‘Twas the morning after Yom Kippur


My sister asked me if I was going to write a blog post about fasting on Yom Kippur and whether it might not be the most appropriate thing to do for people who suffer or are in recovery from an eating disorder. I thought this was a really interesting question. While I haven’t read literature on this sort of topic or spoken with other professionals, my initial answer is to proceed with caution, especially for someone in early recovery. Fasting can trigger old thoughts and behaviors, and breaking the fast is most often a “binge-worthy” meal (SO much good food after fasting for 24 hours!). So while I want to look into this topic more, there are a couple things I can tell you with confidence:

1) You do not need to feel guilty for how much you ate last night (or any night for that matter) ❤️

2) You should not “make up” for it today by trying to “be good” and “undo” last night’s large meal

3) You didn’t gain weight, ruin progress, or change the way your body looks overnight 👀

4) You should eat regular meals and snacks today just as you would any other day 🍞🍌🍪

5) You should not go to the gym today SOLELY to “work off” last night’s meal

Remember that trying to compensate by doing the above (other than #4) can contribute to an unhealthy cycle of restrict, reward, guilt, and regret! Doesn’t sound like fun, right? To those who took part in the holiday, I hope you all had an easy fast, a delicious break fast, and lots of leftovers to take home 😋

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How to Make the Road to Recovery a Little Less Bumpy

Article originally published on recoverywarriors.com.

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Buffets used to make me nervous. So did parties with large amounts of food. These were just some of the issues I faced when I followed a very restrictive eating pattern (I can also include refusing to go to brunch with my family one weekend, ordering separately from my friends at dinners, and trying to convey to a very confused waiter at a Chinese restaurant that I don’t want any salt in my dishes). I’ve come a long way since those days (mega thanks to both my therapist and former dietitian), to the point where I feel pretty much normalized around food.

So I surprised myself at the 4th of July party I went to last week. I didn’t go in with much anxiety, but I began to feel a little hyper-focused on food once we arrived, and I had less self-control than I thought I would.

In my head, I heard my former dietitian telling me to focus on the people, the environment, and the conversation, but I felt myself distractedly going back for more chips in the middle of a conversation with awesome new friends I was making. I noticed I was rushing from one dessert platter to the next. I ate a slice of cheesecake a little too quickly and eagerly – dropping a bite on the floor as I did so.

By the end of the night, I was disappointed in myself. Partially because I’d lost some self-control, but more because of the thoughts that crept in as the party ended. I’ve been feeling really good in my body, but I ate too much tonight… Tomorrow I need to regain control… And I should definitely take a spin class after work. These types of thoughts only feed into the vicious cycle of restriction and reward that is characteristic of many eating disorders. They are thoughts that I no longer support and that I work with my clients to reduce! So I thought, What is happening?! Why am I feeling this way?! I’ve come so far!

You will have setbacks; you may relapse. But this doesn’t mean you’re failing. In fact, these steps backward are vital parts of the recovery process.

And given that striving for perfection is a common feature of disordered eating, you may be extra hard on yourself for these setbacks, just like I was when old thoughts crept their way into my head last week. When this happens, it’s beneficial to shift your focus towards how far you’ve come and away from any steps backward and negative thinking.

In my case, I had to recognize how the day after the party went. Several years ago, I would have avoided bread, eaten lean protein with veggies all day, and booked 4 workouts for the rest of the week. Last week, however, on the day following the holiday, I didn’t restrict at any meals. I gave into my craving for 2 bowls of Chex Mix after work because I was hungry, tired, and craving carbs; I had Oreos for dessert after dinner; and I didn’t force myself to the gym to “undo” Monday.

When, in the thick of your eating disorder, you used to spend so much time trying to achieve perfection, it helps to remember now that the road to recovery itself doesn’t have to be perfect. And can’t we all use a reason to cut ourselves some serious slack (plus a little more cheesecake…)?

How to Build a Balanced Meal (Pssst: It can also save you $!)

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Last Saturday I was on my way home from a particularly intense spin class, when hunger started to set in. You know, that post-workout hunger that is at first nonexistent because of all the adrenaline running through your system, but then hits out of nowhere and suddenly you’ll do something drastic in order to get food asap? (Like for me, that would be paying for a cab home instead of taking the subway).

I was feeling fine when I left the gym, but by the time I reached my subway stop, I knew hunger was about to strike. I could feel all that catabolic energy starting to take effect and my appetite start to build and realized I was about to want food immediately. There’s a Subway sandwich shop on my block, and I’m a fan of their honey wheat subs with turkey, loaded with nearly every veggie they offer – and because it’s a good value to buy the foot-long, I can split it and basically get two meals for the price of one.

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Which brings me to the reason I decided not to buy Subway for lunch last Saturday. Inexpensive as it may be, Conrad and I had just bought a ton of groceries, and I knew I MUST have something in the house with which I could make lunch.

So I thought to myself: 1) What goes into a complete meal?, and 2) Do I have all of these things at home?

The answers: 1) Protein, fat, and carbohydrate, and 2) Yes.

It shouldn’t be just any pro/fat/carb combo, by the way. Ideally it should be lean/high quality protein, healthy fats (nuts/oils/avocado), and complex or whole grain carbohydrates. You know… as opposed to bacon (protein) on two pieces of buttered (fat) white bread toast (carb).

I did a mental inventory of what we had in our kitchen and came up with the following:

  • Protein: eggs
  • Fat: Olive oil (also fat in the egg yolk, and although saturated fat, contains a ton of nutrients)
  • Carb: whole wheat gnocchi, kale & quinoa salad, and a bunch of veggies (fresh mushrooms, peppers, & red onion, and frozen corn, peas, & carrots)

I felt inspired to whip all this together, and the final product was not only a beautiful mix of colors (photo above!), but also delicious. The egg is scrambled in amongst the rest. It wasn’t as much there for flavor as it was a source of satiating protein (this is a trick I use when I don’t have a real protein in the house, like fish or chicken; I just mix an egg in with pasta or rice to bulk it up). And on top of all that, I accomplished my goal, which was to not spend money on lunch! I do this pretty frequently – for example, another easy-peasy (incidentally, post-workout) dinner this past week was homemade egg salad (two hard-boiled eggs mashed with a little light mayo) on two pieces of whole wheat bread.

FullSizeRender-6By the way, the directions for making Saturday’s lunch are really simple. Just prep whole wheat gnocchi and quinoa (unless you happen to have pre-made quinoa salad) according to package directions, and then mix the cooked pasta/grains in with a skillet of cooking vegetables (the combo I used was delish, but what’s great about this dish is you can use whatever you like). Then crack an egg on top and mix it into the rest of the ingredients.

You can get more balanced meal ideas here. Happy meal planning! Feel free to reach out to me or comment with any questions!

LDW Survival Guide

  
Good morning friends! Happy Labor Day Weekend. A long weekend filled with BBQs, group meals, ever-present food platters, and a constant supply of alcohol. Super fun? Yes. But there’s also the following…

Guilt and regret: “Ugh, I just ate so much, I did NOT need to eat that hot dog/cookie/extra side of potato salad.”

Vacation state of mind: “Whatever it’s a holiday, I know I’m going to end up eating too much.”

followed by…

Compensation: “But I NEED to diet/juice/get to a Soul Cycle class ASAP on Tuesday.”

I’ve totally been through all of this myself, and I know how common these types of thoughts and feelings are.

It’s early Saturday morning and the weekend is really about to begin. Before you go into it, I want to give you a survival guide so you can feel good both during AND after the weekend – no binges, no regrets, and no crash dieting on Tuesday. So go grab your coffee/mimosa/morning smoothie, and read on.

  

  1. Taste it all: The operative word is TASTE. This is about not depriving yourself during a weekend filled with food, usually in a group, celebratory setting. You may not want to be the person that says, “Sorry, I shouldn’t…” to everything except the fruit salad, grilled veggies, and skinless chicken.” It’s all about (can you guess?) portion control. Feel free to take a small sample of whatever dishes you’d like so you don’t feel like you’re missing out. THEN, choose your favorites (healthy or not) and make your plate from those. Put your plate together all at once, so you can keep portions of each food in control, and so you don’t continue to go back for more. When you’re eating, be MINDFUL of each bite. Eat slowly and enjoy, so that you don’t look down at your plate and think, “Where did it all go?
  2. Forget FOMO: FOMO can ruin anyone’s intention to eat well during a holiday or vacation. “This food is part of the experience, if I don’t eat it’s like I’m not FULLY experiencing it all.” Or, “When am I going to be able to eat these brownies/cupcakes/cookies/cake again?” Guess what? With that mentality, you just ate a brownie, 2 cookies, most of a cupcake, and a small slice of cake. That ain’t gonna feel too good after. But you could prevent that by realizing you’re NOT missing out even if you don’t eat each dessert. For example, are the cupcakes from a chain bakery? If so, forget those and go for the gorgeous cake from a little bakery that’s unique to the town you’re in. Because you can always go pick up some Baked by Melissa if you really feel like you “missed out” on them this weekend. Or if you’re heart is set on the cupcakes but you want to try the brownies only because they’re homemade, just ask for the recipe so you can make them yourself when you REALLY want them! This goes for any food item and, by the way. Like if there are bowls of tortilla chips and salsa out between meals, and you’re not hungry but want them because “they’re there,” then please – forget the chips and salsa. You can buy them at CVS any day (or HOUR in NYC) when the craving hits. Side note: this also works in any situation going forward. The other night I was out to dinner and “wanted dessert” but didn’t really WANT dessert. I told myself that I could just go back to the restaurant another time when I actually want it, and I left feeling much less full! Boom.
  3. Don’t plan for a crash diet: Going into the weekend thinking, “It’s okay, my diet starts Tuesday” will NOT make the weekend any more enjoyable. It will probably lead you to overeat because you have a plan to undo all of the “bad eating” when the weekend is over. But there are a couple flaws to this: first, you may take on a binge mentality, feeling that this is the last weekend to “get it all in” before the diet starts, which will only make you feel very full (not fun in a bathing suit) and regretful during the weekend. Secondly, crash diets don’t work. We know this by now. The point is to enjoy the foods you really want to enjoy this weekend in a mindful, controlled way without feeling like you totally overdid it when it’s over.

Enjoy your weekend! And although it’s a long weekend, I know it’s not for everyone. If you’re stuck working – don’t worry, I am, too. So in between patients I’ll just browse Instagram for LDW foodie pics. And although I’ll probably have FOMO myself, at least it’s a healthy kind!

Mind Games

 
A few weeks ago on Monday morning, I woke up feeling “gross.” You know those mornings. For me, it was the Monday after a string of indulgences. Father’s Day/my dad’s birthday (ice cream). First time at a new-ish restaurant in the city (one of everything, please). A doctor’s appointment on Long Island, which meant dinner with my parents after (ridiculous homemade ice cream sandwiches my mom had made for my dad’s birthday back at their house). All amidst a stressful first month at my new job, which meant a couple extra Oreos I had packed for after lunch each day, or Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups kept in the office. On that Monday, I remember waking up, plain and simple, disliking my body.

When I don’t feel good in my body, I can go one of two ways. One is where my old thoughts creep in. How can I fix this quickly? Maybe I’ll just eat a lot of salad and fruit and nuts and avoid bread, etc., etc. However, luckily, after much hard work, I don’t act on these thoughts any more. I no longer revert to depriving myself to feel better about how I look.

The other way I react would be by eating more poorly than I would otherwise. My thought process was that I already don’t like how how I look, so why even bother? This is what led to the aforementioned extra cookies and treats after lunch.

So with all this in mind, on that Monday morning I had a realization. I decided that I’m going to treat my body like it’s something I love – even if in that moment, I don’t. This meant feeding it healthy foods that make me feel good, instead of giving into my negative emotions with comforting cookies that ultimately make me feel even worse. I promised myself that I would adopt this mindset and let it drive my food choices for the rest of the week.

And you know what? It actually worked!! By Tuesday morning, I had made better food choices and felt better about myself than I did just one day earlier. Talk about the least extreme quick fix ever.

Sometimes our minds play mean tricks on us. They tell us that since we overate this past weekend, we now need to do a drastic cleanse. Or that because we feel gross, there’s no point in even trying. There’s a lot of overthinking when it comes to deciding what to eat.

So I’d like to introduce Body Over Mind Nutrition, based on a concept that promotes listening to our bodies instead of the negative thoughts in our head. And treating our bodies well instead of something that we need to punish (with either juice cleanses or extra dessert), due to a certain – often negative – mindset.

It’s a new week. Maybe you had an overindulgent weekend and you’re not feeling up to snuff. I challenge you to play a trick back on your mind, ignore the negative, and feed your body like it’s something you feel awesome about. I wholeheartedly believe you will make smarter, more balanced food choices. Not only salads, not only sweets… Although obviously, I support including both😉

 

Lunch Hour

Let me tell you a funny story.

Two Decembers ago, my boyfriend and I went to Austin and LA for the holidays and New Years. Excited to try some of the best BBQ and Tex-Mex in the country, I totally indulged, and it rocked. We were in Texas for 7 days, the first of which was at the Round Rock Outlets. One week later, upon landing in warm LA, the super cute American Eagle denim cut-off shorts I had purchased at the outlets LITERALLY did not fit me. I’m not kidding, they gave me a muffin top. Side note: thank you, Rent the Runway, for providing a complimentary additional dress size. New Years Eve could have been stressful.

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Back in New York, two weeks later and one size larger, I emailed my nutritionist to ask her to help me get back to where I was before the trip, in a way that was healthy and not restrictive. I specifically told her that jeans I had recently bought no longer fit me. In an effort to help me avoid trying to be a certain size, she suggested I buy new jeans.

Really effing cute.

Upon receiving her email, I began to cry, frustrated because I had already BOUGHT new jeans. You see, after working with both her and my therapist, I had gone up from a size too small (because of restrictive eating) to a size just right (thanks to a balanced diet). And she wanted me to go up ANOTHER size?! I was pissed, so I punished her. How did I punish her, you ask? By eating whatever I wanted.

Not one my most brilliant moves. So in our next session, I told her I didn’t like her response, we worked it out, and then focused on getting my shit back together. In so many words, she told me to follow an eating schedule.

This brings me to the next part of the multistep eating plan I presented back in January. Apologies, by the way, for the delay in posting step two. At least I’ve given you ample time to let the first one sink in, right? 🙂

To review, the main objective of the first idea was to stop dieting and restricting foods, and instead to consume a diet that is balanced overall. What… that’s not super simple?

Well, step two can help you achieve step one. It’s concrete because it involves numbers – easy numbers, promise.

Follow an Eating Schedule

What does this mean? It depends on how often you feel hungry, but I usually recommend this (this isn’t set in stone, but general guidelines):

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Optional (but necessary for me): dessert

I’m sure you’ve heard “every three hours” before – this aspect isn’t exactly ground breaking. The difference here is that this is more intentional. In fact, a big part of this is having snack or meal at these intervals even if you’re not hungry yet. Give or take – for me, if it’s been 5 hours after a large meal, I’ll eat something even if I’m not hungry – although at this point, I’m usually starting to think about food again. After a typically heavy meal, like brunch or a holiday dinner, after which the tendency is to avoid eating much the rest of the day, the eating schedule is particularly important to stick to, because it will prevent you from feeling like you did something “wrong” at brunch and need to “make up for it” later on. It will also make it less likely that you suddenly get super hungry and then end up eating something heavy again.

Why does it work? Well, I don’t know about you, but whenever I begin to restrict in any way – even something as simple as choosing a salad instead of a sandwich (when I really want the sandwich) I suddenly can’t stop thinking about food. I’ve heard from a lot of people that dieting or any sort of restriction leads to a bigger focus on food. When can I eat again? What am I going to eat? This was an issue for me when I got back from LA and tried to clean up my diet a little bit. I focused on food a lot and ended up snacking too much between meals, or over eating desserts because I wasn’t satisfying my cravings during the day. So Laura (my nutritionist at the time) and I worked on getting me away from focusing on food so much. The eating schedule let me know that if I was thinking about my next meal, all I had to do was look at the clock and see when “lunch time” was. If I had eaten 2 hours ago, I knew I could eat again in an hour (if I was legit hungry of course I would have eaten, but usually it was more in my head than my belly).

But wait – there’s more! An eating schedule can also help you control daily calories. By staving off snacking until the right time, I avoided picking at food too many times during the day. Secondly, it allows you to fit cravings into your diet in a more controlled way. I’m not saying that you should eat cookies and donuts in between meals, but if I’m craving something dessert-like, and I know that craving won’t go away, I work it in as a snack instead of my usual (fruit & nuts, Greek yogurt, energy bar – yes, all those typical dietitian-y snacks). This is definitely better than overeating a number of healthier items before ultimately eating what I wanted in the first place.

Weight Watchers caramel ice cream bar at snack time

Weight Watchers caramel ice cream bar (has fiber and protein, too!)

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Mister Softee with nuts to fill me up

I want to clarify that I’m not suggesting eating at the same time every day, or that if your friends ask you to go to brunch you should say no because it doesn’t fit in with your new schedule – no need to go cray with this. This was originally meant to be included as part of a way to change your diet for the New Year – in a way that’s healthy and differs from a lot of the crazy eating plans out there. It’s perfect after a “big eating weekend.” When Monday rolls around and the temptation is high to eat clean, a schedule helps put you back on track without starving yourself. Alas, this post is way late for New Years. But – better late than never (that goes for your snacks, too 😉 )

Seven Items You Need in Your Kitchen

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Hi! 👋 👋 👋 My first post after an accidental hiatus (by the way, I passed my licensing exam and graduated NYU!) brings you easy recipes created with seven staple ingredients you should always keep in your kitchen. My inspiration for this post came from the fact that as a recent graduate who hasn’t yet started her full-time job, I’m still on a major budget (I guess I can only pull the student budget card for so long now, huh?). So Tuesday morning when I woke up and had no real groceries in the house, I had to get creative. What bare minimum food items could provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks?

Putting together a grocery list can be similar to putting together a meal. You need three basic things: protein, fat, and carbohydrate (the three macronutrients). It’s good to get each of these at every main meal to give you a range of nutrients, and to keep you full so you don’t snack the day away. My specific goal here was to make sure that I chose types that go a long way in the kitchen. This was the result:

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Whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, tomato sauce, peanut butter, low-fat/part-skim string cheese, eggs *Not pictured: bag of mixed greens

And now for the fun part! Super easy meal and snack ideas for #alldayerrday.

Meals:

1) Egg and cheese sandwich: But not the kind you get at McDonald’s. “Fry” an egg on a non-stick pan (or use cooking spray) while your bread toasts. Lay greens on bread, top with pulled-apart string cheese (pulling apart the string cheese makes you feel like a kid again), and put the freshly cooked egg on top,which lets the cheese melt. Top with a second piece of bread to make this a complete meal.

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2) Pizza toast: Spread tomato sauce on a slice of bread and top with arugula and string cheese. Toast in table top oven or bake. Top with more arugula to get your greens in. Serve up two slices for a quick and easy meal.

3) Pasta with a sunny side up egg: Disclaimer – this one contains an extra ingredient – olive oil, which may be in your kitchen already, but if it’s not, it will definitely get use if you buy it. I made this one morning when, similar to this week, I had little in the house and was pressed for time. I had eggs, but no toast. What could replace whole wheat toast? Another nutritious grain: whole wheat pasta! Serve 2/3 cup pasta with 1 teaspoon olive oil and top with an over-easy egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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4) Scrambled eggs with cheese on toast: Scramble two eggs*, and mix in a chopped piece of string cheese when the eggs are almost done cooking. Serve along side a slice of whole wheat toast.

*Yes, two eggs is okay. Research shows that dietary cholesterol (the kind found in eggs), doesn’t negatively affect serum cholesterol (the kind in your blood) like we thought it used to. Just don’t start eating tons of whole eggs per day, because they contain saturated fat, which should still be limited.

5) Whole wheat pasta: One of my absolute favorite dishes these days. Cook pasta according to package directions. I tend to cook at least 1 cup (dry) at a time and refrigerate leftovers for future meals. My trick for making this as easy as possible is to transfer the cooked pasta into a non-stick pan (serve about 2/3 cup pasta). Then I top with sauce and shredded string cheese and cover with a lid. This lets the cheese melt really nicely on top, without getting mixed in. When it’s all warm and bubbly, I slowly slide the pasta onto a plate, which keeps the cheese and sauce on top … and makes for quite a beautiful presentation 😉

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6) Peanut butter sandwich: I mean this is really as simple as it gets, but for an on-the-go breakfast, the combination of protein-rich whole grain bread and peanut butter provides the perfect mix of protein, fat, and carb to fuel your morning. Keep the PB to about 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp for calorie control, and the full sandwich gives you up to 340 calories, 15 gm protein, and 10 gm fiber! (Depending on the brand of bread)

7) Sweet and savory toast (i.e., egg on toast, PB on toast): When you feel like mixing up your proteins or can’t decide between sweet and savory, this is a great option. No explanation needed for this simple meal.

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Snacks/Other:

I often get the question, “What makes a good snack?” The answer: carb + protein. You should have both at each snack to sustain you ’til your next meal. Keep them at 150 (ish) calories for portion control. What I love about these grocery items is that they can also be used as snacks or add-ons to other meals.

1) String cheese: I eat one of these every day. They’re so portable (and fun), and because they contain protein, fat, and carb, I find that they’re perfect when I’m really hungry and need an emergency item to tide me over, so I don’t make bad decisions at a deli or newspaper stand. A string cheese stick, like a hard-boiled egg, is great with a piece of fruit or crackers.

2) Hard-boiled egg: At about 70 calories, this is the perfect protein to eat along side a small fruit or a few whole grain crackers as a snack. Hard-boiled eggs are also so easy to make ahead, so you can grab one to-go. Add one or two (or a full one plus the just the whites) to a salad for an easy way to add protein.

On the way to dinner one night, because I was really hungry...and dinner was in Brooklyn.

Took an egg on the way to dinner one night, because I was really hungry, and dinner was in Brooklyn.

3) Whole wheat pasta: Making pasta in batches saves SO much time during the week. I eat it as meals, throw about 1/2 cup into salads, and one night even had a small portion (1/3 cup cooked) with a piece of string cheese and sauce as a snack before dinner.

4) Peanut butter: Also a really good protein to have as a snack. Eat a spoonful alongside pretzels, crackers, or fruit in, or dip them in! Keep serving to 1/2 Tbsp as a snack.

5) Whole wheat croutons: This is so easy to do, and costs less than buying whole wheat croutons (#winning). Just slice a piece of bread into cubes by cutting across and down. I toss them in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper for flavor, but even without it, toasting browns the bread which gives it a sweeter and saltier flavor on its own. Bake or toast in a toaster oven until they are brown, a bit crunchy, and not burnt. Balance out your salads with 1/2-1 slice’s worth of croutons.

Feel free post questions, comments, or your own ideas with these six ingredients in the comments section below! But go do your grocery shopping first 🙂

Put Down the Diet


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I propose a challenge.

It’s 2015. A new year. One of the most popular resolutions – if not THE most popular – is to lose weight. According to Time.com, this is also one of the most commonly broken resolutions. It’s not so hard to understand why, because losing weight requires a lifestyle change, which takes time, and people often get fed up and give up.

New Year’s resolutions used to be a regular weekday for me. At least once a week, I would vow to cut out dessert or bread and “eat clean.” Much like the typical New Year’s resolution, this failed, but unlike the annual resolution, due to my frequent attempts at resolve, I experienced this failure on the reg.

These types of changes can’t be cold turkey, black and white resolutions. They take time, patience, practice, and – this is a big one – balance.

Diets that offer immediate results have been popular for a long time. But a newer trend is eating plans that promise not only super-amazing, lean bodies, but also optimal health. Think, clean eating, juicing, dairy-free, gluten-free (the latter two of which are perfectly appropriate for medical reasons), and other eating plans that, different as they are, all have one thing in common: they’re too extreme.

And I am here to challenge all of this.

In a series of several blog posts, I want to share with you certain steps (the 1st one in this post) that, in my opinion, might enable you to stop vowing to cut out carbs, dairy, sweets (who would DO such things?!), or whatever your vice is, and allow you to feel good in your body while simultaneously eating what you’d like – without feeling guilty. As I am not yet a licensed RD, I want to point out that this is my soon-to-be-but-not-yet professional opinion, based both on research (like the DASH diet mentioned below) and my own very eye-opening experiences.

Read on, my friends.

 Number 1: Don’t diet.

Diets usually include rules and restrictions. Unless it’s a diet based on a body of research that shows benefits in a large population, it’s usually a fad that delineates unnecessary restrictions that are loosely (very loosely) based on science, or even solely on untested theory. If you look at a diet approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, like the DASH diet, you’ll notice that nothing is excluded. It recommends whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fish, healthy oils, nuts, beans & legumes, low-fat dairy, and limited (not NO) saturated fats and sweets. Foods linked to healthy body weight and low disease risk are recommended, and others, associated with just the opposite (overweight and chronic disease) are suggested in lower amounts.

I can’t tell you how much it kills me when I hear people say they’ve cut something out of their diet. Pains. Me. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve heard much of what I have to say about the repercussions of swearing off a food: you just want it more, and usually, that feeling wins.

This may sound familiar to you. How often have you heard, “I tried to diet but I wanted potato chips so bad, that on the 3rd day I lost it and ate half the bag.” Welcome to the vicious cycle of dieting.

But the thing is, this isn’t just about dieting anymore. It’s about the way that people view healthy eating and a balanced diet, which seems to have gotten lost in translation. There is so much talk about what people shouldn’t eat that everyone is confused!

“Bread causes belly fat. Dairy is bad for you. Wheat is bad for everyone (don’t EVEN get me started on that one). Eating sweets leads to sugar addiction.” And so on and so on.

There is a lot of nutrition noise, as I like to call it, out there, and it’s getting in the way. So enough about what you supposedly shouldn’t eat. What should you eat?

Well, mostly good-for-you stuff. This includes everything I mentioned above, in the DASH diet eating plan. Depending on food allergies, preferences, etc., make sure your diet consists primarily of the following:

  • whole grain carbohydrates: like whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice
  • fruits and vegetables: fresh, frozen, or if canned, without added sugar for fruits, and unsalted for veggies
  • low-fat dairy: part-skim string cheese, low-fat/fat-free Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and other light cheeses
  • fish, seafood, and lean animal proteins
  • nuts, legumes, beans, mono- and polyunsaturated fats/oils

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Although the food pyramid doesn’t exist anymore (myplate is more current), remember that little bitty triangle at the top for your sweets and treats? That wasn’t so far off. I am a HUGE proponent of allowing yourself a daily dessert. And if burgers or pizza is your thing, find a way to incorporate them healthfully into your diet. For example, half a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza (or that beautiful whole wheat personal pie pictured above, divided over several meals), with salad on the side once a week. If you need something like this to keep you sane, consider it, because it will lead you to crave them less, and when you do eat them, you’ll be able to eat less in one sitting because they’re no longer forbidden. Furthermore, if the majority of your diet is balanced, as described above, then your overall diet quality – despite the minimal inclusion of desserts and pizza – is still POSITIVE.

To sum up rule number 1, avoid dieting. It usually involves extreme eating behavior that cuts out food groups unnecessarily, leading to a greater desire for these foods, and often resulting in a failure of the diet and feelings of discouragement. And although this isn’t a quick fix (as in, you won’t lose 5 pounds in 5 days), that’s exactly the point. This is an investment in long-lasting behavior change to work towards a long-lasting healthy weight.

Oh if I may opine about dessert – I don’t mean light ice cream or “one square of dark chocolate” (if that square works for you, then all the power to you). I mean a IMG_0441couple of Oreos. A chocolate chip cookie (but no, not a monstrous one from Starbucks). A couple of Baked by Melissa cupcakes. But these are just my recommendations 😉.

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Good Carb, Healthy Fat Pancakes

So this morning when I woke up, I was craving a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat which would require about 2 minutes of my time and enable me to do my work quickly. Instead, though, Conrad expressed a desire for pancakes and French toast, and I suddenly wanted nothing but pancakes. So instead of getting to work within ten minutes of dragging myself out of bed, I spend the next 40 minutes making and Instagramming my pancakes.

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The pancakes only take about 20 minutes. Recipes should begin to factor in time for photographing and posting pictures of the final product.

I adapted the recipe from a healthy pancake recipe on allrecipes.com. Instead of using all-purpose flour I used whole wheat, and instead of butter I used – can you guess? – avocado! It’s so easy (it’s a 1 to 1 swap) and contains about 20% of the calories and 4% of the saturated fat of butter. That’s huge!

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I served with Greek yogurt, cinnamon, pecans, and maple syrup. I do feel that these could have been sweeter, and next time, I’m going to use maple syrup instead of granulated sugar in the recipe. This will make it moister and perhaps sweeter. Very ripe bananas are sweet, too, and flavorful, so you could try half syrup and half pureed banana (again, very ripe, which contains more sugar than non-ripe bananas). Also, I used unsweetened almond milk. Dairy milk naturally contains sugar (lactose), and there are sweetened versions of non-dairy milks (soy, almond, etc.) that will work and add sweetness. Vanilla soy is a favorite of mine. This morning’s recipe is below.

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp pureed avocado (I used my hands to “puree” this)

Instructions:

  • Grease a griddle or pan with cooking spray and and put over medium heat
  • Mix the dry ingredients first, then add in the milk, egg whites, and avocado
  • Use a 1/4 cup scoop to lay out the pancakes
  • Cook until golden brown, then flip and do the same
  • Top with Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, cinnamon – whatever you’d like!

They were really easy and although not as sweet as I’d like, definitely fulfilled the pancake craving imparted on me by my dear boyfriend. And I blame him for starting my work later than I wanted to this morning 😉❤️

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding with Homemade Whipped Cream and Praline Pecan Topping

 

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I know Thursday isn’t Christmas, but this dessert is a little bit naughty and a little bit nice ;-). As always, I wanted to make a dessert that was healthy at its core, so you can get your sweet fix without feeling all the repercussions of a dish that’s super heavy in fat and refined sugars.

Enter, pumpkin chia seed pudding. Festive, seasonal, and filled with healthy fats, protein, and fiber. After some taste testing, my winning recipe is below – the vanilla soymilk is what did it for me. Though I used one with added sugar, with unsweetened milk it’s recommended to add sugar or syrup anyway, so this skips a step and makes for something really delicious. But you can use any milk you like for this (dairy, nut, sweetened, unsweetened). What’s nice is that you can also eat this without the topping for a healthy, filling breakfast (try with toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds).

Now for the topping. There was NO way I was skimping on this praline pecan topping. There are some things that are most beautiful in their natural form. This is one of them.

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I started making these pecans about six years ago. I got the recipe from a Food Network pumpkin pie recipe. The only thing I adjusted was using salted instead of unsalted butter, which I swear, makes all the difference, because the salt from the butter with the super sweet brown sugar is e-ver-y-thing.

Regarding the whipped cream, I had wanted to make it from soymilk to stick with theme of a lighter dessert. The thing about whipped cream, though, is that it’s actual. Whipped. Cream. The fat is required to make it thicken, and soymilk just doesn’t have that. I could have added oil to it, but I kind of thought, “ew…” and stuck with tried and true. The whipped cream recipe is straight from an Alton Brown Food Network recipe (gotta love Food Network during the holidays, right?). And if you haven’t made fresh whipped cream before, well. You’ll see 😏

Ingredients

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding (Serves 2)

  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup raw canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk (sweetened)
    • Note: Again, if you want to use unsweetened milk, or only have unsweetened in the house, you may want to add sugar or maple syrup (1 Tbsp). You can also add vanilla extract (less than ¼ tsp) if the milk you’re using isn’t vanilla flavored.
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin spice (or a combo of cinnamon and nutmeg if that’s what you have)

Praline Pecans (makes about ¾ cup topping)

  • ½ cup chopped unsalted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Instructions

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding

  1. Mix it all up!
  2. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours

Note: You can let sit in the fridge overnight, so this is a great make-ahead dish

Praline Pecans

  1. Put a large skillet over medium heat
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the skillet and let them melt
  3. Mix the pecans in and let sit until bubbly (this doesn’t take very long; it should bubble quickly)
  4. Remove from heat and lay out on tin foil to harden
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*I made way more than the serving listed above, so that’s what you see here. You think I made only ¾ cup of this stuff? Please. How would I be able to snack on it?

Whipped Cream

  1. If you can, place a glass or metal bowl in the freezer for at least 15 minutes
  2. Remove the bowl from the freezer, and add the sugar, then the cream to the bowl
  3. Using an electric mixer, mix the cream and sugar until it thickens
    • Note: Recipes always say mix until the cream starts to form “peaks.” I’ve never really seen this “peak” thing happen, but you’ll see it thicken and gain more volume and body. And you can ALWAYS dip a pinky in for taste and quality testing.
    • Other note: Unless you have magical wrists, I really recommend using an electric mixer. I stood there for at least 5 minutes whisking away, and then finally took out my electric mixer. It started to make whipped cream in less than a minute.

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Now comes the fun part. Plating. I used a piping bag for the whipped cream, but you can cut the corner of a plastic bag and pipe it that way, or make it more rustic and spoon it on. The finished product is incredible. All three parts together make it taste like pumpkin pie, but the chia seeds will do wonderful things for you that traditional pumpkin pie won’t, which just another thing to be thankful for this week.

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