeds and chia seeds, also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
What to choose: Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses but if you’re prone to mindless munching, the calories can add up fast. One serving is 2 tablespoons and should fit in the palm of your hand. You can sprinkle chia seeds into a smoothie or mix them in yogurt, have a handful of almonds as a snack or add sunflower seeds to a salad.
The jury is still out but studies suggest that wine in moderation may be good for your cholesterol and your heart, reportedly due to resveratrol, which is a polyphenol in grape skin and a type of antioxidant.
What to choose: Wine is optional in the Mediterranean diet but if you do include it, do so in moderation. Keep it to one 4-ounce glass of wine with dinner; two on special occasions.
The Mediterranean diet also features eggs, cheese, yogurt, red meat and sweets but they are all to be consumed in moderation to keep things balanced.
Lastly, make sure to add plenty of fresh herbs and spices to your meals, try new recipes, enjoy your glass of wine and even a piece of dark chocolate once in a while! Your overall body and heart will thank you!
 Gu Y, Brickman AM, Stern Y, Habeck CG, Razlighi QR, Luchsinger JA, Manly JJ, Schupf N, Mayeux R, Scarmeas N. Mediterranean diet and brain structure in a multiethnic elderly cohort. Neurology2015 Nov 17; 85(20):1744-51. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002121. Epub 2015 Oct 21
 Martínez-Lapiscina EH, Clavero P, Toledo E, Estruch R, Salas-Salvadó J, San Julián B, Sanchez-Tainta A, Ros E, Valls-Pedret C, Martinez-Gonzalez MÁ. Mediterranean diet improves cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomised trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013 Dec;84(12):1318-25. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2012-304792.
 American College of Cardiology. Legumes Improve Blood Sugar Control and Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetics. October 26, 2012. Accessible at:https://www.cardiosmart.org/News-and-Events/2012/10/Legumes-improve-blood-sugar-control-and-reduce-cardiovascular-risk-in-diabetics