Food Is Not Your Enemy


The Healthiest Eaters May Lack This Vitamin
November 29, 2016, 3:34 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Dairy, Eggs, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , , ,

I am not a big fan of taking vitamins. I don’t take any myself, and generally don’t recommend that my clients take them. I believe that eating a nutrient-dense diet of whole natural foods will provide you with everything you need.

But there are two important exceptions to this for me. If your doctor recommends you take a vitamin supplement because you’re deficient in some way, then of course you should do so. And if you’re a vegan, or a vegetarian who eats very little dairy and/or eggs, then vitamin B12 supplements are a MUST.

Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of red blood cells, nerve cells, and DNA, and is an energy metabolizer. It plays a big role in keeping the brain healthy. A lack of B12 in the diet can lead to weakness, fatigue, anemia, numbness or tingling in the limbs, and cognitive difficulties.

The problem for vegans and some vegetarians is that B12 is only found in animal-based foods–meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Plants do not make B12. So if you are a vegan or vegetarian who barely eats animal products, a B12 supplement is non-negotiable, or you will become malnourished and develop serious health issues.

Other people who might be at risk for B12 deficiency are those who have had weight-loss surgery, take heartburn drugs such as Nexium or Prevacid or H2 blockers like Pepcid (stomach acid is needed to absorb B12, and these drugs reduce acid), or suffer from such conditions as Celiac or Crohn’s disease. Some people over 50 may have an issue as well, as our bodies naturally produce less stomach acid as we age.

A daily multivitamin usually is sufficient for meeting our B12 needs, or you can take a B-complex pill or drops, or B12 alone. More severe deficiencies could mean a need for weekly B12 shots.

If you have any concerns about your B12 levels, ask your doctor to test you. Chronic low energy is the first warning sign that something might be amiss.



When the Number on the Scale Starts to Creep Up …

Inevitably, this seems to happen to all of us at one time of life or another. Maybe you haven’t weighed yourself in a while. And then you do. And the number is not what you expect. Wait, really? When and how did that happen?

I myself have remained in the same five-pound weight range for many years. But I am now in my mid-40s, and it’s clear that as I get older I cannot continue to eat the same way I did when I was 25. Looking down at the scale for the first time in months let me know that some changes were in order.

I didn’t feel any big changes were required. I just wanted to be sure to stop a potential upward creep, and maybe get down a few pounds back into my usual range (or at the top end of it, anyway). So here’s what worked:

-No seconds. I realized that I never really needed a second plate of food at dinner. I would often just take another helping because the food tasted good. I stopped this habit.

-A big lunch, then no snacks. I’m very hungry for lunch, and like having a big hearty meal mid-day. If the meal is filling enough, then I don’t need snacks and can comfortably make it until dinner. This is a good thing for me, because once I start snacking I often find it hard to stop.

-One or two fewer drinks. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for heart health. Unfortunately for women, drinking alcohol raises our risk of breast cancer. Once I read that fact, I decided I wanted to cut down my own alcohol consumption—which would have the added benefit of reducing my caloric intake for the week. So now instead of having two to three drinks when I’m out socializing, I’ll have one or two.

-Dark chocolate is dessert. Sugar is addictive, and the more of it you eat, the more of it you want. I feel much better keeping my sugar and calorie consumption lower by sticking with a few squares of dark chocolate as my only dessert. (Except for perhaps a weekly indulgence in something a bit more decadent.)

-More greens, less charcuterie. When out in restaurants, I now tend to order an appetizer that is vegetable based, like a salad of some kind. In the past I would more often pick charcuterie plates, or pate, or something cheesy.

-More fish, less pasta. And I now order pasta in restaurants less frequently, opting instead for fish when I can.

What small changes can you make to reverse the upward creep?



How Diet Can Affect Your Skin
September 27, 2016, 12:51 pm
Filed under: Dairy, Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: , ,

Millions of people, both teens and adults, suffer from acne. I myself did for much of my life—I remember at age 9 putting on mud masks to try to dry out my pimples, and by age 15 I was on Accutane, a prescription medication which we now know can cause liver damage and increase one’s risk for depression and suicide.

There can be a strong hormonal component to acne, but the food we eat can also have an effect—something dermatologists generally don’t mention. Inflammation is a big driver of skin eruptions. While many factors can contribute to inflammation, such as nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, and allergens, our processed, sugar-laden diet can be the number-one cause. Added sugars and all the foods that quickly convert to sugar in the body, like white bread, white pasta, and white rice, lead to an increased risk of breakouts.

Dairy can also be a trigger, thanks to the hormones found in such foods as milk, ice cream, and cheese. Dairy raises the levels of male sex hormones in the body, which can drive the development of pimples.

In addition to minimizing sugar and dairy, what will also help your skin is eating an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming more healthy omega-3 fats (fish and nuts/seeds) and fruits and vegetables, actively managing your stress (stress increases inflammation), getting enough sleep (lack of sleep also leads to inflammation), and exercising regularly.

Give these suggestions a try, and you just might be able to toss all the harsh face washes and ointments in the trash!



The Foods I Eat

As a holistic nutrition counselor, I’m often asked, by my clients as well as my friends and acquaintances, what I myself eat every day. Do I do Paleo? Do I start my day with oatmeal or Greek yogurt? Do I mostly eat fish and broccoli for dinner?

So I thought that I would put together a list of typical meals I might have during the week. Here goes …

Breakfast: A smoothie. The recipe template I use is here.

Lunch: I rely a lot on leftovers from dinner the previous night. If there are no leftovers, I will often make two fried eggs and have them on one piece of buttered dark German rye bread, with perhaps half an avocado on the side. Or I’ll do a can of sardines (I know—not a popular choice with most people!) with some buttered whole grain toast, or a turkey sandwich. I always also have fruit with my lunch, and maybe also some nuts, hummus with whole grain crackers, and/or a little cheese. This is often my biggest meal of the day.

Snacks: I choose not to snack, with rare exceptions. Once I start eating snacks, I find it hard to stop! I prefer to just eat a nice large lunch that keeps me full for 6-7 hours until dinnertime.

Dinner: I’m a big fan of variety when it comes to dinner, so I rotate between probably 40-45 different recipes. Some typical dinners might include a quarter of a roast chicken with half my plate full of leafy greens or other vegetables, turkey and bean chili with a side salad, whole wheat pasta made with any number of different sauces or vegetables, homemade soup with salad or whole grain baguette on the side, salmon with vegetables, shrimp and vegetable stir-fry (using brown rice), homemade tacos on soft corn tortillas, BLTs on whole wheat toast with side salad or vegetables, and pork ribs or pork shoulder made in the slow cooker, with vegetables and maybe also a whole grain like black rice or potato on the side.

Dessert: 85% dark chocolate, 1 or 2 rows broken off the bar. I have this a few times a week. Once a week I might have a more decadent dessert, often out at a restaurant. That can be anything from ice cream to crème brulee to pie.



Is There Any “Life” in Your Work/Life Balance?

Are you working longer and harder than ever? Do you struggle to get enough sleep? To find time to cook? To relax? To look away from your phone for more than 20 minutes at a time, because important work emails may come in, even on a Sunday?

If you’re answering, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes,” you may have also noticed that you’ve put on a few pounds over the past few years. Or that your anxiety levels have kicked up. Or that you’re always tired, no matter what. Or any other number of changes to your health.

Overwork and the deterioration of our health are closely related. Numerous studies have borne this out. And you likely know it on an intuitive level. But what can be done?

If your job is stressing you to the breaking point, you have two choices–find work you love or a way to love the work you have. If you dread going to work every day, and it’s been that way for a long time, think about whether this is really the job or career for you. Make a list of pros and cons about your job, and if the cons outweigh the pros, it may be time to either seek a similar job elsewhere, or think about what you really want to be doing with your life. Our time on this earth is short–do you really want to spend most of your time on it doing something that makes you unhappy?

If you’re not currently happy at your job but feel it truly isn’t possible to leave at the moment, then think about what steps you can take to improve your current situation. If your workload is killing you, speak with your supervisor and see what can be done to potentially lighten the load or get you support, and identify any time-wasters in your day and then eliminate them. Communication, planning, and smart time management can go a long way in helping you get through your day’s tasks. And it can really help to manage others’ expectations—if you’re routinely at work at 9 p.m., people will just come to expect that that’s what you do, and wouldn’t think twice about shooting you a work email at that hour. You may want to ask your boss—if he or she emails you over the weekend, are they hoping that you’ll deal with their request then and there? Some bosses don’t expect that—they just send the email over the weekend because they’re thinking about that particular issue and want to send the email while it’s fresh in their mind, expecting that you’ll get to it when back in the office on Monday.

With today’s seemingly endless work days, it’s more important than ever that we allow time for self-care, fun, and pleasure in our lives. If you have to schedule time for yourself into your calendar, then do it! Allow yourself time to browse your local greenmarket. Treat yourself to a massage. Sit at an outdoor café and linger over a cup of tea and the Sunday paper. Try out a new recipe you saw online. You get the idea. Whatever you choose, just know that these small steps to help you de-stress and care for yourself will make a big difference over time when it comes to your health—both mental and physical.



Food Everywhere You Turn
June 14, 2016, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

Why is it so hard to resist that platter of snacks at your work meeting? You just ate breakfast. But those little brownie bites and those potato chips are just so tempting…

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t say no. If you place food in front of most people, they tend to eat it. It’s just the way we’re wired.

The food-served-at-every-meeting scenario is one of the many ways we’re cued every day to eat. Or more accurately, to overeat. Everywhere we turn there’s food available or food being pushed in our faces. At the checkout line in the office supply store. At halftime at our kids’ soccer game. At the subway station (churros, anyone?) In the U.S., the message is loud and clear—it’s always time to eat.

To avoid getting sucked into the habit of grazing all day long when you’re out and about, before you pull into the drive-thru or wander into the mall food court because you smelled cinnamon rolls, stop and think–am I actually hungry right now? Or am I about to buy this food simply because it’s there? Would I have felt the need the get a snack right now if I hadn’t seen this concession stand?

This may sound simple, and you may wonder if it would actually make any difference, but awareness is the first step in making changes in your life, and can be very effective. Try it and see what happens.



Do You Suffer From “Portion Distortion”?
May 25, 2016, 8:54 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Restaurants, Water, weight loss | Tags: , ,

The more meals we eat outside of our homes, the more food we’re likely consuming. Why? Because restaurants give us huge servings of food—enough to feed a family of four sometimes. We get so used to these serving sizes that they start to feel normal. That’s when we hit peak “portion distortion,” where we’re only satisfied by eating overly large amounts of food.

The Perils of Supersizing

Eating too much food in one sitting is hard on your body. Here’s why:

  • Overdosing on too much food at one time causes pain, upset, and sluggish digestion.
  • A surge of glucose is released into your blood. Your pancreas has to work overtime, pumping insulin through the body to absorb all that extra glucose. This can make you feel spacy, weak, irritable, or headachy.
  • Thinking there is some type of emergency, your adrenal glands go into “fight or flight” mode and release adrenaline and cortisol, which is the body’s natural response to stress.
  • When your blood sugar levels finally plummet, you experience cravings for more food–specifically simple carbs or sweets.
  • Research has found that immune system function is affected for at least five hours after consuming large amounts of simple carbohydrates.

6 Tips to Kick Portion Distortion

  • Cook and eat at home more. We never serve ourselves the amount of food restaurants do.
  • Don’t over-order–go for salads, soups, and appetizers, which are typically more reasonably sized than entrees.
  • Choose high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains to keep you feeling full and energized.
  • Chew well to aid digestion and give your brain time to register you’re full before you overeat.
  • Get enough water. Often we mistake thirst for hunger.
  • Carry your own snacks so you’re not tempted to grab pizza or a candy bar when the 4 p.m. munchies hit you. Stock up on snack-sized containers and fill them with baby carrots, popcorn, or nuts.