It’s the beginning of the New Year and people are talking resolutions. I personally don’t love the word resolution, which is literally defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something, because it implies the constant use of willpower and even though it addresses WHAT you want to change, it never addresses HOW you are going to change. In my book, that is a recipe for failure, and no one wants to start off the year like that! So instead, I want to talk about habits. A habit is an acquired, almost involuntary, behavior pattern. Once you instill some healthy habits into your daily routine, you can reach your goals A LOT easier.
The habits mentioned below help me tremendously. Depending on your goals, your list may look a little different and that’s great! Just remember that in order to build a new habit or break an unhealthy habit, it takes time, about two months more or less, so be patient. The first step is to build awareness of those habits so you know what you need to change. Then you can plan appropriately to make that habit stick.
1. Analyze your plate. I found that by analyzing my plate, I would ensure I had all the essential nutrients I needed and avoided those excess calories. Here’s a quick how-to:
- You want to make sure your plate has A) enough non-starchy veggies (about half the plate or bowl); B) A good source of protein - veggie or animal-based; C) A fistful or less of a whole grain carb; and D) A thumbs worth of a healthy fat. If you constantly analyze what you are eating, you’ll see what you are lacking or overindulging in and be able to positively revamp your plate.
2. Don’t forget, that we eat with our eyes too. One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. With that goal comes the inevitable portion shrinkage, which can be extremely depressing. Use nutrient dense, low-calorie foods to your advantage to make your plate LOOK like it has more than it really does. Add bulk to your plate by including non-starchy veggies to your salad, think layers of zucchini and squash instead of pasta, more veggies and beans instead of potatoes or grains, and drinking naturally low-calorie drinks. Satiate your eyes as well as your stomach.
3. Fix it at the next meal. Accidents happen, and so do cupcakes, happy hour cocktails and skipping the gym. The goal is not to expect perfection, but to avoid berating yourself when slip-ups happen. Feelings of guilt can quickly spiral into a complete shutdown of your healthy lifestyle changes. My advice is to savor the treat and then hit the reset button. Don’t let one slice of pizza lead to the whole pie. By forgiving yourself for your occasional indiscretions and moving on with your healthy living plan, you can vastly increase your chances for permanent success. You can always fix it at the next meal!
4. Read labels. The food industry isn’t as forthcoming as it should be, but they have provided us with the nutrition facts label. Use it! If you learn that your favorite box of cookies has 10 servings in the box and each serving is 340 calories, you may be inclined to have only one portion at time (not three!) or switch indulgences all together. I cannot stress how important it is to read ingredients. If sugar is mentioned in five different ways, it is a clear indicator that the food you are eating is low quality. When it comes to reading food labels, knowledge is definitely power.
5. Be consistent. Like my colleague and friend, Matt Sauerhoff from the LIV Method, stated in his last newsletter, “Consistency is the secret to success. In order to be successful you must realize that it is the small steps taken everyday that add up over a lifetime!” Small changes to your diet and exercise routine have a large impact on your health. Nixing that daily bagel for two pieces of whole wheat bread not only saves you an average of 160 calories a day, but it also eliminates that sugar crash that comes after having too many carbs at once. Walking those extra 15 minutes to the next subway stop burns a few more calories, but it also improves your circulation, energy, and blood sugars for the rest of the day. If you STAY CONSISTENT and build these small changes over time, you will create new long-lasting, healthy habits for life!
6. Hydrate and Sleep. Making dietary changes is hard enough, but when you don’t properly hydrate or get enough sleep it becomes even harder. We are made up mostly of water, we need water for all functions in our body, water improves our skin, bowels, headspace, cravings, appetite, and cleansing power. We also need about 7-9 hours of sleep nightly (or at least quality rest) to help our body rest, our hormones to balance, and, most recent research states, for our weight to stabilize. Two words: hydrate + sleep.
7. Be a little kinder than is necessary. I recently read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and among the many valuable lessons in the book, this simple one was the most impactful. Be kinder to others but also to yourself. The results you want will come in time, but enjoying the process will only make it that much sweeter.
Happy, healthy 2015!!!
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RDN, CDN. Edited by Tamara Cabrero.
I love New York, but it can be hard to appreciate the amazing allure of the city at this time of year when it’s cold, dreary, and just plain slushy. The subway echoes with the sounds of sniffling, coughing and sneezing, and the common cold seems to lurk around every corner. A cold, like the flu, is viral and therefore resistant to antibiotics. But unlike the flu, which is a much more serious concern, the common cold is usually pretty mild, lasting between 7 to 10 days. That said, it shouldn’t be trivialized because it is the leading cause of doctor’s visits, sick days, and can put a real damper on your quality of life.
Since we are still at the peak of the cold and flu season (I know, I know, will it never end?), it’s a perfect time to talk about ways to prevent the common cold from occurring in the first place.
#1. Get your zzzzz time. Back in April, the Bushwick Nutrition blog looked into sleep for weight control. Not surprisingly, sleep has even more benefits as people who do not get enough sleep (less than 7 hours), are 3 to 5 times more likely to develop a cold. This makes total sense since sleep is an important predictor of immunity. So make sure to put sleep as your number one priority during these cold months!
#2. Eat more fresh garlic. Garlic is a popular folk remedy but recent studies have shown that eating garlic can boost the number of T-cells in the bloodstream, which play a vital role in strengthening the immune system and fighting viruses like the common cold. Tip: Garlic must be fresh. as the active ingredient is destroyed within an hour or so after smashing. Compress, smash, or juice/blend the garlic to maximize benefits. Try Raquel’s, owner of Pitanga Juice, remedy of fresh garlic, raw honey, cayenne pepper, and lemon (see pic). Talk about a serious immune boost! Tip: For easier digestion, mix the above with a little aloe vera juice.
#3. Hydrate! Not only do liquids prevent dehydration, but hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, soothe inflammation in the nose and throat area, and keep the gut moving. You want to aid your immune system by helping it work better especially during these dry months, and water forms a part of every cell in the body! Try elderberry or herbal teas with honey and lime.
#4. Get your green on. Juicing or blending can be a great way to incorporate amazing greens like kale, bok choy, and arugula (to name a few) into your diet. They are naturally high in vitamins A and C that help keep your immune system strong, while also aiding with inflammation. Note: Taking large doses of vitamin C has NOT proven to help combat a cold. That said, it is beneficial to meet your daily needs – about 75 to 90mg a day (a little different than the 1000mg megadoses!).
#5. Keep your gut healthy with pro/prebiotic rich food sources. The gut plays a huge role in keeping your immune system strong. After all, 70% of immune cells are found in the gut! Therefore, eating foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and sourdough bread, which all have “good bacteria”, as well as prebiotic food sources that feed the healthy bacteria, like whole grains, bananas, artichokes, onions and leeks, will only make you stronger.
#6. Mushrooms are the immune system cheerleaders. Mushrooms are antiviral and antibacterial. They also encourage your immune cells to multiply. Reishi mushrooms are particularly beneficial for respiratory conditions, so eat up!
#7. Work it out. Chronic stress suppresses the immune cells and exercise is a great de-stressor. By exercising regularly you are not only helping your heart, your metabolism and your digestion, but you are also helping your immune system do a better job! A study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that people who engaged in regular to moderate activity lowered their risk of flu by 33%! That said- if you are already feeling sick, skip the workout and save your energy.
How do you keep the common cold at bay?
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN
Photographed by Pitanga Juice.
Edited by Tamara Cabrero & NYHRC Team
It’s no great secret that we can be pretty hard on ourselves. The wave of guilt that sinks in when we skip a workout or give into our sweet craving can be just as toxic to our health as the cupcake that started that downward spiral. Studies have shown that the feeling of guilt after consuming those “forbidden foods” can cause people to gain even more weight! Let go of the guilt.
The thing is, we all slip sometimes, but we don’t have to unravel or beat ourselves up over it. In fact, it can be good to indulge in a sweet now and then as long as it feels like a treat and not the beginnings of a bad habit. Enjoyment of food is essential for healthy, happy living. And if you take the time to enjoy your food you are less likely to overeat.
I have never had a client that didn’t “fall off the wagon”, so to speak. Hey, cupcakes happen. My advice is to savor that treat and then hit the reset button. Don’t let choosing a cozy movie night over a trip to the gym stretch into a week on the couch, or that one slice of pizza lead to a bucket of wings. You can always fix it at the next meal!
Tips To Keep The Weight Off
Diets have an expiration date. The word implies a beginning and end, which is why they don’t work. Losing weight and keeping it off requires a lifestyle change, including healthier food and healthier behaviors. The real secret to keeping the weight off is replacing bad habits with good ones. Once you realize and accept that and once you find the fun in keeping fit, you won’t have to worry about backsliding ever again. A few ways to make sure you don’t gain the weight back:
1) Track your habits. Despite our best intentions, it is surprisingly easy to be dishonest with ourselves about our behaviors. I don’t eat that many carbs. I go to the gym almost every day. Do you really? Keeping a food diary, monitoring your weight once a week and keeping a workout schedule will help you avoid those extra pounds from creeping up. One of my favorite tracking tools are MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, and SparkPeople.
2) Slow down and chew your food. Most of us can feel completely satisfied eating 20% less food than we normally do; the problem is how to naturally stop ourselves? By chewing more! A recent study showed that by chewing your food more (double what you normally chew), participants ate 15% less. I recommend chewing your food 15-20 times per bite. I love this trick, because there is no deprivation required!
3) Promote healthy bacteria in your gut! Preliminary research has shown that eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and probiotic-rich foods (yogurt, kefir, kimchee, pickles, miso) encourages microbes associated with leanness to quickly become incorporated in the gut actually helping you lose weight (or become leaner). A diet high in saturated fat and low in fruits and veggies does exactly the opposite.
4) Get your zzzz’s. Too little sleep (less than 7 hours) has been associated with weight gain. Getting enough sleep helps restore energy, regulate necessary hormones and helps us make better choices throughout the day. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, after a poor night’s sleep, all you want is a quick sugary pick me up…
5) Work with a Registered Dietitian. Like me! Woot woot! We can help you come up with an individualized plan that works for your needs and around your schedule so you can finally say goodbye to that excess weight for good. Dietitians can also answer your nutrition questions and dispel food myths using evidence-based practices.
6) Be active. It is imperative to do some form of exercise to maintain weight loss and increase lean muscle. Stick to something that you enjoy doing and be consistent. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week; whether you want to work out 30 minutes 5 times a week or 50 minutes 3 times a week is up to you.
How are you going to keep the weight off in 2014?
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
To celebrate Men’s Health Week, I would like to share the amazing story of how my colleague, James Nicholson, changed his life. James is a certified Fitness Trainer, a Licensed Massage Therapist, a distance runner and a TRX/Kettle Bell enthusiast at the NYHRC Whitehall location.
Before James committed to regaining his health, he was 70 pounds overweight and had a 40-inch waist (too much belly fat). By the time he was 19 years old, he had had two hip surgeries and one knee surgery. When men let their eating habits slide, claiming lack of time or no interest in cooking, they tend to overindulge in fast food. Excessive poor eating habits lead to weight gain and belly fat, which can result in cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome (more common in men than women), certain cancers (colorectal and colon) and benign prostatic hyperplasia.
James told me that up until the day he decided to commit to his health goals, he was misinformed about what a proper diet entailed. He skipped meals (the #1 dieting approach for men) and suffered from lack of energy and mood swings. The little exercise he managed to squeeze into his day gave him physical pain. So James turned to a personal trainer and dietitian for the help he needed to make the biggest change of his life. It took him 7 grueling months, but James lost the excess weight. As a result, his body started functioning better, he had more energy, and he looked as great as he felt.
James’s personal tips:
1. See a dietitian/nutritionist. Strategies are good but a specific eating plan is the most effective way to achieve your personal goals. A dietitian/nutritionist tailors your meal plan based on food intolerances, preferences, and existing health conditions.
2. Drink water, not coffee.There is no end to the benefits of drinking more water. Water thins the blood and lowers blood pressure naturally. It facilitates liver and kidney function and aids in digestion, and it improves circulation, which aids in mental focus. Fresh fruit (with ~90% water content) aids hydration and also increases vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
3. Eat frequent, small meals. Our bodies are not designed to go for long stretches of time without nourishment. Avoid waiting more than 4 hours between balanced meals consisting of a variety of lean protein (turkey, fish, chicken), healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables – raw or cooked). This combination will leave you feeling satiated and energized.
4. Have a game plan. You need to schedule your meals and snacks ahead of time if you want to succeed. Make sure you have fresh fruit, nuts and/or vegetables available at your desk for snacking. This will keep you from reaching for candy or coffee.
5. Be your own activist. Create a support group and strive to be an agent of change for those around you. See if you can have the office vending machines offer healthier options!
6. Get your significant other involved. You are more likely to accomplish your goals if your partner is on board. Making healthy changes together will help you not only reach your targets but also maintain that healthy lifestyle.
7. Sleep, sleep, sleep.
8. James’s tip for the win. Your body is the first gift you receive in life. Just like a luxury car that runs on a specific type of fuel, your body will perform to the best of its ability if you fuel it properly and regularly.
James’s powerful and encouraging experience is one of many ways to take back your health. Remember, we are all unique and our needs vary from person to person. If you have specific questions for James, feel free to contact him. If you are interested in making dietary changes, take advantage of the 20-minute complimentary nutrition sessions at NYHRC.
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr.
Inspired by James Nicholson.
Written by James Nicholson and Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD.
Edited by TCabrarr.
References: The Perils of Belly Fat. Today’s Dietitian June 2013.
We may live in the city that never sleeps but the truth is we all need a good night’s sleep!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between seven to nine hours of sleep each night; yet the average American gets about 6.5 hours or less during the work week.
Not getting enough sleep, even short term sleep deprivation, can lead to mental stress, attention deficit, fatigue, and irritability. Sleep also plays a role in the risk of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and diabetes as well as hypertension, depression, and sleep-related disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and insomnia.
Most recently, studies have indicated that both insufficient sleep (less than six hours) and excessive sleep (more than 10 hours) are associated with weight gain and higher body mass index (BMI). Shorter sleep duration was specifically linked to increased fat mass in both children and adults. Furthermore, excess weight gain increases the risk of medical conditions that may interfere with sleep such as reflux, osteoarthritis and OSA.
Sleep deprivation has shown to interfere with hunger and satiety hormones - leptin and ghrelin - crucial to regulating appetite, therefore leading to overconsumption of carbohydrate and high-calorie foods and consequently weight gain. A large majority of studies have shown increased consumption of at least 250 calories with limited sleep, and some up to 500 calories.
Interestingly enough, short sleepers (less than six hours) not only consumed more calories, but had the least variation in what they ate, an important factor for a balanced diet.
Dietary Tips for Better Zzzz Time:
Carb-rich foods help L-tryptophan function better in the body. Foods such as whole grain bread, pasta, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, etc.), and sweet potatoes aid a good night’s sleep.
Chamomile tea especially is said to create a “hypnotic-effect” in sleep-deprived rats. Yet, many herbal teas (caffeine free) can help settle the stomach and induce relaxation.
Think turkey! The amino acid tryptophan is the precursor to the hormone serotonin, which is said to produce relaxation and stable sleep. Other tryptophan-rich foods are chicken, soybeans, tuna, shrimp, salmon, milk, cheese, cow’s yogurt, beans and cashews.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and synchronize the circadian rhythm. It is a powerful antioxidant that is naturally produced in the body and starts reaching its peak serum levels after nightfall, around 9 pm, and lasts up to 12 hours. Foods high in melatonin are tart cherries and/or tart cherry juice, tomatoes, olive oil, wine/grapes with skin, beer and walnuts.
- For supplements. General recommendations are: 0.5 - 3 mg 45 minutes before sleep. Always consult your doctor since side effects can arise including morning. These side effects may include grogginess, sleepiness and small changes in blood pressure.
Factors That Disrupt Sleep:
- It takes about six to eight hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off. Try to avoid intake after 2pm. Note: caffeine is found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, but also in foods such as chocolate and guarana berries.
- Drinking too much water late at night can disrupt sleep by waking you up to use the bathroom. Drink most of your water during the day.
- Large meals can cause indigestion; consuming especially heavy and/or spicy foods can lead to reflux. Eat a smaller dinner at least three hours before you go to sleep.
- Alcohol can affect the deep stages of sleep.
- Iron deficiency has been linked to restless leg syndrome. Check with your doctor if you have symptoms.
Sample Zzzz Meals:
- Turkey and spinach sandwich on whole grain bread with a handful of grapes.
- Salmon with brown rice and a side of green salad with olive oil. Served with a glass of red wine.
- Natural yogurt sprinkled with tart cherries and walnuts. Served with chamomile tea.
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS. RD
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
The Link Between Sleep and Weight Gain. Today’s Dietitian.
Foods that lead to a good night’s sleep. The Wellness Advisor.
Integrative Strategies for Cancer Patients. World Scientific 2012
Does Your Diet Influence How Well You Sleep? Time, Health & Family.
Photo courtesy of Relaxing Music
Edited by TCabrarr
Pictured: Fiana Fitzgerald after a good nights sleep.
The recommendation to get at least 8 hours of sleep a day is not new. Yet recent research suggest that not getting enough sleep, even short term sleep deprivation, can lead to mental stress, attention deficit, and may stimulate a person to consume more food, which ties in to additional studies finding a correlation between inadequate sleep and obesity.
The following are Zzzzz tips:
- Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and synchronize the circadian rhythym. It is a powerful antioxidant that is naturally produced in the body and starts reaching its peak serum levels after nightfall, around 9 pm, and last up to 12 hours. Foods high in melatonin are: tart cherries and/or tart jerry juice, tomatoes, olive oil, wine/grapes with skin, beer and walnuts.
- For supplements. General recommendations are: 0.5- 3 mg 45 minutes before sleep. Always consult your doctor since side effects can arise including morning grogginess, sleepiness and small changes in blood pressure.
- Think turkey! (perfect timing ;) The amino acid tryptophan is the precursor to the hormone serotonin, which is said to produce relaxation and stable sleep. Other tryptophah-rich food are: chicken, soybeans, tuna, shrimp, salmon, milk, cheese, cow’s yogurt, beans and cashews.
- Carb-rich foods help L-tryptophan function better in the body. Foods such as whole grain bread, pasta, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, etc), and sweet potatoes aid a good nights sleep.
- Chamomile tea especially is said to create a “hypnotic-effect” in sleep-deprived rats. Yet, many herbal teas (caffeine free) can help settle the stomach and induce relaxation.
AVOID: caffeine/energy drinks (especially after 3 pm), heavy alcohol consumption, and big meals before bed (at least 3 hours before bedtime).
Sample Zzzz Meals:
- Turkey & spinach sandwich on whole grain bread with a handful of grapes.
- Salmon with brown rice + green salad with olive oil. Served with a glass of red wine.
- Natural yogurt sprinkled with tart cherries and walnuts. Served with chamomile tea.
TheWellness Advisor.com Spring/Summer 2012
Integrative Strategies for Cancer Patients, World Scientific 2012