Saturday, December 14, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

New year, new you. I've said it many times before, looking for a fresh start. But truth is.. it's easy to get stuck in your old ways. But hey, maybe that's not a bad thing. Embrace yourself. Think of all the wonderful people in your life and your great accomplishments. Rather than thinking of what you need to change, think of how you can build on your successes so those negative thoughts and qualities can fade away.
  • Positive Thoughts. Try not to focus on the way you look - feeling the need to start exercising because of criticizing your weight. Instead, think of the power of exercise to benefit your health! Physical activity can prevent and help manage chronic diseases, but will also tone your body to look and feel great! 
  • Support System. Surround yourself with people who will help your new goals. Whether a best friend, coworker, or new workout partner at the gym. Look at local listings for free yoga events or cooking demos at grocery stores.
  • Be Realistic. Set small changes for long-term impact. If your goal is to drop 30 pounds, try an achievable goal of aiming to reduce one pound per week. Focus on one goal and add to it once it's part of your lifestyle - first consume at least 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. Once you think of all that you can ADD, take away the extra sweets or fried foods.
  • Patience. Remember progress takes time. Your goals may not change over night, but those worth while are worth the hard effort! If you stray from your meal plan one day, don't beat yourself up. Accept the challenge and think about how you can get back on track at your next meal. 
Make your goals for you. Find what makes you happy. Live in the present and share your optimistic intentions. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Healthy Holidays

Start each day with a grateful heart, not just on holidays.

The holidays bring family and friends together, but often this can be a hectic time of year.

Reduce stress before the holidays
  • Breathe.  Step back for a moment and take three deep breaths.
  • Try not to get wrapped up in finding the "perfect" gifts.  Creating personal gifts can be thoughtful and inexpensive. 
  • Think back to the basics of holidays bringing you together.  Spend quality time with the family and remember old traditions while creating new ones.
Make the holidays healthy
  • Begin your New Year's resolutions now.  Join a 5K to start your morning with a healthy physical activity.  Get outdoors and get moving!  Plus it will help burn off those extra calories you may indulge in later. 
  • Control portion sizes, especially with allowing yourself to indulge in sweet treats.
  • Small portions can add up.  Those cute mini desserts can help control portions, but keep an eye on how many you eat. 
  • Eat slowly to savor each bite.
  • Wait at least 20 minutes after your first serving to decide if you want a second helping. 

Seasons Greetings!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Vegetarian Awareness Month

October 1 kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month with World Vegetarian Day!

So once again, I am promoting plant-based diets.  Research continues to promote wholesome foods and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to optimize health and disease management.

Whether you are a carnivore or already a plant lover:

  • Try at least one meatless meal this month.
  • Make half of your plate vegetables.  
  • Instead of snacking on candy and chips, reach for sweet fruit and crisp vegetables.

For recipes and evidence-based resources from the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group visit

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School

Summer winds down as the minds start thinking about the return of school.  Sometimes a shift in schedules, throws your meals for a loop.  Whether you are a parent sending your little ones on the bus, high schoolers driving, or college students in the dining hall, proper nutrition is essential to fuel your brain!
  • Start your day with breakfast.  Even if you are like me, waking up at the last second possible to be on time, grab a quick breakfast.  Breakfast will help you focus and can negatively impact your test scores if skipped.  Maintain a healthy weight with including lean protein such as eggs, yogurt, nuts and skip the processed meats (bacon & sausage). 
    • Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese with fruit, protein smoothie, hard-boiled egg with fruit, flaxseed muffin, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, oatmeal mixed with nuts or seeds
  • Pack satisfying snacks to give you a boost in between meals.  I remember the days watching the clock for the last lunch period.  Keep snacks handy to help regulate your blood sugar, but resist grabbing for cookies or candy.
    • Peanut or almond butter with whole wheat crackers/toast/English muffins, mixed nuts & fruit/dried fruit, hummus with vegetables, 100% fruit or vegetable juice with unflavored protein powder
  • Healthy lunch choices can also be leftover dinner.  Skip the side of chips or fries.  Fill up with fiber and lean proteins to energize the rest of your day.
    • Prepare meals on Sunday night or one night that you have a little extra time.  Prepare a larger portion for dinner and separate a portion to freeze or place into individual containers to have left overs for lunch.
    • Black bean soup, vegetarian chili with mixed beans, stuffed peppers with lentils and brown rice or quinoa, tofu stir fry, chicken fajitas, greens with beans/nuts/avocado, pita with hummus and fresh veggies.
Continue to be conscious of your choices during a busy schedule.  I've heard it before: "It's time consuming to cook healthy."  Running between school and sports, but nutrition is key to keep your body functioning.  Take control of your health now to prevent illnesses.  Being sick is costly as well as time consuming.  Aim to pair a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack to help meet the recommended guidelines of at least 5 servings/day!  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Temperatures Rising

July had a wave of extreme heat, but summer has not ended.  As the summer sun continues to sizzle, put extra attention towards staying cool.

What to do?
  • Aim for a minimum of 64 oz fluids (mostly water) daily.
  • Drink fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Make sure your animals have adequate water and shade.
  • Be sure to eat small meals and eat more frequently to stay nourished - often with extreme heat, people will mention decrease in appetite.
  • Wear light weight and light colored clothing instead of dark colors that absorb the sun's rays.
  • Check on your family/friends/coworkers/neighbors.
  • Be aware of the temperature as well as the heat index, which can increase in direct sunlight by 15 degrees.

Do not ignore signs of heat-related conditions as these can be life-threatening.  Check out the American Red Cross for more information of recognizing and responding these emergencies. 

Flavoring water?
  • Flavor it yourself to control ingredients while avoiding chemicals and added sugar. 
  • Thirst quenching, nutritious, and easy.
  • Flavor water with fresh fruit - enhance taste and replace electrolytes.
    • Slice lemons, limes, oranges, cucumber. 
    • Simply squeeze the juice from a fresh lemon or limes.
    • Toss in a handful of berries.
  • Add herbs and spices
    • Mint, basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender, ginger.
  • Examples:
    • sliced cucumber + sliced lime + fresh mint leaves
    • sliced strawberries + sliced lemon + fresh basil leaves
    • Place ingredients at the bottom of a glass jar and mash up the fruit with a wooden spoon, then add water.
  • Have fun creating your own combinations of flavored water!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

VENDY awards

Philadelphia Vendy Awards 2013

Last month, on June 8th, I attended the 3rd annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards (a little delayed on writing about my experience).  The event took place at Penn Treaty Park overlooking the Delaware River with great sunny weather for converting Vitamin D.  Money was raised for The Food Trust, an organization striving to improve access to affordable, nutritious food.  Naturally, as a Registered Dietitian, I was excited to represent Farm to Philly at this event.  I spent a wonderful afternoon with my mom indulging in delicious food and sipping on beer.

Vendy Cup winner: The King of Falafel
I did not know what to expect from street food vendors... I usually just think of Philly cheesesteaks.  I was pleasantly surprised by the flavorful variety and quality of the food!  These gourmet trucks were vegetarian friendly and utilized local farms.  Cupcake vendors offered vegan options, which passed my sweet tooth taste test (yes, moderation can allow for dessert in a well-balanced diet).  Delicious!  The Vendy Cup winner- The King of Falafel. See the picture above of this mouthwatering falafel, which was one of my personal favorites from the day: ground chickpeas, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices.

Also, it was a pleasure meeting the Andrew Gerson, Executive Chef of Brooklyn Brewery, who is a Philly native and co-founder of the Philadelphia Mobile Food Vendors Association.  We chatted about local Philly food and upcoming places.  Plus, I couldn't resist petting his well-trained, cute dog.  Stopping at Brooklyn Brewery is on my list during my future travels!

Modeling Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale
with Andrew Gerson, Executive Chef for Brooklyn Brewery
and his adorable dog!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Plant-Based Health

You heard it plenty of times before, plant foods are healthy for you.  Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Consume a plant-based diet to reduce chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  But where to start?
  • Eat meatless once a week.  Try "Meatless Mondays" with friends, family, and coworkers.
  • Start breakfast off right.  Ditch the bacon and sausage.  Instead have oatmeal with ground flax seed, fruits, and nuts.  Or whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a sliced banana.
  • Swap out meat in your favorite recipes for plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, or tofu.  Top a salad with nuts instead of chicken or ditch the beef in a 3-bean chili.
Throughout the remainder of the week, aim for coloring half of your plate with vegetables.  This will help control the portion size of meat and increase your produce consumption.  For dessert, grab a piece of fruit, the natural sweetness can satisfy that sweet tooth with nutrients while avoiding the processed sugars and fat.

Community Supported Agriculture vegetable share
broccoli, squash, cauliflower, red onion, red potatoes, chard, kale, beets

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ease Your Stress

Importance of reducing and preventing stress:
Most people do not realize they are stressed.  They mindlessly follow a routine and are used to a hectic schedule.  
  • Stress can suppress your immune system, reducing your body's ability to fight infections and maintain vital functions.  
  • Stress can also make you more irritable, depressed, anxious, and hinder your memory.  
  • Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems such as cardiovascular issues, irritable bowel, cancer, stroke, and other diseases.
Tips to ease stress:
  • Make time for yourself.  Prioritize your day and your personal values.
  • Take a vacation!  Break your daily (boring) routine.  Getting away from work can allow creativity and excitement.  However, try not to get stressed with vacations; try not to overwhelm your trip with activities, but instead focus on leisure and pleasure. 
  • Live in the moment.  Enjoy the present. Try not to worry about the past and future.
  • Exercise regularly.  Is your body tense throughout the day?  Shrug your shoulders, sit/stand up tall to stretch out, go for a walk, attend a exercise class, try yoga.
  • Allow time for yourself.  Quietly breathe or meditate for 5 minutes.
  • Recognize how you feel throughout the day.  Take a moment to focus on your breathing: slow, deep breaths can help you relax and refocus your mind.  
  • Conscious eating habits.  Some people overeat when stressed while others lose their appetites.  Often comfort foods are high in calories and low in nutrients.  Be mindful and choose healthy foods to optimize your health.
Hiking in Switzerland
Vacations can be active and relaxing!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stop and Smell the Flowers

April showers bring May flowers...

I enjoy the change of the seasons (could do without allergies), but I look forward to the beauty of nature as the weather jumps into spring.  Colorful flowers start to bloom and people crawl out of hibernation. Spring is the perfect time of year to clean your mind, body, and soul.

Benefits of flowers:
  • Improve your mood.  The scent of lavender can be calming and reduce your stress levels.  Breathe and relax.
  • Take a moment and appreciate beauty. 
  • Brighten a room to bring you energy as well as peace.
  • Show appreciation and bring a smile to others (ladies love flowers, not just on Valentine's Day).
  • Planting flowers such as scented germaniums, sage, and marigold can deter pests from your produce farm.
Consume flowers:
  • Use flowers that are grown without pesticides.
  • Some flowers are toxic.  Eat flowers only when you know they are edible. 
  • Flavor dishes: add to soups, salads, sauces, stir fry, cakes. 
  • Garnish meals and desserts.
  • Drink as a tea.
  • Freeze small flowers (rose buds, orchid, pansy, snapdragon, germanium) into ice cubes to add to beverages.
  • Herb flowers: basil, oregano, cilantro, ginger, mint, lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage
  • Vegetable flowers: broccoli florets, arugula, cauliflower, artichokes.
  • Potential health benefits: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, digestion, and immune system boosting.
Tips to bring your day into nature:
  • Take a fitness class outside. 
  • Depending on the length of your lunch break, allow 5-10 minutes for a quick walk.  Stepping away from your work will clear your mind and refocus when you return.
  • Find local parks and gardens to enjoy a scenic view.  Pack a healthy picnic or bring a nice book to relax.
  • See if there is a local community garden or farm near you to learn to grow flowers and produce.
Find some flowers to give a loved one or friend to bring a smile and brighten up the day.. Mother's Day is approaching! 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Should you go organic or not?

Foods must meet strict requirements to be labeled as certified "organic" by the United States Department of Agriculture (1).  Products must be produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge.  However, some operations are exempt from certification, including organic farmers who sell $5,000 or less.  Foods advertised as "natural" do not follow the same guidelines as organic foods.

What does the organic label mean?
-100% organic: all ingredients must be certified organic and any processing aids must be organic.
-Organic: non-organic ingredients are allowed per National List, up to a combined total of 5% of non-organic content.
-"Made with" organic: at least 70% must be certified organic ingredients.  Any remaining products are not required to be organic but must be produced without excluded methods.

Organic does not always mean healthy, consider the type and amount of foods you are eating.  Organic baked goods, chips, and energy drinks should still be consumed sparingly just like the non-organic products.

You heard it before, but fruits and vegetables are beneficial for your health.  This benefit will be achieved regardless if the produce is organic or not, so do not let access or affordability to organic foods reduce your fruit and vegetable intake.

Overall, the scientific studies are inconclusive on whether there is a difference in nutritional content of organic compared to non-organic foods.  So, why do I buy primarily organic vegetables?  I personally believe the studies look at single ingredients of what is considered safe, and the additive effects need to be considered.  As having faced the difficulty of several family members passing away from cancer, I try to reduce my overall exposure to chemicals.  In my personal experience, environmental exposures were significant factors to the unfortunate prognosis.  Cancer causing chemicals are everywhere (air, water, food, clothes), so I try my best to regain control and support organic farmers.  Get to know your local farmers and their farming methods.  We as consumers need to constantly be questioning the corporate companies.  For me, consuming organic foods is beyond simply looking at the nutrition components.

Where do I begin?
Dirty Dozen Plus(2): apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, green beans, kale/greens.  The Environmental Working Group has recognized these fruits and vegetables to be most contaminated with pesticide residue.

1. Organic certification resources page. United States Department of Agriculture web site. Accessed on March 26, 2013.
2. EWR's 2012 shopper guide to pesticides in produce. Environmental Working Group. Accessed on March 26, 2013.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jump into Spring with National Nutrition Month®

For my east coast followers, warm weather is right around the corner.  Kick off the spring with National Nutrition Month® and "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." 

Eating right is essential not just one day or starting tomorrow, but for a lifetime.  Food provides fuel and energy for your body.  Your body's cells work hard everyday to keep you alive and active, so choose to feed your body nutrients to benefit you, not cause harm.  It is not about restricting foods and thinking of what you should not eat, but rather what you can eat.  Choose a variety of colors from fruits and vegetables.  Everything can be part of a well balanced diet in moderation.  

Everyone has different taste preferences, so choose the foods that fit best for you.   Working with an RD will help you find those foods that are healthy and satisfying. 

Buy wholesome foods and be a part of your food preparation compared to processed foods with added chemicals.  Take control over your health; know your food and where it comes from.  Involve the entire family and share your recipes.  It is never too young to get children involved in meal planning while learning about foods for growth.  

Wednesday, March 13th, is Registered Dietitian Day. What are some of the many benefits of seeing a RD?
  • RDs are food and nutrition experts who bring the science of nutrition into obtainable positive lifestyle choices.
  • Improve your overall health and fight disease. 
  • Provide individualized therapy and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Separate information about fad diets.
  • Connect you to community resources to allow healthy eating to become possible.

How will I "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day?"
  • I have joined a Community Supported Agriculture farm share.  Moving to a new city, I thought it would be a challenge to access affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.  There are plenty of resources available and people to exchange ideas.  You do not need to invest in a farm share, but just keep an eye out for local farmer markets.

Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website for more information and finding a Registered Dietitian near you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Happy Valentine's Day!

In the past I have talked about tips on healthy eating and exercise, but another important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is.... relationships.

What is a relationship?
  • I believe a relationship to be a connection you have not just with that special someone, but with yourself, your friends, your family.  Try to make all relationships positive to bring out the best in others as well as yourself.  
  • Listen and respect each other.  Be there for others to support through the difficult times and celebrate success.  This also means that person should be there for you as well.  Balance giving and receiving. 
  • Do not settle.  Know your potential and believe in yourself.  Find someone who knows this, not someone who needs to be convinced. 
  • Talk.  Express your ambitions and annoyances.  If something bothers you, be honest.  That's where listening and respect will strengthen a relationship. 
  • Think about when you are having a bad day, and someone does a small gesture for you like holding the door open or genuinely listening about your day.  Compare this to someone who cut you off the road or started yelling at you in which you absorb their anger and stress.  Be the person to brighten up someone's day.  When you are having a bad day, try smiling at a coworker or friend.  Something as free and timeless as a smile can help relax tension.
I've heard it before, you must love yourself before you can love another.  After graduating from college and joining the many other young adults in trying to define themselves, I have realized this statement to be true.  Throughout my life and career, I have put others before myself.  Take control of your happiness and health; this will optimize helping others.

If you are seeking a special someone to share this Valentine's Day, stop looking, find yourself.  Be your own secret admirer.  Defining your values in life will help you find your significant other, especially when you are not even looking.  If you have found your true love, tell him/her how appreciative you are.  Enjoy those around you everyday, not just on Valentine's Day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wholesome Health

When you shop at the grocery store, the stacked aisles can be overwhelming.  Labels claim health benefits with eye catching designs.  What to eat?

Grab wholesome foods.  To prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer consume primarily plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  Choose lean animal sources: lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and low fat dairy.  Anything in a package can potentially be stripped of its nutrient content or preservatives/chemicals are added. 

Check the food label.  Look at the serving size, not just the size of the package.  Use the 5/20 rule as a quick guide for % Daily Value: 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.  Limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium (so aim for a low % daily value).  Get enough dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals (these % daily values can be high).  Next look at the ingredients list: the less the better.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredient or would not find it in your kitchen cabinet, it may not be beneficial for your body. 

Wholesome convenience foods.  Although beans can be canned, they are still in their whole form and you can rinse them off to quickly make a burrito, toss on a salad, or add to brown rice.  Try whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, uncurled barely, and 100% whole wheat bread without additives.  Keep fresh fruits and vegetables washed for a ready to go snack. 

Regardless of your diet (vegan, carnivore, gluten-free), find whole foods to fuel your body.  Foods do not need to be "low fat" or "low sugar" since reducing naturally occurring nutrients will be replaced with artificial ingredients.  Whether you are trying to lose weight or consume an overall healthier diet, cut the processed foods.  You will look and feel great.  Give it a try and find out for yourself!