Want a slimmer waistline and a healthier you? Forget the elimination diets and give-up-your favorite-food fads. I want to tell you that you can enjoy all foods, in moderation, and still feel good/look good/lose weight. As a nutritionist, I come from a place of "Yes!" The goal is to limit, not eliminate. Sounds like a winning strategy to me!
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A healthy diet is one that makes you feel good, not guilty. One that energizes you while keeping your system regulated and taste buds satisfied. In fact, the more variety you consume the less likely you are to get bored, which can lead to imbalanced eating and binging.
Don't Fall for Fad Diets
In our collective quest to lose weight, we are often impressed when someone tells us that they gave up a certain food or food group. We look at that person as if they have a superpower to say, "No." Well, I am a nutritionist and I say, "Yes!" You can enjoy all foods, in moderation, and still feel good/look good/lose weight. It's all about balance.
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Breakfast Cereals and Granolas
A staple in many households is cereal and other breakfast "bowl" foods. These staples may be frowned upon by low-carb dieters and health fanatics (as many brands are void of any nutritional value). But you don't have to give up cereal altogether -- you just have to be a smarter shopper. Read the ingredients, look at the fiber count, and get excited again because you can start your day with a cold bowl of goodness. For bonus points, find a cereal that also contains healthy fats like seeds or nuts. Pair this with a protein like milk or yogurt, and you have a winning combo.
My Pick: Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola. This organic, crunchy granola is a blend of rolled oats, pumpkin, seeds, and flax seeds. Here's where the bonus points come in: 450 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, 31 grams of whole grains, 5 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein.
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What's a salad without salad dressing? If eating more salads is one of your goals this year, then variety is key. I will be the first to tell you that there is nothing wrong with deviating from a vinaigrette -- sometimes you just crave rich and creamy. While most dressings in the marketplace are filled with trans fat and hidden sugars, there are healthier options made using clean ingredients that not only taste good but are good for you.
My Pick: OPA by Litehouse Feta Dill Dressing. This is reminiscent of a classic tzatziki dip/sauce. I love that Greek yogurt is the base which instantly bumps up the protein level and gives you that creamy texture you desire. Each 2 tbsp. serving comes in at 50 calories and 0 grams of sugar. It makes an excellent dip for veggies and kabobs as well.
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Pasta is a wonderful base to build any meal around as long as it is balanced. Add veggies in for bulk, a protein of your choice (you can go vegetarian with beans), and a delicious sauce. Another strategy to make pasta work in your diet? Designate it as your carb for that meal. By skipping the wine and the garlic bread, you give your body time to digest vs. having an entire overload of carbs swimming through your blood stream.
My pick: You can enjoy pasta guilt free with Superfood Ravioli from Three Bridges. First off, it's fresh. The flavorful ravioli is made with nutrient-rich kale and spinach, both of which are loaded with fiber and Vitamin C. With 11g of protein per serving, this healthy meal can boost your energy any day of the week. Oh, and did I mention, you can boil and cook the entire package in under 10 minutes?
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Despite many caffeinated options not being good for you (for instance, high-sugar energy drinks and artificially flavored sodas), caffeine is not something you have to give up. Consider getting your caffeine fix from the second most consumed beverage, next to water, in the world: tea. Not only does tea contain the caffeine needed to power you through the day, it also provides an exceptional amount of antioxidants and helps to hydrate the body.
My Pick: Pique Tea. What I love about this brand is that Pique Tea Crystals completely dissolve in water, no spoon needed, and come in five delicious varieties: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Sencha, Mint Sencha, and Jasmine. Since there's no fussing with tea bags, consider it perfect for your on-the-go morning commute and travel days.
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There is no reason to eliminate dairy unless you have a real allergy. With the goodness of protein and probiotics, yogurt is a worthy addition to any healthy diet. Always look for yogurt that is free of artificial ingredients, sweeteners or preservatives. It makes a great snack -- simply pair yogurt with a healthy carbohydrate like fruit and a fat like shredded coconut, dark chocolate chips or nuts, and you'll have a balanced portable protein source.
My Pick: Chobani Simply 100®. Again, it's an excellent source of protein and fiber, making it a healthy go-to option. This yogurt has all natural ingredients, 12 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. To me, this is smart snacking.
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While you might think about preservatives and sodium immediately when you hear the term "frozen meal," consumers can now start to expect more from the freezer section. Convenience is key to eating well -- we all know that. Even the most health-conscious individuals sometimes need quick go-to options to make at home. Now instead of take-out, you can go to the freezer. Again, I encourage you to read labels and look for whole foods in the ingredients list. Avoid any meals with high-fructose corn syrup, polysorbate 80, or propylene glycol. Let's just say, if it sounds weird, it's probably not good for you!
My Pick: Gourmet Frozen Meals from Saffron Road. From Mexican to Korean, Indian to Thai, there are over 20 different cuisines from which to choose. These meals are made with organic, non-GMO ingredients -- you can also find some gluten-free options. It's perfect for those occassions when you need dinner to be ready in 5 minutes or less. I do suggest my clients add a side of vegetables to these meals for a boost in fiber and antioxidants. Reminder: Please enjoy your meals sitting down!
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Sandwiches are delicious, and personally, I like to eat them every day! There are few things I love more than cheddar and turkey on a toasted pita. Again, this is where quality really matters. Look at the label. If the ingredients list reads like a chemistry formula, put the product down! Here are six ingredients you want to avoid: Sodium Nitrate, Sodium Nitrite, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), any label that says Smoked/Naturally Smoked/Smoke Flavor, and Aspartame. If you see any of these, find a better option.
My Pick: Applegate Organic Oven Roasted Chicken Breast. Besides being conveniently pre-sliced, this product is made without artificial ingredients or preservatives and comes from animals raised without antibiotics.
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The beloved portable fuel -- the energy bar. When it comes to clean and sustainable energy (and I am not talking about renewable energy), it does you no good to pick up a bar with a carbohydrate count that rivals a cupcake. That's exactly the problem with most bars out there. They are devoid of balance and loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives. I will admit, the landscape has changed somewhat and so has our perception of snacking. If you're looking for something to munch on with your morning latte or a snack to stash in your desk for later, there are finally some good options.
My Pick: KIND Nuts & Spices. This is made with whole nuts blended with delicious spices and, each bar contains 5g of sugar (or less). No artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols here!
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I predominantly work with women in my practice, and the one thing most of them want is a little something at night after dinner. While that little something has the potential to turn into much more, the key is to find a satisfying treat that benefits your diet. Frozen treats are a popular choice. I love recommending sorbet as an alternative to ice cream. The fruity flavors are refreshing and won't weigh you down like ice cream can. Another tip: Make this your carb for the evening, enjoying dessert on nights you have a protein- and vegetable-heavy dinner.
My Pick: Ciao Bella Blueberry Passion Fruit Sorbetto. The combination of tangy blueberries swirled with sweet-tart passion fruit is mouthwatering. At only 110 calories per half-cup serving, you can enjoy this treat guilt free.
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When it comes to chocolate, look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa. As long as you do this, you can actually have chocolate EVERY DAY. Throw 1 tbsp. of dark chocolate chips into your Greek yogurt or enjoy a square after dinner. Again, the strategy is to enjoy this sweet treat alongside a carb-less meal.
My Pick: Dutch Cocoa crunchy nuggets made by Somersaults. Sunflower seeds, which naturally boost your antioxidants and healthy fats, are the number one ingredient. With 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving, this is a delicious and healthy snack. The use of Dutch cocoa keeps the sugar count at bay with less than 4 grams of sugar per serving.
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Most healthcare professionals will tell you to avoid salting your foods, and this may leave you feeling blah about the scrambled egg or chicken breast you just prepared. While I am not suggesting you douse your food with salt, it should be noted that salt, in moderation, is actually an important mineral in your diet. Not only is it responsible for carrying nutrients into and out of your cells -- which allows you to maintain your acid-base balance -- it also plays a role in supporting the function of your adrenal glands, which produce dozens of vital hormones.
My Pick: Salt for Life. Unlike table salt which is a combination of sodium and chloride, Salt for Life replaces sodium with potassium salt - another important nutrient for the body. Salt for Life offers the same taste of salt that you love with 75% less sodium. You can use this in place of salt in any recipe as well as directly on your food.
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Did you know that frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious and flavorful as their fresh counterparts? In some cases, they actually contain more nutrients when frozen than in their fresh state. Loaded with vitamins and antioxidants that protect against cell damage, fruits and vegetables are a crucial ingredient in our long-term health and wellness. I love using frozen fruit in my smoothies, and I often throw frozen veggies in my stir fry and pasta sauces. Even Martha Stewart herself incorporates frozen broccoli into recipes like quiche, pasta salads, and soups.
My Pick: Sprouts Farmers Market. Picked at their peak of freshness, Sprouts frozen fruits and vegetables are blanched and flash-frozen to lock in their full nutrients and flavor. They are also USDA organic so you know you are getting a quality product for yourself and your family.