The Battle of the Social Life vs. Healthy Eating


We’ve just entered a new year and all the confetti is settling. So now what? Well, a couple of weeks ago you may or may not have resolved to eat healthier, lose weight, join the gym, etc. etc. etc. Except that you just got a text to join a friend for brunch today, and next week there’s that big dinner party and the week after that is your best friend’s birthday! Social pressures can make sticking to our goals kind of hard at times, and we all have that one friend who just so happens to push us towards that extra slice of chocolate cake even when we’ve just had a great workout. So how do you handle your bad influence buddies? Read on for some tips to help you keep your health and nutrition goals this year—without sacrificing your social life in the meantime!

Announce your Goals


Telling your friends and family that you’re making a conscious effort to eat healthier and exercise more helps make you more accountable for it. Its easy to ‘cheat’ on our diet when nobody knows about it (though really you’re just cheating yourself so that doesn’t help!), but when you’ve just told the five other people at the table that you’re cutting back on sweets, you might think twice before ordering the molten cake for dessert. Even better—you might be the positive push your friends need to get them to choose a healthier lifestyle too! Tell your friends, post it on Instagram, Snapchat your daily little achievements—whatever your preferred method is, talking the talk just might help you walk the walk!

Use the Buddy System


Research from both Dartmouth University and Brown Medical School found, not surprisingly, that when we partner up with a friend who has been successful at losing weight, their positive influence rubs off on us too. In fact, having a supportive person or group of friends cheering you on to help you reach your goals can make all the difference between a successful weight loss story and a relapse into your old bad habits. But don’t just pick your hubby or best friend as your weight loss buddy! It’s important to recognize that even the ones we love the most might just be the ones who are worst for our waistlines (that lavish buffet date night, or the endless breadsticks girls brunch for example!). Of course that doesn’t mean we have to give up quality time with our favorites, but we do need to choose our weight loss partners wisely. You need to find someone who has the same goals as you, and who wants to reach them the same way—there’s no sense in picking someone who wants to go for a daily 5 AM run when you’re just not a morning person! Whether it’s someone to workout with, to swap healthy recipes with, or even to take turns babysitting so the other can head to the gym, having a partner supporting your goals can make all the difference.

Handle the Temptations


Let’s face it—you are not going to give up your social life in order to live healthier, and you shouldn’t have to! There’s always going to be events on our Google calendar that give us the excuse we’re looking for to postpone working on our resolutions for the next week. What’s important is that you equip yourself to handle the temptation without skipping out on every birthday party in February. If you’re heading to a dinner where you know you won’t get healthy options, have a snack before you go—we’re less likely to make poor eating choices when we’re not famished. Skip out on all the sugary drinks and opt for water. Scan the entire buffet before you start piling up your plate so you know what it is you’re actually going to want to eat. And perhaps most importantly, allow yourself a little indulgence every now and then so that you don’t overdo it at the dessert table the first chance you get.


It is most definitely possible to eat well while still enjoying a full social life. Food can be the most important aspect of our culture, allows for a way to express our love for one another and can be the focal point of our social gatherings. It’s important that you don’t give up one for another, but rather find a way for both healthy eating and a healthy social life to come together to make a healthy you!

Skip the Resolutions this New Year


Its suddenly that time of year again—2015 is coming to a close and we’re all about to start a new chapter in our lives, with a fresh start, fresh goals and a new resolve to ‘get it right’ this time around. Right? Wrong! We hear some version of these lovely thoughts every year, and yet if we’re being totally honest, come February most of us have already forgotten our current state of extra motivation and are back to the drudgery of day-to-day distractions that keep us from reaching the health and wellness goals we set for ourselves at the end of last year. In fact, research done by the University of Scranton found that only about 8% of people actually keep their resolutions, despite the 40% or so of us who try! Why is that? Well, most of the time it’s because we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. We think that just by giving ourselves lofty aspirations, we’ll push ourselves to meet them. And while that’s great and dandy, the truth is that when we find ourselves struggling to achieve our goal of losing 20 pounds in January, we kind of lose hope and stop trying in the first place. So let’s make a new resolution for the New Year together—I resolve to not resolve. Instead, I want you to set smaller more attainable goals for a healthier lifestyle. These goals don’t have to be achieved in January, but aim to be mindful of them all year long. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Eat a piece of fruit everyday


It’s easy to say “I’m going to increase my fruits and veggies this year” but can be harder to implement if we’re not used to it. Try to increase your intake slowly—resolve to bring just one more piece of fruit with you to work everyday, or aim to have a salad with dinner on most days. Starting with small changes will make it easier to incorporate these things into your lifestyle, until it just becomes the natural way you eat!

Increase your water intake


We all know we need to drink more water, but for some of us, eight glasses just seems like too much! Set small goals—start your day with a glass of water every morning, always be sure to carry around water with you for the busier days, and use different fruits to flavor your water for those days you just get bored with it (my favorite: sliced peaches at the bottom of the water jug make for a delicious and refreshing water break!). Another attainable goal you can set for yourself is to drink one more glass of water than you had yesterday. In just over a week, your body will be soaking up those eight glasses in no time!

Exercise more


We’ve all made this one before, but here’s the thing—while exercising more is one of the most common resolutions people make in the New Year, and most new gym memberships are started in January to reflect that, studies have found that about 50% of people with gym memberships stop going altogether within six months. That makes this resolution one of the priciest as well as least effective! Don’t make a resolution to ‘join the gym’ in 2016; instead make a resolve to move more. Take the stairs, park your car further away, have walking meetings—there are so many ways to add a little extra step to our day if we are just mindful of it. Most of us will say we just don’t have the time to exercise—but we all have at least 10 minutes. Take 10-minute intervals throughout your day to just move!

Sleep more


Another favorite of mine—you’d think that by the way that most of us struggle to get out of bed in the morning we’d be better at going to sleep earlier but the truth is there’s too many distractions keeping us up. Give yourself a bedtime that allows for at least eight hours of sleep—and start your bedtime routine a half hour earlier. Turn off all electronics (yes that means no Whatsapp before bedtime!), cut back on the caffeine and keep the room dark and quiet. Those little changes to your routine can keep you feeling energized and ready to go the next day!


I’m all for setting both personal and professional goals for our growth and improvement, but it’s important that these goals are attainable—the more we believe we can achieve them the more likely we are to work towards them. The New Year is always a time for reflection—it gives us reason to think back on our accomplishments, appreciate the good things in our lives and motivate us to pursue an even better life in the coming year. But the truth is, the difference between 2015 and 2016 is just one day—your life is not going to magically change overnight just because its time to get a new calendar. We should always be working towards self-improvement and towards a healthier lifestyle regardless of the date. That being said, I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016 full of mindfulness, love in all its forms and inspiration to continue living the best you!

Give Thanks for Better Health


For those of you living in the US, today is a day of giving thanks; of reflecting on the things we are blessed for and for sharing that love and gratitude with our loved ones around the Thanksgiving dinner table. I’m not going to tell you to watch out for the extra calories on the pumpkin cheesecake, nor am I going to tell you to fill your plate with Brussels sprouts and avoid the marshmallow sweet potatoes. Instead, I want you to focus on what this holiday is really about: giving thanks. And that’s because you’d be surprised how much a simple thing like a positive attitude of reflection can make a difference in your health!


Many studies have shown time and time again that people who have a tendency to express more gratitude also tend to take better care of their health. They are more likely to exercise, eat well and get regular medical check-ups. In fact, a 2012 study found that grateful people also report fewer feelings of physical pain and report feeling healthier than those with less optimism. The field of positive psychology focuses on this kind of research, and its been well-established that expressing gratitude for your blessings helps you feel more positive emotions, gets you through difficult events in your life and helps you build stronger relationships with those around you. All of these things contribute to your mental health, which in turn translates into better physical health as well.


A key way that expressing thanks for the blessings in your life helps us feel better is that it allows us to manage stress better. Its been claimed that stress causes about 90% of doctor’s visits year-round—stress is a major contributor to disease and has been linked to both heart disease and cancer. One study found that people who kept a gratitude journal (writing down the things that we are thankful for) reported fewer feelings of stress and higher feelings of positivity, enthusiasm, determination, and energy when compared to those who did not. Interestingly, some research has suggested that it’s not that grateful people do not experience negative emotions, but rather, that their feelings of positivity are enhanced, allowing them to face adverse events in their lives better. That being said, it is undeniable that there is a strong link between gratitude and lower levels of depression and anxiety.


Another way giving thanks gives you a protective effect on your health is that it actually may boost your immune system. People who rank high on gratitude tests tend to be more optimistic, and optimism has been linked with stronger immune systems. In fact, a study examining first-year law students found that those who ranked high on optimism tests had higher numbers of immune-protecting red blood cells during mid-term exams when compared to their more pessimistic classmates. It’s also been found that people who are more optimistic going into surgery had better health outcomes than those with a more negative outlook on life. So bottom line: the more thankful you are, the more positive you are, and the more positive you are—the stronger your immune system will be!


Thanksgiving gives us a wonderful reason to reflect on the many blessings in our lives. But feeling thankful shouldn’t be a once a year occasion—make a conscious effort to count your blessings everyday. One thing I really want to point out is that we don’t need a lot to be able to be thankful. Your focus should not be on monetary or other materialistic things—be grateful for the people in your life, be grateful for your healthy body, be grateful for the beautiful sunrise. Whatever it is that makes you happy, try to focus on the non-materialistic things. Make a point of telling yourself just one thing you are thankful for everyday. Keep a gratitude journal you write in every night one good thing that happened that day. If you are religious, pray—prayer is an excellent way to cultivate gratitude. Thank those around you for the little things. Whatever way works best for you, being aware of the many beautiful things life has to offer will lead to a healthier, happier you!

How to Trick your Picky Eaters


Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Maybe it’s your kids or even your spouse, but there’s always that one person in a household that seems to always switch the red light on when it comes to letting anything green pass through their lips! Eating healthy can be a challenge to some, but trying to get someone else to eat healthier can be even harder! If you’re the designated chef of your family, try the following tips to sneak healthy foods into your cooking—I bet you they won’t even notice!

Puree Veggies


Did you know you a delicious (and undetected!) way to sneak some vegetables into a meal is to puree them? Try making a puree of your favorite veggies and using it as a thick sauce for pasta—experimentation is key, but marinara sauce is a perfect way to hide some carrots and zucchini unnoticed! Making mac and cheese? Cut the cheese in half and mix with sweet potatoes! Some vegetables such as cauliflower can make a great way to thicken up soups and casseroles too. If you really want to get away with this sneaky trick, make sure you’re matching your secret ingredients with the same color as your dish!

Cut the Butter


An easy way to cut both the fat and the calories in your baked goods without losing their delicious taste is to replace half the butter with a stealthy nutrient-filled goody. A great alternative to use in cakes is applesauce—it’ll give an extra boost of both fiber and vitamin C, while making your product just a little bit sweeter and tenderer. Another great sneaky swap for butter is avocado—and no it won’t make your brownies go green! Avocados will give you a boost of healthy fats, fiber and a myriad of vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin C while lowering the total amount of calories otherwise claimed by your butter. At the same time, it’ll make your goodies both softer and moister—translation: even more delicious!

Use Tofu


I know what you’re thinking already—‘tofu is bland, my kids would never go for it!’—But guess what: it’s the fact that its bland that makes it so versatile and perfect for some sneaky nutrition! Tofu is one of those love-it-or-hate-it foods, but its benefits can’t be denied. Tofu is an excellent vegetarian source of protein—it contains all eight (yes all of them!) essential amino acids. Those are the amino acids that our bodies can’t make so we need to eat them, so tofu is quite a convenient way to get them in all at once I’d say! In addition to that protein, tofu is also packed full of so many nutrients, including iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamin B1. Now, let’s get back to how we can actually get our loved ones to benefit from the nutria-powerhouse that is tofu! Because it does have that blander taste, it’s actually really use to sneak it in foods because it’ll absorb the other flavors of the dish. Try crumbling small pieces into a hearty chili for example, or sneaking it along with white cheeses in dishes such as lasagna. You can also combine my previous two tips—puree and replace! Try pureeing it and replacing it for half of the cream cheese in any recipe. You’ll be artfully and effortlessly boosting your cooking’s protein power with this versatile food without anyone knowing it in no time!


Of course it’s always best to encourage your family to eat healthy by teaching them about the importance of nutritious foods, but the reality is some of us just tend to place that much more importance on the topic than others. So if you’re the healthy cook who’s always frustrated with the not-so-healthy eaters around you, you can use sneaky tricks to push your family towards a more nutritious lifestyle—whether or not they realize it!

Nutrition for a Longer Life


We all want to live longer, and we want to look good doing it! Eating a healthy diet can keep your body stronger to fight off the natural age-related changes that happen. A nutrient-strong diet protects your body against disease, which of course in turn leads to not just a longer, but a healthier life. Lots of research has been conducted on various groups around the world who seem to live longer than the rest of us, like those from Okinawa, a group of islands in Japan. Okinawans are known to have the lowest rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer, with both men and women enjoying longer average lives than the rest of us. The secret may be in their diets; they eat seven servings of fruits and vegetables, seven servings of grains, and two servings of soy, all in a day’s work! They also eat omega-3 rich fish several times a week, with very little dairy and meat. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to overhaul your diet completely and throw out the ground beef just yet! But there are some foods that have been found to boost longevity, giving you a longer and healthier life, so try to incorporate them into your meal plan.

Green Tea


This one is a personal favorite. Regular green tea drinkers have been found to have lower risk of so many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, viruses, and your regular old stress. Green tea is a very popular drink in Japan, and a Japanese study found that women who drank five or more cups per day cut their risk of heart disease by 31% while men lowered their risk by about 22%. The researchers hypothesized that the reason the findings were more pronounced in women is because many of the men in their study were smokers—taking a sip of green tea isn’t a magical sip out of the fountain of youth, you do still have to live a generally healthy lifestyle too, and that means no smoking! While it is interesting to note the trend of populations such as Japan, it’s important to keep in mind that so many other factors are at play when it comes to age besides diet—genetics, environment, lifestyle, etc. so while the Japanese mortality rate due to heart disease is about 30% lower than that of the United States, green tea can’t be the only thing we hold responsible for this difference. That being said, many studies have established that people who drink green tea regularly (regardless of their ethnic background) have significant changes in their DNA, which is associated with longer life. Aim to incorporate green tea in your daily diet about three times a day for a longer and healthier life!

Omega 3 Fatty Acids


You’ve already heard a lot about the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, but there is a strong body of evidence that not only do they protect against disease, they specifically lower mortality from disease. There are different types of omega 3s commonly found in fish oil: DPA, DHA and EPA. Researchers from Harvard University isolated all three fatty acids and examined their effects. Their findings were outstanding: DHA was associated with a 40% reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease, EPA was associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and DPA with a lower risk of stroke. The researchers also found that people who ate the highest amount of all three fatty acids had a 27% lower risk of death than the rest of the study subjects, and lived an average of two years longer than those who had the lowest amount of fatty acid intake. Those results say a lot about the power of omega 3s! Perhaps the best part of the news is this: you don’t have to eat fish everyday to reap these benefits—just two times a week will improve your heart health and reduce your risk of death! Aim to include it your meal plan for the week! Not a fan of fish? Find omega 3 in flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, canola oil, and leafy green vegetables.



A 12-year-long study conducted in California found that people who ate nuts 5-6 times a week lived on average 1.5-2.5 years longer than those who ate no nuts. Another study found that people who had a daily snack of nuts had a 20% lower risk of death when compared to those who ate very little nuts. These results may be due to the many benefits found in nuts—including lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol, increasing ‘good’ cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure. Now I know what you’re thinking—nuts are high in fat, eating them daily is going to make me gain weight! Not necessarily true though. Its true that nuts do contain high amounts of fat; however these are healthy unsaturated fats. As long as you keep your serving size to an ounce (about a handful), nuts are actually associated with lower weight due to their high protein and fiber content, keeping you full for longer so as not to overeat. Incorporate unsalted nuts into salads, cereal or yogurt, enjoy nut butter spreads on toast, or simply indulge in a healthy handful for your next snack!


The secret to longevity lies not just in simple foods; it’s a whole healthy lifestyle. Make sure to eat a balanced diet, exercise well, surround yourself with the people you love, doing what you love. While a healthy diet can mean different things sometimes, most studies agree that closely following a Mediterranean diet can cut your risk of death from all diseases by about 20%. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole fats, and plenty of fish, with minimal amounts of red meat. Try to make a conscious effort to include these foods in your diet and live a longer, healthier and happier life for it!

Disease in Depth: Crohn’s Disease


Do you feel like your Crohn’s is ruling your life? It doesn’t have to be! Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease associated with abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, and many food intolerances. While it’s true that it can make your daily life very uncomfortable, following the proper nutrition and lifestyle recommendations, along with taking your prescribed medications can make a world of a difference and allow you to engage in your normal daily activities, living out a pleasurable life.


While there hasn’t been a scientifically established cause of Crohn’s disease, there are many theories out there. Your Crohn’s could be caused by a variety of factors, including immune system problems and genetics. Your normal immune system response is to attack microbes—potential threats—to your body by inciting an inflammatory response. However, when you have Crohn’s disease, your immune system may be inappropriately trying to fight off microbes that aren’t really there—meaning that the inflammatory response is constant—it just doesn’t shut off. That chronic inflammation eventually starts to affect your intestines, leading to painful ulcers. Alternatively, there may be a genetic component to your Crohn’s as there is a gene that has been linked with causing inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s. It has been found that people who have this mutated gene are twice as likely to develop the disease, though it is possible to have Crohn’s without it. Furthermore, 10-20% of those with Crohn’s disease also have a family member with the disease.


So what are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease? Well, Crohn’s flare-ups happen from time to time, meaning that you may not feel these symptoms all the time, just when a flare-up happens. You may experience abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, fever, or loss of appetite. The diarrhea can sometimes be so bad that you might experience it 10-20 times/day. And the loss of appetite in combination with the diarrhea can lead to weight loss and poor nutrient absorption. All of these things can lead to related nutrition problems, including iron deficiency anemia, protein deficiencies and malnutrition. The specific nutrients you might be deficient in depend on which part of the intestinal tract is affected, as different parts absorb different nutrients. Your doctor will be able to determine the type of Crohn’s disease you have and from there you’ll be able to tell which nutrients you might be deficient in.


So what can you do when you have a flare-up of Crohn’s? Eat small frequent meals rather than fewer large meals—it’ll help your body to digest bit by bit, but try to resist the urge to avoid food altogether so you won’t get those nutrient deficiencies we talked about. You might find that avoiding dairy products helps reduce gassiness and bloating. It’s also helpful to avoid high fat foods such as fried foods, as your body might have a difficult time absorbing the fat. Cook your food by grilling, boiling or roasting instead. Do drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated as it’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re having diarrhea. Try to stick to water though—sweetened juices and carbonated beverages might worsen your symptoms. I want to take a moment to talk about fiber. You may have heard that fiber helps normalize bowel movements—easing constipation while also bulking up stool in cases of diarrhea. However, those with Crohn’s may sometimes find that fiber actually increases their gas and worsens their diarrhea symptoms. Each person’s body reacts differently, so pay attention to how fiber affects you and adjust your diet accordingly. A general rule to follow is a high-fiber diet when your Crohn’s is in remission, but a low fiber diet when flare-ups happen.


Like I said, everyone is different—but there are some foods that most people with Crohn’s flare-ups seem to do better without. Try avoiding the following foods in the event of a flare-up and it might help to ease your symptoms:

  • Simple sugars
    • Eg. candies, desserts, chocolate and white bread
  • Caffeine
    • Eg. coffee, teas and sodas
  • Spicy foods
    • Eg. hot peppers, curry
  • Gassy foods
    • Eg. broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lentils, and peas
  • Fiber
    • Eg. beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables

Keep in mind—that doesn’t mean you can’t eat your favorite foods at all, just when you’re having a flare-up!


Crohn’s is a very ‘individual’ disease—everybody experiences it differently. That means that what irritates one person with Crohn’s may not irritate another. In general, aim for a high protein, low fat diet and be sure you’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals—ask your doctor if you think you might need a multivitamin supplement. Keep a food log—it can do wonders. Track the foods and drinks you consume along with every time you feel your Crohn’s acting up, and soon enough you’ll be able to identify the foods that suit you to live symptom-free!

What to Eat Before and After Exercise


Let’s face it—you can stick to the healthiest diet 95% of the time, but if you don’t exercise you just won’t get quite the same results. Whether your workout consists of dancing around the house or running a marathon, what you eat before and after you exercise can help you make the most of it. Exercise has so many benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and reducing psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and poor self-esteem. Set your personal exercise goal and work towards it. It doesn’t even have to be anything too crazy to start with—according to the American Heart Association, your minimum target should be at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week—pretty doable! Of course healthy nutrition goes hand in hand with a good exercise regimen, so what should you eat to support your fitness goals?



First things first—a lot of people think they’ll burn more fat if they don’t eat anything at all before a workout. But unless you’re just going for a short walk, you really should have a bite to eat before exercise. After all, a car doesn’t run without fuel, and neither do we. But eating before a workout doesn’t necessarily mean carb-loading. It’s true that carbohydrates are probably the most important thing to eat before exercising, because they raise your body’s blood sugars enough to get you pumping. But if you’re already getting plenty of carbs in your diet (and my guess is you are), you don’t necessarily need to scarf down a ton of carbs right before you head out. Instead, focus on having a meal or snack that’s moderate in both carbohydrates and protein. While carbs will give you the quick burst of energy you need to get going, protein will help your muscles move properly and get them plenty of needed oxygen from your blood cells. If you’re planning on going on a high intensity workout, keep your pre-workout meal low fiber, as too much fiber can upset your stomach and make you uncomfortable throughout your training. Of course this next tip should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many people neglect to do this—drink plenty of fluids before you exercise! Even if you can’t bring yourself to eat anything at all before a workout, definitely be sure to keep your body hydrated—aim for about two cups of water a couple of hours before exercising. People also tend to wonder about sports drinks—and their use typically depends on the type and duration of their workout. If you’re exercising to lose weight, for example, water is a much lighter option than a sports drink. However, sports drink can be useful for those playing team sports such as football, as well as those engaging in activity for over one hour in hot or humid conditions. Bottom line: if you’re going to sweat a lot, sports drinks can help you replenish lost fluids and sodium. But if you are going to go for sports drinks, choose carefully by checking the nutrition label. For an 8-ounce drink, look for 14-15 grams of carbohydrate, 110 mg of sodium and about 30 mg of potassium. Thinking of going for an energy bar? Look for one with about 5 grams of protein. General rules for choosing your pre-workout foods: a little bit of carbs, a little bit of protein and a little bit of healthy fat go a long way!



So how can your food help you benefit the most from your workout? Well let’s start with clarifying the age-old question of –you guessed it—protein. Here’s a little tidbit I know a lot of you won’t like: you really don’t need as much protein as you think you do. It’s true that protein helps your muscles recover and grow after a workout, but this is more the case for those who are lifting weights or doing other muscle-focused activities. And—here’s the kicker—you really only need about 10-20 grams of protein, so downing three protein shakes a day won’t necessarily make your muscles grow like Popeye overnight! Your body won’t know the difference between the protein you’ll get from a protein shake, a piece of grilled chicken or a cup of hot chocolate. If you do still want to go for a protein powder, choose one that’s based in whey protein and pair it with a carbohydrate like a piece of fruit to give your muscles the optimal recovery punch. Depending on the protein powder you choose, you probably only need about one scoop to get your 10-20 grams, but think about this: if you choose food as your protein source instead of the protein shake, you’ll be getting a lot of other nutrients along with it. For example, having a meal of grilled salmon after a workout not only gives your body the protein it needs, but also gives you small nutrients called bioactive peptides, which help reduce inflammation, regulate insulin levels and boost your joint health—all of which will make you feel much better after an intense workout!


Whatever your exercise of choice is, be sure to eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids to help you both enjoy and benefit from your activity! And if you’re simply just too busy to squeeze in a workout today, make small changes like walking up that flight of stairs or parking your car a little further away from the entrance—after all, every little bit counts!

Breast is Best: Feeding your Baby


We talked about nutrition for a healthy pregnancy in a previous post, but what about when your baby comes? You are now faced with the decision of whether or not to breastfeed, and while breastfeeding is recommended as the healthier option for both mother and baby, your circumstances may not allow you to do so. If that’s the case, speak to your doctor about the best formula options for your baby. That being said, the old adage is true, “breast is best,” and you should try to breastfeed for as long as possible. In fact, most medical associations will tell you to aim to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of your child’s life—that means giving only breast milk and nothing else!


Sometimes that idea causes a bit of panic and alarm, especially in new mothers. But trust me when I say that breastfeeding really does provide your baby with all the nutrients he or she needs—in fact, it gives near an exact proportion of the fat, protein and vitamins your baby needs at that stage of life. There are so many benefits of breastfeeding that it’s hard to know where to start! It’s not only the cheapest way to feed your baby (formula can be expensive!), but it is digested easier than formula and provides antibodies that formula is unable to give. Those antibodies help boost your baby’s immune system and help him or her fight off infections. Breastfeeding even lowers your baby’s risk of developing both asthma and allergies, and studies have found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for six months have fewer ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. That all translates to a fewer trips to the hospital and a much happier baby! Breastfed babies are also less likely to be overweight later in life, as breast milk provides infants with the exact amount of calories and nutrients they need, helping them grow to their desired weight. Meanwhile, some studies show that formula-fed babies may have a 20-30% increased risk for developing obesity later in life. Studies also show psychological benefits of breastfeeding, including higher IQs and fewer behavioral and learning problems as they grow older. Another fun fact is that the more varied your diet is, the more tastes your baby will be exposed to—that means less picky eaters when they’re older!


But breastfeeding doesn’t just benefit your baby—it benefits you too! Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so helps you reach your pre-pregnancy weight faster. It also releases the hormone oxytocin, which in turn helps your uterus go back to its normal size and reduces bleeding. In addition, breastfeeding has been shown to lower a mother’s risk for both breast and ovarian cancers, and some studies have shown a link between a reduced risk for osteoporosis as well. What’s more is that breastfeeding can help space your pregnancies—and may be about 98% effective as a birth control method on its own (you may want to use other birth control however anyway just to be on the safe side!). Breastfeeding women who have diabetes typically have a reduced need for insulin and blood sugars may be more stabilized. The list of benefits for both mother and child is endless, giving you all the more reason to choose breastfeeding as your baby’s sole source of nutrition. If six months of exclusive breastfeeding is just not feasible for you, that’s okay—try to breastfeed for as much and as long as you can; both you and your baby will still reap benefits you might not otherwise get from formula feeding. Some women are concerned that they are unable to provide enough breast milk for their babies, but the truth of the matter is that the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body will produce. 6-8 wet diapers a day indicate your baby is getting plenty of food from you.


While I advocate for breastfeeding as much as possible, its important to recognize that it may not be for everyone. The decision to breastfeed is yours and yours alone, and do not feel shamed or judged if you’re unable to. If you choose to feed your baby formula, always choose the iron-fortified kind (unless your doctor tells you otherwise). That’s because babies typically have increased iron requirements—but don’t worry, most cows’ milk-based formulas are already fortified. Soy-based formulas may be appropriate for some babies with rare lactose intolerance, but be a little cautious, as many babies who are allergic to cow’s milk tend to also be allergic to the proteins found in soy milk. If that’s the case for your baby, there are hypoallergenic formulas out there that will be easier for your baby to digest!


Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, your baby’s nutrition in his or her early stages of life is essential. Don’t be overwhelmed and trust that your baby is getting all his or her nutritional needs through your breast milk. Don’t hesitate to see your doctor or dietitian to guide you the rewarding process of breastfeeding, and don’t worry too much if your baby is getting formula—after all, just by reading this post you’ve proven you are looking to the best interest of both yourself and your child!

Disease in Depth: Iron Deficiency Anemia


You’re tired, pale and cranky. Or maybe you constantly have headaches and have trouble focusing on your everyday tasks. You may not just be moody—you may have iron deficiency anemia. There are many types and causes of anemia, but iron deficiency is believed to be the most common contributor to anemia. In fact, iron deficiency is counted in as one of the top ten global burdens of disease, and anemia affects over 818 million women and children worldwide. Even more alarming, is that about half of those are individuals living in Asia. That means there’s probably a play of both genetics and environment happening since anemia is disproportionately affecting those in just one part of the world.


While anemia can be caused by many things, including internal bleeding related to hemorrhoids, ulcers or even cancer, heavy menstrual bleeding, and conditions such as celiac disease that make it difficult for your body to absorb iron, an inadequate intake of iron from foods is the most common cause. Pregnant women, small children and teenagers are often at the highest risk for iron deficiency anemia because their bodies tend to need more iron than others. Symptoms include feeling weak, dizzy and fatigued, having shortness of breath, having intense mood swings, feeling strong headaches, having trouble concentrating, and looking pale. You may even experience some hair loss and strange cravings (referred to as pica), especially for ice. Babies and small children with iron deficiency anemia present as fussy, having a short attention span and having growth and developmental delays. The sooner the cause of anemia is identified and corrected, the sooner these symptoms will go away and will prevent further delays in children.


So let’s get to the nitty gritty of what happens in your body when you don’t get enough iron. Iron is an important part of the process of making hemoglobin, which is a part of your red blood cells. Hemoglobin is like a little taxi that carries oxygen to every part of your body. So when you don’t have enough iron, you can’t make enough hemoglobin; that means both fewer and smaller red blood cells, and your body can’t get enough of the oxygen it needs. So then, iron is kind of a big deal and you really want to be getting enough of it!


So how can you correct an iron deficiency? In most cases it’s actually just a simple combination of iron supplements and iron boosting foods. You may even start to feel better almost immediately, but don’t be fooled. It takes your body a long time to rebuild depleted iron stores, so even if you feel better, don’t stop taking your iron pills until your doctor tells you to, because it could take up to six months to have normal iron stores again. In fact, this is a good time to tell you to not start iron pills (or really any kind of supplements for that matter) before consulting your doctor. Do not diagnose yourself! The reason I’m emphasizing this is because your anemia may not necessarily be caused by an iron deficiency—or rather, your iron deficiency may not be caused by a lack of iron. Like I mentioned above, certain diseases can lead to internal bleeding that makes you lose iron, or problems absorbing it, which means you may actually be getting all the iron you need from your food already, but your body doesn’t know how to use it. Even if there was no underlying disease causing your iron deficiency, your doctor will determine the appropriate dosage of iron in your supplements—if you take it on your own you may be putting yourself at risk for actually getting too much iron and even getting iron poisoning! Your doctor will diagnose the exact underlying cause of your anemia and will treat it. After all, if you don’t treat the root cause how else will the problem go away?


Ok now that we’ve got that bit clarified let’s talk about what you can actually do if your doctor has told you you’re not getting enough iron in your diet. There are two types of iron you can get from your diet: heme and non-heme. Heme iron comes from animal sources such as meat, poultry and seafood, and it is the type that is best absorbed by your body. Non-heme iron comes from plant sources such as beans, lentils and leafy green vegetables (think spinach a la Popeye). Most breakfast cereals are fortified with iron as well, so including some in your breakfast can help! There’s a trick you should know when it comes to planning your iron-rich meals: when you combine iron-rich foods with other foods, certain nutrients help your body absorb the iron while other foods actually hinder it. To help your body absorb iron, include a vitamin C rich food in the same meal—such as citrus fruit or juice. But steer clear from foods that contain caffeine and calcium. That doesn’t mean you can’t have coffee anymore—just keep a two-hour gap between your java and your iron!


Don’t be alarmed if you or your child is diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. With the right foods and the right supplements, you’ll be able to reverse your symptoms and get back on track in no time—just be persistent about your treatment and don’t let up until your doctor gives you the green light!

Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy


Congratulations! You’ve just found out you’re pregnant, but mixed in with all the joys of expanding your family, you might be starting to worry just a little bit about all the changes taking place in your body. Your baby is going to live and grow inside you for nine months, and in those nine months it’s your job to be a good hostess and feed it well. There’s a lot of information out there on all the things you must and must not do when you’re pregnant, and it can be overwhelming. The truth of the matter is, however, that the same healthy eating principles apply: aim to get plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. The first point I want to make clear though is this: you really don’t need to “eat for two.” Your energy needs increase for sure when you’re pregnant, but only by about 300 calories, and only in the second and third trimesters. So don’t worry too much about how much food you’re eating, but more about the kinds of foods you eat. Focus on these next nutrients and both you and your baby will be healthy and happy for the next nine months!

Folic Acid (Folate)


Folic acid (a B vitamin that’s also called folate) might be one of the most important nutrients your body needs during pregnancy. In fact, you should try to start incorporate food sources of folic acid as soon as you start planning to get pregnant, because some birth defects can happen as early as 3-4 weeks into pregnancy, when you might not even know you’re pregnant yet. Folic acid prevents your baby from developing dangerous neural tube defects, including spina bifida, a condition where the baby’s spine doesn’t form properly. But don’t worry—eating enough folic acid and taking it in supplement form (your doctor will recommend the best one for you) can reduce your chances of developing spina bifida by up to 50%. It may also reduce your risks for pregnancy complications, and one study found that women who started taking folic acid at least a year before getting pregnant reduced their chances for delivering early by more than 50%. So how much folate do you need? It’s recommended that all women of childbearing age (i.e. who might get pregnant) should get 400 mcg of folate/day. Pregnant women in their first trimester can keep taking this same amount, but your requirements increase in your second and third trimesters to 600 mcg/day. After giving birth, aim for 500 mcg/day if you’re breastfeeding. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate supplement, but aim for food sources as well. You can find folic acid in: leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans and peas, and fortified cereals.



When your baby is growing inside you, your blood volume has to expand by as much as 60% to accommodate all the changes in your body and to support your baby’s entire blood supply. That’s a lot of blood! And that means that your need for iron increases quite a bit. Iron is used to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to your tissues and prevents anemia. Not getting enough iron means that you’ll be more tired, you’ll have an increased risk for infections and you may even have an increased risk of preterm delivery and a low birth weight baby. Most prenatal supplements have a pretty good amount of iron in them, but you should also aim to get your iron from your daily foods. The best sources of iron are animal sources—lean meat, poultry and fish, but you can also get iron from beans, vegetables and fortified cereals. To boost your body’s ability to absorb iron, pair iron-containing foods with vitamin C foods (i.e. orange juice, tomatoes or a piece of fruit to accompany your meal).



Your body needs calcium whether or not you’re pregnant in order to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also used by your body to help your blood clot, to keep your heart healthy and to keep your muscles and nerves working properly. If you don’t have enough calcium when you’re pregnant, your body will take the calcium that’s already stored in your bones in order to grow your baby’s bones and teeth. In turn, that means your calcium stores will drop, putting you at increased risk for osteoporosis, fractures and weak bones. Aim to get 1000 mg of calcium/day when you’re pregnant. Teenagers who are pregnant need even more calcium, and should be getting about 1,300 mg/day. The best sources of calcium are dairy products, which are absorbed better by the body—that includes milk, yogurt and cheese. But other non-dairy sources include eggs, fortified cereals, tofu, beans, almonds, and salmon. It’s important that you also include good sources of vitamin D, as vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Sources (besides the sun!) include fatty fish, eggs and fortified milk and cereals.


So what about the foods you really shouldn’t eat when you’re pregnant? Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses because they put you at risk for an infection called listeria. Most soft cheeses are unpasteurized (including feta, brie and Camembert), but you can still have hard cheeses, cream cheese and cottage cheese. Avoid all raw fish (especially shellfish like clams and oysters), and stay away from seafood with high levels of mercury—that includes shark, king mackerel and swordfish. Of course that means no sushi! Keep your caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg/day. That means cut down on coffee (150 mg/cup), tea (80 mg/cup) and sodas (30-60 mg/cup)—always check the label and keep track of how much caffeine you’re getting. Also keep in mind some chocolates have a pretty decent amount of caffeine in them, so be careful! Finally, keep an eye out for some sweeteners—those with saccharin have been shown to cross the placenta and stay in your baby’s system. You can still have Equal or Splenda, as they use aspartame instead of saccharin, but keep these in moderation to stay on the side of caution.


Don’t be alarmed by all the nutrition information out there! Just keep in mind that during these beautiful (though tiring!) nine months are the only times where your daily eating decisions are directly affecting your baby. That just gives you all the more reason to choose healthy foods. The healthier you eat, the healthier both you and your baby will feel!