Cravings

Hi folks!  Happy 2013!!

First, a couple of housekeeping items before the main event of today’s post.  This year – I really want to hear from you!  I am constantly inspired by my readers and I want to create more of a dialogue when it comes to this blog(obviously everything will always remain anonymous when posted!)  What nutrition questions do YOU want me to address?  What do YOU struggle with in keeping a balanced, healthy life?  What new healthy dish did you make and would love to share??  Please feel free to send in any and all questions/comments/crazy ideas!

And now, the topic of today’s blog:  Cravings.

Royalty-Free Stock Photography by Rubberball

Last week, I was thrown into the midst of a chocolate CRISIS .  As in, “I have to have chocolate RIGHT NOW or I will throw a fit.”.  And of course, all I had in my kitchen were Larabars.  In such a situation I had 3 options:

A)  Sprint to the nearest grocery store.  Buy chocolate.  Eat.

B)  Make tea.  Try to sit with the craving for a little.  Scowl.

C)  Do something entirely different from eating — like cleaning my closet (likely story..ha).

What did I do?  Option A — kind of.  I did go across the street, bought an individual-sized piece of chocolate at Starbucks and ate it.  So why am I telling you this seemingly pointless story about my eating habits??  The point of this story is that cravings are NORMAL, and it’s important to sometimes give in to those cravings.  But the important idea here is SOMETIMES, not all the time.  Strategic indulgences every now and then ultimately help you eat healthier overall, because being restrictive all the time is a recipe for failure.

Generally, cravings fall into 3 categories:

  1. Craving a food because you are missing out on a certain nutrient (example: not eating enough fruit can make you crave sweets, since you are not getting any natural sugars)
  2. Craving a food to fill an emotional need (i.e.  bored, lonely, sad, angry)
  3. Craving a food for no particular reason at all and the craving won’t go away.

In example #1, you can tell if you’re missing out on a nutrient if you get the same type of craving pretty frequently (once or even several times a day) and it is persistent even if you sit with it for a while.  In this situation, it’s important to try to take a look at your diet more closely – try doing a food journal for 3 days to figure out if there is in fact something missing.

In example #2, you are craving a food because you want to fill an emotional need.  This is the type of craving that generally trips a lot of people up.  The best solution?  Distract yourself.  Try doing something completely different from food – whether it be cleaning out your desk, or taking your dog for a walk.  Distracting your brain even for 15 minutes from that craving is usually enough to make it go away completely.

In example #3, when a craving persists even after you wait it out, you have 2 options.  The first option is to substitute it for something similar but healthier, like subbing an ice cream sundae for a couple pieces of a frozen banana with a shmear of a little peanut or almond butter.  But sometimes, a substitute just will not fill that need!  Your second option is to have a either a portion-controlled version of the real deal (like a small serving of dark chocolate), or to plan this indulgence into your week (maybe that means one less cocktail on friday night!).  Eating the real deal on occasion can help you stay healthier by helping you not feel deprived and overeat as a result of that “diety” feeling.  But the really important thing is that these indulgences are a once-in-a-while thing not a once-every-day thing!

Here’s to a healthy (and hopefully warmer!) week!!

GS

 

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The Sandy Seven

Hey folks!

Not even a weeklong power outage could keep me from blogging to you.  As many of us struggle to back up and running after Sandy shook everyone up, I’ve been hearing from many of you (and confirmed by this article in the New York Times) that not only did Sandy wreak havoc on homes, work, schedules, it also was a bitch for your waistline.  What is it about not having power that makes you want to binge eat your leftover halloween candy?  The NY times article cites boredom and anxiety as the top two reasons why the Sandy seven is affecting many people.  And boy, are they right.  Nothing makes you want to open a stale bag of chips sitting in the back of your pantry more than when you are sitting in the dark, unsure of when you will get a warm meal again, and wondering how long you can hold out for.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I am not diminishing in ANY WAY, the suffering of people who were rendered completely homeless and destitute as a result of Sandy.  New York and New Jersey have dealt with a lot, and my heart goes out to all of my fellow Gothamites.  However, as global warming continues, I suspect that hurricanes/power outages will continue.  So I’m going to give you some tools that will help you keep on track (relatively) when this happens again.  Because just because the lights are out doesn’t mean it doesn’t count…

  • Stock up before the storm.  This seems like a rather obvious idea, but to be honest, many people don’t think to do this.  Things to stock up on: WATER, oatmeal, various nuts (walnuts/almonds, pistachios), low sodium canned soups (Amy’s low sodium split pea is a personal favorite), canned tuna or salmon, wheat crackers, hand fruits – apples, pears, oranges – all these fruits will stay good for up to a week without refrigeration, and granola bars (try to stay as basic as possible with these – Larabars and Kind bars are great choices).  Go ahead and buy other produce – but recognize that whatever you buy will have to be eaten within 2 or 3 days if there is an outage.
  • Hide the goodies.  You know what kinds of food are tempting to you.  I’m not asking you to throw those things away, because you should enjoy everything in moderation!, but recognize that if you are sitting in the dark in your house all day, you may find yourself inclined to dig in to those foods.  As I always say “out of sight, out of mind”.
  • Busy yourself.  This is really the hardest one to do, because lack of electricity can be a big bummer.  No Real Housewives of Beverly Hills marathons??!  Oh the horror!  But one of the biggest reasons that people snack is out of boredom.  So prep your house with some great magazines, that newspaper article that you’ve been dying to read, board games, cards, whatever.  If you find yourself looking for something to do and heading towards the pantry, I find it helpful to count to 10 and reassess.  Am I hungry?  Or am I just bored?  Simple, but highly effective.
  • Camp out away from the kitchen.  With crazy weather, you’re probably going to have to hunker down for a couple days.  Sitting near the kitchen is probably not a good idea.  Many studies have shown that willpower wears down over time, and sitting near the source of snacks is only setting yourself up for failure.  And that’s no fun.

Most importantly, stay warm, dry and safe!

xoxo,

GS

Eat some Fat!! (yes-you heard that right)

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As part of one of my projects in nutrition school, we had to work with a client to get a diary of what they ate during the day for five consecutive days and then analyze it.  I thought it would be interesting not only to do this on a client, but to also do it myself.  And the results were illuminating.

I was afraid of fat!  I had gotten so hum-drum in my eating habits that I had practically avoided one of the most important components of healthy eating.  Why was I afraid?  Well – fat, unlike carbohydrates and protein, has 9 calories per gram rather than 4.  Foods high in fat are also foods high in calories.  And in my daily veggie-dense diet, I hadn’t made any room for it!  I had been too dilligently asking for my dressing on the side, my toast dry, and cooking foods in cooking spray.  While all these habits are good ones, it’s all about balance.  So I decided to try a little experiment on myself.  One week.  One healthy fat at every meal.  And here’s what I learned.

1.  A little fat goes a LOOOONG way!  Oh my goodness,  I had forgotten how delicious scrambled eggs WITH yolks were.  Holy wow.  I even tried 2% greek yogurt in the morning (gasp!) – and it was so filling I could only eat half.  Not only were my foods so much more flavorful, but I was full for a lot longer.  The science behind all this is that fat slows digestion, allowing food to stay in your stomach longer, which keeps you satiated.  More flavor and more fullness?  It’s practically a win-win situation.

2.  But you still need to watch your portions.  While I don’t recommend measuring all your food, fat is something that you should be aware of (or measure if that makes it easier to be aware) when cooking.  My biggest issue with fats have always been nuts and nut butters.  I just can’t stop at one (or one spoonful – peanut butter is my kryptonite!).  So instead of facing a jarful of nuts, I preportioned them into cute little baggies to pop into my purse (10-20 nuts, depending on size, is a portion).  My favorite snack of the week?  A bosc pear and marcona almonds – now that was heavenly!  Here are some helpful portions for good healthy fats:

-10-20 nuts (walnuts are 10, pistachios are 20)

-1 TBSP olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil (experimenting with these adds tons of flavor to food)

-4-6 oz salmon or other fatty fish

-1 TBSP ground flax seed (I throw this into yogurt in the morning)

-1/4 of an avocado

3.  Shiny hair, strong fingernails, and less bloat.  No I didn’t get a haircut.  But people kept asking!  Maybe it was all in my head (literally), but my hair was shiny, my nails didn’t break once, and I just felt really good.  This was probably because when you include healthy fats in your diet along with vegetables, your body is able to truly absorb all the amazing nutrients that vegetables offer.  Oh and the bloating thing?  Well, fat helps lubricate your digestive system.  So it helps keep things moving regularly if you get what I mean.  And that’s reason enough for me!

4.  No more 10 pm snacking.  The investment of fat in my diet paid off bigtime.  Because my meals were able to keep me more full and satiated, and I was more satisfied by the flavors of my food.  I felt like I was eating more food, without actually eating more food.  Oh and by the end of the week, my jeans were definitely feeling looser, too.

Bottom line – olive oil = skinny jeans.  Fat is the new black.   

Fighting the “Love Pudge”

Hello my dear readers.  I know it’s been a WHILE since my last post.  It’s been a busy summer — what with undergoing surgery, my sister’s graduation, my brother’s marriage and then my own wedding in August!  Phew!!  I could say that newlywed bliss is what was keeping me from blogging, but the truth is that I just wasn’t feeling as inspired.  But now that the semester has begun again at grad school I’m feeling reinvigorated to write and share all the amazing things I’ve been learning.Image

But first, let me share a little story with you.  A couple days ago, I was walking back to my apartment when I ran into an old friend.  We were chitchatting and she shared with me that she had recently gone on Weight Watchers.  After moving in with her longtime boyfriend, she had unintentionally put on a little weight.  While I applaud my friend for using Weight Watchers – which I consider one of the best “diets” that is one the market (I don’t even really think I consider it a diet because the program teaches people to adapt a healthy lifestyle) – her problem is not an uncommon one.  This predicament is something that I like to refer to as “love pudge”.

According to an expert at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, it’s common for newlyweds to gain up to 10 lbs after tying the knot.  So what gives?  Why do newylweds or even people that have recently moved in together put on weight?  While I can’t speak for everyone, after D and I first moved in together 2 years ago, I definitely experienced the “love pudge” phenomenon.  While I could be perfectly happy with a big salad or veggie stir fry for dinner, D’s go-to dinner is 1 lb of pasta with 1 lb of chicken served up with lots of veggies and spinach.  Preferably eaten in a bowl resting on his stomach while he watches music documentaries on Gene Simmons or Monday night football.  Super healthy of course for him, but not the best for me.  After a couple months of “love pudge” – I decided to take matters into my own hands and establish some ground rules that we both could live with!  As a side note – these suggestions can be used by anyone trying to cohabit healthily, obviously not just for weight loss!

1)  Make meals that you both can eat.  D and I have perfected the art of making meals we both can enjoy.  This often involves separating the carbs from the rest of the dish (I have an insulin sensitivity so I watch my carbs, esp at night).  For example, we’ll make everything that goes in a pasta – sauce, veggies, chicken – and I put it over arugula or spinach while D puts it on pasta.  Or we make a grilled fish with roasted veggies and D will make couscous or brown rice on the side.  We both enjoy something healthy but make it work for our respective dietary needs!

2)  Hide the snacks!  D loves a good chip or cookie and who can blame him!  While he doesn’t eat them all the time, who am I to ban them from the house??…  So instead of trashing the stuff, D and I devised a system where D puts all his “goodies” on the topmost shelf, making it literally impossible for me to reach them without dragging out a stepstool.  Out of sight, out of mind, out of my stomach!


3) Team Up.  Be each other’s workout buddy.  Go for a run, go to the gym together or even take a walk after dinner.  Not only does this allow for some good old fashioned bonding time, it will help keep you both in shape!  I can’t tell you how many hot yoga or soulcycle classes I’ve dragged D to, sometimes willingly, sometimes not-so-willingly.  Having D in the room with me makes me push myself that much harder – because I know he’s watching!

4) Hold the takeout.  New York City and takeout food is pretty synonymous.  But many studies show that restaurant food is known for added fat and HUGE portions.  While I do enjoy a good slice every now and then, generally I find takeout food pretty hard to resist.  When D is getting a pad thai craving, he orders his food when I’m not around (traveling, class, etc…).  Having discipline is one thing, torturing myself is quite another!

Hope you all have a lovely week!  For those of you fasting for Yom Kippur tonight, I wish you a very easy fast!  Keep checking back this week for another post from a guest blogger…..

xoxo GS

Summer travel SURVIVAL GUIDE

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Memorial Day has come and gone and summer is officially here!  And while all the health mags I’ve been reading assume that we are all in bikini shape– I don’t know about you – but I’m still working on it!  For me, when I think about summer, I think about fun mini “vacations” that D and I take to get out of steamy, muggy NYC.  But traveling poses a unique type of dilemma when you’re trying to stay fit and healthy.  Being out of your home environment makes it a lot more difficult to control where you get your next meal from – and if the greasy spoon is your only option on the road…well the name says it all doesn’t it?  Also, long hours in a car or bus doesn’t lend itself to getting in some good old exercise.

Believe it or not, it is possible to completely ace your weekend travel plans on the health front.  Here’s the answer: PREPARE!  I cannot stress this word enough – and it is in fact a tenet of my general healthy philosophy – that being prepared is the best way to ensure that you are putting the highest quality fuel in your tank.

So without any further ado, here are my top suggestions for how to be prepared and stay healthy while traveling:

  • Pack a snack.  You know how your mom used to carry snacks in her purse for you when you were a toddler – she was on the right track to keeping you healthy!  If you’re in the car – pack some healthy goodies in a cooler – a couple greek yogurts, apples, raw veggies with hummus.  I’ve been known to pack a salad with me to bring on an airplane (I promise you it tastes SO much better than the dreck they call airplane food).  Additionally, if you are stranded with no healthy options for your next meal – a couple snacks can turn into a quick mini-meal in a flash.
  • Scout out your location.  Many hotels these days have fitness centers or deals with local gyms.  If not, I’ve been to many hotels where they are happy to point out great running loops (all you need to pack is a pair of sneakers!).  Some of my best memories from traveling are when I went running through a new city – it’s a great way to explore and get your bearings.  Additionally, check out the restaurant scene – are there any great, local, organic spots?  Not only is this a chance to get your greens in – you can get a good flavor of the city you’re in.
  • Drink up.  No, not booze!  Staying hydrated with water is crucial when you’re traveling.  Not only is traveling dehydrating to your system – dehydration is often mistaken for hunger, which can cause you to overeat.  Also make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – whose water and fiber content can help keep you full.
  • Speak up.  When you’re traveling – especially if you’re visiting family or traveling with friends – I find that it’s really helpful to make your voice heard when it comes to health.  Let your travel partners know that you want to be active – even invite them on a run with you!  Let them know that the burger joint they may have picked for dinner doesn’t really have a lot of options for you (although you can find a salad or veggie burger in the oddest of places!).  You’d be surprised by how many friends/family are your health allies in this and have similar goals in mind!  Remember that ultimately, the best advocate for your own health is yourself.

Bon voyage!!

Chicken soup for the busy soul

I knew on Sunday it was going to be one of those weeks.  You know the type –  the kind that fly by, with a million and one things to do and not enough time to do it in.  By today, my “to-do” list is already full of things yet undone, only to be replaced by other tasks.  If cloning were an option I would seriously consider it.

One of the main tenets of my “healthy philosophy” is that you have to be prepared.  So when I know that my week coming is up is going to be insane – I try to cook up a bunch of easily zappable dishes that I don’t have to worry about cooking during the week.  One of dishes on rotation is vegetable soup.  In fact everytime I make it, D gets very excited.  It is truly delicious – and like all good soups, gets better each day – especially topped with a little parmesan and a good piece of wheat bread on the side.  Nothing like a big bowl of health to start the week of right.  Here’s what I do:

I take 2 big boxes of low sodium chicken broth (or veggie broth depending on my mood).  I use up all the veggies I have on hand, throw some garlic powder, lemon juice and a little almond milk in to make it more “creamy” and salt and pepper and let the veggies simmer for about 40 minutes.  I then puree the whole batch and…  Voila – a delish lunch or dinner!

But last Sunday I wanted to find a way to shake things up a bit, and was just craving chicken soup.  Chicken soup is a perennial favorite of mine, especially when I’m feeling under the weather.  In fact, researchers at the University of Nebraska have found that chicken soup may help reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. Chicken meat also has antiviral properties.  But beyond it’s scientifically proven effects, it’s just good old fashioned comfort food.  So I was perusing my grocery store for some chicken soup that wasn’t full of sodium – which is surprisingly difficult!  Most of the stuff I found had questionable ingredients and 800 plus mg of sodium per cup!  That’s almost half the amount of sodium you should eat per day.  So I decided rather than taking my chances on the bottled stuff (and potentially swelling up like a balloon in the process!), I was going to make it.  But needless to say, I’m not Julia Child.  I do not have time to roast a chicken, make homemade chicken stock from its bones and decorate the whole things with rosemary sprigs.  So I took the easy way out and here is my recipe!

Chicken Soup for the busy soul:

(adapted from Tracy Anderson 30 Day Method Chicken Protein Soup)

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 chopped onions

4 oz boneless chicken breast, cubed

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets

1/2 chopped zucchini

1/4 chopped parsley

1 pinch garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Simmer the carrots, celery, and chicken in the stock for 20 minutes.  Add the broccoli and zucchini for another 10 minutes.  Add parsley, garlic powder, and salt.  Eat it up!

What my birthday means to me

Hey guys – it’s GS here.  I know it’s been a while but I promise I have a good excuse.  Perhaps it was because I felt like I couldn’t write – that the things I was going through just couldn’t be put to ink because it made it feel TOO REAL.  But here I am, on my 25th birthday, feeling like I finally am ready to reflect.

4 weeks ago I had to undergo abdominal surgery.  Without going into too much details, the surgery was very necessary, very sudden, and very scary.  I had to stop my life – defer grad school, defer wedding planning, and just STOP.  And for someone like me, who is always go go go, this was tough.  Not only was I going through a major health crisis, my body had been experiencing unexpected and unwanted changes.  I had gained significant weight, felt lousy all the time, had no interest in food – I just felt like I wasn’t myself.  The surgery would not only leave me with a big scar from my breastbone to my belly button, but came with a 6 week recovery period.  And all of this was happening four months before my wedding!  Oy.

Why am I writing this?  Because we all spend SO much time (myself included) being vain about our bodies.  We look at the outside as the ideal – being thin and fit.  But going through this experience has given me a new and much more valuable outlook.  I don’t just appreciate my looks – I have a newfound appreciation for what’s on the inside (literally!).  I APPRECIATE WHAT MY BODY CAN DO. I appreciate that my surgery took half the time as expected because I was so fit.  I appreciate that a week after surgery I was able to walk on the treadmill (an old lady walk mind you, but a walk all the same!).  I appreciate that two days ago I started to run again.  I appreciate that my body has healed itself so rapidly and I even appreciate that new scar – a scar that I will ROCK for the rest of my life as a badge of honor – as a sign that I am a warrior and can conquer anything.

So what do I wish to impart to you?  Tomorrow morning when you look in the mirror, do me a favor.  Instead of nitpicking every little perceived flaw, take a good hard look.  Appreciate yourself.  Be grateful for the amazing things your body can do.  Because without, you’re nothing.