Thinner on Monday: Keep Off Weekend Weight

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You’re only human if, halfway through a workweek, you’ve already  begun a countdown to the weekend. What’s not to love? There’s extra time  to spend with the kids, dining out with friends, and sleeping in. But  if you’re not careful with your choices, the weekend can really wreak  havoc on a waistline. Between Friday happy hours and Sunday brunches,  the weekend is jam-packed with opportunities to eat tempting food. Some  people use it as the perfect excuse to let their diet slip away. You’ve  worked hard all week to keep your weight in check. From Friday night to Monday morning, keep these 10 tips in mind so you don’t end up with more weight than when you started!

1. Don’t be a weekend warrior. Putting pressure on yourself to lose weight while trying to enjoy your downtime can potentially stress you out and lead to emotional eating.  Take a more realistic approach, and aim to maintain your weight instead  of losing it. If you wake up on Monday at the same weight you were when  you left the office on Friday, consider yourself a success!

2. Start strong. The first few hours of your weekend  can set the tone for its entire duration. For instance, if you start  off your Friday night with happy hour and a couple slices of pizza for  dinner, you’ll probably continue this behavior all the way to Monday  morning. It ruins the effort you put in all week, and makes you less  likely to reset your good habits when the workweek begins. Kick off your  weekend the right way with a flavorful yet reasonable dinner option.  Try a lean cut of red meat, such as filet mignon, to ensure satisfaction  without tons of calories. Or if you’re craving Chinese food, allow  yourself to enjoy some Moo Shu chicken; just skip the pancakes and opt  for lettuce wraps instead. It’s perfectly fine to rewardyourself after a  week well done, so long as you choose something that will keep you on  the right track!

3. Get in some “you” time.  Lazy weekends are great every once in a while, but allot some time into  your morning to work up a sweat. Putting it off until later in the day  gives you the chance to get too busy and just not go. Simply get up a  half-hour earlier, and hit the gym. Even twenty minutes will help!

4. Take advantage of breakfast.  It really can be the most important meal of the day. I recommend  clients take a few moments of their downtime to enjoy some morning fare.  There are so many healthy, smart options readily available. Nix the  pancakes and calorie-laden waffles, and order an omelette instead. An  egg-white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and peppers only has about  250 calories, but tons of satiating protein. Switch it up and choose hot  sauce over ketchup since it contains less sugar. Avoid starting your  morning with any type of simple carb such as bagels, Danishes or  muffins. These types of foods will only lead to additional carbohydrate  cravings throughout the day.

5. You snooze, you lose. If  you do decide to sleep in, don’t feel as though you have to make up for  the meal you may have missed. Move on to whatever meal is next, and go  from there. You may need to add a second snack later in the afternoon,  but it’s much more ideal than doubling up your meals.

6. Think ahead, and be prepared.  Planning meals ahead of time and packing a few healthy food items can  be your best defense against fast food and mindless weekend snacking.  Why waste the calories on the drive-thru when you can enjoy something  scrumptious at dinner with friends instead? Save your indulgence for a  time that is really worth it. Keep a fiber bar and a piece of fruit with  you at all times. You’d be surprised how this pairing can fill you up  and ward off future cravings.

7. Embrace finite foods.  Extra free time can mean extra pantry time. There’s less structure on  the weekend, which increases your chance of going on a random pretzel  binge. Keep finite foods on hand, so you know exactly where your snack  begins and ends. Stick to items like a Greek yogurt with a pack of  almonds or a high-fiber nutrition bar. Avoid snacks that aren’t  pre-portioned or, next thing you know, you’ll have seven servings of  trail mix under your belt!

8. Enjoy one extravagance.  Dining out is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax after a hard  week. It can seem virtually impossible to stick to a boring grilled  protein and a side of steamed vegetables when everyone around you is  partaking in a decadent meal. Whether it’s a second cocktail, a shared  dessert, or a reasonable portion of starch, allow yourself to enjoy one  extravagance. Be sure to plan it at a time when you’re around loved  ones. It automatically makes the treat that much more enjoyable.

9. Stay hydrated.  Daily hydration routines usually fall by the wayside on the weekend.  People tend to weigh heavier on Monday because they’ve dined out for the  past few days and consumed considerably less water. Aim for at least a  liter by lunch to ensure proper hydration.

10. Recover on Sunday.  Unwind after a busy weekend, and opt for a low-calorie frozen entrée  for dinner. Choose one that’s under 300 calories and has at least 3 to 4  grams of fiber. It’s a controlled, finite meal that will give you a  head start on your week. Or, partake in a “veggie night” dinner to  recover from a particularly rough weekend. Choose 2 cups of your  favorite non-starchy vegetable, and pair with one baked white or sweet  potato. Simple yet slimming!

Beware the Scale: Learn the Right Way to Weigh

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When trying to follow a weight-loss plan, the scale can be your worst enemy. It’s a tricky device in tracking weight loss. Some dieters go so far as to step on the scale after every meal. This poses a problem, because weight tends to fluctuate, on average, between 2 to 4 pounds throughout the day. The number that you see first thing in the morning may be far from the number you see midday or before your head hits the pillow. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ve actually gained body fat. These numbers don’t reflect your accurate weight or your last meal.

Throughout my years of counseling clients, I’ve seen people who struggle to lose weight all of a sudden lose five pounds in a matter of days. On the other hand, some experience the opposite; starting off strong and then weight loss tapers off. Constantly stepping on the scale and seeing varied outcomes can result in feelings of discouragement, disappointment, and resentment. This trio of negative emotions can lead to binge eating. After all, you’ve been working hard all day to eat well, and all of a sudden your number skyrockets by 2 pounds in less than three hours with no explanation. It’s understandable that the average person would feel frustrated and turn to a bag of chips or box of cookies for solace. Therefore, it’s important to understand the many factors that play into weight fluctuation. Below are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to the scale:

Do keep in mind the importance of consistency. To accurately track the amount of weight that you are losing, it’s best to weigh yourself at the same time (preferably in the morning) every week, on the exact same day of the week. Write down the number, and at the end of four weeks, calculate the average of these numbers. Subtract that from your starting weight, and you’ll get a very precise measure of how much progress you’ve made.

Don’t jump on the scale after a big night out. You’re just torturing yourself. Rich, decadent restaurant cuisine is full of salt, fat, and sugar—things that make the meal taste so good! Keep in mind that it’s virtually impossible to gain weight after one large meal. If you get on the scale and see your number go up, it’s simply because your blood volume level has increased due to the large quantity of food that you’ve eaten. The high sodium content in certain prepared foods also causes the body to retain fluid, thus causing a higher number on the scale.

Do take fluids into account. It’s tough to measure fluids accurately, but two 8-ounce glasses of water can translate to about one pound of weight. This means that if you’ve just finished a giant bottle of H20 and decide to hop on the scale, the chances are you’re not going to like the outcome. Don’t fret. It’s only water. Our bodies are highly equipped to efficiently use fluids as needed and excrete what we don’t need. In fact, if you decide to avoid fluids in an attempt to lower that value on the scale, you’re in for a big surprise. Your body will actually do the opposite and retain fluid, causing you to show a “gain.” Drinking alcohol is also a key culprit in skewing the numbers. No matter the libation, all alcohol causes frequent urination and may increase perspiration. This leads to even more dehydration, which will cause the body to retain more fluid. It may seem contradictory, but be sure to add in plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages (such as water) to counteract the fluid imbalance.

Don’t avoid the scale all together. It’s important to note that weighing yourself on a regular basis doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing. Stepping on a scale gives you a sense of accountability towards your actions and forces you to keep yourself in check. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 75 percent of individuals who have managed to successfully lose weight and keep it off consistently weigh themselves. In addition, a 2012 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics concludes that people who lose weight are less likely to regain it if they weigh themselves on a regular basis.

The Anatomy of a Healthy Salad

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How many times have you been in a restaurant with a friend and heard her  say, “Oh, I’ll just have a salad,” with a satisfied look on her face?  When looking for a healthy option,  it’s not uncommon for people to immediately rely on salad as their  go-to meal. Often associated with being low in calories and high in  nutrients, salads seem to make sense. The truth is, sometimes opting for  a salad can be one of your worst dieting downfalls. On the other hand,  salads don’t have to equate to a wider waistline. Research shows people  who eat salads are more likely to have higher levels of key nutrients  that prevent cancer and heart disease, and may consume 12 percent less  calories throughout the meal. It’s all about preparing them correctly  and knowing what to add in and what to take out. Below are my five top  tips on how to slim down your salad, without sacrificing flavor or  nutrition.

Throw Some Fat Into the Mix

Salads can fall on complete opposite ends of the spectrum if you’re not careful. Eating a bowl full of green leaves  and raw veggies with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar is one of the  biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. Sure, it’s low  in calories, but in order for your body to effectively use the abundant  nutrients in the vegetables, some type of fat needs to be added. Choose  an unsaturated one, and remember, a little goes a long way. Your body  only requires a small amount of fat in a meal to absorb the nutrients.  Consider using two to three thin slices of avocado to not only add in  heart-healthy fats, but also potassium, fiber, and vitamin E. At 50  calories, you can’t go wrong!

Remember, It’s a Salad, Not a Sandwich

Often,  devoted salad eaters choose to add in items like bacon, chicken, or  steak to make their salads more fulfilling. While it may do just that,  it can potentially add too many calories. If you must, pick one meat or  poultry option, but make sure to skip the cheese to avoid calorie  overload. Another idea is to garnish your greens with two egg whites  instead. This adds approximately 8 grams of protein for less than 50  calories. Or choose a legume, such as navy or kidney beans, to pack in  protein as well as fiber. An optimal serving for navy beans is ¼ cup,  which contains about 4 grams of both protein and fiber for 65 calories.  Just because your sandwich comes with bread doesn’t mean your salad has  to. Skip the breadsticks or pita typically offered on the side. They only add empty calories.

Swap Croutons for Crunchy Snack Mix

Ever  notice that most croutons don’t even crunch when you bite into them?  That’s because they’re drenched in either oil or butter to make up for  their lack of flavor and freshness. Regardless, a small serving of  croutons can contain anywhere from 50 to 90 calories without adding much  satisfaction. Instead, sprinkle your salad with Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix.  Made with ground chickpeas, the noodles are a great source of vegetable  protein that fall low on the glycemic index, which allows for a slower  release of sugar in the bloodstream, stabilizing appetite. One serving  will give your salad added crunch, taste, fiber, and protein to keep you  satiated for a longer period of time. Or crumble a high-fiber cracker  like GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbreads on top for some crunchy flavor.

The Darker the Better

When  it comes to being savvy about your salad, use your eyes! Swap pale  greens such as iceberg lettuce for leaves like kale, arugula, and  romaine lettuce. Dark green leafy vegetables rank high on the  nutritional scale, and are packed with fiber, phytochemicals,  antioxidants, and vitamins. Most people think of dairy foods as the  ultimate way to ensure enough calcium in their diet.  But leafy veggies such as mustard greens, kale, and bok choy all  contain considerable amounts of this bone-building nutrient for fewer  calories than dairy products. For example, adding 1 cup of kale to your  mix can amp up your salad by providing well over 100 percent of your  daily value for nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K.

Opt for Homemade Dressings

Have  you ever looked at how many ingredients are in most store-bought salad  dressings? And can you even pronounce half of them? Homemade salad  dressings are pretty simple. Start with an oil base (I prefer olive  oil), which acts as the emulsifier. Then, add in your favorite type of  vinegar. Although balsamic is popular, it’s fun to play around with  other flavors such as pear, raspberry, or even pomegranate! Next, chop  up some fresh herbs, which add flavor but not sodium.  The best varieties for salad include basil, thyme, marjoram, and  chives. Fresh is always best, but dried herbs can suffice in a pinch.  Ground pepper is also a must. Lastly, add in a pinch of sea salt to  taste. You can also experiment by adding different types of mustard to  provide another depth of flavor. Varieties like Dijon, whole-grain, or  sweet mustards all pack in flavor without tons of calories.

Occupational Hazard: Is Your Job Making You Fat?

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If you work in an office, you know that person. She’s incessantly talking about her past, future and present culinary endeavors and looking for a partner to indulge with. It starts off bright and early with the scent of a greasy egg-and-cheese sandwich wafting over to your desk, and then sure enough, at lunchtime you hear the rifling of takeout menus. Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an insightful article honing in on the difficulties people face when dieting in the workplace. As I read, comments I had heard numerous times from clients popped into my head: “I just felt so pressured to eat the cake she had made for me,” or “I didn’t want to be the only one not eating.” One survey found that over half of the participants ate foods they knew would sabotage their diet out of sheer obligation. When it comes to work-related eating, there are typically three types of eating personalities. I’ve broken them down for you and provided ways to overcome them.

The Situational Eater:

You let the situation dictate how you are going to eat.  For example, if the weekly staff meeting includes bagels and muffins, you fill your plate just because you can. Regardless of whether you’ve eaten breakfast already, you feel the need to eat.  Most likely, you don’t even taste the food.

Fix It:

1. Ask yourself why you are eating. Often, people are feeding an emotion, whether it’s the nervous energy of the meeting or the boredom you feel from your boss’s last lecture.

2. Keep in mind that you have the power to control your eating and write your dieting script.

The Free Foodie:

I hate to break it to you, but just because food is free, it’s not necessarily good for you.  In fact, most complimentary chow (i.e., donuts, birthday cake, and candy) rank high in calories and low in nutrition… You’ll most likely spend more time, energy and cash trying to peel off the extra pounds than if you’d picked up a solo salad instead.

Fix It:

1. When dining out, stay away from things that are easily refillable. Items like soda, wine (by the bottle) and bread baskets are things waiters can easily provide more of to ensure great service.
2. Try and be the last person at the table to order; people are less likely to focus on what you order once they’ve already placed their order.

The Office Party Animal

If every time you look at your inbox you have another Evite, then you fall into this category. Being social at the workplace and partaking in office camaraderie is important and can further help advance your career. Just be sure that it’s not doing the same for your waistline.

Fix It:

Try to be the server, not the eater. Take charge and volunteer to arrange the candles and dole out the dolce. Ironically, this trick puts the spotlight on you, yet makes it less likely that someone will fixate on what you’re eating. Redefine the word “special.” It’s easy to let office hype get the best of you. Every lunch seems like it’s at the best steakhouse and each happy hour seems like it’s at the hippest watering hole, but what’s really important to you? Save indulgences for things that truly are special, like your son’s birthday or wedding anniversary.

Remember, dieting isn’t necessarily about willpower; it’s about having the strategies you need to make better choices. Once you’ve identified your workplace persona, you’ll be completely equipped to maneuver occupational dieting hazards. For some of these tips I turn back to my first book The Wall Street Diet, which focuses on how to survive dieting in professional settings.

Your Mom Was Right

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Mothers and food are like love and marriage. It’s almost impossible to have one without the other. Some of the fondest memories we carry are centered around food, childhood and our mothers. They play an integral role in our nutrition habits because their beliefs are ingrained  into us at an early age. To this day, I use the essential nutrition advice that my mom bestowed upon me. Growing up, I was always the kid who wolfed  down my food, finishing before anyone else. At the rate I ate, you’d think I came from a family of 12! I can still hear my mother’s voice urging me to slow down and enjoy my meal. She simply wanted me to practice mindful eating. As a mother and nutritionist, it’s a value that I instill in my own children and clients.  Practicing this core value can help your diet in three essential ways:

1. You become less  likely to overeat because your brain has a chance to send a signal to your stomach that you’re full. Don’t be shocked: You may find food left behind on your plate!

2. Food becomes enjoyable again, and you actually taste what you are eating. Often, we sit down and polish off our plate without even tasting the meal. Eating should be a source of enjoyment, not just mechanism to fuel our bodies.  Just relax, take small bites, and chew! I promise, the food on the plate isn’t going anywhere.

3. You can gain control of your diet again. The pickable, poppable, unstoppable foods suddenly become manageable to integrate back into your regimen. When you actually take the time to evaluate what you are eating and the quantity, binges becomes less desirable.

Fast Food the Healthy Way: A Guide

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Let’s be real, everyone loves fast food. (Whether or not you want to admit it, but there’s something about French fries that really gets people going.) As a nutritionist, it’s hard for me to approve calorie-laden burgers, milkshakes or double decker bacon-filled ranch-dressing-topped nutritional nightmares. They’re not providing a ton of good nutrients, and instead are passing along sugar, fat and carbohydrates that will leave you feeling sluggish in its place. That being said, you have to live your life. It’s your life, not your diet, that takes precedence.  So I never want you to eliminate things you love completely. Why not? That will not only make you want those foods MORE, but it’s unrealistic. You’re not going to go the rest of your life without eating a hamburger. (Even I like one occasionally.)

Maybe you just really want a little fast-food treat, or you’re on the road and have no choice. Here are some healthy options for some of the most popular chains. You never have to ban entire restaurants or types of food from your life. That only leads to wanting those foods more! Small indulgences like the ones I’ve chosen below can get you far:

 

McDonalds:
1.) Fruit and yogurt parfait — 160 calories 2.) Caesar salad with grilled chicken and low-fat balsamic vinaigrette — 260 calories
 

Taco Bell
1.) Grilled steak soft taco (Fresco) — 150 calories 2.) Gordita supreme, chicken — 270 calories

Burger King
1.) Tender grilled chicken garden salad with Ken’s fat-free ranch dressing — 290 calories 2.) Small burger with a bun (260 calories). This counts as one angel carb. (What’s an angel carb? A good carb, because some bread is bad, but not all of it!)

Pizza Hut
1.) Two slices of a 12-inch pizza, — 300 calories, 2 angel carbs.

It is possible to eat fast food (very occasionally) and still keep it healthy. These are splurges, but not outrageous ones. No matter your lifestyle, job scenario or wallet, you can eat well.

Who Says Genetically-Overweight People Can’t Get Thin?

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Are you fighting genetics?

Think about it: Most women start highlighting their hair as soon as puberty rears its awkward, pimply little head. Men buy red sports cars and hair plugs as soon as the 20something-year-olds at the bar stop looking their way. My point is, rarely are we ever content with what the genetic fairy leaves under our pillow. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Your given gene pool and the obstacles that you face don’t have to map out your weight loss future. The New York Times published an article basically blaming weight regain on genetics. This article became popular water cooler discussion, claiming that genetics predetermine your diet destination, and I feel compelled to tell you “NO!” How can one be expected to feel motivated to lose weight if they think it’s all going to come piling back? Your weight loss success is not PRE-anything.

Yes, a person with a family history of obesity is going to have to work harder at staying slim. But the brunette that wants to be blonde will also have to work harder because of her genetics. It doesn’t make either goal impossible. Don’t just settle on being overweight because someone tells you that you are destined to gain it all back. Adjust your diet and adjust your calories according to the curve ball life throws your way.

Dieting strategies will become your best friend. Everyone has a downfall when it comes to food, but as a dietician and author my job is to provide you with ways that you can overcome them. For instance, did you recently become a mother? You may suffer from “Little Devils,” which causes you to overeat when feeding your children and then sitting down to a second meal with your spouse. Is your new boss a raging you-know-what and ruining your life? Maybe you’re not sleeping at night and eating instead. I call this the “Late Night Shuffle.” These are just a few life examples that can come up, but there are tons of strategies to overcome these dieting devils, which are explained in my book “Bread is the Devil.”

Beautiful women — Elizabeth Taylor, Sandra Bullock, Jacqueline Onassis, to name a few — have shown us that life happens. Death, divorce, children and all of the above. The moral of my story? Both genetics AND situational events play a huge part in our dieting destination, but you don’t have to settle for that endpoint.

Take control, because no one else will do it for you.

Fad Dieting: It’s a Don’t, and Here’s Why

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What do Kate Middleton, Victoria Beckham and Kourtney Kardashian reportedly have in common? A nasty three-letter word. Can’t figure it out? It’s F-A-D. As in fad diet. I can’t even stifle my frustration, it’s a confusing and dangerous trend that dumbs down the science of nutrition and point fingers at unassuming foods, causing a tailspin to ensue. Sure, it makes perfect sense to inject female pregnancy hormones into your belly, or even better let’s exist on 500 calories a day and walk around with jars of baby food. If the newest thing was the “Air Diet” people would jump on the bandwagon and start saying “Gosh, I feel great, all I’ve had today is this amazing AIR! One thing you’ll never see me or any of my clients do is a fad diet. As a registered dietician, I believe in eating whole foods, as unprocessed as possible and not starving yourself. Where is that going to get you?

So what’s the problem with a fad diet anyway? Fad diets typically eliminate a food group, possibly causing nutrient deficiencies in your daily intake. I know it’s tempting to believe every diet claim that pops up on your morning show, but here are four questions you should ask yourself to determine if it’s actually legit:

1.) Where did the information come from?

Legit health claims come from academic institutions and medical centers. Research done by a food company always raises eyebrows. For example, most studies touting breakfast as the most important meal of the day are funded by huge cereal and grain companies…

2.) Is the information applicable to you?

If research found that a small group of 25-year-olds in Alaska tended to have lower cholesterol when eating salmon, take a moment to think. Are you in that age category? Are you from that region? Does your genetic or ethnic background even closely resemble theirs? If not, you should probably wait until larger studies are done among the masses before heading to Costco to buy that family pack of salmon. Don’t be a narcissist, not all nutrition research applies to you!

3.) Are the foods recommended appropriate for your diet?

Remember this: foods that are supposedly good for you are only going to help if they work into YOUR personal eating habits. Grapes are a convenient snack that travels well and tastes great. But, if you are prone to overeating pickable, poppable foods, they may not be the best thing for you. A hand fruit, such as an apple or orange, would probably be a better choice.

4.) Does it eliminate an entire food group?

Yes, my book may be called Bread is the Devil, but let’s clear things up. I’m not saying that all carbs are bad for you and that we shouldn’t eat them. It’s simply a commentary that refined carbs (like the ones we find in that piping hot bread basket) typically lead to eating more unhealthy foods like cookies, cakes and candy. I even encourage sandwiches! A turkey sandwich on whole wheat is a great lunch option. So don’t trust anything that tells you to eliminate a certain color food, or an entire food group for that matter.

Leave the science of nutrition up to the researchers in the lab. Everyday nutrition is not rocket science. Most importantly, remember that food is meant to be enjoyed. Every meal does not have to turn into a mini-crisis. You wouldn’t take on every single fashion trend that came your way (hello, neon leggings) so try not to do it with your diet.

Depression-Proof your Diet

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By now, it’s possible that you’ve adjusted to the time change and reveled in that extra hour of sleep we got on Sunday. Don’t forget that it comes with a heavy price tag. As the days get shorter and the sky turns darker your mood might take a devastating dip.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (with the ever so appropriate acronym SAD) tends to present itself in the fall and winter. But have no fear; depression proof nutrition is here!

Fats are where it’s at

Consider fats the stars of the show when it comes to regulating moods. Hydrogenated oils, better know as trans fat, have been under scrutiny for years because of their ability to increase LDL levels (bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL levels (good cholesterol). That’s barely half the story of these evil fats. In 2011, for the first time ever, researchers in Spain identified a link between trans fat and depression. Trans fat in the diet increased the risk of depression by almost 50 percent! Those who only ate “good fats” had a 35 percent reduction in mood disorders. For a quick refresher course in fats, my previous post, The Skinny on Fats can clear things up. In the meantime here are some brief guidelines:

  • Nuts and seeds contain polyunsaturated fats that can halt unhappiness in its tracks. Try sprinkling sunflower seeds on your salad, chopped walnuts in your oatmeal or sesame seeds as a topping for any type of protein.
  • Olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, contains polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which basically act as an antidepressant in the body. Combine with flavored vinegar (Martin Pouret found at the Williams-Sonoma store makes delicious ones) and use for salad dressing instead of store bought brands. Lightly brush olive oil on fresh veggies, top with salt and pepper, and broil in the oven.
  • The main purpose of trans fat is to extend the shelf life of a product. You will find it in most processed foods, packaged baked goods and fried foods. Think about what the appropriate shelf life of a food item should be before you buy it. If that muffin your about to eat can stay “fresh” for over a week, it probably has trans fat in it.

Beef up on B vitamins

Although there are eight B vitamins, the ones that may determine the status of your mood are folate, B6 and B12. They all work together in the body, so if you are lacking in one, chances are you’re lacking in a few.

Thanks to grain fortification, folate deficiency is pretty rare in the United States. When choosing foods naturally high in folate, think beans and greens! Spinach, asparagus and collard greens all score high in levels of folate, along with pinto, kidney and navy beans. Steam any deep green leafy vegetable, mix with cooked lentils and flavor with lemon juice for a meal that’s sure to boost your folate level.

B6 acts as a precursor for numerous cognitive reactions in the body, so it’s essential to make sure that you have enough. Garbanzo beans, chicken and tuna are some traditional sources, yet you’ll also find it in bulgur wheat, cottage cheese and winter squash.

Sub-par levels of B12 can cause restlessness, anxiety and irritability. Animal products such as beef and liver are terrific sources, but it’s also found in fortified cereal, milk and yogurt. Surprisingly, clams have one of the highest levels of B12 of any food. Try them steamed over a serving of whole-wheat pasta tossed lightly with olive oil. For fish fans, opt for salmon, rainbow trout or haddock to increase daily levels. Keep in mind as you get older your ability to absorb B12 decreases. Checking in on your status with a blood test never hurts.

Vitamin of the Year

If you listened to everything you read and saw in the media you would think Vitamin D cured everything. Maybe not, but low levels in the body have been directly linked to depression in adolescents, healthy adults, and the elderly population. Of course, short winter days and cold nights makes it a bit tricky to get an adequate amount from sunlight. Besides dairy products, copious amounts of Vitamin D are found in ocean products such as herring, salmon, halibut and oysters.

If you’re feeling down in the dumps, don’t fill up on carb-laden foods. Eating processed foods with simple carbohydrates will only cause severe dips in sugar levels and mood. Choose some of the foods listed above to get through the dreary, winter months.

Prepare, Eat, Repeat

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As far as habituation thresholds go, humans are pretty much the worst. It explains why we tire easily of the latest pop song playing like a broken-record on the radio, suddenly feel that we have no clothes in our closet even though we all claim to only buy things we’ll wear forever and become uninterested in an action-packed new game after obsessively playing it for a week. While it may seem as if we are over-stimulated and possibly on the verge of becoming the largest attention seeking generation, there is one area in which our short attention span may actually be beneficial… weight loss. A recent TIME Healthland article, “How Repetitive Foods Can Mean Weight Loss”, reviewed a studied published in this month’s The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claiming habitual meals lead to over-familiarization and simply humans get bored of eating the same thing so we start eating less. This isn’t something revolutionary, dieticians all over the US, myself included, have been counseling our patients to do just this, and the result is successful, long-term weight loss. So give it a try, bore yourself thin!

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