Tag Archives: health

The Skinny on Fat: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

You’ve been hearing a lot about FAT in the news these days. And what’s out there is really confusing. So I’m going to break it down real easy for ya.

Fats have gotten a bad rap these days. Many of those who want to achieve a healthier weight, clean up their diet, or lower cholesterol levels may consider cutting out dietary fat as the first step. Any who could blame you? It’s been drilled into us for years that if you eat fat, you’ll be fat. However, dietary fat is actually ESSENTIAL to our health — it plays a critical role in almost every function of your body’s metabolism.

Decoding Healthy vs. Unhealthy fats:

The TYPE of fat you eat is just as important, if not more so, than the amount of fat. In fact, many fat sources may actually IMPROVE heart healthy, support healthy immune function, and help food to be more satisfying, making it less likely you will overeat at your next meal. Talk about a win-win! Fat falls into 3 general categories: unsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fats.

Unsaturated Fat “The Good Guys”

Unsaturated fats include both monounsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. Both types lower disease risk, improve cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory properties. Unsaturated fats are found in nuts and seeds, plant oils, avocado, soymilk and fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, canola oil and fatty fish) is a type of polyunsaturated fat well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3s have been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, lower triglycerides and prevent the development of atherosclerosis.

Saturated Fat and Trans Fats “The Bad Guys and the Really Really Horrible Guys”

Saturated fats are found in animal products such as meat and poultry skin, as well as high fat dairy products and butter. These items should be eaten sparingly, as these are the ones linked to increasing total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and may increase your risk of developing type 2 Diabetes. Trans fats are artificially processed fats that are often listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oils” and are found in packaged/processed food, fried foods and stick margarine. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature as opposed to liquid mono or polyunsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oils. Now think what that’s doing in your arteries! Trans fats in particular, have been found to be the most dangerous category of fat in terms of its effect on raising cholesterol, increasing inflammation in the body and causing plaque buildup in the arteries.

How to get more healthy fat in your diet

Now here comes the fun part – how do you get to eat all this great stuff! Here are some tips for incorporating more healthy fats in your diet.

  • Sub chopped walnuts, almonds, or pepitas for salad croutons to add crunch and flavor
  • Keep a small handful of mixed nuts in a Ziploc bag for a filling on-the-go snack
  • Swap out mayo for mashed avocado or guacamole as a sandwich spread (my personal favorite!)
  • Use plant oils such as olive oil, instead of butter when cooking (but mind your portion sizes here — 1 tbsp is worth 120 calories, so a little goes a long way. Lightly coat your veggies in oil but don’t smother them!)
  • Eat a fatty fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel once a week (no canned tuna DOESN’T count)
  • Use soymilk instead of cream of half and half in your morning coffee


Nutrition Myth-Busting Part I

Every day, I feel like I am assaulted with nutrition advice, whether it be at the supermarket, on my television, or on the web. I get an ulcer just thinking about all the new “nutrition rules” that are constantly being flung around. That’s why I consider it my mission to help cut through the BS and give you all the real deal (as in, information that supported by real scientific evidence).

That’s why for the next month or so, I’m launching a series on dispelling all these nutrition myths, and helping clear up all that confusion. Starting with….


MYTH #1: You shouldn’t eat carbs at night.



First off, I’m sick of demonizing carbohydrates. Carbs are good! They are a great source of energy, fiber, and essential vitamins and nutrients. Carbohydrates aren’t just in bread — they are in fruits, some starchy vegetables, grains, beans and even dairy foods. So cutting out carbohydrates means that you are missing out on a lot of healthful foods.

Second, carbohydrates will not make you fat.  I cannot stress this enough. There isn’t a magical “fat burning switch” that turns off after 4 pm. What’s more important to maintaining a healthy weight is the amount of calories you are consuming OVERALL. It’s easy to subscribe to the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss, however, while this type of diet may help you lose weight in the short-term, much of the evidence shows that this effect is often short-lived.

I like to look at eating carbohydrates in a common sense kind of way. Sprinkling carbs throughout your day, rather than eating a huge amount in one meal, is a much more effective strategy to maximize your energy and stay healthy. When you have a small amount of carbohydrates in each meal, you keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, rather than that post-lunch afternoon slump that has you reaching for caffeine or sugar to get an energy boost.

Depending on your schedule and when you will be MOST active, you may want to consider tapering your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. If you are most active earlier in the day, eating your largest portion of carbohydrate in the morning is a good strategy. However, if you have an evening workout planned or you are more active in the afternoon, an afternoon snack with some form of carb (an apple and almond butter) will help keep you fueled for the rest of the day.

It goes without saying that some carbohydrates are healthier than others.


Here’s your cheat sheet….

Healthy Carbohydrates = NATURAL AND UNPROCESSED

  • Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, barley, whole grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole wheat pasta and bread
  • Low fat dairy products
  • Beans and legumes
  • COMPLEX carbs break down in the body less quickly which leads to more stable blood sugar levels

Unhealthy carbohydrates = REFINED AND PROCESSED

  • Anything white: white breads, pizza crust, pretzels, hamburger buns, and giant muffins and bagels
  • Anything with added sugars: baked goods, cakes, candy
  • Soda
  • Simple carbohydrates break down quickly in the body leading to a sugar “spike” and eventual crash.

That’s it folks! Keep munching on that quinoa and stay posted next week for more myth-busting!




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!