Plant-Based BBQ

May 24, 2021

Looking to shake things up this BBQ season? Follow this plant-based guide for a delicious, earth-friendly BBQ menu.

All my plant-based buddies out there do not look forward to the grilling season. Although it’s always fun to go to a Memorial Day BBQ hang or a July 4th rooftop bash, when all there is to eat is white bread, burgers, hot dogs, potato chips, and beer – it’s kind of disappointing. But BBQs don’t have to mean meat meat meat, they can be just as yummy without a meat and poultry focus, albeit slightly non-traditional. Here are some of my favorite swap outs and additions to make your BBQ a feast of healthy, plant-based goodness:

  • Shish kebabs were made for plant-based eaters! Skewer all your favorite veggies – peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms – and if you want something meaty on it, try some of the vegan sausages from Beyond meat or even chunks of seitan. Brush some BBQ sauce on your skewer and throw it on the grill. Seitan gets a bad rap because of it’s high gluten content, but it’s a great source of plant-based protein, it’s low in fat, and can be enjoyed every once in a while.
  • No cookout should go without a salad. I got you! I pride myself on being a salad wizard. Maybe that’s predictable for a Dietitian. Check out my recipes page for a spring salad that is light and filling. It’s always a good idea to start a meal with a small plate of vegetables full of fiber, to keep you feeling full and prevent you from overeating.
  • If you must have burgers at a BBQ, I can understand – luckily we have substitutes now that work just as well, if not better. Beyond meat and Impossible meat both offer plant-based alternatives that can easily replace your traditional ground beef. Or shop at your local farmer’s market for sustainably sourced options of meat, chicken, and fish. It’s important to know where the animal products are coming from and how they were raised. Although this might be more pricey, the earth and your health will thank you later!
  • Once you have your burger ready, you need to top it with all the fixings. Pickles of course, maybe some sliced avocado, and for a slaw try a cabbage slaw with a vinegar-based dressing for a crunchy texture but slightly more heart-healthy than the traditional mayo-drenched slaws.  
  • Pass on the deep fried potatoes and soggy potato salads this year, and go for a simple baked potato “fry”. Slice up your potatoes or sweet potatoes into strips, toss them in some olive oil, salt & pepper, and cook them at 425*F for about 35 minutes. You’ll get a delicious, crispy fry without all the soaked up grease.
  • Don’t skip dessert! End your big meal with something sweet and refreshing to signal to your body you are done eating. Slice up a watermelon or make a fruit salad bowl for dessert. If you are looking to get creative with it try a watermelon, feta, and mint salad or a watermelon “pizza” with yogurt and topped with other fruits. Watermelon is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium – all nutrients we want for healthy eyes, a strong immune system, and controlled blood pressure. And as a water-based fruit, it’s a delicious way to stay hydrated in the summer sun.

Use these plant-based tips to throw a unique, earth-friendly, BBQ this summer!

 

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Making Sense of Nutrition Labels

May 12, 2021

Food labels can be confusing and require us to do calculations. But as a consumer, you should want to know what you are eating.

Here’s the scoop – nutrition facts labels only tell you some of the story, there’s more. Food companies are only going to tell you what they HAVE to tell you. It’s up to you to figure out the rest. Which is not always so simple. Here’s a helpful guide to make sense of food labels:

  • Before you get overwhelmed with the numbers, calories, fats, etc. take a look at the list of the ingredients. The list is not random. Ingredients are listed by amount. Meaning, whatever ingredient is the largest proportionately in the recipe, that is the ingredient you will see first. So if there is a lot of sugar or salt or oil in the food item, they are going to be listed as one of the first ingredients. This is important to note because we should know the composition of the foods we eat. Another pro tip: the shorter the list, the better. Less is more when it comes to nutrition.
  • Next, look at the Serving Size. This is the tricky part. They typically use a large font on the calories to draw you in and make you overlook the serving size, but we need to understand all the data in terms of how much per serving. So if 2 Tbsp of peanut butter is the serving size noted on the jar label, then everything you read below needs to be calculated in terms of 2 Tbsp.
  • Let’s continue with this example for calories and macronutrients. If that same jar of peanut butter, notes 90 calories and XXgm of Total Fat, XXgm of Total Carbohydrate and XXgm of Protein, be aware that if you eat 4 Tbsp of peanut butter then you are consuming double of calories, fat, carbs, and protein that are noted on the label.
  • Many people may not even look at % Daily Value but it’s actually the most useful thing on the label, in my opinion. We don’t eat nutrients, we eat food. And food is a complex mix of nutrients that our bodies need to do what it does. So % Daily Value helps us understand the bigger picture. In other words, if I eat 2 Tbsp of this peanut butter what percentage of my daily needs/allowances of nutrients does this cover?
  • Greens don’t always have to be spinach or kale, another option you may find in the spring is swiss chard. Rainbow chard has those beautiful rainbow-colored stalks that immediately draw you in. Swiss chard is another great source for your Vitamins A, C, and K. Use these colorful and versatile greens in a basic veggie saute or in soup, but if you are looking to get creative, try using it in a quiche recipe. This can be a dairy based quiche or a vegan quiche.
  • And to take it a step further, food labels don’t even tell you much about the micronutrients and the trace minerals. Because in reality it’s not difficult to consume what we need for most of these. But ones that do show up are sodium, potassium, you may see Vitamin A, calcium, iron, etc. Sodium is important to note. We consume much more sodium than we need, 2300 milligrams a day is typically all we need and it’s a lot easier to exceed that limit than you think. If you feel bloated, measuring your sodium intake is a good place to start. But the great thing about Sodium is that it is balanced out by our potassium intake. Foods high in potassium include artichokes, bananas, apricots, prunes, nuts, etc. so when you think sodium, think potassium.

All in all, nutrition facts labels can be useful but they require knowledge. Don’t be so quick to  label a food “bad” because you saw too many calories or too much sodium. Food is not that simple and there is more to decipher from a label. And labels are improving! The addition of trans fats, added sugar, dietary fiber, these are all so useful to know. So utilize the label even if it means spending 30 extra seconds looking at an item before you throw it in your shopping cart.

 

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Understanding My Carbon Foodprint

May 6, 2021

There is a lot of jargon associated with sustainable living, don’t get too overwhelmed by all the terms and phrases. Carbon footprint is another way of saying impact on our planet’s health.

When we think of our carbon footprint, we typically refer to our impact on the environment from travel and our reliance on one-use items. One big overlooked piece of our personal carbon footprint is actually related to our diet. Our food choices, what we eat and where we buy it from, can greatly impact the environment.

What is your carbon footprint?

It is a measure of our impact on the environment. It is a calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions that get trapped in the atmosphere from the process of production. Carbon dioxide, the gas emission associated with humans, is where the term “carbon footprint” gets its name, however there are other gases of concern such as methane and nitrous oxide. What is important to understand and know is that our actions, from travel to energy use to diet, all play a role in the climate crisis and changing our habits is imperative and necessary. To learn more about your own carbon footprint, check out this interactive NY Times article.

Let’s focus on food. 

What food choices can we make that will lower our impact on the environment.

  • Let’s start with: eat more plants. You hear this one a lot because, well, plants are just so good for you and for this earth, it’s a fantastic win-win. We know how plants are healthy for us. But producing plants is beneficial to earth, to our soil, especially when we choose to grow varieties as opposed to monocrops or cash crops (corn, wheat, and soy). We should celebrate biodiversity by eating all of the plants, and encouraging our policymakers to invest in agroecology.
  • Next, less animal products. I’ll never tell you to stop eating meat, poultry, fish, and/or dairy. That is a personal choice. I may, however, suggest lowering your intake. Why? The impact of meat production on our environment and on the workers that produce it, is very costly. Beef has the greatest carbon footprint of any food item, from the raising of methane-producing cattle all the way to the working conditions of processing plants. We should be conscious to lower our intake and purchase from reputable vendors.
  • Shop locally and seasonally. I recommend purchasing your produce nearby, this is to lower our carbon footprint in terms of transportation but really it’s about supporting your local economy and local growers. What is going to benefit our earth, is eating seasonally. Eat what is available, don’t try to grow something that isn’t meant to be grown right now. In other words, let nature tell us what to eat instead of trying to beat nature. When we work so hard to overcome nature in order to eat strawberries in January we hurt our environment because it requires unnatural methods to make it happen.
  • Reduce food waste. Lastly, reduce food waste and compost. Buy what you need, shop smart, don’t overthink it. And make the most of what you have. There are ways to make stocks out of scraps and to compost instead of throwing everything in the trash.
  • Making small changes, over time. As always, making changes is not easy. If we try to do too much as once we are setting ourselves up to fail. Reaching long-term goals by taking on smaller short-term goals is a more productive approach. Try making one small easy change, for your week. See if this works and be open to modifying. Have regular check-ins with yourself to see how you are feeling and if you are happy with your food choices.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be on a good track to a more healthy and sustainable life for you and our planet. 

 

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How to Become a Spring-Time Chef

April 30, 2021

If shopping in the produce section for your plant-based meals is overwhelming, follow this simple guide to pick out nutritious and delicious goodies to cook up this Spring.

I’ve got spring fever! Yay for the start of the growing season and the season of farmer’s markets, CSAs and all the plant-based goodies. Let’s take a look at some of the fruits and veggies we have coming our way this spring and what delicious dishes we can make.

  • You probably have heard a lot about “ramps season”. Ramps look like a green onion that tastes like garlic. They are not hard to miss, mostly because of their smell but also due to the fact that you can only find them for a short time in the spring and we go crazy for them! Ramps are packed with vitamin A and C, making them essential to our eye health and immune system. They also are known for their antioxidant content, an important element our bodies need to fight off cancer-causing free radicals.  So how should we use this nutritious allium? I recommend throwing these on the grill, serving them in your salad or as a side to add in to your entree such as a sandwich. They are so flavorful and can elevate almost any dish!
  • Next up we have asparagus. Where to even start with this superstar?! You may find these stalks as the traditional green variety, or white, or even purple. Asparagus is loaded with nutrients. They are a great addition to a balanced diet. Some nutrients to highlight are Fiber, keeps cholesterol down and gut healthy, Magnesium and Calcium for muscle and bone health, Vitamin K  for blood clotting and bone health, and Riboflavin and Thiamin, B vitamins that are essential for digestion of macronutrients and brain function. Asparagus is best simply roasted with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Or if you want to get creative with your veggie sushi rolls, you can put these in your roll to add a little crunch.
  • Let’s not forget the overlooked green peas. Fresh green peas get a bad rep because of canned and frozen peas, that can be like eating overcooked mush. Also, it’s the go-to veggie you see at every dinner table on tv and in movies. But if you get a batch of freshly grown peas, you may change your mind about this legume. Also a green vegetable that boasts Vitamin K, Fiber, and Vitamin C. Additionally peas are a good plant source for Protein. Great as a stand alone side dish, in a salad, or my personal favorite is a green pea pesto you can add to toast or pasta.
  • The most favorite fruit, strawberries! No one doesn’t love strawberries. If you are given a bowl of fruit salad, I guarantee you pick out and eat the strawberries first. Strawberries are Vitamin C bombs! Keeping our immune system strong, aids in absorbing iron, and promotes wound healing. If you want to do more than have these as a snack, they go great in a smoothie, or as an addition to a spinach salad with some almonds or pecans, or even as a homemade compote.
  • Greens don’t always have to be spinach or kale, another option you may find in the spring is swiss chard. Rainbow chard has those beautiful rainbow-colored stalks that immediately draw you in. Swiss chard is another great source for your Vitamins A, C, and K. Use these colorful and versatile greens in a basic veggie saute or in soup, but if you are looking to get creative, try using it in a quiche recipe. This can be a dairy based quiche or a vegan quiche.
  • Artichokes don’t get a lot of love outside of the mediterranean area. They are such a great vegetable, packed with nutrients, and great flavor. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite party dip! Another micronutrient-rich veggie that you can’t miss. My favorite go-to veggie for Potassium, an important mineral for controlling blood pressure. Don’t get intimidated by a raw artichoke. Once you have these prepped and cooked, they are a great snack, or addition to almost any dish. I love to chop them up and throw them into my veggie tacos, or in my bowl of pasta. Really goes well in almost anything!
  • And finally, we have the best and messiest springtime snack, cherries. I love eating a handful of cherries and end up with red, sticky fingers. This fruit supplies a hearty dose of Fiber, Vitamin C, and Potassium to your diet. Besides eating these as a snack, there is nothing more delicious than a tart cherry pie.

Hope this list helps eliminate some of that “writer’s block” we get when thinking of what to cook or dishes to make. If there was ever a time to get cooking in the kitchen, it’s spring and summer. So don’t waste any time!

 

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Your Winter Time Cooking Guide

February 15, 2021

Plant-based eating in the winter may seem difficult. Follow our guide for keeping your dishes creative and interesting this winter.

The few farmer’s markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) during the winter months don’t attract many proprietors. The options are slim. You’ll find root vegetables, leafy greens, maybe some apples, and not much else. It can seem dull and uninviting. Sending you straight to the nearest supermarket to buy blueberries in February from who-knows-where and with little knowledge of how this plant got to you, let alone how it was grown, or pretty much anything about it. 

Food is essential, we need it to live. Yet we do more research on the best selfie light or phone case to buy than we do on the food we eat. When I hear stories of recalls on products at supermarkets for reasons such as metal in baby food or e.coli in romaine lettuce, I wonder how we got so far removed. Where our food comes from and how it got to us, from seed to plate, it matters and we should let nature guide our diets. 

Here are some winter veggies that may be on your shopping list and how to keep your dishes fresh:

What we buy as consumers, what we demand, can dictate supply. It can have the power to decide what our farmers grow. We also want to let nature tell us what our earth can grow now. We should listen. There are so many ways to get creative with the food that nature is telling us to eat, and it doesn’t need to be complicated.

 

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Boost Your Winter Mood

February 1, 2021

If winter has got you down, this nutrition guide will help you choose the healthy foods and activities to get you through.  

If you’re in the New York area this winter, you are tired of shoveling the snow and you’re so over this winter. You are ready for warm weather and summer sun. And I imagine that is true even if you aren’t in New York. We can all agree, this winter is depressing and with limited ability to get out, it can feel worse than usual, at times. 

When we are feeling those winter blues we tend to get lazy about what we eat and how active we are. We lack motivation to stay healthy. But food and activity are directly linked to our emotions, we can choose foods and a lifestyle that combat those winter grumpies, while being kind to our environment and those around us.


Diets full of fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been proven to lift our mood. The staple foods of the Mediterranean Diet are full of vitamins and minerals that are shown to combat feeling down. Some of the micronutrients that have been linked directly with mood-boosting include Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, and Vitamin D. Although there are plenty of foods out there that can provide these nutrients, let’s concentrate on some of the winter goodies that are in season and can be bought locally. 

  • Broccoli is full of vitamin C. We typically associate vitamin C with our immune systems, specifically as preventative treatment for the common cold. But vitamin C is also a key micronutrient in brain function and has been proven to play a role in improving mood.
  • Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, beans and legumes, are all loaded with vitamin B6. B6 is linked to many functions of our body, it is an important coenzyme for many reactions. It has also been associated with relieving stress . B6 is often a recommended supplement for easing premenstrual symptoms.
  • Legumes, whole grains, and leafy greens are incredible sources of Magnesium and easy finds at your local farmer’s market. This mineral is famous for its role in treatment for mood irregularity
  • Vitamin D is better known as the “sunshine vitamin”, but when the sun isn’t shining as much as we wish it would, we can get this fat-soluble vitamin from mushrooms, eggs and oily fish such as salmon (sustainably sourced). Vitamin D has been proven as an effective, low-cost treatment for depression and is continuously being studied as more benefits are discovered .
  • And, let’s quickly mention physical activity. In the wise words of Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy…”. One of the most memorable lines in the movie is also a great mantra to understand how simply, exercise causes release of mood-boosting chemicals in your brain to feel good and relaxed. It is no secret that when the dead of winter rolls around the last thing you want to do is hit the gym or in our current situation, hit the at-home workout video. Motivation for fitness should not only be rooted in what we look like, it should also be about what we feel like. Exercise is a key to our personal wellness

Maybe you’re thinking “That sounds fine but I just want to wallow. It’s cold outside…leave me alone. Why would I want to boost my mood?”. Pushing yourself even just slightly is going to give you maximum results. When we take the time to embrace a more positive outlook and feeling, we can pass that feeling along to someone else. The good kind of contagious! And I would say that passing along some optimism, or good spirits, is exactly what we all need right about now. The decision to not let those winter blues get to you, is a healthy one. Choose to eat some of your favorite winter veggies, stay active, and spread cheer – our recipe to make it to spring!

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Portion Control

April 19, 2021

Aren’t you so sick of hearing this overused, water-downed weight loss catchphrase? “Portion control”…yeah, me too. When I say to someone “everything in moderation”, I know they aren’t listening. We as nutrition professionals overuse these terms to the point of them losing their meaning. So let’s change that. 

When I was younger, I didn’t eat much in the way of snacks or junk food. Candy and junk food was not really kept in our house. But at Friday night Shabbat dinner we always had dessert. Usually more than one dessert to choose from because my Dad doesn’t eat chocolate (I know, it’s offensive). So the rule was you can either have a portion of one dessert or ½ portions of both desserts. Better known as “a little bit of both”. To this day, we still mock ourselves asking our Mom “can I please have a little bit of both?” 

I love food, and I love eating, and sometimes when I am eating or cooking I may not take notice of how much I am eating or how much of an ingredient I am adding. This lack of taking notice can become problematic. The reason nutritionists have their clients recall what they ate either through a 24-hour recall or a food journal, is not only a strategy for obtaining information on a client’s dietary habits but it also is giving the client a tool to use on their own. To become a conscious eater.

If you take the time to pay attention to what and how much you are eating, you may realize that you are eating more than you need or you may realize that there is room to add more. Sometimes having a little bit of different foods you like is more rewarding than a heavy portion of one dish. 

Eating the amount you need, as opposed to more or less, is doing a kindness to your body. Too much can make you feel bloated and can also lead to weight gain, if it becomes a habit. When we take the time to portion out our meals and snacks, we can maintain our weight and control our caloric intake. Sometimes our “eyes are bigger than our stomachs” and although we want to believe we know by instinct how much we are eating, it is often that we are eating more than we need or more than we realize. By taking the time to measure out your ingredients you will notice your weight staying consistent, less yo-yoing, and a general sense of wellness. 

I recently bought a food scale, a much overdue purchase. I admit that it is a slippery slope to become overly obsessed with how much you are eating and weighing all your portions. But you can try first portioning out how much you may want of something, and then weighing, as opposed to weighing it first. This way you are leading by intuition while still being conscious of portion sizes. The goal is to enjoy your food without going overboard

And that’s just the half of it. Portion control comes with even greater benefits…

By controlling your intake, you may notice your grocery bill go down, and most importantly, you can buy what you need and reduce waste. By knowing how much you eat, and becoming conscious of your eating habits, walking into a grocery store to buy food for the week becomes an easier task and leads to more exact purchases and less estimations. Less food and money go to waste. And if enough people knew how much they needed, grocery stores could stock more appropriately and not throw out tons of perishable goods. If grocery stores know what to stock and farmers know what to grow, and how much to supply, food can be more efficiently grown and priced fairly, reducing food insecurity. But the benefits of reducing food waste go further than helping people and saving money, we can also conserve resources and do good for our environment and ecosystem. 

What’s the big picture? 

Maybe as someone who is lucky enough to have the privilege of never having to worry about where your next meal is coming from, you don’t take the time to think about how much you are buying or whether your food waste does have a larger impact on the planet and other people. It’s difficult to imagine that as a single consumer you can have a greater impact on our food systems. You may think, “what does it matter if I do not eat meat or if I compost, because if I’m the only one – nothing is going to change”. But if your actions can influence just one other person, make one other person change their habits or become aware, you made a difference, giving you more power to make a change than you think. Therefore by choosing to learn about your own eating habits by portioning, the domino effect of that small act, could lead to a more efficient and sustainable global food system. 

I want to share an Op-Ed from Civil Eats discussing the impact of Big Food on the issue of food insecurity. This article illustrates how consolidation of these companies into monopolies has enabled companies to control high prices and create unaffordable food products. However, one great takeaway of this article is that we as consumers and society can change this, we have the power to choose where, what and how much food we buy. Taking steps towards an equitable and sustainable food system is something attainable. Our society benefits when we make healthier choices for ourselves because those choices are deeply intertwined with the health of other people and the planet.

Getting Started

October 29, 2020

Let me introduce myself and give context to what you will see here.
 
I have been working and studying in the field of nutrition for over 10 years, and am now a Registered Dietitian. I became interested in nutrition and health as a teenager, who was slightly overweight. What I learned as a kid trying to lose weight and look like everyone else, was that I was missing an understanding of health and how what we eat is more than just about being skinny or having the “instagram perfect body”, it’s about building a positive relationship with our body, our food, and understanding how what we eat has the power to impact not only our own health, but the plant’s health, and the health of society.
 
My goal here is to share recipes and thoughts, as well as my expertise on food and health. I have learned a lot on my journey to a healthier, sustainable lifestyle about loving what you eat and what you look like. I hope to be able to educate and inspire others to enjoy their food again!
 

I am often confronted with questions like “I eat white rice and white pasta, is that okay?” or “what do you think of juicing?”. And my answers always start with “it depends…” I can’t even imagine how frustrating that answer is. I know that people are looking for a straightforward, “yes or no” answer, or a “good or bad” answer. But that is mostly not how it works.
 
This feels relevant to mention around this time of year. It is the season of Jewish Holidays as well as my birthday, and it is usually the time of year that I reconnect with many of my friends and family after the summer. Not only is food a staple part of the Fall season (apples and pumpkins galore!) but it is the season of celebrations in Jewish culture full of big meals and hearty menus. And with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, not too far away, I find food and diet questions pop up more than usual in the Fall.
 
Asking questions about food and diet is not fruitless (pun intended!). It is a good place to start, and it signifies that someone is at least curious about what they are putting in their bodies for sustenance. And before moving forward, I want to emphasize that our diets should not be confusing or full of restrictive rules. We should love what we eat and look forward to our meals and snacks. So instead of asking questions like “is this food good or bad?”, we could be asking “where does this fit into my diet?”, because it is a food that I like and I want to keep eating it. Simply reframing a question can lead to more optimistic and rewarding discourse around food.
 
Here’s my question for today: How can I partake fully in celebrations that come at this time of year and all of the delicious goodies in Autumn without sacrificing health?
 

  • When we know our day or week is going to include a large meal or meals, or our day is going to end with a bucket full of candy, we can plan ahead. I don’t mean meal planning. I mean balance. Typically we may eat 3 meals a day or 5 small meals, and they are usually balanced out in size. But if we know that one of those will be larger in size than usual, we can plan for it. When the time comes to face the impending large meal or bucket of candy, it’s prudent not to deprive yourself of something you want – this may lead to poor results later – instead, try eating a smaller portion just to satisfy the taste you are craving. Become a mindful eater. Don’t eat on impulse or on emotion. Research shows that eating slowly or simply paying attention to what we put on our plates, is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
     
  • It’s tough to plan a menu. I know I tend to get writer’s block just as I am being asked to plan a meal….great timing. But the best part of autumn is all the wonderful produce in season during this time, making it fun and exciting to eat what nature is asking us to. Explore your local farmer’s market, the pumpkin, squash, apples, colorful potatoes, brussel sprouts, and more! As the growing season comes to a close, so do some farmer’s markets. But that does not mean we need to resort to the supermarket. We can still choose to eat from local sources by joining a CSA or finding local grocers or buying farm boxes from restaurants and online grocers. Being conscious of the environmental impact our food system has on biodiversity, pollution, water and land use, and soil degradation can be reflected in what we choose to eat.
     
  • I recently read an article in the NY Times, by Peter Wells, about the uptick in dining out as we have been able to return to restaurants, indoors and outdoors. The article emphasizes how we need to remember and be conscious of all the people that work to make that possible. We tend to take for granted the privilege of eating in a restaurant, and the pandemic made us wake up to this privilege. Not only are staff taking risks to be there as servers and cooks, but they are also providing an essential service to give us a sense of normalcy in difficult times. A healthy society is about respecting and appreciating those around us, in all circumstances. We are coming up on the season of thanks and for those in the Jewish community we are beginning a new year, turning over a new leaf, so when it comes to where we eat, how we eat, and who makes that possible, pay attention and be grateful.
     

Recipes by the Season

November 16, 2020

You may have noticed my recipes are missing the classic GF (gluten-free), DF (dairy-free), NF (nut-free) buttons or icons that typically accompany recipe pages these days. Although I understand wanting to organize recipes based on people’s preference or dietary restrictions, I wanted to offer a different perspective on how we decide what to eat or what to cook.
 
Recipes here are organized by season. I want to encourage you to make a recipe your own, substitute non-dairy milk for dairy milk, or gluten-free bread for regular bread, but concentrate on eating with nature in mind. Make the food decisions that you like while embracing produce for that time of year. You may be lucky enough to live in a place where you have easy access to what you want when you want it, year-round, with no problem. But is that way of approaching our food purchases and our dish selections really what is best for us and the world? We should aim to eat seasonally. Let’s talk about why:
 
Eating seasonally offers many health benefits. It gives us an opportunity to eat different fruit and veggies over the course of a year, and provides insurance that we will eat the rainbow, as they say. Diversity in the quality of our diets is not only a safeguard to providing the nutrients we need but it is also a major benefit to our gut health. Having a healthy gut or microbiome has been associated with a strong immune system, weight maintenance, blood sugar control and heart health, in addition to a well-functioning digestive system.
 

 
Also, eating seasonally (or rather locally) can offer us the health benefit of purchasing from farms who avoid using pesticides as a growing method. Many pesticides have been proven to have harmful effects to our health, overtime the increased exposure can become problematic. Our best defense is to purchase from growers who are upfront about their practices and avoid using these chemicals on their products. These chemicals not only hurt us but they also hurt our earth.
 
By humans interfering with the nature of soil and food production with man-made chemicals, although it helped us produce large quantities of certain crops, it also disturbed our ecosystem in a way that is becoming more and more difficult to resolve and overcome. Pesticides and herbicides are seeping into our water, air, and ground, destroying some of our great natural barriers to an unhealthy planet and life.
 
So what can we do?
 
Purchase from local small farms and choose to eat foods that match the season. By buying your produce at a farmer’s market or through a CSA, and now with even more options such as online or farm boxes from local grocers and restaurants, you can develop relationships with your providers. Learn more about the food you are eating, how it got to your plate, when and how it was grown. Because this all matters when it comes to a healthy planet and lifestyle.
 
The wins go even further!
 
By purchasing from these suppliers not only are you encouraging biodiverse farming practices that we know are more sustainable, but you can also support the small farms who do not rely on government subsidies and may rely solely on what they can sell. Now more than ever they need our economic support. Our society needs this support. The small farms owned by African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, and other marginalized groups, have been historically placed at a disadvantage and subject to discrimation within our food systems to this day. We should be mindful of who we are buying from, and work to create a more just food system that recognizes all those who contribute to making us and our planet healthier. To learn more, resources can be found here.
 
I wanted to end by sharing this article by Kathleen Squires from the Wall Street Journal in early November 2020 that highlighted Comfort Farm in Georgia, that raises turkeys. The message aligns with much of what was discussed here and gives a more personal example of the importance of knowing your food and it’s providers.

New Year’s Resolutions

January 10, 2020

2020 is over (thankfully) and we are ready for a new year, and to turn over a new leaf. Most people use this time to make New Year’s Resolutions and these are typically related to exercise and diet. As a dietitian I encourage you to make these resolutions! It’s important to our long-term health that we stay focused on the food we eat and the activities we partake in.
 
But by February most of the steam for our resolutions begin to fade and only reginite when the weather gets warmer, and we are wearing less layers. So if you choose this new year to embark on a healthier lifestyle, what is going to motivate you?
 
First step in behavior change is motivation. This is a key ingredient in making any change whether that’s fitness, food, or taking on any new project/endeavor. Start by writing down the reasons for choosing this resolution.
 
It could be anything from weight loss to getting healthier to taking on a new hobby. Maybe it’s not just for yourself, but for your family and friends. Whatever it may be, recognize it and jot it down. Keep these reasons posted somewhere, whether on a bulletin board at home or a note in your phone, a place where you can access them easily if you need. You can always come back and review this list, change it, or add to it. We are more likely to do the things that mean something to us, so find meaning behind your resolution.
 
Here are some thoughts to get you started on working out your workouts.
 

 
You may have seen this article recently discussing exercise and weight loss. There is this basic notion that if we workout we will lose weight and not worry about what we eat or how much. Or that if I went for a run today, it’s okay to eat an extra slice of pizza. Yes, balance and moderation are key to health and nutrition, but there’s more to it when it comes to fitness. We associate losing weight with diet and exercise, and I am not saying exercise isn’t vital but if you are simply out to cut the numbers on the scale, then cutting calories will do the trick. However if we are looking at it from the point of a lifestyle change, our overall health and well-being, then the focus becomes physical activity and smart food choices.
 
We know the benefits of exercise – better night’s sleep, heart health, reduce risk of diabetes and some cancers, improve muscle and bone strength, maintain weight and increase life longevity – and to get the most out of our physical activity we want to pair it with good eating. There are rules when it comes to what foods to eat and liquids to drink before, during, and after a workout depending on the activity and rigor. And these rules are important especially if you are a dedicated athlete. But in the end the rules are similar to the basic healthy eating structure. Enjoy the food you eat, remember that food is for fuel, choose lean proteins, whole grains, load up on fruits and veggies, and drink lots of water! Be good to your body. If you are eating poorly but working out, you are walking up a down escalator.
 
We covered the WHY, now let’s talk about the HOW.
 
One silver lining of the pandemic (there are so few) is the reduction in travel that has resulted in fewer emissions that usually accompany driving and such, and the encouragement of staying at home. We aren’t going to the gym anymore and we are being forced to find ways to stay active in the confines of where we are. Which may not sound like an upside, but if we can keep ourselves healthy and reduce our need to travel, and in turn reduce our carbon footprint, we can flip this into a positive! Workouts don’t have to mean running, biking, and swimming. They can, but thanks to many fitness trainers we’re lucky to have many options for fitness these days that are accessible and fun from home. Some may cost more in terms of subscription and/or equipment but many are free and can provide the benefits of something more expensive. In addition to home workout videos for cardio, strength, and mobility, I have added in taking a 30-40 minute walk to my days. Walking outside is a mood booster and a chance to spend time in nature.
 
Time is the most difficult hurdle to overcome when it comes to fitness. Finding time and energy in your day to put in a 30-60 minute workout is tough and requires dedication. I can’t tell people how to use their time however if you make physical activity part of your routine it becomes easier and easier to squeeze it in to your day. When you think of your resolutions it’s best to think of it as a one day or one week at a time kind of thing, instead of months or years. Because life can be unpredictable and goals should be attainable, create a flexible plan that has you working smarter not harder and looking forward to your workout.
 
Exercise is more than just the physical aspects. Although we are unfortunately swamped with photos on social media of the “ideal” body type, the truth is that being thin or being toned is not what defines healthy. This is easier said than done but don’t compare yourself to what you see in the media, it’s fruitless and never yields the results you want. Rather, think of exercise as self-care for your mind and body.
 
I have struggled with my own body image since I was a Tween. I am not naturally thin, I was never much for athletics, I am definitely lazy by nature and have had to push myself very hard to find an exercise routine that I enjoy and I am consistent with. But as an adult I have found that I don’t need to run marathons, that regular moderate physical activity can provide a benefit of feeling good, energized, and staying healthy. A few years ago I was in between jobs and I started going to free yoga classes. It began with 3 times a week and grew to a daily habit. I could not stand skipping even just one day. I learned that the key to consistently working out is finding something you enjoy. If you don’t like it, you won’t stick to it. Simple as that.
 
This may sound cheesy but yoga allowed me to connect with my body in a more positive way, and be less obsessed with what I saw in the mirror or in a photo, and in my opinion, we could all do with less concern about what’s on the outside. It made me appreciate its capacity and abilities. So working out stopped being a burden and a chore but something I could physically feel was good for me and that I wanted to keep doing, consistently. I do still practice yoga and I have now incorporated strength training, HIIT, and mobility into my routine with Le Sweat. It took me years to build up to where I am at now, a lot of trial and error, and a heaping tablespoon of patience. Now I can’t imagine life without daily fitness and putting on a bathing suit is not as dreadful as it once was. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
 
There is more to say on the topic of fitness and nutrition, and I hope to write more that covers the scientific nuances and benefits of working out. This is only a start and a way to think about fitness as more than something superficial. I will end with this article
from the NY Times at the start of pandemic that provides tips to stay moving and stresses the importance of self-care.