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My Typical Breakfast

May 12th, 2011 No Comments

–By Nutritionista

Hey, MTMers! I’ve been in the midst of apartment hunting and moving, so things are crazy for Your Nutritionista.

I need a simple breakfast that will sustain me all morning long. Enter Peaches and Cream: full-fat Fage plain Greek yogurt and frozen peaches.

For best results, microwave the peaches until they’re just a bit warm. The yogurt will melt into them and be absolutely DELICIOUS.

Two Easy Midnight Snacks You Can Munch Guilt-Free

April 28th, 2011 No Comments

Whether you’re in the mood for savory or sweet, these midnight snacks will take care of your cravings!

First up: Spicy Pepper Poppers

To make the pepper, just de-seeded bell pepper, stuff it with baby spinach and pieces of Kerry Gold Dubliner cheese (you could use any cheese you have/like, but I like the sharpness of the Dubliner), and then microwavethe whole thing for about two minutes. After cooking, I added crushed red pepper (for the spice), salt, and pepper. The pepper got soft, but still had a little bit of crunch, and the cheese and spinach melted together.

Now for the sweeter side: Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Muffins

You’ll need (makes a dozen muffins):

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 3/4 C walnut pieces
  • 2 1/4 C almond flour
  • 1/2 C honey (you could also use maple syrup)
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 t cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg

Make it:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine all ingredients except walnuts in a large mixing bowl.
  • Mix well, then fold in walnuts.
  • Grease muffin tin well, and fill cups up 3/4 of the way.
  • Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

These are sweet, but not too sweet, and super filling because of the almond flour! Definitely a late-night snack that won’t weigh you down.

4 Rules for Creating a Satisfying Salad

March 31st, 2011 1 Comment

–By Nutritionista

Salad is the go-to lunch food for many office dwellers, but they also tend to find themselves starving and lethargic when 3pm rolls around. That’s because a lot of salads are just plain bad. Grilled chicken and low-fat dressing does not a satisfying salad make. Let me give you a few rules to creating a satisfying salad that won’t leave you hungry two hours later.

Salad Rule 1: Your salad needs to have at least one form of protein!

Salads without protein are just side dishes. Adding at least one form of protein will make sure your salad gives you sustaining energy, so make sure your salad contains something like:

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • tuna/salmon salad
  • cottage cheese
  • egg salad
  • shrimp
  • bacon
  • cheese
  • beans

Salad Rule 2: Your salad should have at least two forms of fat.

We know that unprocessed fat has a totally unwarranted bad reputation, but don’t forget that it’s also super satisfying. Add two of the following forms of fat to your salad for ultimate satisfaction:

  • olive oil (in a dressing)
  • avocado/guacamole
  • nuts (can count as fat or protein)
  • cheese (can count as fat or protein)
  • shaved coconut

Salad Rule 3: Avoid low-fat, processed dressings.

The best dressing is one you make yourself with olive oil, some form of vinegar, lemon, and whatever herbs and spices you like. I love homemade Greek dressing, and you can make one easily by mixing olive oil, spices like garlic powder, dried oregano, basil, pepper, salt, onion powder, Dijon-style mustard, and red wine vinegar.

Salad Rule 4: Avoid empty carb add-ons like croutons, sesame sticks, tortilla strips, etc.

These will do absolutely nothing to make your salad more satisfying, and they just add carbs and calories. You’re better off adding crunchy nuts of spicy guacamole if you want more texture/flavor.

The 5 Necessary Components of a “Good” Diet

March 24th, 2011 1 Comment

–By Nutritionista

Let me preface this post by explaining that when I use the word “diet” in the following paragraphs, I don’t mean the thing you go on to lose weight. I mean the way you eat in general.

I’m talking about these first two definitions of the word. I especially like “habitual nourishment” as a definition.

Anyway, I want to outline what I think are the 5 necessary components of good habitual nourishment. They’re purposefully a bit ambiguous, but that’s because I believe that everybody needs a slightly different combination (and amount) of foods to feel and look their best.

  1. Is it sustainable for you long-term? My motto is never do anything on a diet that you couldn’t do for the rest of your life. Because if you can’t do it for the rest of your life, you won’t do it for the rest of your life. And that could mean years of yo-yoing and frustration. Make sure that your diet is something you could maintain for the foreseeable future.
  2. Does it provide enough energy? You can’t live on a diet that has you feeling constantly sluggish, rundown, and lethargic. It’s just not sustainable (see #1!). Take care to make sure that you’re diet is one that gives you the fuel and energy you need to live the life you want to live, whether you’re running a marathon every other month or just lucky if you make it to the gym twice a week.
  3. Is it sustainable to the Earth? Sure, you could live on factory-farmed meat and produce flown in from Latin America, but the Earth sure can’t live on that. I recognize that you can’t necessarily accomplish this kind of diet overnight (I recently discussed the two “levels” of health!), but it’s something to be constantly striving for.
  4. Can you easily maintain a healthy weight? If the diet you eat doesn’t allow you to fairly easily maintain a weight at which you look and feel your best, it’s probably not the right diet for you. Sure, you can eat 1,000 calories per day and maintain a “healthy” weight, but it’s going to be a huge struggle. And that’s just NOT sustainable.
  5. Do you like what you’re eating? I certainly can’t ignore taste as one of the crucial components of a good diet! A diet that’s not delicious to you most of the time isn’t going to last. And it won’t be very pleasant. You might even get resentful after a while. So make sure you’re enjoying what you’re eating on the diet you choose.

So, does your diet (or “diet,” in the other sense of the word) live up to these criteria? Are there any others I missed?

My Road of Diet Distress to Nutritionista Happiness

March 17th, 2011 1 Comment

Mary Note:  It’s funny to realize that most of us have insisted on trying the quick fix diet methods before settling on well-balanced meals to maintain a lifestyle so we look and feel good.  In the back of our heads, we know that veggies are more nutritious than burgers, but the prospect of indulging without guilt is worth a shot.

Leah’s account here is a refreshing reminder that diets don’t work in keeping us skinny or happy.

“My Road of Diet Distress to Nutritionista Happiness”

–By Nutritionista

Since not all of you have “known” me for very long, I thought I’d post this Nutritionista History by way of introduction. It’s mostly to show you that I haven’t always had the same definition of “healthy.” I used to be addicted to diet foods. For a LONG time. So I wanted to reflect a bit for those of you who might be wondering why you’re not seeing the changes you’d want to see (after suffering through 100-calorie pack after 100-calorie pack!). Read my journey and see if it resonates with you at all! Have you been through any of these “phases”?

The Atkins phase

I tried this the summer before college in an attempt to lose a few pounds before embarking on a new phase of life. It worked. For two weeks. Two miserable weeks where I didn’t even eat one piece of fruit or sugar-free gum — I was terrified of the sugar-alcohols. I finally cracked when I had my wisdom teeth taken out. Being on Atkins meant the only non-solid food I could eat was chicken broth. Drugged out on Vicodin and stuck with broth, I was one unhappy camper. Sure, I lost some weight in those two weeks, but as my friends can attest, I was not that pleasant to be around.

Don’t get me wrong. I think some of Dr. Atkins’ originals principles are good ones: avoid sugar and white flour as much as possible. And that saying “everything in moderation”? Well, it’s not always the best philosophy for weight loss (yes, I know it does work for some). But cutting out a food group without focusing on the quality of the remaining groups doesn’t sit well with me. Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any amount of time knows I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan (though I can now say I’ve tried!). Thouigh I do eat meat/dairy, I make it a point to buy organic, grass-fed, hormone-free… you know the drill. One thing Atkins taught me? It’s possible to totally eliminate food cravings. I never wanted to see another egg or piece of cheese again after those two weeks on the diet! Now, of course, I eat them all the time.

The Special K Diet phase

This diet was even more short-lived than Atkins. I tried it the year after I graduated from college because I had definitely succumbed to the Freshman 15 (25?) and was desperate to take it off. I think I lasted two days. Who wants to eat unsatisfying protein bars and cereal all day? Ew. I despise everything about the Special K diet. I wouldn’t tell my worst enemy to eat it. The only reason it works is because you’re limited calories. But the calories you ARE eating are coming from overly processed, artificial-tasting craaaap. So gross. Like I’ve said before, if you limit calories, you can eat pretty much anything and lose weight.

The Weight Watchers phase

I did WW online off and on for several years. It worked, and it didn’t work. I figured it was just a more sophisticated way to count calories. But the thing is, it isn’t. Weight Watchers is a decidedly low-fat program. I have come to despise low-fat anything. Low-fat is often just another word for diet food, and I’ve realized that low fat = high hunger. And I just don’t believe that fat is the devil it’s been made out to be. Not at all. Even saturated. That’s where Atkins may have gotten it right.

I was constantly hungry on WW. When I was following it, I lost weight. But when I fell off the wagon and forgot to track points, I fell hard. I would recommend straight calorie counting over Weight Watchers, hands down.

My Food Diary/diet food phase

First of all, I should say that I still use MFD to track what I’m eating. But I DON’T pay any attention to its advice that 65% (or whatever) of my calories should come from carbs, 15% (or whatever) from fat, etc. It’s just a place for me to store data. There are certainly free places (FitDay, Daily Plate, etc.), but I got used to the MFD format and just stuck to it. Plus, at $8/month, it’s not exactly breaking the bank.

When I first started using MFD, it was a good thing. But then I got obsessed with seeing how few calories I could eat before, say, dinner. And this involved a LOT of diet food. 100-calorie packs. Crystal Light. Low-fat, processed veggie burgers. Diet soda after diet soda after diet soda. You get the picture. Even though MFD doesn’t have a low-fat bias, I did at the time. Plus, just like with Weight Watchers, when I fell off the wagon, I fell hard. I’m an all-or-nothing girl at times, so if those 5 slices of late-night pizza didn’t get tracked in MFD, neither did anything else.

Diet food did me no favors. I was hungry a lot. It wasn’t cheap. In retrospect, it didn’t even taste good.

Where I am now: Healthy and Happy

Whole, minimally processed, chemical-free foods, very little sugar/processed carbs

This picture of veggies is somewhat misleading. Eating minimally processed foods doesn’t just mean eating platefuls of veggies. It just means that the shorter the ingredient list, the better. And veggies naturally have no list. Neither does fruit, most fish/meat/seafood, beans, whole grains, some dairy, etc.

I’ve found I feel best and most easily lose or maintain my weight on a gluten-free, low-sugar diet otherwise full of whole foods. But I understand that’s not realistic for everyone (and I also suspect I have some level of gluten-intolerance).

I won’t deprive myself of something if I really want it, regardless of what it is. I remember when someone told me I live in a food “prison.” It’s funny because I actually think people who eat the SAD (Standard American Diet) are more imprisoned. We know the food industry knows what keeps us coming back: that addicting combo of sugar, salt, and processed fat. What we think we like is wrecking havoc on our health. We’re literally imprisoned by the way we’ve been conditioned to eat; what we’ve been conditioned to like.

But there’s good news: You can retrain your tastebuds to crave different foods. After not drinking diet soda for a full year, it tastes gross to me now. Gross! And I used to drink it almost every day. I hope that’s what kind of food revolution Jamie Oliver is talking about: Teaching the next generation to eat differently, and to appreciate the taste of things we didn’t or don’t. Just because the U.S. is known for CAFO-produced burgers, fries made in crappy vegetable oil, and buns made with high-fructose corn syrup doesn’t mean it always has to be this way.

Anyway, all this to say: I haven’t been eating this way for that long, but I already know it’s the best. Go ahead and experiment with different diets. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll always come back to the only one that works and the only one that can pass the test of time.

Reader Mail: How Can I Change My Lifestyle?

March 10th, 2011 1 Comment

–By Nutritionista

I got this email from a reader a while ago, and thought I’d share it along with my response to her! She writes:

I’ve always been a particularly unhealthy eater. My blessing and my curse is that this unhealthy way of life doesn’t really show up on me physically. But of course, I’m old enough to know better and I am starting to feel the effects of it – I am tired all of the time, I am lazy (hence my ordering a pizza instead of cooking a meal), I make up excuses for not getting food at the grocery store or exercising more. And worst of all, I have a history of heart disease and other ailments in my family. I need your advice on how to start living a healthier lifestyle. And let me tell you, its easier said than done to “just do it”, as everybody tells me – I need baby steps! I want to take care of my body starting at this relatively young age, I want to have energy, I want to exercise more!

This reader has the right idea when she asks for baby steps. That’s EXACTLY how she can gradually live a healthier lifestyle. I want to help her get going, so here are a few things she can start doing TODAY:

  • Focus on eating a nutritious breakfast. She shouldn’t try to overhaul her whole diet at once. If she focuses on changing just one meal at a time, it won’t feel so overwhelming. There’s even a diet based on this principle! Start with breakfast (and definitely eat it, I don’t care if you’re not hungry at first!). My PB&J oatmeal is nutritious, but tastes pretty decadent. You can make it with rolled oats, too, for a faster meal.
  • Start switching from fast food to REAL food, fast. I’ve posted several recipes that take around 10 minutes to prepare (you can’t tell me you can drive to a restaurant and pick up food much quicker than that!). If you have to start with packaged foods, that’s fine, just make sure they’re healthy. Stock up on frozen vegetables, whole grain instant couscous and brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and protein that doesn’t need cooking like tofu, pre-cooked chicken sausage, beans, white deli meat, etc. Then, gradually add foods that require more prep (See my post about Mix & Match eating.)
  • Plan to cook just two to three dinners a week. Ease into the rhythm of cooking dinner by planning just two or three meals a week to cook. Add the ingredients to your grocery list and then plan to cook when you have the most time and will feel the most relaxed. As you get more comfortable, you can increase the number of meals you plan to cook.
  • Add healthy frozen meals to your diet. They’re slightly more expensive than fast food, but totally worth it. I just wrote about Amy’s and other nutritious, yet delectable, frozen meals. There’s no reason why she can’t start replacing a lunchtime burger run with one of those right away.
  • To start, devote just 20 minutes a day to movement. That could be just walking around the block twice. Download a podcast you’ve been waiting to listen to and make yourself move while you listen. You can also just turn on some music and dance for 20 minutes (4-5 songs)! Make it a goal to move for 20 minutes straight to start out with.

Hopefully, these tips will get the reader started on the path to healthier eating and living. As she gets more comfortable, she can start cooking and exercising more, but for now, the goals she sets should be small and realistic.

Your Just Desserts

March 3rd, 2011 No Comments

–By Nutritionista

[Post originally published in May 2009.]

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I eat dessert pretty much every night. (MR note: Me too!) And I think you should, too! Follow the guidelines below to enjoy sweet treats in good conscience:

  • Be diligent about portions.

I advocate eating real dessert food, not a “diet” food substitute. If you want a frozen treat, don’t bother with the “no sugar added!” “zero fat!” stuff. Go for a smaller portion of the real thing. It will ultimately be more satisfying.  If you think you’ll have problems controlling the portion, don’t hesitate to portion stuff out as soon as you get it home from the store. Pictured above is my small (but satisfying) portion of coconut milk coconut ice cream (170 calories per half cup) with one or two tablespoons of dark chocolate chips (50 calories per tablespoon). As a general rule, desserts should fall in the 200-300 calorie range and take the place of any other snacks you would’ve eaten in that time period.

  • Redefine dessert.

Fruit is super sweet, it’s delicious, and in the right context (roasted, baked, poached, broiled, etc.), it tastes decadent. Why can’t it be dessert? Reevaluate what counts as dessert. If it’s sweet and satisfies your craving for a little palate cleanser after dinner, isn’t it dessert? Some of my favorite unconventional desserts are dried fruit with nuts or nut butterbaked apples or pears, a tiny piece of high quality dark chocolate, tea with a little soy milk creamer, etc.

  • Keep it real.

Don’t let dessert be an excuse to eat processed food. The other night, I wanted to spice up my coconut milk ice cream. Rather than add some HFCS-rich flavored syrup or candy, I topped the ice cream with sliced banana, walnuts, and a few dark chocolate chips. Instant Chunky Monkey and so delish! Still, all the ingredients were very close to their natural state and even offered some nutritional value. Following these guidelines means you never have to skip dessert again. It’s a shame there’s such a stigma attached to the concept of dessert because I think having something sweet is a great way to end a meal… and it definitely doesn’t have to be detrimental to your health OR weight loss goals!

MR Note: I totally agree with everything she said…but I occasionally love M&M’s…sometimes the whole bag.  On other occasions, just a few.  Don’t hold out, eat what you want and then you won’t crave it!

What I Buy at the Grocery Store

February 24th, 2011 3 Comments

— By Nutritionista

People always ask me what I buy when I go grocery shopping, so I thought I’d shed some light on what items always make my list!

Grocery shopping can be brutal: expensive, time-consuming, and confusing. But to me, it’s mostly just fun and relaxing. That’s because I usually buy the same things every time and don’t branch out into the dubious processed food-filled aisles.

My go-to grocery stores are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Arbor Farms (a local grocery store that carries the most amazing local, organic, and hormone-free meat!). I buy all my meat at Arbor Farms, but for the sake of this post, I’ll leave it out of the mix. Let me break it down by store for you!

What I buy at Trader Joe’s (mostly snacky stuff):

  • Roasted Seaweed Snacks
  • Just a Handful trail mix
  • big bags of nuts (any kind, usually unroasted and unsalted). Sometimes I’ll get the Chili-Lime mixed nuts (which is almonds, cashews, peanuts, and maybe one or two other types with Thai flavoring and big chunks of dried basil and chili pepper — amazing!).
  • Mini goat cheese and brie
  • Pre-cooked hard-boiled eggs (though last time I went, they were MIA).
  • Avocados — they’re a good deal at TJs.
  • Organic, grass-fed ground beef. It’s pretty cheap here, and as far as I know, it’s the only grass-fed meat they carry.
  • Coconut milk
  • Uncured, nitrite-free bacon. It’s cheaper here than most places.
  • pre-made mire poix. I love when they have this — it’s always SO handy!
  • specialty cheeses. If a recipe calls for gruyere, I’m buying it at TJs!

What I buy at Whole Foods (mostly high-quality staples):

  • Local, raw goat cheese. For some reason, WF is the only place I can find this where I live.
  • Cage-free, organic eggs.  You can also get these at TJs, but I think WF has better options.
  • Meat sticks. Not sure what their official name is, but you find these in the ready-to-cook meat area. You can buy them in beef, bison, or turkey, and they’re a great snack!
  • All my produce, which usually consists mostly of spinach and other leafy greens (love kale!), berries if they’re in season, and other necessities for recipes I’m making. Spaghetti squash has been on the list lately, too.
  • I would buy fish and meat here if they had more wild/local/grass-fed options. Usually, they have at least one grass-fed type of meat, but there’s not a whole lot of choice.
  • Coconut oil/cream/butter (depending on my mood).
  • Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes. I love their “fire roasted” varieties. Definitely a staple.
  • Any other obscure spices/fresh herbs/ingredients. WF has almost anything you’d need. At a price, of course.

Of course, any of this could change depending on what I’m making that week, but these are the things I seek out for the most part.

Click through to the comments to see Mary’s list and add your own. What are the staples on your grocery list, and where do you shop?