Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Today is Halloween and it's almost time for the trick-or-treaters to start making their rounds! Yesterday, I participated in the HoBOOken Halloween 5K race, which had a great turnout of festive Halloween runners! I placed 572 out of 1113, with a finish time of  29:17, which is a 9:25 pace, and my PR so far! So I'll take it!

Check out a few pics below and have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN! :)

Me after the HoBOOken 5k!

Yip Yip! (and he ran like that the whole time!)

Gu Girls! (my favorite costume!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hydration Information

Proper hydration is important to athletes and non-athletes alike. The weather may not be as hot anymore, but remember to stay hydrated throughout the day and especially during physical activity! Depending on where you look, the recommendations for fluid intake vary. To specifically tailor to your needs, try to drink at least half your body weight in fluid ounces. [So a 150lb. person would need to drink 75 ounces a day, or about 2.2 Liters.]
How can you monitor your hydration?
  • Urine color (it should be light-colored, similar to lemonade)
  • Thirst
  • Body weight/sweat loss (changes in body weight from pre- to post- exercise indicate hydration status)
What fluids and how much should you take in during physical activity?
  • For workouts less than 60 minutes, drinking water before, during(as needed) and after is a good choice.
  • For more intense activity lasting more than 60 minutes, aim to take in water and/or a sports drinks
  • If you tend to be a salty sweater, be sure to replace sodium loss (through foods, soups, sports drinks, etc)
*For a personalized plan to determine your hydration needs, seek the help of a Registered Dietitian and/or Certified Sports Dietitian! :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chilly Weather = Homemade Chili!

Now that the weather is really starting to get cold, we tend to want warm comfort foods! Soups and stews can be a great way to get warm and get your fill of vegetables too! This week I made a big batch of vegetarian chili without following a real recipe, just tossing in fresh delicious ingredients! Chili is super easy to make and making it yourself will fill the whole house with delicious aromas while letting you be in control of the amount of sodium, fat, etc.  Here are the main ingredients I used in mine:

-Crushed tomatoes
-Hot sauce
-Olive oil
-Kidney Beans
-Garbanzo Beans
-Green Peppers
-Diced up Veggie Burgers :)

Whether you choose meaty or vegetarian style, chili is the perfect recipe for cold fall days! Enjoy! :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut!

Today, October 22, 2010 is National Nut Day!

Nuts can have a variety of health benefits, including weight management, diabetes control and heart health.  Although nuts are high in fat, they are mostly unsaturated healthy fats.  The key to incorporating nuts into the diet is definitely moderation!  The Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming up to 1.5 ounces of nuts daily, but what does that look like?  In general, a "handful" of nuts is about 1 ounce.  If measuring tools are helpful, 1.5 ounces usually is equivalent to 1/3 cup of nuts.

Types of nuts to snack on:
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Macadamias
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
All of these nuts are somewhere around 150-200 calories per ounce, but again have great heart healthy fats that will help you feel full!  Enjoy nuts by themselves or sprinkle them on salads, cereals, yogurts, etc.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


People choose to become vegetarian for a variety of reasons including animal rights, dislike of meat, health, ecological, and religious beliefs.  Whether or not you're looking to be a vegetarian, going meatless a few days a week is a delicious and healthy way to cut calories and decrease dietary fat intake!

Vegetarian diets are simply plant-based and focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  However, the term "vegetarian" can mean different things to different people, so here are some common types defined:

Lacto-vegetarian: Includes dairy but no eggs
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Includes dairy and eggs
Pescatarian: Includes fish and seafood
Vegan: No meat or animal products at all (including dairy)
Flexitarian: Includes meat/dairy on rare occasions or in small amounts

Critics of vegetarianism often argue that the diets lack protein, B vitamins, calcium (if vegan)iron, magnesium and zinc.  In agreeance with the position of the American Dietetic Association, it is entirely possible to meet your needs of all vitamins and minerals while following a vegetarian diet. 

Here are some great vegetarian foods to consume in order to get all the essential nutrients:
  • Tofu
  • Beans (kidney, garbanzo, black beans, navy, white, etc)
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Tempeh
  • Bulgur
  • Whole Grains (quinoa, wheatberries, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, etc)
Click here for some great recipes for vegetarian meals and side dishes! Happy eating! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Billy Goat 5K Race

Yesterday, my dad and I ran the Billy Goat 5k, a trail run that goes through James Baird State Park in Pleasant Valley, NY.  This was my first trail run and although it was challenging, I enjoyed it a lot! I had been warned that the course was essentially 1.5 miles uphill followed by 1.5 miles downhill, but the up seemed to go on much longer.  I have to admit, I think I preferred the uphill sections, since sprinting downhill is not my favorite. Running downhill is a constant fight against gravity and a lot of pounding on the knees.  Trail running is challenging because you have to keep your eyes on the ground to avoid all the rocks, roots and puddles. 

In the end, we finished with a time of 33minutes 30seconds, placing 100th out of 125 runners.  It was definitely not the fastest time, but I felt good, am proud of us for running and will definitely do it again next year!

Now it's time to break in my new clean running shoes...happy running!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Advances in Clinical Nutrition: October 7-9, 2010

For a class assignment, I was required to attend a professional conference and write a report.  This past weekend, October 7-9, 2010, the American College of Nutrition held it's 51st Annual Meeting, "Advances in Clinical Nutrition" at the NY Academy of Medicine in New York City.  Attending professional conferences such as this can provide great insight into the recent developements in nutritional research, however they can cost a lot of money.  Luckily, I was able to work with the meeting coordinator and volunteer to avoid paying. 

I sat in on Symposium IV of the meeting, entitled "Dietary Patterns and Health Outcomes: Current State of the Science".  While I won't bore you with the details, the take-home message was the health benefits associated with consuming a Mediterranean Diet.  This is diet pattern has certainly gained a lot of media attention, but the concensus is that most people don't know what makes up a "Mediterranean Diet".  And the truth is, it varies based on what culture you look at.  For example, Greeks focus on a higher fat content compared to Italians who consume more carbohydrate (pastas!) over fat.  A Spanish based Mediterranean diet highlights fish and seafood, for obvious reasons.   

However, there are several common threads that make up Mediterranean style meal patterns, including:
  • Plant foods (lots of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, cereals)
  • Focus on fish & poultry
  • Less red meat
  • Moderate fat intake (primarily from Olive Oil)
  • Red Wine (usually with a meal)
When compared with a Western diet pattern (consisting of refined grains, meat, butter, high-fat dairy, etc), there is no doubt that Mediterranean Diet patterns have more health benefits.  Studies show lower incidence of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease among those following Mediterranean diet patterns.  So go ahead and enjoy that glass of red wine! And as always, all things in moderation! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Have a Healthier Halloween!

Halloween (my favorite holiday!) always gets a bad rap for leading to cavities and candy binges.  However, it is entirely possible to have a healthy haunting season by making some smart choices!

Here are a few healthy Halloween tips:
1. Try buying candy you and your family DON'T like as the sweets for trick-or-treaters. 
2. The snack-size candy bars can be a great portion control, as long as you can resist temptation and keep it to one or two pieces.  If not, best to just not buy them in the first place. 
3.  Bake up some pumpkin seeds to munch on while acting as candy-distributer.  Pumpkin seeds are packed with a ton of vitamins and minerals and have been linked to lower cholesterol and prostate health.
4. Get active by spending a day at a pumpkin patch or corn maze, raking leaves or stuffing your own scarecrow!
5. Enjoy candy in moderation: separate out your favorites and dispose of the rest!
6. Get rid of extra unwanted candy to programs like Operation Shoebox, which sends care packages to U.S. troops all over the world.
7.  Protect your pearly whites by brushing and flossing after having your treats!

It's good to know you can indulge without blowing your daily caloric budget, so I've included some lower calorie candy options below:

Lollipops: Dum Dum's ~25 calories each, Tootsie-Pop ~60 calories each
Hershey's Dark Chocolate Kisses: 180 calories for 9 kisses
York Peppermint Patties: 1 Large Patty= 140 calories or 3 miniatures= 150 calories
Twizzlers(or other Licorice): 4 Twists (strawberry)= 160 calories
Swedish Fish: 140 calories for 19 fish
Sugar-Free Gum: ~5 calories for 1 piece

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exploring the Food Guide Pyramid

First, let me ask a few questions:
Have you heard of the Food Guide Pyramid?
 Did you know it was revised in 2005 and changed into the "MyPyramid"?
After critiquing the MyPyramid as a class assignment, it seems that the general population is not even aware that such a resource exists or is available to them!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  It provides an interactive experience in learning about food and nutrition, as well as individualized suggestions for calories, servings per day, meal plans and more. The site does have certain limitations, but allows users to create individual profiles and track their daily food intake.  These are services people seek out in websites such as Weight Watchers Online or South Beach Diet Online, but are provided for FREE!

While the website lacks cultural sensitivity and is only available in English or Spanish versions, it can provide some fun and interesting tips on reaching your daily food requirements!  I hope the next revision of the pyramid will take alternative diets into consideration, such as vegan and vegetarianism.  I find it a conflict of interest for the USDA to develop such a program and promote milk and meat, as they are producers of those items.  Many people choose not to include dairy or meat in their lives, and should be able to use the MyPyramid materials as well. 

For another interesting take on healthy eating, check out The Healthy Eating Pyramid.  It was developed by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health as an alternative to the USDA model, and focuses on daily exercise and weight management.

Both sites are worth checking out, clicking around and getting some new nutrition tips!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Straight from the Farm

Farmer's Markets are great venues for finding locally grown produce.  The foods are almost always more fresh, nutritious and delicious than larger grocery stores and many times cost less!  Another popular trend is joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Essentially, you buy a "share" from a local farmer and receive a weekly supply of seasonal produce.  Both farmers and share-holders are subject to risks and benefits of the program.  However, CSA's are beneficial to the enviornment and allow for a connection between the farmer growing the food and the individuals who are consuming it.  They also allow families an opportunity to introduce new foods and healthy cooking options.

Farmer's Market in West New York, NJ
October 2010

Find a CSA or Farmer's Market near you by checking out LocalHarvest!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Must-Read Books!

If you're interested (like I am) in learning as much as you can about food and proper nutrition, there are certainly some fantastic informative and interesting books that I've stumbled upon in the last few years.  I'm a big Rachael Ray fan so I did include one of her recipe books, but all the others are intelligent and informative reads that cover WHY we eat, WHAT we eat, and HOW we should change our ways!

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Mindless Eating, by Brian Wansink
2. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
3. My Life on the Run, by Bart Yasso
4. Rachael Ray's 30-minute Get Real Meals
5. Food, Inc. (Participant Guide to the film version)
6. Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
7. Food Rules: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
8. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (can you tell I really enjoy his stuff?)

And a few I'm looking forward to reading soon:
1. The China Study
2. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, by Dr. Walter Willett (*Dr. Willett is a professor of the Harvard School of Medicine, which released a very interesting alternative to the USDA's MyPyramid: Healthy Eating Pyramid)

I can honestly say these books changed the way I think about food production, preparation and consumption. Get reading and get informed!  :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Apple a Day

I've already mentioned how much I love fall and the seasonal foods that go along with it! One of my favorite recipes (stolen from my mother's great recipe archive) is Apple Crisp. Apples are very easy to bake with and create delicious desserts and amazing aromas.

One medium apple contains around 80 calories and is loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health, preventing colon cancers, and lowering cholesterol.  Apples also contain the flavonoid Quercetin, which has antioxidant properties and promotes heart health and reduce cancer risk. 

For a fun weekend activity, go apple-picking or head out to a farmer's market to get apples at their freshest! If you don't have the time, they are readily available at supermarkets (or try the NYC Green Carts!).  Apples are great to just snack on or can easily be incorporated into salads, glazes and many desserts!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

One Expense We Should NOT Be Paying!

One of my favorite resources for the newest research and information in nutrition is the NY Times.  On September 27, 2010 the New York Times posted this report: Obesity Costs Women More.  The CDC estimates that Americans spend about $147 billion a year on the direct and indirect costs of obesity.  The report by researchers at GWU caught my attention because they break down the costs to the individual level, showing that obese women have double the annual expenses as their male counterparts.  This doesn't even take into consideration health costs down the road (such as medications for Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia, etc). 

As we all know and hear, the rates of overweight and obese Americans are steadily climbing, and we need to take action now! I love Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity: Let's Move! because it encourages physical activity and healthy food choices, as well as demands action on the community and political levels.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Oat Bars

I'm starting this blog right at the beginning of my favorite season: FALL! There are many reasons to love fall, not the least of which is the FOOD!  Apples, pumpkins, squash, and most root vegetables are at their freshest and most delicious right now!

Since one of my favorite things to do is modify recipes to make them more healthy and nutritious, I recently created a new verison of a typical pumpkin pie recipe.  Check it out below and try it for yourselves!

Pumpkin Pie Oat Bars

1/2 cup Smart Balance margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 egg + 2 egg whites
3/4 cup white sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can non-fat evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine butter and brown sugar.  Add in flour and oats.  Press oat mixture into 9X13 baking pan.
3.  Bake oat crust for 20 minutes until slightly brown.
4. In a large bowl, combine eggs and sugar.  Mix in pumpkin and evaporated milk. 
5. Add salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves to pumpkin pie filling. 
6.  Pour filling over pre-baked oat crust.
7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool and serve. 

*Makes 24 pumpkin pie oat bar squares!