Posts filed under ‘Tasteful Tips’
Who doesn’t love a sandwich? They can be eaten open faced or closed, hot or cold, whole, cut in halves, or in quarters, cut on the diagonal or vertically… There are endless options for both the inside and outside of the sandwich, but sometimes we get stuck in a rut of eating the same version over and over again. For me, it was always the peanut butter and jelly sandwich or “PB and J” as my mom always called it. I got a mushed version every single day of my lower school years, but it seemed I never did get sick of it. Now, as a dietitian, I realize the value of changing up the variety of not only sandwiches, but all foods in the diet for optimal health and nutritional benefits.
Here are some tips for getting creative with your sandwiches (and doing it in a healthy way!):
- Choose from a wide array of whole grain breads, English muffins, pita bread, and wraps. Remember to look for a “whole grain” as the first ingredient on the food label.
- Vary your proteins. Choose grilled chicken breast, roasted turkey, baked, broiled, or grilled fish, peanut butter, hummus, cheese, or a combination thereof. Remember not to go overboard with your portion sizes!
- Include lots of veggies. These will provide extra nutrients, fill you up, and often give your sandwich a nice crunch. Go to town with fresh or roasted vegetables.
- Try using a light, oil based dressing, lemon juice, or fresh pesto as a spread in place of mayonnaise, cream based dressings, or mustards.
- If a whole sandwich is too big for one meal, save 1/2 for later!
- Switch things up with a 1/2 sandwich and cup of soup or 1/2 sandwich and small green salad.
Whether you prefer to make your own sandwiches or buy them from your favorite sandwich shop, keep these tips in mind for healthier, more nutritious versions of your favorites.
By: Samantha Fast, MS, RD, CDN
Let me preface this week’s blog post by saying dietitians are not always perfect, and we don’t ALWAYS practice what we preach. My experiences as I celebrated the Jewish High Holidays this year were a perfect example of this.
We dietitians encourage out clients to eat regularly throughout the day for many reasons, including preventing them from becoming excessively hungry. Extreme hunger can lead to poor (unhealthy) food choices, eating too quickly, and in turn eating too much.
This year for Rosh Hashana, we had quite a spread including my sister’s matzah ball soup and Brisket, tzimmes, and delicious potato and lokshen kugel and homemade challah from our NY cousins (the “good stuff”). I had more than my fair share to choose from and I made the rookie mistake of eating an early breakfast before synagogue and not eating a snack before eating lunch at 2:00. As a result, I ended up eating too quickly, pigging out, and feeling sick immediately afterwards and for the rest of the day. Not smart.
Yom Kippur (aka The Day of Atonement) is a day of fasting for the Jewish People. No food, no drink for over 24 hours. Every year is the same: I’m hungry when I got to bed, starving by morning, and ravenous/faint by the afternoon. But breaking the fast is never as glamorous as I hope it will be during those last few hours. (As an aside, take my advice and don’t watch any movies pertaining to food while fasting…it’s just torturous.) As expected, when I am ravenous, I choose foods that aren’t the best after being without food for over a day, then eat too quickly and ultimately too much, resulting in a food coma and discomfort for the remainder of the night.
I am aware that not everyone celebrates these Jewish holidays, but everyone can relate to family gatherings/holidays when food (the “good stuff”) is abundant. Let these two anecdotes be an example of what NOT to do in these situations. Here are a few tips for successful holiday eating:
- Plan ahead. Eat a good breakfast or have a healthy snack before you go to your family meal.
- Offer to bring a vegetable dish or healthy salad to the meal. Filling up on vegetables is a good way to go.
- Serve yourself a plate of food and eat just that. If you want seconds, go for the vegetable dish or salad to save calories.
- Save room for dessert! Holiday meals often include appetizers, a multi-course meal, and dessert. Try not too fill up on the appetizers, since you know there’s much more to come.
- Pace yourself! Take your time eating your meal. Have sips of water between bites to help slow you down.
It is OK to eat your favorite foods (the “good stuff”), especially at special occasions. Just try to remember that to achieve weight loss or weight maintenance, these foods will be best eaten in moderation.
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD
Every year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, New Yorkers vacate the city every weekend in a mass exodus. In previous years I was one of the unprivileged few that was left behind, but this year I felt like a true New Yorker because I too partook in the great exodus. It seemed I had plans in a different place almost every weekend this summer, and although this was great for my social life and I of course had a great time, it became one more obstacle to achieving a regular workout schedule and yet one more excuse for me to not exercise.
Even during the colder months, life is BUSY! Wherever you live, days fill up with work, play, children, friends, and family. New Yorkers are notorious for being busy, running from one thing to the next, having long days, and having to find creative ways to get in a quick workout. Personally, with a new full time job and 2 hours of commuting each day, I struggle with simply having the energy to walk the 1 block and go to the gym.
For adults, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week (brisk walk, water aerobics, riding a bike, playing tennis, mowing the lawn) and weight training on 2 or more days a week or
- 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week (jogging or running, swimming laps, playing basketball) and weight training on 2 or more days a week
I know this may seem like a lot to some, but even if you can’t meet these recommendations, the exercise you do fit in is still beneficial! In addition to burning calories, physical activity can decrease stress, improve bone health, build lean body mass, and increase the speed of your metabolism. Here are some tips to help you find motivation and increase your weekly workouts:
- Choose a workout buddy who will motivate you to work out on a more regular basis
- Join a gym that is convenient to your work or home
- Try working out in the morning before work or at lunch, as opposed to after work when you may be more tired
- Classes are a great way to feel motivated in a group setting and you have an instructor for additional encouragement. Most gyms have a wide variety of classes for you to choose from throughout the day.
- If you can’t afford a gym membership right now, ask around for people’s favorite workout DVDs
- Yoga and pilates are great workouts to do in your apartment before or after work. They won’t disturb your neighbors and you only need enough space to lay down your yoga mat. (This is essential in NYC.)
- Look for free classes available in your area. If you live in NYC, Time Out New York and the local newspapers often have advertisements for these.
- Turn your workout into a party. Get a group of friends together and take a salsa or ballroom dance class.
- Take the stairs! “Burn calories, not electricity.”
- Skip the bus or subway. Choose to walk instead.
- Even though it’s back to school, the weather is still nice enough for outdoor sports. Enjoy your favorite outdoor activities before the chill in the air is too much to bear.
- Join a walking or running club/group. See if your workplace offers one of these.
- Swimming at the beach or pool is excellent exercise. It is a low impact, resistance training workout that involves all the major muscle groups…and who doesn’t love swimming?!
- Find a bike or walking path in your neighborhood. My hometown in Massachusetts just completed one and it’s fantastic!
- Rent a bike for the day and try out some bike paths or trails
- If you are near the water, rent a canoe or kayak for the day
- Participate in tennis, soccer, baseball, football, or any other sport with friends
- Look into joining an adult sports league. The city has lots to choose from and you have practices, regular games, and the bonus of meeting new people with similar interests.
I know finding time for yourself can be difficult, but remember that you have the ability to control your well-being. Eating well, staying fit, and getting enough sleep are all things we can do to stay healthy and happy for years to come.
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD, CDN
Staying aware while eating, or “awake behind the wheel,” is a crucial factor to your weight loss success. Eating mindfully presumes awareness – paying attention to physical hunger and satiety cues. Here are some tips to mindful eating:
- Food journal. It forces you to stay in the moment and pay attention to what you’re eating.
- Eat slowly. Put your fork down, engage in conversation, or have a sip of water after every few bites. It takes at least 15 minutes from your first forkful to your last for your brain to register fullness.
- Remove all judgments of yourself or the food you eat. You, nor your food, is never all “good” or “bad.”
- Avoid late night eating when your body is least likely to be hungry and you are most likely to mindlessly eat.
- Differentiate physical cues of hunger – they start in your stomach or head – from external factors influencing you to eat.
- Recognize what it feels like to be satisfied, not stuffed.
- Pay attention to the flavors, textures, aromas in your food. Notice when foods are too salty or too sweet.
- Ask yourself how food affects your emotional state.
- Explore other ways of handling uncomfortable emotions for you (stress, sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, etc) rather than eating. Paint your nails, go on a walk, call a girlfriend on the phone, etc.
- Turn off the TV while you eat.
Lastly, imagine what it would be like to regain control, eating when hungry and stopping when satisfied. Mindful eating is a practice, so give it the time and patience any new activity takes to learn!
By, Ariele Gordon. MS RD
Of the many things I look forward to in the summer, laying in the sun on the beach in perfect weather is by far the greatest. I come from a long line of sunbathers, and I suppose their wrinkly skin should be a warning to the long term effects of sun worshipping, but for now I’m just living in the moment. Of course, if I had to defend my actions, I could just say that I am trying to produce some much needed vitamin D.
I know vitamin D has received some serious press in recent months, so what’s the big deal with vitamin D? Well, for starters it is essential for promoting calcium absorption and bone health. Together, calcium and vitamin D work to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D also modulates immune function and reduces inflammation in the body.
Unfortunately for us, vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. It is produced in the body upon exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, however research now shows that many people are vitamin D deficient. The recommendations for women and men are 200 IU of vitamin D daily if you are 19-50 years old, 400 IU if you’re 50-70, and 600 IU if you’re over 70 years old. Here’s how to make sure you get enough “D”.
1. Incorporate vitamin D rich foods into your diet.
- Cod liver oil
- Salmon, mackerel, or tuna fish
- Milk or yogurt fortified with vitamin D
- Orange juice (fortified)
- Ready-to-eat cereals (fortified)
2. Get out in the sunshine!
- 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00am and 3:00pm at least twice a week
- Factors like the season, time of day, cloud cover, melanin content of the skin, and sunscreen can all affect the body’s ability to make vitamin D
- Vitamin D supplements are available in 2 forms: vitamin D2 and D3
- Both are effective in raising active vitamin D levels but new research shows vitamin D3 may be more effective in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations in the blood
- You can find vitamin D supplements in 400 IU, 1000 IU or 2000 IU amounts. Check with your doctor or dietitian to determine what is appropriate for you.
- Tip: Take it with some fat. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is best absorbed when taken with food containing some fat.
A simple blood test can determine if you are vitamin D deficient. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels next time you have blood drawn. In the meantime, if you catch some rays and include some of these vitamin D rich foods in your regular diet, you will be well on your way to meeting your vitamin D needs (and maybe gain a healthy glow along the way).
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD
Calories. We’ve heard the word a million times. Most of the general population considers it part of their vocabulary. It’s when we (dietitians like myself) start using terms like “caloric beverages”, or “liquid calories”, or “empty calories” that people get stumped.
Consuming empty calories in excess can lead to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, increase triglycerides, and promote diabetes and heart disease. Regular sodas, fruit drinks, flavored water, and alcohol are sources of empty calories.
My friends could all tell you I am not a big drinker, but who doesn’t enjoy a glass of wine or a refreshing, cold beer from time to time? This is all well and good, but for someone who is trying to lose or maintain their weight, calories from alcoholic beverages need to be taken into account.
It is impossible to make a blanket recommendation for the consumption of alcohol, as it affects each individual in a different way. For some, it may have health benefits, while for others it may be extremely detrimental. The guidelines that do exist suggest drinking alcoholic beverages sensibly and in moderation; this means 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men. One drink does not translate to 1 pitcher of beer, or even a “40”. One serving equals 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, or 1 ½ oz hard liquor (average shot). To give you an idea of how many calories each of these contains:
- 5 oz red wine = 125 calories
- 1 ½ oz Grey Goose Vodka = 104 calories
- 12 oz Sam Adams Summer Ale = 162 calories
If I drank 3 Sam Summer’s while watching a Sox game, I would consume 486 calories, or almost a third of my caloric needs for the day! Here are some tips to minimize the impact of the “empty calories” in alcoholic beverages.
- Oversized drinks (no need for “40’s” anymore)
- High calorie mixers
- Regular sodas, sweet or sour cocktail mixers, syrups, or heavy creams
- Fancy toppings on fancy cocktails
- Drizzled melted chocolate on a chocolate martini or a sugar rimmed martini or margarita glass
- Low calorie mixers
- Orange, cranberry, fresh lemon, or fresh lime juice
- Diet soda or seltzer water
- No mixer (try it “on the rocks”)
- Light beer
- There are so many to choose from now! Budweiser makes Bud Light (110 calories), Budweiser Select (99 calories), and Select 55 (55 calories)
- Red or white wine
If you consider these tips the next time you head to the bar, you can rest assured that you will be drinking responsibly-for your waistline.
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD
A day at the beach (at least for me) involves sunbathing, reading a great book, jumping the waves, and taking in the beautiful scenery with friends. I know I’m not the only avid beachgoer out there; many individuals and families know how to make the most of a great beach day. Of course, when you spend hours on the beach, you are bound to get hungry. One of my favorite local beaches (Devereaux Beach in Marblehead, MA) has a cafe for convenience, but the food there is almost as expensive as it is unhealthy. From what I’ve seen in my beach travels, this is not at all uncommon for beach cafes.
What can you do then, to eat healthily while enjoying a day at the beach? Well, if you can, pack your own meal or snacks. Put some ice packs in a cooler with foods that tend to “keep” fairly well in the heat or hot sun. Also, think of finger foods, sandwiches, or snacks that are easy to eat while surrounded by the sand, wind, and other elements. There is nothing worse than going for a bite of delicious food and getting a mouthful of sand instead! Taking the time to pack your own treats will save money, precious beach time (eliminates waiting in long lines), and likely calories as well. Consider packing some of these healthy, beach-friendly foods on your next outing.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Turkey breast sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber
- Hummus and veggie wrap
- Grilled vegetable sandwich
- Sliced carrots, celery, peppers, cucumber, squash, or other veggies
- Fresh fruit- juicy, seasonal fruits are great snacks for the beach.
- Whole apples, peaches, plums
- Diced melon or pineapple
- Berries (of any kind)
If you can’t pack your own food, look for the healthier menu options at the beach café or restaurant. Choose salads (dressing on the side), vegetable wraps, or a grilled chicken sandwich. Avoid fried foods, burgers, chips, ice cream, and sugary drinks. In regards to ice cream, if you’re anything like me, you crave something cold after a day in the sun. If you make a healthful choice (smaller portion size, frozen yogurt or sorbet, and fruit or nut toppings), then there is no harm…go for it!
Finally, don’t forget the water!! Even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure to hydrate and drink plenty of water during and after a day in the hot sun. Try out some of these tips the next time you head to the beach. I promise they will make the experience even more enjoyable.
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD
On my very first day in the NYU Clinical Nutrition Program, I met a fellow nutrition student who very quickly became one of my best friends. We spent the last four years in New York City exploring and trying new cuisines and as many restaurants as we could. Just last week, upon completion of the program, she moved back to Europe. Sure, she was worried about missing her NYC apartment, her friends, and the hustle and bustle of the city; but she was most concerned with missing her favorite foods from her favorite restaurants and cafes.
For this week’s blog, I thought I would share some of her favorite healthy meals, snacks, and drinks from some local spots in honor of her departure. Here is Melissa’s Top 10:
Whole Foods Market (Union Square)
- Melissa likes: Vegetable brown rice sushi roll with edemame
- Also, check out the extensive salad bar, prepared sandwiches, and soups.
- Tip: Choose low sodium soy sauce when eating sushi. Even better, use wasabi and/or ginger to add flavor to sushi instead of soy sauce.
Juice Generation (171 West 4th Street)
- Melissa likes: Supa Dupa Greens (12 oz)- contains fresh celery, cucumber, kale, parsley, green apple, lemon, spinach, and romaine lettuce
- This menu has a large variety of fresh juices, smoothies, and healthy sandwiches to choose from.
The Grey Dog’s Coffee (33 Carmine Street)
- Melissa likes: Country Style Salad with a grilled turkey burger on top
- Tip: Always ask for the dressing on the side! This is an easy way to save some calories.
Chop’t Creative Salad Company (24 East 17th Street)
- Melissa likes: Mixed greens topped with Cajun chicken, beets, cherry tomatoes, carrots, edemame, corn, and sunflower seeds topped with the “detox” dressing on the side
- Tip: Choose oil based dressings vs. cream based whenever possible.
- Remember that cheese, bacon, ham, and other meats can be high in saturated fat, and will add additional calories to your salad. Choose grilled chicken or tofu as a healthy protein in your salad.
Starbucks Coffee (79 Washington Square)
- Melissa likes: Tall, unsweetened, black iced tea with fresh lemon
- Tip: Dress up your own coffee drinks. Choose low fat or skim milk and limit added sugar to save calories.
Westville (210 West 10th Street)
- Melissa likes: Market vegetables to start (beets and goat cheese, kale with lemon, asparagus with parmesean, and bok choy) with the grilled salmon over mixed greens, baby spinach and mint w/ lemon dill dressing
- Check out the market specials here-they change daily!
SPUNTO (65 Carmine Street)
- Melissa likes: 9” personal pie with the nine-grain organic crust topped with fresh ricotta cheese, mushrooms, and beets
- You can choose from a large number of toppings and get an individual pie or share a large pie with friends.
- Tip: Loading up your pizza with vegetable toppings saves calories and adds some vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your meal.
Pinkberry (177 Bleeker Street)
- Melissa likes: Small original with raspberries, strawberries, and kiwi
L’Artusi (228 West 10th Street)
- Melissa likes: Blood orange puree with vodka
- Remember that alcoholic beverages DO contain calories!!
Pret a Manger (Union Square)
- Melissa likes: Slim Chicken, Avocado, & Balsamic sandwich for a healthy snack, or for lunch with a small salad or fruit
- Tip: Instead of a whole sandwich for lunch, try eating an open-faced sandwich or half a sandwich with a small soup or salad.
Go ahead and try some of these for yourself! Who knows, you may find your own healthy favorites at Melissa’s favorite NYC restaurants. New York (and I) will miss you Mel!
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD
When I moved to New York City four years ago, friends and family back home wanted to know what I loved most about the city. Who knows what I initially told them, but after my first trip to the Union Square Greenmarket, the answer was always the same. I still call this market my favorite place in NYC. I know this may be an odd choice for such a vibrant city, but I was (and still am) hypnotized by the people, the energy, and the smells, colors, and beauty of the fresh produce at the market. I wait all year to experience the fresh tastes of tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries in their peak seasons. (For those of you who have never had a locally grown tomato or strawberry, they taste nothing like the ones you can buy in the supermarket year round.)
I know I tout the fresh, seasonal produce at the market, but fruits and vegetables are not the only items found there. You can also find:
- Dairy products (including milk, cheese, and buttermilk)
- Jams and other specialty products
- Bread, pastries, and other baked goods
- Flowers and other plants
- Fresh herbs
- Juices and ciders
I strongly recommend my summertime favorites: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, cherries, corn, and tomatoes (of all kinds).
Conventionally grown produce that you find at your local supermarket may be slightly less expensive than produce at the farmers market. So why should you buy your produce at the farmers market instead of the supermarket? The answer is simple. Not only will you experience the freshest and most nutritious products, but also there are numerous benefits for your family’s health, the environment, and the local economy.
Here are some tips for your next (or first) trip to your local farmers market:
- Have cash handy- most farmers do not accept credit or debit cards.
- Take a leisurely walk around the entire market to check out the products and their prices before going back through and choosing your favorites to purchase.
- ASK QUESTIONS!
- Don’t hesitate to ask the farmers about their products.
- For produce, I often ask how to determine when the item is ripe, how to best store the item, how long it will last, and how to best prepare the item for optimal taste.
- Never turn down a free sample!
- If there are no samples available, ask the farmer if they can provide you with one-they are almost always willing to show off their products.
Well, we have already established that the Union Square Greenmarket is my favorite farmers market in the city, but if this market is not convenient for you, here is a list of the other farmers markets throughout New York City. If you live outside of New York City, get online and find out where and when your local farmers markets are held and check them out! I promise you will not regret it.
To learn more about Greenmarket Farmers Markets in New York City and other GrowNYC programs, check out Cher Nutrition’s upcoming summer Newsletters.
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD
Native New Englanders can be found from time to time fighting over which restaurant or clam shack has the best lobster roll, clam “chowda”, fried clams, or steamers. As luck would have it, my college roommate at Connecticut College came from a family who owned one of the best places in Maine- Foster’s Downeast Clambake. Since I am originally from Boston, I know that clambakes are a way of life in the summer months, and I was treated to a private clambake or two at my roommate’s Exeter, NH home. We are talking the works: steamers, chowda, and fresh lobster, served with all the classic accompaniments.
Sadly, traditional clambakes are not known to be the healthiest. When you think of the steamers and lobster dipped in melted butter and the creamy clam chowder, I guess it is pretty obvious. However, don’t mistake the shellfish as the culprits! Shellfish (including clams, muscles, oysters, lobster, shrimp, prawns, crabs, and scallops) are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and high in protein and vitamins A, B, and D. They are also high in the minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. We are not as concerned as we once were about dietary cholesterol from shellfish- levels are considerably lower than in red meat or eggs.
Although some of the more popular methods of shellfish cookery are high in fat, calories, and sodium, shellfish can be enjoyed in a number of more healthful ways as well. It is once again all about the preparation! Here are some tips for preparing or ordering your next shellfish meal:
• Broiling, grilling, poaching, and steaming add little or no fat to the shellfish
• Avoid “fried” or “baked-stuffed” menu options
• Try raw oysters or clams “on the half shell”
• Serve shellfish in a white wine or tomato-based sauce in place of cream sauces
• Experiment with non-cream based soups and stews
• Beware of the melted butter! All that dipping can add up quickly.
• Remember that lobster, crab, and shrimp salads traditionally contain (an excess of) mayonnaise. Experiment with yogurt or vinaigrette dressings when making these at home.
When I want a lobster roll that is heavy on the lobster but light on the mayo, I head to Barnacle Billy’s in Ogunquit, Maine. Even better, here is a great recipe I found for a flavorful and healthy take on a lobster roll. ENJOY!
By Samantha Fast, MS, RD