Monday, November 04, 2013

Don't Fall Back!

It has been a long time since I last posted in my blog. The good news is that I have been very busy with nutrition counseling, fitness training and enjoying life. I hope everyone had a wonderful and healthy summer and is now enjoying the fall. The foliage in New York has been splendid.

And congratulations to all the New York City marathon runners yesterday!
Much has changed over this weekend. We turned the clocks back one hour and the temperature dropped to 35 degrees this morning. What a shock! Those colorful leaves are falling rapidly off the trees. And the marathon runners no longer have a training schedule to adhere to. We are exercising less and eating the same amount of food. So what happens? Weight gain. I often meet athletes who complain that they gain weight in the winter. So how do you prevent gaining those winter pounds?
Well, if you were cycling or running approximately 15 hours a week and now you exercise half that amount you may have reduced your weekly caloric needs by almost 8,000 calories (assuming you weigh 195 pounds and ride 16-19 mph average speed). That is a reduction of 1143 calories per day.  Now you know why you might gain weight in the winter.

So how do you keep from adding those extra pounds?  Here are some helpful hints:

  1. Eat less – This seems obvious, but it is not as easy as it seems.  Over the summer when you are riding or running more, you may have found that you can get away with larger portion sizes.  Now that you are exercising less, you should start thinking about portion size.  What is a portion?  A portion of meat (steak, chicken, fish, etc.) is the size of a deck of cards.  That is equivalent to 3 ounces.  A portion of pasta is ½ cup and a portion of rice is 1/3 cup.  Doesn’t sound like much?  To make your meals appear and feel bigger, add more vegetables to your plate.  Make a pasta primavera or stir-fried rice that is generous on the veggies.  It will be colorful, filling and healthy. 
  2. Watch what you drink #1 – If you are used to drinking Gatorade, Cytomax, Accelerade or some other fluid replacement drink while you exercise, only use it if you are exercising more than 1 ½ hours.  Otherwise, you are adding unnecessary calories to your daily intake.  The exception to this rule is if you are exercising without eating breakfast first.
  3. Watch what you drink #2 – Alcohol adds calories.  You add about 150 calories to your intake if you drink a glass of beer, a full glass of wine or a mixed drink. Not only does it add excess calories, but alcohol increases appetite so you eat more.
  4. Strengthen your bones – Start a weight lifting routine. It will shape your body while improving your bone health.  Weight bearing exercise strengthens bones by stimulating bone formation.  However, the benefits of weight-bearing exercise are site-specific. This means that you strengthen only the bones used directly in the exercise. Therefore, it's a good idea to participate in a variety of weight-bearing exercises. To maintain the bone-building benefits, exercise should be continued on a regular basis. Weight-bearing exercises/activities include baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, weight-lifting, aerobics, dancing, running and walking. Although swimming is good exercise, it is not a weight-bearing activity.
  5. Get indoors – Less outdoor exercise is not a bad thing.  In fact, this is a great time for cross-training. Go to the health club for spinning classes, weight lifting, Pilates, swimming, boxing, Zumba, or dance the night away. Do a combination of activities: some that get your heart rate up and others that incorporate balance, flexibility, stretching and strength. When spring comes around, you will be ready to ride and run outdoors. 
  6. Get outdoors – Try a new winter sport such as cross-country skiing, snow shoeing or winter hiking. They are high calorie burners and loads of fun.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Do physically active parents create active teens?

For years, I have told my clients that it is important to be good role models for their children.  Our children look up to and emulate their parents.  But I am not a child psychologist.  I am a mom, registered dietititan-nutritionist, personal trainer and fitness enthusiast.  My findings about children's nutrition and fitness are based on scientific studies, books and conferences.  Now the latest study states that parent's physical activity does not influence a teen's level of physical activity.

Wow! I am so disappointed.  Notice that this study is on teens, not younger children.  I am still hopeful that parents can influence a younger child's activity level.  But I see the lack of correlation between my exercise and my teen's exercise level.  He observes me exercising regularly, but it doesn't appear to increase his exercise.  The question I pose is "How can we influence teens to be more active?"  We can limit time in front of the computer or TV. We can force them outside so hopefully they will use the time to walk around.  If possible, have your teen ride a bike or walk to school.  Get them to join an active club with other teens? My son enjoys riding with the Kids Ride Club.  Below is a picture of the kids and leaders during a 50 mile ride. What other ideas do you have?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Super Seeds - Flax, Chia and Hemp

If you keep up with the latest nutrition research and trends, you may have noticed a lot of talk about "super seeds".  These include chia, flax and hemp seeds.  These seeds aren't just the latest food fat.  Take chia seeds, for example.  The Tarahumara, a Native American people of northwestern Mexico best known as being ultrarunners, have been eating chia seeds for centuries.  Flaxseeds were consumed by ancient Egyptians as both food and medicine.  
All 3 seeds contain the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has been linked to preventing heart disease, bowel diseases, mood swings, and inflammation. Chia, flax, and hemp seeds are all excellent sources of dietary fiber. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, populations that consume sufficient dietary fiber have less chronic diseases. With the U.S. population averaging about half of the recommended amount of dietary fiber, it is no surprise that our rates of chronic disease remain high. Adequate dietary fiber has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol, and lower blood glucose levels.  As far as weight loss is concerned, fiber leads to more satiety, which limits overeating.

Chia Seeds
On average, chia seeds contain 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2-3 grams of  protein, and 2-2.5 grams of omega-3s per tablespoon.
Try this recipe for a delicious chia pudding:
Add 2/3 cup chia seeds, 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, and 1/3-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to a glass jar (with lid). Close the jar and shake well to combine. Refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to eat, stir in some fresh fruit and/or unsweetened coconut.


Grind flaxseeds yourself or buy them in the ground form in order to increase the availability of its amazing nutrients. 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds average 4 grams of dietary fiber, 2.5 grams of protein, and 2.7 grams of omega-3s. The next time you make muffins, bread, or pancakes, add ground flaxseeds to the batter to add some omega-3s, fiber, iron, vitamin E, and calcium.

Hemp Seeds

No. These seeds are not for smoking.  Hemp seeds are a unique plant food because they contain all the essential amino acids. With their restrictive diets, vegetarians and vegans tend to be missing some of these amino acids, which make hemp seeds a great protein source for those avoiding animal products. Hemp seeds are also high in omega-3s and average 2 grams of dietary fiber and 5 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons. Hemp seeds taste great toasted, mixed into salads, or ground as a healthier alternative to peanut butter.

Thank you to my intern, Nicole Raimondo, for writing this guest post.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Is there such thing as Super Foods?

One of the most frequent questions is “what is the most nutritious food that I can eat?”, or “what one food will make me feel better?”  We read and hear so much about "miracle foods".  There are lists of the "Top 10 Miracle Foods". And Dr. Oz always tells his audience about the latest miracle food.  Whether it is pomegranates, raspberry ketones, acai berry, or moringa, everyone wants something, anything, that will make them healthier.  And if you can put it in a capsule, that would be even better!  A magic pill, Yes!! I will take one.  But this doesn't exist because if it did, we would all be healthy. Of note, the journal of Nutrition and Cancer recently published an article, "Reality check: There is no such thing as a Miracle Food" discussing Dr. Oz effect of miracle foods. 

So what do I tell people when they ask me these questions. First, I tell them there are no miracle foods and they should not waste their money on expensive supplements. Instead eat plenty of fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Each color has a different set of antioxidants. Red fruits and vegetables contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, and hesperidin, to name a few. These nutrients reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure reduce tumor growth and LDL cholesterol levels, scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support join tissue in arthritis cases.  Orange and yellow contain betacarotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients reduce age-related macular degeneration and the risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, fight harmful free radicals, encourage alkaline balance, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones. Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and Beta-carotene. The nutrients found in these vegetables reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, normalize digestion time, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost immune system activity.  Blue and purple contain nutrients which include lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. Similar to the previous nutrients, these nutrients support retinal health, lower LDL cholesterol, boost immune system activity, support healthy digestion, improve calcium and other mineral absorption, fight inflammation, reduce tumor growth, act as an anticarcinogens in the digestive tract, and limit the activity of cancer cells. White contain nutrients such as beta-glucans, EGCG, SDG, and lignans that provide powerful immune boosting activity. These nutrients also activate natural killer B and T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers.

But this information is not enough for most people. They want to hear me name some foods.  Ok, ok... I will come up with some foods that are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and protein that you can find at your local supermarket.  These are some high quality foods to include in a healthy, well balanced eating plan:
1.     Amaranth
2.     Beans
3.     Beets
4.     Blueberries
5.     Broccoli
6.     Chia seeds
7.     Garlic
8.     Green Tea
9.     Kefir
10.  Walnuts

Amaranth - You thought quinoa was the best grain. Think again. Amaranth is a gluten free grain that is higher in protein than quinoa.  Amaranth appears to lower cholesterol via its content of plant stanols and squalene. And it is fast and easy to prepare.

Beans - Why?  It is true that beans are good for your heart. They are high in fiber, high in protein, low in fat and calories, high in B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and iron, inexpensive.  When you increase your fiber intake, increase your water intake to reduce the side effects of eating beans. Or take Beano. 

Beets - Beets are high in folate, mangenese, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.  They contain a variety of antioxidants.  Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Beet greens are high in lutein and zeaxanthin.  Yellow beets are very high in lutein. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important for eye health.

Blueberries – These berries are high in the antioxidant anthocyanins and other antioxidants including resveratrol. They are low glycemic index, high in magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, and low in calories.  They are another heart healthy food that is an immune booster.

Broccoli - Want to detox naturally?  Eat broccoli. Broccoli contains the phytonutrients glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucobrassicin which support all steps in body's detox process, including activation, neutralization, and elimination of unwanted contaminants. Isothiocyanates are the detox-regulating molecules made from broccoli's glucosinolates, and they help control the detox process at a genetic level. Broccoli is also high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and antioxidants. It is an anti-inflammatory food due to the flavoinoid kaempferol.

Chia seeds - Chia seeds are whole grains that have a very high content of fiber.  Even though the seeds are small and don’t appear to be nutrient dense, they are packed with protein, potassium, dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.  Chia seeds are replacing flax seeds due to their higher omega 3 fatty acid content and fiber content.

Garlic - Garlic contains flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients.  Garlic may help improve iron metabolism - the diallyl sulfides in garlic help increase production of a protein called ferroportin. Garlic's sulfides can help dilate our blood vessels and help keep our blood pressure under control. Garlic also contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. 

Green Tea - Green tea is one of the least processed teas and thus provides the most antioxidant polyphenols, notably a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate , which is believed to be responsible for most of the health benefits linked to green tea. Green tea drinkers appear to have lower risk for a wide range of diseases, from simple bacterial or viral infections to chronic degenerative conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, periodontal disease, and osteoporosis. Green tea contains three major components that promote fat loss: catechins, caffeine and theanine. Green tea may also increase exercise endurance, but you might need to drink 4 cups in order to get this benefit.  


Kefir -Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is practically lactose free. It is very high in probiotics which support gut health. Kefir contains certain healthy bacteria that is not available in yogurt, including Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, Streptococcus species, Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir.  It is a good source of vitamin A, D and calcium.

Walnuts - Did you know that approximately 90% of the phenols in walnuts are found in the walnut skin, including key phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids? They are also high in vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids which are heart protective.  Phytonutrient research on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of walnuts has moved this food further and further up the ladder of foods that are protective against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems, and type 2 diabetes.




Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Kids in the Kitchen

Do you want your child to try new foods?  One way is to get them involved in cooking.  This includes toddlers to teens.
  • Toddlers: allow them to wash the food and mix ingredients.
  • School-aged children: teach them how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients while learning math skills.
  • Teenagers: Have your teen be responsible for making a dish of their choice.

Encourage your child to taste their creation. They don't need to love it or finish it, but any bit of positive reinforcement will make them a happier cook and gourmand.

Here is a link to a Rachael Ray show of little chefs. Your child could be one of them :)

Monday, March 04, 2013

Fuel for your half marathon and beyond

It is half marathon season, leading up to marathon season.  Not only do you need to train sufficiently to run the distance, but you also have to fuel your body properly.  Think of your body as an automobile – you want it fuel it with the best so you can get optimum performance.  Fill your body with high performing fuel and you will run like a fine tuned Porsche.  Here are my tips for running a successful half marathon and beyond:

1.      Practice, Practice, Practice: Not only do you need to prepare your legs for running, and weight train to strengthen your muscles, you need to practice your fueling routines.   On your next long run, simulate race day.  Wake up at the same time as you will need to for the start of your race, have breakfast, have snacks, and start your run at the same time as the race.  Bring along fuel and fluids that you will need to sustain your running for the allotted distance.  Write down what you ate and drank and how it made you feel.  Make adjustments and practice your fueling plan again at your next training run.

2.      One week before the race:  You are tapering your running, so you will be burning fewer calories and carbohydrates. That doesn’t mean eat less carbs.  No, your body is going to need those carbs for the race.  Do not change your eating habits (unless you are improving them!).

3.      Carbo Loading:  There are two choices which I call the Basic Method versus the Scientific Method.  The Basic Method doesn’t involve any math.  Just keep eating what you are eating. Do not cut back on carbs.  Your body will naturally store the carbs since you are using fewer this week.  The Scientific Method requires simple math.  Consume 8-12 g/kg (3.6-5.4 g/lb) of body weight per day of carbs for 3-4 days prior to the race. Either way, you may gain weight. Don’t worry because it is water weight. You will lose all this weight on race day.

4.      The night before the race.  Eat a carbohydrate rich, low fat, low fiber meal at home.  I don’t recommend going out to eat unless it is a place you trust and can have something that is low in fat and fiber.  You want to make sure you don’t wake up with stomach issues.  Food poisoning the night before a race is not fun.  Don’t eat too late at night because it may make it more difficult to fall asleep.  Don’t have anything with caffeine after 2pm the day before your race because it will make it more difficult to fall asleep.  Alcohol also makes sleeping more difficult.  And no scary movies.

5.      Race morning breakfast: Now it is time to eat your tested breakfast.  This will be a low fiber, low fat breakfast.  The amount of carbs you need is based on how long before the start of the race.  The rule is 1 gram per kilogram body weight for every hour before the race start.

6.      Fifteen minutes before the start: Drink 7-10 ounces of fluid and consume 15-25 grams of carbs.

7.      Hydration:  Drink up but not too much. The amount you drink should also be tested before the race. A general rule is to drink 5-10 ounces every 15-20 minutes.  Find out how often there are fluid stations along the race course and if there are other drinks besides fluid.  Don’t drink anything you haven’t pretested.  Note: The cups hold approximately 5 ounces. 

8.      Fueling during the race:  Approximately 30-60 g of carbohydrates per hour are necessary for maintenance of blood glucose levels while doing endurance events.  Specifically, consume 0.7 grams carbs per kilogram body weight.  This can be in the form of Gu, gels, bars, dried fruit, honey, Gatorade or other carbohydrate replacement drink.

9.      Water versus the race course carbo drink versus BYOF (bring your own fluid):  Unless you have raced with the race course carbo drink in the past, don’t start trying it out at the race.  It is important to note that carbohydrate replacement drinks contain necessary carbs and electrolytes.  If you drink a carbohydrate replacement drink, you may need fewer sources of carbs during your race.

10.   Congratulations!!!!  You finished!!!!

11.   Immediately after your race: A carbohydrate intake of 1.0 to 1.5 g/kg (0.5 to 0.7 g/lb) of body weight during the first 30 minutes post-exercise and again every 2 hours for 4-6 hours to replace glycogen stores.  Sports drinks are an easy way to rehydrate, replenish electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and get the necessary carbohydrates within 30 minutes of exercising.  Shortly after completion of exercise, 10-20 g of protein should be consumed to aid in muscle repair. 

12.   One week after the race: If you don’t plan on continuing to keep up the miles running, make sure you cut back on your calories unless you want to gain weight.  And keep on fueling your body for mental and physical success.
Now it is off to the races!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My favorite recovery drink: Chocolate Milk

During my last run, I was asked “Is it true that chocolate milk is a good recovery drink?”  The answer is “yes”. This has been backed up by a variety of scientific studies, the most recent in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Oct. 15, 2012, “Chocolate Milk...Post  Exercise Recovery”. This is a review article that found low-fat chocolate milk, which consists of a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio, provides fluids and sodium to aid in post-workout recovery. Consuming chocolate milk immediately after exercise and again at 2 hours post-exercise appears to be optimal for exercise recovery and may attenuate indices of muscle damage.

One of my favorite studies that I like to cite was in the February 2006 issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.  In three trials administered at one-week intervals, nine male endurance trained cyclists performed an interval workout then drank one of three drinks after 2 hours of recovery. One group got standard 2% chocolate milk, another drank fluid- and electrolyte-replenishing Gatorade and a third group Endurox R4, a specially formulated beverage with a "patented 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein" and other ingredients aimed at replenishing muscle glycogen stores and helping rebuild muscle.  Four hours later they performed an endurance trial to exhaustion at 70% VO2max.  The study reported that the cyclists who drank chocolate milk were able to continue cycling about 50% longer than those who drank Endurox R4 and about equally as long as those who drank Gatorade.


There is a common factor in all the chocolate milk recovery studies – they are done on male cyclists, although there is one study on collegiate soccer players.  So what does that mean to us?  If you are a male endurance trained cyclist, chances are that chocolate milk is a good recovery drink.  What if you are a female runner?  There are no studies that prove the same benefits, but it will probably be a good choice after a bout of exercise.   I recommend chocolate milk to all my athletes as a recovery drink.  Why?  It contains carbohydrates that are needed to refuel the muscles.  It contains protein that provides amino acids for building and repairing of muscle tissues.  Also, a little protein might give an athlete a performance edge by enhancing the insulin release, which aids in the transport of carbohydrates to the muscles.  It contains calcium, a nutrient that most adults don’t get enough of.  It is easy to make and less expensive than commercial drinks.  And it tastes good!

But what if you don’t consume dairy? Cow’s milk contains 12-13 grams carbs and 8 grams of protein for one cup while soy milk contains 5-15 grams of carbs and 6 to 8 grams of protein.  If you drink soy milk, select one that is close to 12-13 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein.  Make sure you purchase soy milk with added calcium and vitamin D. Almond milk contains 8 grams of carbs and one gram of protein.  Almond milk does not have sufficient protein or carbs to make a recovery chocolate milk. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it; it just means you need to supplement it with additional carbs and protein for recovery sake.  

Eat well to run strong!