Facts About Sugary Soda

You all know how I feel about Bloomberg's soda ban. I'm a supporter and discuss it all here. Soda is bad news and here are a few facts to prove it: 

Source: Everyday Health
Have a happy Monday everyone! 
Make sure to put a little more thought into what you'll be sippin' on today.  


A Closer Look at Sedentarism

Sorry for the false advertising. There really is nothing glamorous about being a couch potato. Looking like the beauty in the picture above is a tall order if your day mainly comprises of sitting down. Besides, forget looks, leading an inactive lifestyle is terrible for your health. 

Some of you may recall my run-ins with sedentarism (Yikes! Effects of Being Sedentary are Beginning to Show!) and how in a matter of weeks I started to pack on the pounds. Who knows what changes were taking place within my body, ones not apparent to the naked eye? 

I am revisiting this topic because new studies show findings that might change how you look at being sedentary:
  • As harmful to ones health as smoking
  • Prolonged periods of inactivity counteract time spent exercising and despite the sweat session can still negatively impact ones health
  • Adverse effects are apparent in as little as 2 weeks

    Feeling a little overwhelmed?? DON'T. Find out if your employer would consider providing a standing desk, stand when taking public transportation, take a moment to stretch, and incorporate moving in your free time. If you'll just be a tad more aware you'll find yourself taking steps to sitting and lounging less. 


    9 to 5 - School Edition

    So maybe it's more like 10am to 4pm now that school is in session but the premise is the same. I need a home packed lunch that is satisfying, delicious, and healthy. I also need to meet these criteria without the luxury of having access to a mini-fridge and microwave as I did when I worked this past summer. No biggie! There are lots of great lunch options that don't need the help of either appliance.  In the instance that something should remain cool a frozen water bottle or ice pack will do the trick. If you're interested in knowing exactly which foods don't need the aid of an ice pack then head on over to "Pack a Safe Lunch".


    Dried Apricots and Hazelnuts
    - Several dried apricots and a handful of hazelnuts. You may have noticed that these dried apricots are brown rather than a bright yellowish-orange. This is because this is the organic variety and therefore does not have sulphur dioxide as an additive. I find that without this preservative dried apricots have a more caramel-like flavor and are sweeter.

    Applesauce and Blueberries
    - Unsweetened applesauce with fresh blueberries. Simple but so good. Having something to chew on when eating my applesauce helps make this snack last longer than 30 seconds and the pop of each blueberry as you bite in adds just the right amount of tartness to the sweet applesauce.

    Salad with a Hard Boiled Egg, Cheddar Cheese, and Whole Grain Bread

    - Fresh salad with a hard boiled egg, cheddar cheese, and whole grain bread. My simple salad consists of lettuce, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.


    Exciting Opportunity!

    If you've ever pictured yourself on the Food Network then now may be your chance!

    I was recently contacted by a casting agency regarding a brand new show in the works for the Food Network. They are looking for teams of two in the New York area to show Bobby Flay that they are America's best home cook.

    If you're interested in participating then act quickly- the deadline to apply is Wednesday, August 22!!

    Here's some more info:

    I would love to hear from any of you who will be applying and if you happen to make it onto the show and you heard about it here then please let me know as well!! 

    Good luck!


    Yikes! Effects of Being Sedentary are Beginning to Show!

    I started my job a little over a month ago and figured that my good eating habits and exercise regimen would be fine for helping me stay at my pre-job weight despite not getting to move around much at the office. I am currently working in the corporate offices of an outerwear company, where my main responsibility is to take care of the front desk. This involves sitting at the front desk, hours on end. Although I love working there I am happy that this is a job with an expiration date (I am set to leave right before the start of my dietetic internship in mid-August). 

    Even though I get to move on from sitting all day, many people don't and find themselves sitting for 40+ hours a week for decades. It's impossible for such a lifestyle to not take a toll on a persons health and waistline. So whether your someone working a desk job longterm or for a short while like me, you need to make a few modifications to counteract being sedentary. In the past five weeks I've put on 5 pounds and have no intention of gaining another five. Clearly, my pre-job routine needs to get tweaked and that is exactly what I plan on doing without going on a fad diet or setting unrealistic goals. I'm going to be kind to my body and let it shed the excess without bullying it into doing it but by taking care of it. 

    The first order of business is to recognize that continuing on the same path will result in more weight gain. Then it's important to take steps towards change. Since the only thing that has changed is that I have been moving less, my focus will be on moving more. 

    My plan:

    - Make over my workouts so that there is more emphasis on strength training. By building lean muscle my body will be able to burn more calories since more calories are needed to build and maintain muscle than fat. 

    - Walk more during my commute. Instead of taking the bus to the subway I will leave my house 20 min early and walk. This will have me walking 40 minutes every day if I do this on my way to and from work. 

    - Take lunch outside. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've yet to leave the office during lunch (and I work across the street from Bryant Park in NYC!!!). This will be a great way to enjoy the fresh air, stretch out on the grass, and take a nice stroll.

    Bryant Park

    If you work a job that involves lots of sitting, I'd love to hear your approach to maintaining a healthy weight. Please share! 


    Bubbly Vino

    What a weekend! Let's get straight to the highlight which made this one of the most memorable weekends- I mean, how often does one get to see Aerosmith in concert?!! They were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Steven Tyler blew me away with his stamina and vocals.

    I really can go on and on talking about the concert and how amazing it was (I said that already, didn't I?) but tomorrow is a workday and I need to wind down and take my excitement down a notch. So I'm turning to a little bit of vino to help me out with no intention of getting hammered, or else waking up tomorrow morning will be painful.

    All you need is equal parts of white wine and sparkling water (about 3oz each) to make my bubbly vino. It doesn't taste watered down but is a great way to cut back on calories without feeling cheated. A glass of this bubbly with a fresh peach is all I need to mellow out and get back into work mode. Fun is over my friends...oh wait, Independence Day is midweek! Love it when there's something to look forward to. 


    Foodie Penpals Reveal Day!

    I don't often post on weekends, this might just be my first time, which is fitting since it's also my first time participating in Foodie Penpals! I'll post all the details on how to participate below, but first I'd like to share what I received from my foodie penpal.

    Isn't she pretty??

    I got matched with a non-blogger, Allison, who is a student at the University of MN. The package she sent me was full of things that I love and other's that I've never tried before. I love the hand written note she including sharing just how much of a busy bee this girl is. She's a biology major with plans of becoming a dentist who also teaches sailing (how cool?!) and is on the sailing team.


    Coconut flakes. Allison is a mind reader. Literally, a few days before I received my package I realized that the bag of coconut flakes in my cupboard went bad and had to be thrown away.

    Raw macadamia butter. This is the first thing that I ate after opening the box. I spread it on a waffle and drizzled a little bit of honey. It was soooo good. I loved the creamy yet crunchy consistency. It has such a rich taste and mouthfeel. Definitely plan on getting some more of this.

    Green superfood (berry flavor). I've always wanted to try these green powders that can be added to water. I'm definitely happy that Allison sent this to me, to finally quench my curiosity, but I wasn't a huge fan of this item. It didn't have a strong berry flavor and remained powdery even after being mixed with water. Maybe my ratio of this powder to water wasn't right. I'm tempted to buy another packet and give it another shot.

    Dried papaya spears. Yum! My grandparents came over and I served this with some tea and it quickly disappeared. Was sad to see it go. Was interesting to see how dried papaya tastes nothing like fresh papaya.

    Strawberry snack pouch. This pouch was made by Allison to be used for snacks on the go. So great since it can be washed and used again. Love!!

    Savi Seed (Karmalized). I've never heard of Sacha Inchi seeds but according to the packaging these seeds are a great source of omega 3 ("13 times more than wild salmon!"), vitamin E, fiber, and tryptophan. These seeds were covered in cane sugar to give them some sweetness. It was really good!

    I am so happy to have taken part in this program this month. Unfortunately, I won't be able to participate next month but have plans to get back into it the following month! Not only is it a fun way to try something new but there's that element of surprise that makes it that much more exciting. It was super great for me since this box came in on the day of my birthday. Allison, if you're reading this, are you psychic??? A) you sent it so that I'd get it on my birthday and B) you knew that I was in need of some coconut flakes! :)

    The Lean Green Bean

    If you want to participate, here's how:

    - Head on over to The Lean Green Bean to fill out a form that literally take 1min to complete. Then after getting matched with a penpal you have until the 15th of the month to send out your goodies ($15 spending limit). The skies the limit in terms of what you can send. Feel free to buy it or make it, just touch base with your penpal to check out if they have any dietary restrictions.

    - The last day of the month is reveal day and you're welcome to post about all of the great things that you've received from your foodie penpal.

    I want to thank Allison for sending me such a great box of goodies and of course Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean, for making this happen. Thanks!


    Eating Out and Staying Social

    You don't need to compromise your social life to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There is also no need to make a night out a "guess I will be bad" kinda night. I have put together a list of tactics that help me maintain a healthy balance no matter where I am or who I am with. It's all about having the right frame of mind and planning accordingly. These tips don't all need to be applied to survive a night on the town. Just do what you can depending on the circumstances.

    Remember why you are out. It's not just about eating and drinking, it's about socializing and connecting with others. I try and put more energy into keeping a conversation going and either catching up with those I know or getting to know new faces than devouring my meal. By shifting the focus away from the food, I'm able to pace myself with little effort.

    Make decisions prior to your arrival.  Do you want the bulk of your calories to come from your beverage choices or from food selections? Are your sights set on dessert? Asking yourself such questions will help you make smarter choices. If for example, I'm headed to a birthday party, I know that I will want to have some cake so I will steer clear of the mixed drinks (so I don't go overboard on my calorie and sugar intake). Instead I'd order vodka with club soda and extra lime or a glass of wine. Or if I'd rather enjoy a caipirinha (my favorite cocktail made with cachaca, sugar, & lime) then I would pass on the cake and order a fruit plate instead.

    Don't forget the H2O. You want to stay hydrated and have your cocktail last longer than 5 min. I like to order some bubbly water, like Pellegrino, and alternate my sips from the alcohol to the water. Some recommend that you have an alcoholic drink and next you should have a glass of water before moving to your next alcoholic drink. Personally, this doesn't work for me because I like to enjoy my cocktail throughout the night and would much rather have my water and alcohol at the same time.

    Don't skip meals. It's much easier to make wise decisions if you eat sensibly throughout the day. Otherwise you risk overeating. I've found that not only do I usually overeat if I don't eat normally throughout the day but that I will usually leave with a bellyache from indulging in way too much fried and fatty food.

    Know yourself. If you're a volume eater then fill your plate with fruits and vegetables so that you don't go overboard on the mac and cheese. I'm the person who can easily eat a large amount of food that I really like, so if I want to order the cheesecake and know that I am capable of licking the plate clean then I will get someone to share the order with me.

    Do your homework. Sometimes it helps to have a game plan. Most restaurants offer their menus online and taking a look ahead of time can help you figure out the type of food offered and what to order. One source that is very helpful is the Healthy Dining Finder.



    Guest Post | Get Acquainted With Yoga

    Yoga: If you haven’t tried it yet, come on, where have you been for the last 5 years? I mean, these days even unborn babies are doing it (prenatal yoga) and you don’t have to be old, young, wise, strong or flexible. You just have to show up. One of my first yoga teachers, Sharath (grandson of Ashtanga guru Sri K. Patthabhi Jois), says that anyone can do yoga, “only lazy people cannot do yoga”. I tend to agree, for the most part. However, Sharath was talking about Ashtanga yoga, which is considered one of the most athletic yoga practices. For those lazy days, there’s also Restorative yoga, which is basically like a guided naptime, but then becomes so much more. What I’m trying to say is that there is a type of yoga for everyone, so stop with the excuses.

    Now you may be thinking, “so what, even if I can do yoga why should I do it?” Here’s a bullet point list to appease your short blog-reading attention span:
    -physical wellness (you’re on a blog for nutrition, so you must be at least considering the importance of your body’s wellbeing)
                -mental benefits (focus, creativity, endurance, endorphins(!))
    -spiritual growth (connecting the mind-body-spirit)

    What separates yoga from any other type of physical exercise is that it encourages keen awareness, not just of the body, but also of your thoughts. Bridging the gap between our thoughts, our emotions and our physical sensations creates a complete experience that will leave you feeling energized, clear-minded, peaceful and hopefully inspired.

    There are many places and ways to fit in a yoga practice. Try out a yoga studio. There are so many yoga studios offering so many different types of yoga—and don’t be discouraged if the first one you try isn’t to your liking. There’s something for everyone. Read the class description and make an educated choice: If you hate the heat, make sure to check that the class is unheated. If you love music and dance, there’s hip-hop yoga. If you want to make new friends, try acro yoga where you partner up. And if you are feeling especially nervous about starting something completely new, go to a beginner’s class.

    Sometimes it’s hard to make it out of the house to exercise, and it can also be expensive. There are plenty of affordable and in-home options. Search yoga videos on youtube or check out what Netflix has on their watch instantly list. A great website for those who are interested in an online, video yoga experience is the Gaiam Yoga Studio (gaiamyogastudio.com) where expert teachers Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee will lead you step by step through each pose and sequence. That said, there is nothing better and more powerful than a face-to-face student-teacher relationship. Checking in with a yoga teacher is a good idea every now and then if you do the majority of your yoga practice solo.

    I hope I’ve given you a few good reasons and a few good ideas on how to start a yoga practice. If you have any questions comment here.

    Thanks for reading!!


    A little bit about Eva:

    Eva went to her first Ashtanga yoga class in Santiago, Chile and was immediately hooked. Soon enough she found herself in Mysore, India, the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga. Eva spent 6 months studying yoga there, returned to the states, eventually got teaching certificates in both Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga and started teaching.  In March ’12 Eva graduated from a year-long course in Urban Zen Integrative Therapy which brings modalities like yoga therapy, Reiki, essential oil therapy and contemplative care into western medical settings. These days Eva volunteers at Beth Israel Medical Center as an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist, where she sees day after day that you can do yoga anywhere with anyone, even in a hospital bed. 


    Why I Support Bloomberg's Soda Ban

    In case you haven't been following the news, here is a little recap of Bloomberg's plans:

    Any sweetened drink that has more than 25 calories per 8 fl oz is banned from being sold in over 16oz. 

    I get why many are opposed to this idea. It's nice to know that you have options and that there is no one out there telling you what you can and can't have. It's about having the freedom to do what you want to do. It should be your choice in deciding what you do to your body because it's YOUR body. I get it. But...

    1) These drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic which leads to a slew of other problems like diabetes.
    2) Many people don't know just how much of an impact their beverage choice has and in effect can't police themselves.
    3) Somehow we managed with smaller beverage sizes back in the day without feeling gypped. In 1955, for instance, the largest soda sold was 7 oz. Nowadays, a child size soda is 12 oz!

    With all of these factors in mind, I don't feel like Bloomberg's soda ban is imposing on our personal freedoms. I simply get angered at all of the companies (not just those selling soda) that grossly supersize products. I don't believe it's done with good intentions, it's done out of greed. Their goal is to make money. That's the bottom line.

    Let's not forget that the soda ban says nothing about not being allowed to purchase multiple sodas and then guzzling them all down. The soda ban isn't even banning soda. It's about being reasonable. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can't be left to do that on our own. Have a look at How Can a Big Gulp Look So Small?, an article from The New York Times Magazine, explaining how studies have found that our brain has difficulty discerning differences in serving sizes - especially when looking at a fast-food soda cup.

    What do you think? Do you support or oppose Bloomberg's soda ban? Would love to hear your thoughts! 


    9 to 5

    There's nothing I love more than giving you guys ideas on what to pack for lunch. It can be such a challenge to think of something that involves little prep yet is well-rounded and different from the typical PB&J (although I do LOVE a good PB & J sandwich every so often, but lets not overdo a good thing).

    The reason why what I have packed for lunch today was so easy to put together is because I relied on last nights dinner leftovers as my star ingredient: baked salmon. Which, by the way, was incredibly easy as well. We just put some salt, pepper, and olive oil on the fresh salmon and popped it into the oven at 375 degrees for 20-25min.

    Leftovers should be the first thing you consider when thinking about putting together your lunch for the following day. You can eat it as is or make it into something entirely different in a few easy steps. One reason why baked salmon is an excellent choice is because it can be eaten cold - in fact, I prefer it cold.


    Salmon Sandwich

    Salmon sandwich:
    - Piece of baked salmon
    - 2 slices of Sesame Ezekiel 4:9 bread
    - 3 slices of fresh tomato
    - Dill mayo spread*

    I hate a dry sandwich and this spread took care of that. Using just 3 ingredients, I made a spread which really made this sandwich into something special. It's refreshing lemony flavor is perfect for the summer season.

    Dill Mayo Spread
    - 1 tbsp of reduced fat mayonnaise (unsweetened & eggless) - can be found in stores like Trader Joes
    - Dill
    - 1 tsp lemon zest

    I really like the flavor of dill so I added about 1 tbsp's worth, you can add as much as you like. Just mix these three ingredients together and then smear onto each bread slice. Add the piece of salmon and tomato slices. That's it!

    I also made a fruit salad with a grapefruit & cinnamon dressing. Just squeeze the juice of 1/2 a grapefruit and add in as much cinnamon as you like. Again, I really enjoy the taste of cinnamon so I sprinkled liberally (about 1 tbsp).

    Fruit Salad Dressing
    The acidity from the grapefruit not only adds flavor but also prevents the fruit from browning.

    Fruit Salad
    Fruit salad:
    -  Red Delicious apple (you can use any apple)
    -  Banana
    -  Raw, slivered almonds
    -  Grapefruit & cinnamon dressing

    It took me 10min to put this lunch together and I can't wait to dig in. Summer has officially begun and I wanted my lunch to reflect that. Nothing too heavy or complicated with a great balance of sweetness and tartness.


    Workout Playlist

    When I first joined the gym I took a few sessions with a personal trainer. One of the things that he ingrained in me is to never read or watch TV while working out because doing so causes the intensity of a workout to drop. Instead it's best to listen to an audiobook or music.

    A while back I read a New York Times article "Phys Ed: Does Music Make You Exercise Harder?" explaining why it is important to listen to music when working out. The reason lies in our nature of wanting to move to the beat, something we can't always control. There is also the psychological component, where music allows us to divert our focus from the seconds hand on the clock, pain, and exhaustion.

    Essentially, it can make your workout more productive AND more enjoyable.

    Here's what I'm listening to while puffing away on the elliptical:

    Workout by peppyNUTRITION on Grooveshark

    What are you listening to when working out? 


    Portion Size vs. Serving Size

    Let's get something straight: portion size  serving size. Although these terms are often interchanged, they shouldn't be because they mean two different things.

    Serving size: an amount of food determined by information gathered from national food consumption surveys. Typically seen on a food label. 

    Potion size: an amount of food that you choose to eat. This could be a single serving of something, half the serving, or double the recommended serving size. 

    Knowing the serving size of a food is helpful because based on this figure you can determine how many calories and nutrients are in an X amount of food. You should then use this information to help you figure out what your portion size should be. Just because the package says 23 Fritos are a serving doesn't mean that you should eat 23 Fritos. Instead you should ask yourself the following questions:

    • Am I hungry?
    • What have I eaten thus far and what do I plan on eating later on?
    • Does this food provide my body with anything beneficial? 
    Don't let a food label boss you around! Instead let it act as your guide in letting you eat however much you think you need to be eating. 


    What Motivates Me

    Leading a healthy lifestyle in this modern world of ours is a challenge. We have everything available to us to eliminate the need to walk from point A to point B. If not a car then a bus or train and if not an escalator then an elevator. We also have conveniences like shopping online, ordering takeout via phone, laundry machines, dishwashers, car washes, robotic gadgets to clean the floors, and even remote controlled blinds. Why lift more than a finger? Everything is just so easy! 

    Food is everywhere, who has time to listen to the body's hunger signals when we are constantly forced to think about food? With restaurants, bakeries, fast food establishments, and food trucks on every street corner along with the bombardment of unhealthy food advertisements on TV, in magazines, billboards, and online, we are left to think about food ALL THE TIME. Lets not forget that this exposure sways our food desires and choices. I mean don't you want your mind to be blown away? I do!

    With all of these forces working in opposition to my desire to be healthy and strong, I need some form of encouragement to help me make my desires louder and more powerful than the allure of unhealthy foods and convenience. That really is the first step to surviving in modern society. You have to want to be healthy and then you need to help yourself get motivated. 

    What motivates me to eat well and be active:

    - I happened to choose to become a Registered Dietitian. On this journey to becoming an RD, I am forced to read the latest research and take a closer look at the health problems faced by this country (how are they caused? What is the solution?). This helps keep me in check. Here's the thing though, you don't need to strive to become a health professional to be informed and care about major issues affecting those around you. A great place to start is healthfinder.gov (you can subscribe and have any updates go straight to your inbox). 

    - I don't let the media hunt me down and be my only influencer. I search for what I want to influence me. Most likely you do too and this could be why you are visiting my blog! I look to other bloggers as well. Reading the hard facts on heart disease and obesity rates isn't always enough to keep me going, I need to be able to relate to someone. Here are two blogs that help me stay on track:
    • The Lean Green Bean. This blog is run by Lindsay an RD2Be. I don't know her personally (although it sometimes feels like I do!) but she managed to graduate with a 4.0, runs a super successful blog, is always cooking up a storm, and works out most days of the week. She gives detailed insight into her workouts and if she can do it so can I! 
    • EatReal. LiveWell. This blog is run by another RD2Be, Summer. Again, I don't know her personally and am often fooled into thinking that I do but her story is incredibly inspirational. She is a full time student, works full time as a hospital pharmacy tech, and lost and maintained over a hundred pounds! Wowza! 
    - Call me an overachiever but I can't bare the thought of doing poorly on a test. Be it a chemistry exam at school, my driving test, or a blood work lab test at the doctors office. For whatever reason, doing poorly makes me feel embarrassed because I consider myself to be a capable and intelligent person and so if I am given the test this means that I should be able to do well. So to do well on a chemistry exam I need to study hard, to pass the driving test I need to practice, and to get good lab values on my blood work I need to eat well and exercise. So wanting to look good on paper is what motivates me to stay fit and maintain a healthy diet! 

    - I love trying new things. This is something that my boyfriend knows very well about me and he happens to be the exact opposite. He is a creature of habit, someone who will happily eat and drink the same thing over and over if it's something that he likes. I, on the other hand, love to explore new things and am always excited to taste something new. Same thing goes for exercise. I want to have different experiences like going rock climbing, signing up for hot yoga, or taking a belly dancing class with a friend. My curiosity drives me to stay active. 

    - One thing I realized is that eating well and exercising is it's own little monster. Once you start, you begin to see and feel the results and that is motivation enough. Why stop doing something that makes you feel AWESOME??!

    What motivates you to eat well and shake your booty? 


    Vegan Outing

    I'm drinking the housemade ginger ale &
    Eva's sipping on a rhubarb-mint cooler

    A great day involves connecting with a friend, eating yummy food, and spending time outdoors. Sounds a lot like my day yesterday... :) 

    My friend Eva and I treated ourselves to lunch at Candle 79, an organic vegan restaurant located on Manhattan's Upper East Side. I'm not vegan, but I love going to vegan restaurants. They always give my outlook on vegetables, grains, and nuts a much needed jolt, reminding me that the possibilities are endless when working with these ingredients. I experienced a variety of different flavors and textures, and even fooled my taste buds into thinking I was feasting on a dish full of meat!


    I had the housemade ginger ale which was made with fresh ginger, lemon, agave, mint, sparkling water, and ice. I could really taste the ginger, giving this drink a bit of a kick. Eva had the rhubarb-mint cooler which consisted of rhubarb puree, lemon, mint, lavender agave, and sparkling water. Eva described it as being smoothie-like and after giving it a taste I think she's spot-on!

    We shared a seaweed salad made with carrots, cabbage, grilled shiitake mushrooms, edamame, radishes, wasabi leaves, and miso-lemongrass dressing. I've never had seaweed salad outside of a Japanese restaurant and this was very different. The seaweed wasn't tough to chew and didn't have a fishy aftertaste. Score and score!

    Seaweed Salad
    Then came our main dishes, and this is where I got excited and didn't snap a picture of Eva's dish and have a picture of mine but it's half eaten so I don't think I'll be sharing. I loved my dish. I had a BBQ seitan sandwich with caramelized onions, chipotle aioli, avocado, polenta fries, and mixed lettuces. It tasted just like BBQ brisket.
    Seitan is a popular meat substitute used in vegetarian and vegan dishes because it is high in protein, looks just like meat, and even has a similar texture. So even though it's similar to meat it's really made from wheat. 
    Eva had the black bean-pumkin seed burger with mixed lettuces, avocado, polenta fries, and chipotle ketchup. 

    We passed on dessert and headed out to central park for a much needed walk. Even with puddles on our path and getting gravel in my shoes, we easily walked 3 miles.

     It's important to cut back on our consumption of animal products, and yesterdays lunch date reminded me that this doesn't mean eating only leaves for every meal. A dish without meat or dairy can be just as substantial. After all, we passed on dessert only because we were so full!


    Should You Go Gluten-Free?

    Nowadays gluten-free foods are easily accessible both in supermarkets and restaurants. The development of gluten-free products as well as the publicity of this diet is at an all-time high. Could this be just another diet craze or is this the missing link to achieving good health and weight loss? Like most things, the answer isn't in black and white. There are those who must follow a gluten-free diet and others who do not.

    Gluten: Proteins found in certain grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It contributes to the structure, flavor, and texture of baked products. 

    Who needs to maintain a life-long commitment to a gluten-free diet?

    Anyone with celiacs disease. This is an autoimmune disease in which an individuals immune system responds to gluten in a way that is damaging to the small intestine. Consuming gluten can result in malabsorption and with prolonged consumption can lead to other complications.

    Since millions of people suffer with celiacs, it is a wonderful thing to see such a proliferation of products.   There are also many products that are innately gluten-free.

    Taken from FDA.gov

    Could everyone benefit from eating foods without the gluten?

    Not exactly. If your body can tolerate the gluten then this means that it is not harmful to your small intestine and you are not at risk of developing problems like those with celiacs disease. Just because something is gluten-free does not mean that it is lower in calories, sugar, or sodium. As a matter of fact, it can actually deprive you of nutrients naturally found in the food. Most gluten-free foods are not fortified or enriched with B vitamins, folic acid, calcium, iron, or vitamin D. This is a factor that people with celiacs disease need to be mindful of and make sure that they get these nutrients from other foods. 

    What about weight loss?

    Initially, one can experience weight loss simply because they are cutting down on their consumption of baked goods. Yet those who do an even swap of a regular muffin with a gluten-free muffin will not experience weight loss. Rather, one can experience weight-gain. Gluten-free items are typically low in fiber and they do not offer fewer calories. Also, since many think that this is a lifestyle that will result in weight loss might start eating more of these gluten-free products leading to a higher caloric intake. 

    Of course, it is possible to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle in a way that does not lead to weight gain or nutrient depletion. But this will take effort. Not to mention that most gluten-free products are pricier so be prepared to spend some more at the supermarket. 


    My FAVORITE Tuna Salad

    I've made and tried a multitude of tuna salads. There's just so much that you can do with tuna and this may come as a surprise to many of you but it can even be prepared without mayonnaise! This might not be your traditional tuna salad but I have a secret weapon that packs this salad with tons of flavor. It's easy to make and is finger-licking good. At least good enough to be considered my absolute favorite tuna salad.

    • 2 7oz cans of tuna (drained)
    • 1 shallot (or 1 small red onion)
    • 1 avocado
    • Approx. 25 kalamata olives
    • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
    • Drizzle of liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
    Drain the tuna as best as you can and then break it up with a fork in a bowl. Finely dice the shallot, slice the olives in half, and cut the avocado into cubes. Combine these ingredients with the tuna, mixing carefully so as not to mash up the avocado. Add in the evoo and then drizzle some liquid aminos. There is no need for salt- DO NOT ADD SALT. The liquid aminos seasoning, like soy sauce, is very salty. It's best to lightly drizzle and then taste the salad to see if more is needed. 

    A few words on my secret ingredient, liquid aminos:

    It is a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce but packs more sodium than soy sauce. Which is why you only need a light drizzle of this product. It also consists of 16 amino acids but you can't rely on this to be an adequate source of protein since you wont get much from the amount that you'll be using. It gives this recipe saltiness but also another flavorful component that I can't really describe. You'll just need to try it out for yourself!

    Tuna salad pictured with a whole wheat pita


    Eating Seasonally

    If you have heard some of the buzz surrounding "eating seasonally" then you may be wondering why this has become such a hot topic. You may even be thinking that this is an absurd thought because it would be silly to not take advantage of all the variety presented to us in the supermarket thanks to present-day technology. Shouldn't we be celebrating the option of eating asparagus year round as opposed to two months out of the year?  Yes and no.

    All fruits and vegetables should be enjoyed year round. But the point is to emphasize certain foods over others because there are specific perks to doing so. It's not difficult to do if aware of what is in season when (there are tons of tools out there to help, like this one here and here).


    It's better for the environment. Since food that is in season in your area doesn't need to go very far to reach your table there is a reduction in pollution emissions. Hello, healthier planet!

    It's usually cheaper. With lower fuel and transportation costs, the price of the produce usually reflects this. The reason why I state that "usually" this is the case is because there are other factors that play a role in the price of a product. Variables like unusual weather conditions, damaged crops, etc. can prevent ideal pricing. But keep in mind, that if it's a season where the fruits and vegetables aren't cheaper, they generally are never more expensive than produce that's out of season- so you still might as well.

    Tastes better and is fresher. This is a result of getting to your table faster and harvesting methods. Out of season fruits and vegetables are picked before becoming fully ripe and this gets in the way of proper taste and smell development. It also doesn't allow the nutritional value of the product to reach its fullest potential.

    Eating seasonally is a way of creating the most delicious meals because you will be incorporating ingredients at their prime. Basically, this is why the strawberries that I am enjoying now taste like they've been dipped in sugar; yet the blueberries don't leave much of an impression.

    I'm excited to take advantage of what the summer season has to offer and hopefully I've inspired you to do the same.


    9 to 5

    Yesterday marked my first day at a new job, and unlike any other job that I've ever had, this one is 9 to 5 (cue Dolly Parton). It pains me to consider spending my hard earned money on a mediocre lunch so my goal is to pack a lunch and snacks 95% of the time. I'd strive for 100% but a scenario like going out for a bite with a coworker is bound to happen. As you would expect, the food I bring needs to meet certain criteria. Be healthy, easy to enjoy at work, and tasty. I also don't want to pack the same thing every day so time to get creative and plan my workday meals the night before. That really is the secret to successfully packing a lunch and saving your bucks for treats like a much needed (in my case) massage!

    What I packed for work:

    - Bottled water and 2 packets of earl grey tea (I could use the caffeine boost and since the weather here in NY is chillier than usual it'll be nice to have something warm).

    - Cold stir-fry pasta salad. Just some brown rice pasta, mixed frozen vegetables (cooked in some soy sauce, red wine vinegar, chicken broth, and 1 tsp of corn starch to thicken it a little bit), extra virgin olive oil, and pieces of gruyere cheese.
    - Walnuts with raisins 
    - Cut up gala apple with lemon juice (to prevent browning)


    Mama Chef's Sure-fire Way to Spice Up Your Morning

    We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but all too often end up eating the same thing every. single. morning. Well this is your wakeup call my friends - fellow blogger and chef extraordinaire Inga aka Mama Chef is here to shake things up a bit. If you like what you see here then head on over to Ingas Indulgence to find more mouthwatering recipes for not only you but also for any little tots in your life. 

    Sweet Potato Blinis with Ricotta & Dates
    (yield: 14 blinis, about 3 servings)
    1/3 cup cooked sweet potatoes, pureed
    1/4 cup plain, low-fat yogurt 
    1/4 cup milk
    1 egg
    1/4 cup whole wheat flour
    1/8 tsp baking powder
    1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
    Pinch of salt
    Vegetable oil, as needed
    1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
    1/4 cup dates, chopped
    In a medium bowl, whisk together sweet potato puree, yogurt, milk, and egg. In a 
    separate, small bowl, combine next 4 ingredients. Add dry mixture to sweet 
    potato mixture, and mix well to form a smooth batter.
    Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large, non-stick pan. Place tablespoonfuls of 
    batter into the pan, and cook over medium heat, about 3 minutes per side 
    (adding more oil to the pan if necessary). 
    Allow cooked blinis to drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Serve with a dollop 
    of ricotta, and some chopped dates over the top.


    Secrets of the Blue Zones

    Imagine living a long life without the commonly associated poor health and mental decline. Sounds too good to be true? Well according to my medical nutrition therapy professor and Dan Buettner who is the author of The Blue Zones it's something that is achievable and there are communities throughout the world to prove it!

    Sardinia, Italy

    Okinawa, Japan

    Loma Linda, California

    Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

    Ikaria, Greece

    Besides being breathtakingly beautiful, these five places have several things in common:

    - Healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and nuts. Low on meat, sugar, fat, and processed foods. Essentially, it's the Mediterranean diet
    - Daily exercise
    - Little stress
    - Ample amounts of sleep
    - A sense of purpose
    - Importance of family
    - Spirituality

    I don't care so much about the number of years that I live. What matters to me is the quality of my time spent on earth. I never want to be a burden to someone or to live in pain, depression, or immobility. There is no predicting the future and anything can happen but I definitely want to give my best shot at the best life possible. So if this means that I need to eat better, catch a few extra zzz's, and take a deep breath every so often, then so be it.  Are you with me?