Explore DC with your Other Senses: A guide to activities in DC without Eating or Drinking

Lately many clients have expressed that while they love socializing, it is hard to find activities in the DC area that aren't centered around food and alcohol. DC is a very social city, which is a lot of fun but can be challenging for those who are trying to reach their health goals!

It is important to work on managing food intake at the amazing restaurants in the area, but even better to get in a variety of activities with friends and family. This is helpful not only with food consumption but stress management and exercise goals as well. I recently surveyed clients and friends for activities in the DC area that they enjoy outside of dining and many wonderful ideas were generated. Here they are! 

Explore Nearby Towns

                                                                                                                                   Harper's Ferry, WV  (photo by william fox)

                                                                                                                                 Harper's Ferry, WV (photo by william fox)

Bike to and walk around Old Town, Alexandria

Visit and walk around Annapolis, Maryland

Visit Leesburg town and Outlets

Visit (and hike around) Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Hike DC!

                                                                Great Falls National Park

                                                              Great Falls National Park

                                                                             Jefferson Memorial at the National Mall

                                                                            Jefferson Memorial at the National Mall

                         Pure Prana yoga studio  in old town, alexandria

                       Pure Prana yoga studio in old town, alexandria

305 Dance Class with friends

Workout class with friends

Cut Seven

Jiu Jitsu

Pulse Inferno

Horseback Riding

Running

Yoga

Stand Up Paddleboarding in DC  & VA

Indoor Fun

                                                      King street coffee  in leesburg, VA

                                                    King street coffee in leesburg, VA

General Activities

Rock Climbing

Read a book at a coffee shop

See a movie

Spa Day

Public Talks

DC-Area Related

Story District - every second Tuesday of the Month

Meditation class: with Tara Brach, in Arlington, in Ashburn

See a show at DC Improv

Daybreaker

Visit ARTECHOUSE

African American Museum

Pottery Making at Hinckley Pottery

Union Market

See a play: Kennedy Center, Ford's Theater, Studio Theatre

Stay at Home

                               Plants from  leesburg farmers market  and  Catoctin Gardens

                              Plants from leesburg farmers market and Catoctin Gardens

Potluck Dinner with Friends

Game Night

Gardening

Arts & Crafts

Fun with Animals

                                                                                                             FOHA

                                                                                                            FOHA

                      Volunteer with animals: Lucky Dog Rescue, Washington Animal Rescue League, Friends of Homeless Animals

Spend time with other Dog Owners with

 

Any other ideas that you enjoy? Feel free to send them my way! 

 

 

How to Make Long-Lasting New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again! The time of New Year's resolutions and creating health goals for yourself to have your best year yet. While many of these resolutions are well-intended, you may find yourself in the cycle of: create goals --> stay on track for a few weeks  --> get sidetracked/frustrated/disappointed --> lose motivation and fall off the wagon. 

I learned a long time ago from my own experiences and those I learned in school and work that resolutions won't work if you don't have the necessary tools and expectations to make yourself successful. While we may think that it's all about willpower and determination, it is SO much more. Similarly to what I discuss in nutrition sessions, behavior change is complex and requires exploring your lifestyle, environment, stressors, knowledge, support systems, mindset, thought process and much much more. Behavior change takes time and our culture often forgets to mention these things. For New Year's resolutions that will last, here are a few of my go-to tips:

Washington - DC - Ashburn - Nutritionist

1. Be patient and forget the quick-results mentality. Our health culture is all about quick changes and overnight success, which almost always leads to failure. The diet industry has a 5% success rate and there is a reason for that! Making changes that will last takes time -- sometimes months to years. It's important to take this time to explore and learn about yourself and be compassionate with the time it will take to make this habit change. If you have been doing something for a few decades of your life, it will take more than a few days or months to reverse it. Give yourself time and enjoy the journey. Also, diets or cutting out food groups don't work. Remember that :) 

2. Be realistic. It is great to have goals to reach for, but what is actually doable for you? Where are you right now in your life and what types of changes are achievable? If you set unrealistic goals for yourself you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Start small and build up gradually, one day, week or month at a time. For example, if you are looking to make healthier choices, rather than cut out sugar completely, try to focus on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 3 servings per day, building up to 4 and then 5. You will be much more successful this way. 

Washington - DC - Ashburn - Nutritionist

3. Have a support system. Behavior change can be hard, so having a support system in place to help you reach your health goals can make a huge difference. This could be in the form of supportive family members and friends, a professional, group activities or meetings, online forums, etc. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone about your progress and goals, having support through a journal can even be helpful. Staying accountable and finding like-minded individuals can make a huge difference.

4. Stay positive. It is especially easy to get down on ourselves in today's culture when we see so much 'success' and 'perfection' in social media and around us. Remember that these are only snapshots and that everyone has struggles. Stay true to yourself and if something doesn't go as planned, learn from the experience rather than judging it. Nobody is perfect -- it would be a boring world if there were no flaws. Love yourself and see where that mindset takes you instead.

5. Manage your stress. Often times, bad habits result as a response to stress. Over drinking, overeating, under-eating, overexercising - these are often a symptom of underlying stress. It is important to find other ways to manage any emotions or stressors in your life whether it's finding a hobby, getting out in nature, exercise, practicing self-care or talking it out. 

There is a lot that goes into behavior change and it is important to go into it with a new approach this year. Start small, be realistic, surround yourself with positive people and vibes and set out on a new path! If you need support or accountability, I am here for you as are many other professionals in your area. Have a great and healthy New Year!

 

Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for the perfect gift for this holiday season? Below are my go-to recommendations for the health-conscious, health-curious or those who may be looking for a boost in the New Year. 

These products have either been personally tested by myself or highly recommended by clients. Happy shopping!

Cookbooks with healthy, tasty recipes

Books for health & self care

Gratitude + Organization

Bars

Sleep

Favorite kitchen gadgets

Workout Clothes

Health Retreats

Anything you recommend purchasing this holiday season? Comment below or contact me and let me know!

Intuitive Eating Part IV | Washington, DC Dietitian

Missed the first 3 posts in this series? Check them out!:

Intuitive Eating Part I, Intuitive Eating Part II, Intuitive Eating Part III

Principle IV: Challenging the Food Police

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

In the world of dieting, it is easy to develop negative thoughts that can work against us. These thoughts can come from diet books, magazines, television commercials, social media and more. Food thoughts and judgments run widespread through our minds, but how often do we take a moment to focus on them and notice what we are saying to ourselves? These thoughts are not born with us. Instead, we hear them as we grow up, take them in, and sometimes establish them as set rules, some negative and some positive.

When thinking about these voices, a few questions come to mind:

Where do these voices come from? What in our past or present has made us think this way?

What is the tone of the message? Critical, shaming, harsh, makes you feel guilty? Or open, curious, helpful?

What information is the food police sharing? Is it reliable? Is it something that directly affects you?

What are the affects of this information? How does it alter my thoughts and actions? 

Even when these thoughts are evaluated, they stick in the consciousness of the people who think them. We have found that in this world of dieting and eating, specific voices will pop up from time to time, ultimately influencing how we feel and how we behave.

A few of these voices can be classified. By reading the descriptions you can see which are helpful to you and which are not:

Food Police

This voice causes guilt and is full of judgment. It keeps the eater in the dieting world, and out of touch with inner cues of eating.

Nutrition Informant

The Nutrition Informant uses nutrition as a driving force to keep you dieting.

Diet Rebel

As you rebel against dieting this voice usually results in overeating and self-sabotage.

Food Anthropologist

The Food Anthropologist is a neutral observer that can give you a distant perspective into your eating world. This voice is nonjudgmental and keeps you in touch with your inner psychological and biological signals.

Nurturer

The Nurturer helps to disarm the verbal attacks from the Food Police. This voice helps you get you through the tough times and is nowhere near harmful.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Negative Self-Talk (And How to Change It)

When thoughts about eating are irrational or distorted, the negative feelings we develop escalate more and more rapidly. As a result, eating behavior can end up consequential and destructive. Therefore, we need to replace the irrational thinking with rational thoughts. This allows us to control our feelings and later, our behavior.

To get rid of distorted diet thoughts, you first need to identify the irrational thinking that is going through your mind. Ask yourself:

-Am I having repetitive and intense feelings about food and my body?

-What am I thinking that’s leading me to feel this way?

-What is true or correct about this belief (if anything)? What is false? Remember that just because you think something it doesn't necessarily mean it's true. Think of a more positive thing to say to retaliate against any negative voices. 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist


Go for the Gray. Gray may seem to be a dull color, while black and white are dramatic extremes. In the world of eating, however, going for the gray can give you an array of choices. Give up the notion that you must eat in an all-or-nothing fashion. Allow yourself to eat the foods that were always restricted, while checking your thoughts to be sure that they support your choices.

Self-Awareness: The Ultimate Weapon Against the Food Police. The next time you see yourself eating in a way that feels unsatisfying or out of control, give yourself the gift of remembering what you were thinking before you even took the first bite of food. Examine that thought and challenge it. As you get more proficient at the Intuitive Eating process, you’ll be able to catch these thoughts before they make you feel bad or cause undesirable behavior.

Become self-aware. Listen for the different voices that can either serve as your support or saboteur. Discard the layers of negative voices and create an opportunity to form a healthy relationship with food.

For more information about Intuitive Eating and ending the dieting cycle, contact me to set up an appointment!

Read more at: http://intuitiveeatingcommunity.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps to a Successful Lunch | Washington, DC Dietitian

It’s almost time to leave for work, and making a lunch to take with you just does not cross your mind. This happens to so many of the clients and friends that I talk to. They want to eat healthy, but time and other commitments can get in the way. My number one rule for healthy eating in general is planning ahead, whether its having snacks on hand, having some meal options for the week and preparing lunches ahead of time, especially when we are experiencing those rushed mornings. Here are some helpful tips to build a healthy lunch to-go! 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

 

Prepare Whole Grains a Day or Two Before. To help make lunch prep easier, trying buying whole grains from the market, such as brown rice or quinoa, and cook a good amount ahead of time. A lot of these whole grains only take a few minutes to cook, and can easily be made as you’re finishing up with dinner or a late night snack the night before. To spice your grains up a bit, you can quickly sauté a variety of vegetables or other legumes and add it to the mix.

Pre-Cut Your Vegetables. To help speed up the sautéing process, you can pre-cut your vegetables and store them in the freezer or refrigerator for easy access during meal prep. Many grocery stores sell vegetables already cut, which makes it even easier for storing! Chop up bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and celery and reserve for sautéing or cut some cucumbers, green beans, spring peas and carrots to use for salads. It is best to store these items in either air-tight containers or freezer bags.

Don’t Forget Your Proteins. Have your favorite proteins on hand and ready to be added to any grain bowl or salad. This can include sliced deli turkey, pre-cooked chicken or fish, or hard boiled eggs. If you prefer not to eat an animal protein, try out tofu or beans! These are loaded in protein and are perfect to give you that energy boost at lunchtime. They are also super fast to cook.

Or Your Spices! Forgo the salt, and add in a nice variety of spices! Spices have been known to have many health benefits, especially helping with balancing the digestive system. Turmeric, cumin and red pepper have anti-inflammatory effects while garlic contains protective phytochemicals that can fight bad bacteria in your body. Spices can easily be added to your salad dressings or sautéed veggies to take a regular meal to the next level!

Have Simple Toppings Available. Sometimes simple ingredients can take your meal up a notch. Some options to have on hand include avocado, hummus, seeds/nuts, low fat cheese, Greek yogurt, to light dressings. These can be added to sandwiches, salads, chilis and more. Greek yogurt is great as a mayo substitute and feta or cheddar cheese can be added to pretty much anything!

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

So now that you know what to prep ahead of time, what can you bring to work? Some of my favorite options include sandwiches loaded with veggies, soups and stews, salads with the works and rice or quinoa bowls. Think of some of your favorite meals that you eat out and try to recreate them, and use the plate method to guide your nutrient intake. You'd be surprised at what you can do! 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

You can get as creative as you want with these meals. There is no wrong or right combination of ingredients. Choose the ones you like best and start experimenting. Happy eating!

Intuitive Eating Part III | Washington, DC Dietitian

Mindful Eating Day – January 26th, 2017

MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR FOOD

If you tell yourself that you can not or should not have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation. These feelings can build up and can lead to greater problems, such as having uncontrollable cravings and often, bingeing. When you are able to give in to the foods you are forbidding yourself to eat, it will usually end with overeating and an overcoming feeling of guilt.

Cravings can drive us crazy. As soon as we’re restricted from any kind of substance, all we can think about is that particular thing. And not only do we want that thing, but we want ALL of that thing. The food is now seen as more special than it has before and we begin to think that this will be the last time we will ever be able to bite a piece of it again. We crave large quantities and a small piece will not suffice. Our minds become fixated on wanting to consume it so badly that we neglect to ignore our other internal needs.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist


So, how are we able to get rid of the pattern of restraint and succeeding overeating? The key is to give yourself total, unrestricted permission to eat. This means that you erase any ideas that certain foods are “good” and others “bad”. You begin to eat what you really want and eat without any self-punishment. When you truly free your food choices, you eliminate the pressure to overeat.

The most effective way to instill this belief is to start consuming the foods you currently are restraining yourself from eating! And before you proceed with making peace with food, always remember to honor your hunger.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

According to Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, there are five steps to making peace with food.

1. Pay attention to the foods that are most appealing to you and write them down as a list.

2. Put a check by the foods you actually do eat, then circle remaining foods that you have been restricting.

3. Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden from your list, then go to the market and buy this food, or even treat yourself by purchasing it at a restaurant.

4. Check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as you remembered or imagined. If you find that you really like, continue to give yourself permission to purchase and eat it.

5. Make sure that you keep enough of the food in your kitchen so that you know it will be there if you want it.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

This Mindful Eating Day, we should remember to make peace with our food. To not hold back from the foods we enjoy and instead, focus on how we can truly be peaceful with the foods we love most.

For More Information, visit: http://www.intuitiveeating.com/

Want to read more? Check out my previous posts in this series:

Intuitive Eating Part I: Introduction to Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating Part II: Rejecting the Diet Mentality

 

 

 

The Best Oatmeal You've Ever Had

Winter is coming and the weather is cold, which means a shift towards warm and cozy meals. One of my go-to breakfast's this time of year (and all year, really) is Oatmeal. You might think "boring!", but hopefully this post will change your mind. Oatmeal, like other grains, is a good staple because there are many ways to change it up and make it interesting. You can add many different healthy mix-ins that are both tasty and satisfying. Once you find your favorite combination, you will most likely crave it on the daily, which is what has happened here.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

The key to making a tasty and healthful oatmeal is to keep added sugar out. You can make oatmeal that is just as delicious by following some simple rules: cooking your oats with ripe bananas, adding cinnamon and adding a small amount of peanut butter. 

Adding bananas to the cooking process allows them to release their natural sugar, making the oatmeal deliciously sweet in a natural way. No processed products or strange ingredients needed! Just make sure that your banana is slightly browned for best taste.

The method to making this is simple:

  • Add together 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 sliced banana and 1 cup of low fat or soy milk 
  • Microwave for 3 minutes, checking to make sure that your oatmeal doesn't overflow! Or cook on stove top.
  • Once done, give it a good stir. Add in a sprinkling of raisins, 1 tbsp of chia or flax seeds, 2 tsp of cinnamon (or more) and a dallop of peanut butter.
  • Stir it all up and eat! I know you'll be dying to take your first bite but make sure it's cooled first ;) 

If you are looking to spice things up, try any of the following mix-ins and come up with your favorite!

  • Shredded coconut
  • Vanilla extract
  • Chopped nuts
  • Cocoa
  • Dried cranberries
  • Flax, chia or hemp seeds
  • Almond or cashew butter
  • Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin or apple butter
  • Spices such as nutmeg, cloves, etc.
Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Enjoy!

A Healthy, Happy Thanksgiving | Washington, DC Dietitian

Thanksgiving is easily one of my favorite times of the year. I love heading home, seeing old friends and family, relaxing, and of course eating holiday food!

Holidays are about spending time with family and enjoying food in a healthy way.  Follow these simple tips for a delicious and fulfilling Thanksgiving dinner. 

                                                Butternut Squash Quinoa

                                               Butternut Squash Quinoa

Eat Normally Throughout the Day

Some may think that skipping meals earlier in the day is strategic, but this will only set you up for overeating! Eat a balanced breakfast and lunch so that you eat a more normal sized dinner.

Exercise

If you know you'll eat a little extra on Thanksgiving, try to get in some movement. This will set a good tone to your day, and allow a little wiggle room at dinner. Get some fresh air and go for a walk or run, or chase around some of your younger relatives. 

Make Half Your Plate Veggies

This is a good rule for any time of year, but especially on Thanksgiving! Instead of piling on the meat and stuffing, make half of your plate healthy veggies, a quarter of your plate starch and a quarter lean turkey.

Be Aware of Portion Sizes

Many times holiday weight gain isn't  from the types of foods we eat, but the amount. Watch your portion sizes and you'll be able to taste a little bit of everything. Use smaller dishes to serve food, check your hunger level before going for seconds, and split your desserts! Everything in moderation.

Listen To Your Body

Your body will tell you if it's had too much or too little to eat. Try to check in with yourself to gauge hunger and fullness levels before going back for seconds. While many people go into the holiday dinner with the intention of overeating, remember your health goals and how you want to feel that evening and the next day. Leftovers are often abundant so remind yourself that you will be able to eat this delicious food for more days to come!

Washington - DC - Dietitian

Enjoy Yourself

If you overeat, it's ok! Remember that it's only one day and you can get back on track the next day :) Have a great holiday!

Jalapeno Chicken and Brown Rice | Washington, DC Dietitian

I usually try to plan out and shop for dinner recipes, but some days are a "what's in the fridge?" type of day.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

This meal was a perfect example of that. Use what's on hand and get creative! We had leftover Jalapeno Chicken Sausage, brown rice, black beans and fresh spinach. Easy, simple to make, healthy and tasty! Win-win all around.

Jalapeno Chicken Sausage and Brown Rice Plate

Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

3 links chicken sausage (I used Jalapeno but any flavor will do!)

2 cups brown rice, dry (I used TJ's microwaveable brown rice)

1 bag fresh spinach

1 can black beans

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook brown rice according to package directions. For the TJ's steam in bag it was 2 minutes in the microwave. Allow more time for brown rice made on stove top.

2. Heat chicken sausage in microwave or on stove top for 2-3 minutes

3.  Grease cooking pan with cooking spray or olive oil. Add bag of fresh spinach to pan and cook until wilted

4. Drain black beans. Add to cooking pan until heated.

5. In large bowl add brown rice, chopped chicken sausage, spinach and black beans. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine ingredients. Serve by candlelight!

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Chicken sausage is a great option to spice up any meal, while being a healthier option than regular sausage. I recommend it in rice dishes, stir fries, in salads, soups and more. Try different flavors to see which you like best. Enjoy!

Healthy Eating While Traveling

In honor of my upcoming trip to Vermont, today’s post focuses on something that can be a bit challenging --  eating healthy while traveling. Here are some of my go-to tips when I’m on the road!

Pack Snacks and Food

One of the best things you can do in any situation whether traveling or at home is plan ahead. When traveling I make sure to keep room in my luggage and carry on for healthy snacks for the trip, usually including granola bars, apples, dried fruit and nuts, or popcorn. One of the most challenging parts of traveling is getting hungry and then having unhealthy options to choose from on the road. Having snacks will prevent hunger and make it easier to make healthy choices.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist
                       Mini Whole-Wheat Bagels from Whole Foods

                      Mini Whole-Wheat Bagels from Whole Foods

Do Research Prior to Your Trip

The best way of knowing the types of foods that will be available on your trip is to research ahead of time. What options are available in the airport or on the road? What healthier restaurants or meal options will be available at your final destination? While you might not always be able to find out detailed information ahead of time, it is helpful to have somewhat of a plan. I was lucky enough to find a healthy spot in the Boston Airport during my recent trip there (pictured below). Definitely a big win!

                              Berkshire Farms Market in the Boston-Logan Airport

                             Berkshire Farms Market in the Boston-Logan Airport

Split Meals and Treats

A fun part of traveling is being able to try delicious and new-to-you foods, so don’t deprive yourself! Instead split your meals or take some back to your hotel or house for leftovers. 

Use the Plate Method

One of my go-to’s when eating out is to use My Plate to help balance my meals. With all of the dining out on trips, I try to make my meals as vegetable-heavy as possible and then leave part of the plate for more of the “fun” foods I want to try. This could be as simple as getting a salad instead of fries as a side or ordering a salad as the main meal and getting a small side dish of something a little more decadent. 

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

 

Walk It Off

One of the best ways to sightsee is to walk, bike or even run around the city or town you are visiting. If you are on a work trip, try to stay somewhere that has a gym or see if there is a neighboring gym or walking trail you can use. Often hotels that don’t have gyms will partner with a local gym that the visitors can use. Something I also enjoy doing is trying out new yoga or workout classes in a new city. However you are able to do it, try to get some exercise in to improve your mental and physical health while traveling.  This week I plan to go on a few hikes around Vermont to enjoy the beauty of New England.

Have Fun!

The main thing to remember to do is have fun! Traveling is a blast and food should not get in the way. Vacations also don’t have to be made into an excuse to eat or drink whatever you want, but to enjoy yourself in moderation so you can fully experience wherever it is that you are. Listen to your body and it will tell you what and how much you need. 

Do we need to take Vitamins and Supplements? | Washington, DC Dietitian

Vitamin supplementation is a controversial topic, as there are many products found on the market that claim to "help" us prevent deficiencies and maintain normal body functioning. Though vitamins are essential to a healthy life, how much do we actually need? Research shows that we can get adequate vitamins and minerals just by eating a varied diet, yet many people take additional vitamin pills and other supplements to help them reach their daily levels.

In most healthy adults, eating a variety of protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains will give us the vitamins and minerals that we need, while taking supplements in addition to eating a varied diet can actually be harmful, increasing our intake to sometimes toxic levels. This includes protein supplements, which have become quite popular in our culture. If we are eating enough protein sources during the day from meat, dairy, beans, tofu, legumes, etc., often times the additional powders aren't necessary.

                                                  PC//  Lauren Louise Photography

                                                 PC// Lauren Louise Photography

While this is the case for healthy adults, there are instances where vitamin supplements may be necessary and required. Supplements are recommended during certain life stages such as pregnancy, lactation and in older adults. For those with vitamin deficiencies either due to poor nutrient absorption, inadequate food intake, or other medical conditions, vitamin supplementation is required. It is also important for vegans or strict vegetarians to take supplements, especially that of B12, since the nutrient may be missing from their diet. Even is missing a food group completely due to an allergy or food preference, a supplement can be helpful. Across the world, where vitamin deficiencies may be more likely, supplements can be life-saving in low income or impoverished areas.

In these cases, vitamins can make up for deficiencies that may occur. In cases among the general public though, supplementation may not be required and there are some things to be mindful of when it comes to supplements available on the market: Many supplements are not regulated by the FDA and some have been found to have harmful additives and ingredients. Some supplements may be less researched and are unaware of long-term effects that they may cause. Many can have false claims, promising to improve strength, provide energy, or make your hair and nails stronger. If someone is eating a varied diet and taking a supplement on top of that, it may cause toxicity if the tolerable upper levels are reached, something that usually is seen only with over-supplementation.

                                                PC// Lauren Louise Photography

                                               PC//Lauren Louise Photography

Overall, whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals in our bodies and the safest way of consuming them. Vitamin supplementation can be beneficial in certain stages of life, with certain medical conditions, or for specific diets, but otherwise as a normal, healthy adult, eating a variety of foods can provide us with all of the nutrition that we need. If you have a nutrient deficiency or are missing out on certain food groups in your diet, it is important to do adequate research and to speak with a professional in the medical field about vitamin recommendations to benefit your health.

Banana Fro Yo | Washington DC Dietitian

When you're in the mood for a healthier frozen treat, a deliciously wonderful option is Banana Fro Yo!

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Luckily for us some genius foodies have created this healthy alternative to dessert that tastes great and satisfies any sweet tooth. I can hear you now... "That's impossible!" But from one ice cream lover to another, I can safely say that it's true.

Behold my favorite version: the Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Banana Soft Serve. The name says it all. Literally.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

All you need for this delicious treat are three ingredients: Peanut butter or PB2, Cocoa Powder and Frozen bananas. The second thing you need is either a food processor or a Vitamix for the blending.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

 

Here's the how-to!:

Ingredients:

4 frozen bananas, peeled or chopped before freezing

1 tbsp of PB2 or Peanut Butter

2 tbsp of Cocoa Powder

Directions:

Add ingredients to food processor or blender. Process and pulse until smooth. Add any toppings. Eat! It's that simple. Try making a big batch and storing it in the freezer for a tasty treat any day of the week.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

There are a lot of variations out there so get creative and see what you like. Try it with chocolate chips, shredded coconut, berries, oats, granola, chia seeds and more.  You can even make it with just bananas for a one-ingredient version. Enjoy!

Intuitive Eating Part One | Washington DC Dietitian

In our society it has become common to base our food intake off of what magazines, media, celebrities and the Internet tell us to do. All around you there are diet plans, weight loss pills and supplements, and new programs that are promising fast results. At the same time food marketing on TV and in the grocery store is at an all time high, making it nearly impossible to resist temptation.

It is important to remember that you are completely unique in your calorie and nutrient needs depending on how much you exercise, your genetic composition, your age, gender and your food intake. In light of this, many individuals on diets may not be getting the correct nutrients or calories that they need, causing them to either overeat or undereat, which inevitably leads to unintended weight gain. Something else to consider is that each person is unique in their customs, food preferences, family support, and the environment in which they live in. Diets and food plans don't take any of this into consideration. They can seem exciting at first, but after the first few days or weeks it is common for people to feel hungry, deprived, and irritated. It is even more common for people to follow a diet plan, then finish and regain the weight, causing a cycle of deprivation followed by overeating. 

So, how can someone break this cycle with intuitive eating?

The answer to breaking the dieting cycle is in listening to your body with mindful and intuitive eating. Your body knows better than any magazine article what it needs and what it craves. As we get older we forget to listen to our body, which causes a disconnect that can have harmful effects both physically and mentally. Getting in tune with your body’s cravings like we did as children brings you back in control of your food choices and eventually brings you to a healthy weight for your body. This includes listening to your body’s signals by eating when you are hungry, eating slowly and enjoying your food, and stopping when you feel satisfied – not too full. It involves retraining your mind to reject diets and, instead, eat balanced meals that satisfy you and don’t leave you feeling deprived or weighed down. It also means finding ways to handle emotions without using food while also accepting your body to improve self-esteem.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Intuitive eating is not a diet, but a way of life that is maintainable and long term, allowing you to eat the foods that you enjoy without any stress or guilt. The process is broken down into 10 Principles that will get you back in touch with your body and leave you free from dieting and deprivation:

  • Reject the diet mentality
  • Honor Your Hunger
  • Make Peace with Food
  • Challenge the Food Police
  • Respect your Fullness
  • Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  • Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
  • Respect Your Body
  • Exercise – Feel the Difference
  • Honor Your Health

In this blog series we will go through each of the principles of Intuitive Eating to help bring you to a place of acceptance around food instead of fear or anxiety. The first step is to reject the Diet Mentality which we will discuss in more detail in the next post.

For more information visit www.intuitiveeating.com

This article was first posted on www.capitalpsychotherapy.com

Smart Food Swaps for Improved Health | Washington, DC Dietitian

A friend recently pointed out an article about how to save 100 calories from your day. Some suggestions were helpful, others not quite as much. Instead of focusing on calories, I recommend making healthier swaps in your food choices. Not only will you reduce calorie and sugar intake, but you will still be able to enjoy your favorite foods while increasing protein and nutrients. Below are my top healthy swaps:

Switch to lean meats

Lean meats such as chicken, turkey and fish provide the same amount of protein as steak and other red meats, but are lower in calories and saturated fat. Try chicken fajitas, turkey chili, fish dishes, turkey or veggie burgers instead of beef, etc.

Choose low fat dairy and cheese

Switching from whole milk to low-fat dairy items can save you in the long run. Low fat cheese and dairy keeps protein intake the same, but decreases the amount of saturated fat, which can be harmful to heart health. Full fat is OK in moderation, but when possible choose low fat milk and yogurt, and low fat cheese for sandwiches and other cheesy dishes. 

Use banana or other fruit to sweeten foods

Using banana in your dishes provides a perfect amount of sweet flavor without the added sugar! Try banana instead of jelly on PB&J, add frozen banana to smoothies, use it as an ingredient in baking or try my favorite: Oatmeal. This oatmeal is free of any added sugar but tastes just as good. Simply chop up banana in plain oats mixed with milk and THEN cook your oatmeal. Whether it's in the microwave or stove top, the banana adds enough sweetness that it doesn't require any added sugars. Mix in some raisins, cinnamon, flaxseed and a dallop of peanut butter for a balanced breakfast.

Washington - DC - Dietitian

Use spices and herbs to flavor foods

Instead of using sugar try cinnamon, nutmeg and other sweet spices. Instead of using salt try pepper, chili powder or other flavorful combinations. This will provide extra flavor without added calories.

Make a Healthier Sandwich and Salad

Choose mustard or hummus over mayonnaise, choose whole grain bread and use bread instead wraps. Wraps provide similar amounts of calories and carbohydrates as bread, but since wraps are larger they hold more food, making it easy to go overboard with calories and fat. Instead of regular salad dressings, try vinegar and a small amount of olive oil. Or add hummus to a salad to make it creamier. For both salads and sandwiches use lean meats and go wild with the vegetables.

Washington - DC - Nutritionist

Drink Smart

Whether it's regular or alcoholic beverages, liquid calories can make a big difference in your health. If you aren't a water drinker, I suggest starting to become one NOW. All of those other beverages that claim to be life-changing really aren't. Water is all you need to be fully hydrated throughout the day. If you are an athlete or are exercise for more than one hour at a time, Gatorade or G2 can be helpful during workouts, but for regular everyday activities, water will do just fine. If you don't like water, try adding some fresh lemon or lime to your drink or try seltzer or sparkling water. When it comes to alcohol, try light beers and choose the drink that you will sip the slowest. 12oz of light beer, 5oz of wine and 1oz of liquor all have roughly 100 calories so choose what will work best for you.

It's All About the Portions

Even if you are eating healthy foods, if your portions are too large you will be taking in extra calories. If you usually have 3 drinks per night, switch to 1 or 2 and drink water in between. If you usually have 2 cookies, have 1. If you normally have 2 cups of pasta try having 1 cup and filling the rest of your plate with vegetables and lean protein. Making small reductions in meals and leaving some food on your plate can make a big difference in your health. Listen to your body, eat slowly and eat until you are comfortable, not stuffed. This is a good indicator of what size portions you really need.

Find alternate ways to relieve stress

In moments of emotional stress it can be easy to overeat, which can negate any healthy eating that you do. Try to focus on other ways to relieve stress such as walking, yoga, journaling, talking to friends, meditation, reading... or playing with puppies!

Washington - DC - Dietitian

Just sayin'...

Eating to Fuel Your Workouts | Washington DC Dietitian

Did you know that what you eat before, during and after workouts can impact your performance? Eating well not only gives us nutrients and keeps us healthy, but helps us maximize our exercise potential.

Eating before a workout gives you the energy you need for optimal endurance. Without proper fuel you may feel sluggish and weak, which will lessen the intensity of your workout and can mean fewer calories burned and less muscle gained. Eating after your workout helps repair your muscles and replenish your energy. 

So how can you prepare yourself with enough energy for a good workout? Eat to fuel your body by following these basic guidelines.

Pre Workout

About 1 hour before your workout have a 100-150 calorie snack. This food should be a carbohydrate since it is the body’s main source of energy. Good pre workout snack ideas include:

• Fresh or dried fruit

• Oatmeal

• Cereal

• Crackers

• ½ energy bar

• Pretzels

During Your Workout

If you are exercising for a short period of time (30-45 min) you don’t need food to keep you energized. Simply stay hydrated for optimal energy during your workout.

If your cardio exercise will be longer than an hour consider a sports drink such as Gatorade, or refuel with a product like Gu to keep your body fueled and your blood sugar stable.

Post Workout

Eating before your workout is crucial to your exercise routine, but eating after your workout is equally as important. Providing your body with carbohydrates and protein restores your energy and repairs your muscles, both which are important to decrease soreness and build up muscle for future workouts. The best after workout snacks include a balance of protein and carbohydrates, which can be found in these snack ideas:

• 1 cup of milk or chocolate milk

• ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich

• ½ protein or energy bar

• Yogurt with fruit

• High fiber cereal with milk

• Trail mix

• Turkey sandwich

• Smoothie

Another great way to get in this balance of protein and carbs is to eat a meal right after your workouts. Make sure to eat within 30 minutes of your workout for best repair.

Fueling your body before and after exercise is important for a strong and worthwhile workout!

How to Increase your Metabolism | Washington DC Dietitian

The burning question that everyone wants to know is "What can I do to increase my metabolism?".  I'm sorry to break the news but magic pills and super foods won't do the trick. Green tea, caffeine and spicy foods are quick fixes with negligible effects. The long-term approach to increasing your metabolism goes back to the basics: eating well and exercising often.

Blame is often put on a few things when it comes to metabolism and weight loss. They include the following:

  • "I have a slow metabolism": It's true that some people have a faster metabolism than others but this doesn't mean that weight loss isn't possible. At a previous job we offered metabolic testing and I rarely saw a metabolism that was considered to be too slow. Some results were slower than others, but often it would be a smaller woman since they may require fewer calories. In general though patients had average metabolisms that allowed for weight loss! Often times we may think we have a slow metabolism even if we really don't.
  • "I have bad genes": Genes can play a role in our health, but keep in mind that they are a smaller factor in your weight than your lifestyle. Eating well and exercising can rule out bad genes.
  • "I'm getting older so my metabolism is slower": Yes, as we age our metabolism decreases, but the decrease is slight and age is usually not the main reason for weight gain. The bigger factor that correlates with weight gain is a decrease in exercise and activity.

No matter what your genes are, what your past has been or how old or young you are, it is possible to increase your metabolism. Here's how.

  • Strength train: Muscle mass increases your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. Make sure to incorporate strength training at least 1-2x per week for the best benefit.
  • Eat Breakfast: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it jump starts your metabolism to make it work efficiently throughout the day. Eat within an hour of waking up to reduce the risk of slowing your metabolism.
  • Eat frequently throughout the day: Eating food actually increases your metabolism, so make sure to eat small meals throughout the day to keep it going strong. Aim for 3 meals and 2 snacks per day for the best balance. Eat healthy foods and proper portion sizes to avoid weight gain. Refer to my post on eating balanced meals for healthy options.

If you begin a healthy weight loss plan, are following these tips and are still not losing weight it may be helpful to check with your physician. Often times if weight gain is occurring while following a healthy lifestyle it could be because of your thyroid. A simple blood test can be done to check for hypothyroidism.

Get your metabolism in gear by eating often and building muscle mass. Weight loss may require changing your habits, but soon enough they will become part of your normal routine.

A Balancing Act | Washington DC Dietitian

There are many misconceptions about weight loss out there, mainly those that revolve around cutting out food groups and restricting food intake to reach your goals. But what if I told you that eating more instead of less could help with weight loss?

Many patients come in telling me about their typical meal plans. They skip breakfast, don't snack and eat a large lunch and dinner as their normal eating pattern. This, my friends, is also known as the Sumo Wrestler's diet. In order for sumo wrestlers to gain and maintain their weight (400-600 pounds), they skip breakfast, don't snack and eat an extra-large lunch and dinner. When we skip meals and snacks, our metabolism slows and we overeat later in the day, both which lead to weight gain. 

Therefore it is important to eat small amounts, frequently throughout the day. This helps your metabolism and keeps you satisfied to prevent overeating at meals. Try to aim for 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, eating about every 3 hours. Not only does this keep your metabolism going, but it also keeps blood sugars stable to help prevent fatigue, headaches and cravings throughout the day.

Another important goal is to make sure that every meal and snack is a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates give you energy while protein and fat keep you feeling full and satisfied to hold you over in between meals. If you eat only carbohydrates your blood sugar goes up, but if you pair it with protein it stays more stable. Aim for 3+ grams of protein per snack to keep you feeling satisfied. Eating only vegetables as snacks or eating "air foods" such as rice cakes will only leave you wanting more.

The point is to make everything that you eat count and be nutrient dense. Eating a balance at each meal and snack helps you stay satisfied, reduces cravings, increases energy, and prevents overeating later in the day.  Below are some examples to help clarify.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal made with skim milk topped with fruit and a small serving of nuts.
  • 2 Eggs with vegetables and a sprinkle of cheese, slice of whole grain toast on the side.
  • Whole grain cereal with skim milk
  • Smoothie made with frozen fruit, skim milk, low-fat yogurt and flaxseed

Lunch and Dinner

  • Salad with vegetables, beans and low-fat dressing
  • Soup with vegetables and beans or lean meat
  • Turkey sandwich with vegetables, mustard on whole grain bread
  • Lean meat or meat substitute, vegetable and starch

Snacks

Aim for around 150-180 calories and 3+ grams of protein per snack to keep you satisfied between meals. Balanced options include:

  • Fruit and nuts
  • Fruit and low-fat cheese or low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low fat cheese and crackers
  • Low fat yogurt (yogurt is a carbohydrate and there is protein in it)
  • Granola bars such as Kashi Chewy Bars or Snackwell's Cereal Bars (both include 5-8g of protein)
  • Sliced turkey and bread

Eat frequently and keep a balance of nutrients for overall health and satisfaction throughout the day.

A Healthier 'Dilla | Washington DC Dietitian

I don't know about you, but usually the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is cook an elaborate dinner. As much as I enjoy cooking (love. it.), I like it better when I have time and don't feel rushed. My go to solutions for this are the following:

  • Prepare foods on Sunday to have for the week (smart choice)
  • Eat out with friends (fun choice)
  • Quesadillas! (perfection)

Quesadillas are my go-to meal because they are easy, fast and delicious. You can make them for yourself or for groups and I'd say they are always a crowd pleaser.

But I know what you might be thinking. Aren't quesadillas bad for you??

First off, I don't believe that there are any good or bad foods. But it can be true: quesadillas are basically cheese, some sort of protein and high fat toppings. Luckily, like most foods they can be healthified pretty easily! I'm not going to lie and say you won't notice the difference, but these dillas are still pretty darn good.

To healthify these bad boys I use the following:

  • Whole grain tortillas instead of regular flour tortillas. The calories are the same but the whole grains offer more fiber and nutrients.
  • Low fat Mexican cheese is subbed for regular cheese to reduce calories and saturated fat. Cheese is considered a protein and you will usually get a substantial amount from this dish, so I will usually omit any meat.
  • I add spinach to the dillas for nutrients, but any vegetables will do. I like spinach because it doesn't involve any prep and cooks quickly. (I wasn't lying about these being fast!)
  • Another way to healthify these is to use non-fat Greek Yogurt instead of Sour Cream as a topping. I grew up with sour cream (hi mom!) so they are essential to my quesadillas. Non-fat Greek yogurt tastes the same and adds a nutritious punch.

Super Easy Quesadilla

Serves 1

Total Time: 10 minutes (If not using chicken)

Ingredients

  • Fresh spinach
  • Boneless skinless chicken breast (optional)
  • 2 Whole grain tortillas
  • Low fat Shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1/4 avocado
  • Non fat plain Greek yogurt
  • Salsa

1. If you are using chicken, bake chicken breast in baking pan at 350 degrees for 35-40 min or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. 

2. Spray saute pan with Pam. Cook 1/2 bag of fresh spinach until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Put aside. 

3. Place 1 tortilla on same, freshly sprayed Saute pan. Top with Mexican cheese and spinach. Place second tortilla on top. Cook on medium heat.

4. Let the tortilla cook on each side for a few minutes until slightly browned.

5. Top with salsa, small amount of avocado and Greek yogurt.

6. Eat every last bit.

 

Let's Give Carbs a Chance | Washington DC Dietitian

Carbohydrates. As a nation we love to hate them. They are the first thing to be eliminated from our diets and the first thing we blame for weight gain. Yes, carbohydrates can lead to weight gain, but like most foods it isn’t because they are bad for you, but because of the amount that we eat. Rice and pasta are healthy until we consume 3 or 4 cups at one time!

The fact is that carbohydrates from starches, fruit and dairy are essential for survival. They provide us with energy and nutrients and are our main source of fuel. When we are born we rely on carbohydrates from milk for the first few months of our lives. It is human nature to crave and consume carbs because we were intended to.

This topic is important to me because often times the first thing you hear when someone is on a diet is that they cut out carbohydrates, even though they are needed for survival.

Things are about to get technical while I explain the facts about carbs.

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy. Carbohydrates turn into glucose in our bodies and glucose is the only source of energy for the brain, nervous system and red blood cells. Carbohydrate stores in the body don’t last long so the only way to replace them is by doing one thing: eating more carbs (about every 4-6 hours)!

When the body doesn’t get energy from carbohydrates it turns to the next fuel source: protein from your muscles. Protein gets taken apart and turned into glucose to provide energy, which weakens your hard-earned muscle mass. When muscle mass is reduced, your metabolism slows down which can lead to weight gain. This is the opposite of your goal.

Sadly, eating a high protein diet will not restore the lost muscle mass. When carbohydrates are sparse, the protein you eat is used for fuel instead of doing what it is intended to: building and repairing your muscles, hormones, enzymes and cells.

But what about fat? Our initial thought is that fat could be used for energy to help us lose weight, but that is not the case. Our main source of fuel is carbohydrates, followed by protein, followed by small amounts of fat. 

Yes, weight loss can be fast when we eliminate carbohydrates due to the “hydrate” in “carbohydrate”. Carbohydrates attract water so when we cut them out we initially lose water weight. This is not to be confused with losing actual fat mass. Once you start consuming carbs again it is likely you will gain that weight back.

To sum it up, carbohydrates are VERY important. They are the main source of fuel for our bodies. When we reduce carbohydrate intake energy comes from our muscles, which decreases muscle mass, slows your metabolism and can lead to long-term weight gain. Bottom line, include carbohydrates as part of a healthy, balanced diet for optimal health and performance.