5 Tips Help Recover from a Gluttonous Thanksgiving

No matter how mindful we intend to be during Thanksgiving festivities, it is a safe bet that most of us will leave the table feeling overfull and defeated. There is no shame in allowing yourself some food freedom once in a while, especially on what may be consider the ultimate cheat day of the year! From my experience, it is not Thanksgiving Day itself that sabotages health goals or weightless efforts; it is the days following filled with endless amounts of leftover pie and stuffing. To avoid being set off track from your long term goals, I put together a list of some of my favorite ways to recover and detox post tryptophan binge (an amino acid found in turkey commonly proclaimed to make people sleepy).

  1. Move. I always tend to feel better after a good sweat. Doing something active that you enjoy is a great way to get back into the swing of things. If you want to get the most bang for you buck, HIIT, or high intensity interval training, will help you burn the most calories in the least amount of time.
  2. Hydrate. Especially if alcohol was involved in the festivities. Hot water with lemon is a wonderful way to help detoxify your liver and boost your metabolism. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in kilograms each day.
    • Example: If you weigh 200 pounds, divide by 2.2 = ~91 kilograms. Therefore, a 200 pound individual should drink approximately 90 ounces (~11 cups) of fluid each day!
  3. Utilize your freezer. Rather than aiming to eat all your leftovers in the few following days, freeze the less healthy options. This will not only make it inconvenient for you to grab as a quick snack, but it will also encouraged you to eat it over a longer period of time and (ideally) in smaller portions.
  4. Fast. Fasting has been associated with a host of benefits including increased metabolism, reduced inflammation and improved blood sugar control. Visit my blog post What is Intermittent Fasting? Key Components for Success for the specifics.
  5. Drink a smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to obtain a ton of nutrients in one meal. Blending the foods can improve digestibility and make them more palatable, particularly for those spinach and kale haters. I love referring to Simple Green Smoothies for inspiration and recipe ideas!

Eating Healthy: Lessons From Serbia

I recently had the opportunity to take an impromptu one week trip to Belgrade, Serbia. Prior to leaving I knew nothing about Serbia aside from it being directly north of Macedonia, the country my maternal grandma was born. As a dietitian and professional food connoisseur, of course I wondered what the food would be like. I was also curious about the chronic health issues typical of the country. Were they experiencing diseases associated with obesity, such as type two diabetes and heart disease, as frequently as the USA? Surely not. 

Turns out I was right. During my stay I was able to pick the brain of several Serbians, specifically doctors! They told me overall their food is processed with very few additives. There are no GMOs (genetically modified organisms); in fact, they are “against” them. The use of herbicides and pesticides is very minimal, and only when absolutely necessary. They are extremely proud of their country and culture, and pride themselves on eating high quality, authentic food (though albeit, a lot of it!), especially meat and cheese. They do have fast food, including multiple McDonald’s within Belgrade, but it is not a regular part of their diet as it is seen as unhealthy and lower quality. These thoughts definitely correlated with my own experience and observations. Although bread and potatoes were often served with the meal, additional simple carbohydrates such as pasta, corn or rice, were uncommon. Beans, mayo-free coleslaw, grilled vegetables and cucumber-tomato salad were common alternatives. 

We quickly learned how uncommon it was to see an overweight Serbian (or one shorter than 5’5” for that matter), and joked that if we did see someone overweight, they were probably American. 

I recently read a statistic stating 117 million Americans (about half of American adults) have one or more preventable chronic disease, and over 71% are overweight or obese. It is evident the disconnect is multifactorial — culture, lack of education or awareness, stress, minimal access to healthy food, or the “well I’ve got to die of something” non-caring mentality, all play a part. 

The United States is starting to suffer the consequences of this impending obesity epidemic through obscene health care debt, decreased quality of life, and a growing population that are non-contributing members of society, despite being of working age.

Nutrition and health can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve heard the following quote many times, and I think it summarizes basic dietary advice well. In the words of journalist Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  

The following are some of my favorite resources and local organizations I personally use that you may find inspiring to help stay motivated at whatever point you may be on your health journey:

  • Cleveland Roots: Offers free gardening and cooking classes.  Also has a community garden and weekly food stand. I’ve been to them — they are excellent!
  • North Union Farmers Market: Farmer’s Markets around the Cleveland Area
  • Joyous Health Blog: For excellent recipes!
  • VA Whole Health Library: Great handouts on a variety of nutrition topics 
  • The MindBody app: View all the different fitness and wellness resources in your area. Also shows when the businesses are having a promotion
  • The Blue Zones: Book on the commonalities of the “Blue Zones” of the world, or areas with the largest number of centenarians

You can also refer to my Resources page for a more comprehensive list.

What wellness resources have you found that have been helpful for you? Share below!

Healthy Office Snacks

As a dietitian working in a hospital setting, I am constantly exposed to treats and sweets. Whether it’s the weekly Tuesday doughnuts brought by volunteers, or the cannolis and cake at a coworker’s baby shower, they are everywhere…just staring at me.

From what I have heard, this is the case for many people in their workplace. Despite not buying junk food or sweets, and eating healthy at home 98% of the time, temptations at the workplace always seem to get in the way. So what can we do about it? Plan ahead!

In an effort to avoid noming on sweets or afternoon trips to the cafeteria when I’m craving a snack or feeling extra hungry, I have started to keep a few simple, strategic items at my desk. Let me share:

  1. Tea bags or instant coffee: Hot tea or coffee is a terrific way to stave off cravings and maintain focus. One brand of instant coffee I particularly like is Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee (no, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms) as it has half the amount of caffeine, but it does wonders for focus without the jitters! I like to leave a reusable coffee cup at my desk so I always have one on hand.
  2. Prunes: Yes, I keep prunes at my desk. They are super filling and perfect when you are craving something sweet!
  3. Peanut or almond butter: When I am running late in the morning, I will grab a banana or apple to go. Having some type of nut butter at my desk makes it more convenient, and adding the healthy fats and protein will keep you full much longer than eating the fruit alone.
  4. Skinny Pop popcorn (or similar brand): This popcorn does not contain any artificial ingredients, is non-GMO, and high in fiber.
  5. Trail mix: Most store bough trail mix is high in added sugar, expensive, and may contain undesirable additives. For this reason, I have started to make my own by adding a variety of nuts, gogi berries (or some type of dried fruit containing no added sugar), a sprinkle of cacao powder, and perhaps a drizzle of honey — mix it together and vwa-la! I keep mine in a mason jar at my desk.
  6. 70% or Higher Dark Chocolate: For the days those doughnuts are staring at you.

What healthy snacks do you keep at your desk? Share below!

What is “Dirty Keto” and How to do Keto Right

One of the most popular questions I have been receiving lately is “What do you think about keto?” The ketogenetic diet has become very popular due to its potential to help with rapid weight loss. It’s different then other fad diets as the focus is primarily on fats (75% of your daily calories), some protein (20% of daily calories), and a small amount of carbohydrates (5% of your daily calories). The result is you enter a state of “ketosis” where you body is burning fat as its main source of fuel rather than glucose.

This is different from other low carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, as those focus on limited amounts of carbohydrates with no emphasis on fat and liberal amounts of other foods. It is easy to be following a low carb diet but never achieve ketosis.

Dirty Keto follows the same breakdown of fats, protein, and carbohydrates with one key difference – it does’t matter where the macronutrients come from. This has enabled many to use this diet as a way to lose weight while still eating limitless amounts of bunnless bacon cheeseburgers with a Diet Coke. Although this eating pattern may sound tempting, no amount of breadless fast food or artificially sweetened beverages is healthy, even in the presence of weight loss. Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) are a key component commonly lacking in the dirty keto eating pattern. These are just as much, if not more, important than the macronutrient profile of ones meal as micronutrients are essential for system function, keeping a strong immune system, and maintaining healthy looking hair, skin and nails.

Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

Although it is predominantly known for its potential to help with rapid weight loss, nearly a century ago the Ketogenic diet was used as a tool for clinitians to effectively treat patients with epilpsy. It has also been shown to be beneficial in treating other brain conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and bipolar disorder.

According to this study, a “Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet” (healthy keto with wine, basically) followed for 12 weeks cured people of their metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol). In addition, while over 92% improved their liver health, 21% saw complete resolution in their previous diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

There are also benefits for healthy individuals including:

  • a more stabilized and reduced blood sugar, which will lower the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • improved cognitive performance and decreased brain fog.
  • reduced appetite and cravings.
  • slowed aging through activation of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory biochemical pathways.
  • it provides our cells with a steady source of ketone bodies, which is a cleaner-burning fuel than glucose.

3 Common Mistakes

  • Not eating enough non-starchy vegetables. These are vegetables that are low in carbohydrates and will have a minimal effect on your blood sugar. They should compose at least half of your plate. Examples: peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, any type of leafy green, Brussel sprouts, onions, celery, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower.
  • Eating the wrong types of fat. Obtaining the majority of fat from conventional meat, dairy and ranch dressing is not only unhealthy, but it may not be enough to get you into ketosis. Drizzle your vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and cook your eggs with a little extra butter or coconut oil. Healthy fat sources: avocado, olives, avocado oil, coconut oil, butter, olive oil, tuna, sardines. Refer to this post for more information on fats.
  • Eating too much protein. Because it is a protein-sparing diet, protein requirements are lower than when you rely on carbohydrates for energy. Consuming too much protein could also kick you out of ketosis as amino acids can be converter into sugar when consumed in excess. Limit your meat to 3-6oz per meal.

Sample Menu

Breakfast:

  • Eggs scrambled with spinach, onions and mushrooms, drizzled with olive oil and served with a side of avocado
  • Beverage options –
    • water
    • hot water with lemon
    • black coffee, coffee with stevia, coffee blended with coconut cream
    • unsweetened hot tea

Lunch: Keto Salad

  • Ingredients –
    • 2 cups wild greens (romaine, arugula, kale, etc)
    • 2 hard boiled eggs or 4-6oz smoked salmon
    • 1/2 avocado
    • 1/2 bell pepper
    • sliced cucumber
  • Dressing-
    • olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Dinner: Chicken Thighs with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • To cook the chicken:
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
    • Rub thighs with olive oil and sea salt. May also add additional seasonings such as rosemary and paprika.
    • Place on baking sheet and bake until no longer pink, ~30 minutes.
  • To cook Brussel sprouts:
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
    • Place on a baking pan and drizzle with olive oil or cover with butter.
    • Sprinkle with sea salt and turmeric.
    • Bake for 25-35 minutes, until tender.

Have you tried the Ketogenic diet before? How was your experience?

Top 10 Ingredients to Avoid

A quick walk down almost any isle of the grocery store will expose you to a host of toxic ingredients that are fueling the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Items in which many consider to be “food” more so resemble science projects, as the majority of the ingredients are chemicals most have never heard of and that surely don’t sound like anything anyone would want to eat. In other words, they’re “frankenfoods”.

You are probably wondering, “So how do I know which foods are safe and which to avoid?” A good rule of thumb is if the food has more than 5 ingredients, or multiple ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf. Otherwise, here is a quick and dirty list of some of the top offenders that should be avoided as often as possible.

  1. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils AKA trans-fats –  The purpose of these fats is to prolong the shelf life of products. They have been shown to increase bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, slow your metabolism, and cause obesity, heart attacks, dementia, inflammation and cancer. The FDA has declared trans fats unsafe and banned their use. However, small amount still remain in the food supply. Commonly found in: peanut butter, non-dairy creamer, baked goods
  2. High fructose corn syrup – This is a highly processed sweetener made from corn. It is incredibly cheap to make and even sweeter than sugar. As reviewed in this study, it has been associated with increased risk of fatty liver when consumed in excess amounts. It has also been show to lead to insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Commonly found in: ice cream, pop, desserts, peanut butter, bread, salad dressing, canned fruit, candy
  3. Artificial sweeteners – This group includes aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Swiss Sweet). According to this study, (plublished this month!)  high intake of artificially sweetened beverages (>2 per day) was associated with an increased risk of stroke, coronary artery disease and all-cause mortality. Commonly found in – diet pop, “sugar-free” foods, yogurt, gum, zero calorie flavored water
  4. Artificial flavors – These are fake flavors used to make frankenfoods taste more palatable. Each flavor can contain up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals, solvents and preservatives such as BHA, propylene glycol, MSG, parabens, and more. The FDA recently banned 7 ingredients used to make artificial flavors as they have been shown to cause cancer in animal studies. However, food companies have TWO years to remove these ingredients from their products. They are also not required to disclosed if their product contains these ingredients, leaving consumers completely clueless to what they are consuming. Refer to this article for more information on this topic. Commonly found in: cereal, candy, desserts, drink mixes, pop
  5. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – Used as a flavor enhancer. It increases food cravings and has been linked to chronic pain, headaches, obesity, depression, and mental disorders. Commonly found in: Chinese food, frozen meals, chips, salad dressing
  6. Carrageenen – Commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Although it is derived from seaweed and considered a “natural” ingredient, it has been associated with a host of issues, particularly related to the gastrointestinal system. The inflammation it causes can lead to ulcerations and bleeding. According to research conducted by Joanne Tobacman, MD, there may also be a connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer. Commonly found in: almond milk, coconut milk, ice cream, deli meat, cottage cheese
  7. Artificial colors – These have been linked to anything from hyperactivity in children to cancer. Commonly found in: ice cream, baked goods, cereal, pop, gum, popsicles, fruit snacks
  8. Canola oil/soybean oil/corn oil – These are highly processed oils that go rancid very quickly, which causes inflammation when consumed. Refer to my previoud post, Fat: Friend or Foe, for more information on this topic. Commonly found in: chips, bread, nuts, granola bars, baked goods, cereal, salad dressing
  9. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – A synthetic preservative shown to be an endocrine disrupter. National Toxicology Program has classified it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Commonly found in: Sausage, pepperoni, pizza, canned soup, instant potatoes, potato chips, drink mixes, spaghetti sauce, gum
  10. Butlated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – Another synthetic preservative. This one has been shown to impact the signaling that tells us we are full, which could contribute to overeating and obesity. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals. Commonly found in: potato chips, cereal, instant potatoes, dry beverage and dessert mixes, gum

Did you find one of these ingredients in any of your favorite foods? Which one? Comment below!

Composting 101

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste account for 30% of what ends up in landfills. Instead of throwing these materials away, they can be composted! Compost is decomposed organic material that is commonly added to soil to enhance nutrient quality, promote soil bacteria and fungi that aid in plant growth , and help retain soil moisture. In addition, organic material disposed in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas. Production of this gas is greatly reduced when wasted food and yard clippings are composted.

What You Need

Brown material – dead leaves, twigs, branches, shredded paper
Green material – grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds 
Water

Composting at Home

Select a dry spot near a water source to host your pile. You can fence off a small area or, if you prefer a tidier arrangement, purchase bins to contain the waste. In the past I have used a bin with a lift off lid to add in the materials. Although this was cleaner and kept the critters away, I found it more difficult to access and mix the compost compared to open piles. Tumblers are also a good option as they are easy to maneuver.

Once you have set up your space, add clippings, scraps and any other organic material as it is accumulated. As the “greens” carry more nitrogen and the “browns” carry more carbon, alternate layers of each type, being sure to moisten dry materials as they are added. Turn your compost pile with a shovel or pitch fork weekly during the summer and monthly during the winter. Don’t worry – a compost pile that is managed appropriately will not smell or attract rodents!

From the Kitchen to the Bin

Although this may seem like common sense, be sure to determine a sustainable way to get your compost outside to you pile. Here are some ideas that may work for you:

  • Take it out after every meal
  • Store it on a small countertop container, like this one, to be taken out every other day or so
  • Store food scraps in the freezer until you run out of space

Your compost may take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to fully breakdown. This will depend on the moisture, temperature, and composition of the material. When the material at the bottom is a rich dark color your compost is ready to use. Now have at it and don’t forget to add the finished compost to your garden, house plants or landscaping!

*For those uninterested or unable to participate in backyard composting, but would still like to recycle organic waste, check out findacomposter.com . This resource connects you to organics collection services in your area. Rust Belt Riders, the top commercial organics collection service in Northeast Ohio, have been collecting and diverting over 32,000 pounds of food scraps each week from landfills as of December, 2018! They plan to have their Residential Composting Service up and running by summer 2019.

Meal Prepping Made Simple

Meal prepping is a great way to not only save time, but money as well. It is a helpful strategy to utilize during a busy week, when a lack of time or energy may result in a last minute stop at your local fast food restaurant or a call for delivery pizza. It is also a way to control what exactly goes into your food – a must for anyone trying to stay on track with their health goals.

Before meal prepping there are several points to consider such as the best day of the week to cook, the recipes you will use, the number of people you are meal prepping for, and if you will get sick of eating the same meal every day. For beginners, I recommend keeping it as simple as possible. Making a list of your favorite types of protein, vegetables, and starches will make shopping and cooking easier. I have also listed some suggestions below.

Choose a Protein
(3-4 oz serving)
Choose a Vegetable

Choose a Starch
(optional)
Wild SalmonRoasted Brussel Sprouts
Quinoa
Free-range chickenBroccoliRice
Grass-fed beefCauliflower RiceSweet Potatoes
Turkey
Green BeansSpaghetti Squash
BeansKaleLentils
Continue reading “Meal Prepping Made Simple”