Calorie Bomb

So I recently came across this article by the New York Times, have you seen it? It takes a look at what 2,000 calories looks like at different restaurant chains. Two of my favorite vendors have made the list: Starbucks and Shake Shack. Oh Shake Shack. How I love you. But anyway.

What 2,000 Calories Looks Like

As my dad always said growing up, restaurants “steal your health and steal your wealth.” I definitely agree. On top of expecting to pay at least $10/person, if you’re ordering in from a restaurant or going out to eat, you really can’t say you know exactly what’s going into your food. Even if you get a salad, oftentimes the dressings are full of wacky ingredients that were probably never meant for human consumption. Not only that, but many many restaurants pour oil and butter into their dishes and onto their griddles, making its way onto your plate, causing the calories to add up.  Scary!!

Shack burger and cheesefries. Sometimes you just gotta indulge. Sorry. But not.
My meal: Shack burger and cheese fries. Sometimes you just have to indulge. Sorry. But not.

It’s pretty interesting to see what you can get for 2,000 calories at each restaurant chain. For some places like Subway, you can get a whole day’s worth of food, while at others (so sad, Shake Shack), you can blow it all in one meal. Some you can even chomp it all in one dish!!! I don’t know about you, but as I progressed through the article, I could feel my blood pressure rising! And then it nicely came back down when it showcased what you can make at home for 2,000 calories. Ah, nothing beats cooking at home.

Original picture can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/12/22/upshot/what-2000-calories-looks-like.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0
Original picture can be found here.

So when you do decide to go out to eat, what can you do to make sure you avoid consuming a whole day’s worth of calories in one meal? These are the tips I follow below:

  1. Research before. A lot of large chains like Chipotle, Starbucks, and salad places have nutrition calculators where you can build the meal you want and it will tell you all of the nutrition information. A lot of sit down restaurants also have their entire menus available online, and their nutrition information either on their website and/or on MyFitnessPal. Plan what you want to eat before you go so you know exactly how it will fit into your meal plan.
  2. Watch your drinks. It’s so easy to drink your calories. When you go out to eat, an alcoholic beverage, a regular soda, or a sweetened iced tea can add hundreds of calories to your meal. If you’re going to have a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, stick with only one and avoid really sugary drinks. Even with non-alcoholic drinks, go with diet soda over regular, or just have plain water with lemon or lime. Oh, and those milkshakes they show for almost every restaurant in the New York Times article? Skip them!! They’re NEVER worth it. My gallbladder hurts just thinking about them.
  3. Know your vocabulary. Words on the menu like “crispy,” “battered,” “fried,” “smothered,” or “breaded,” likely indicate the dish has loads of oil and is likely super high in fat and calories. Instead, look for words like “grilled,” “fresh,” “roasted,” “poached,” or “broiled,” as these describe lower-calorie cooking methods. A more comprehensive list can be found here.
  4. Be conscious of portion sizes and extras. I know, I know. A lot of health professionals will tell you that when you order your food, ask for a to-go box and immediately put half of your meal inside of it and save it for later. If you’re anything like me, though, this trick NEVER works. I always end up eating the first half, and then digging into the portion that I intended to save for later! If this happens to you too, and you know you’re probably going to eat your entire dish, try to avoid snacking on chips and salsa, bread, or whatever pre-meal goodies they put on the table. Stick to one breadstick or a handful of chips so you don’t overdo it. During the main course, be mindful of what you’re eating, focus on the flavor, texture, and experience of every bite so you can be aware of how much you’re eating, and you can stop much more easily when you’re satisfied, which means more for later!
  5. Edit where you can. If you’re really looking into losing weight/watching your calories, you can edit your meal or swap for healthier options. Get the grilled vegetables instead of French fries on the side of your sandwich or steak. Get mustard instead of mayonnaise. Whole wheat instead of white (pasta, pizza, etc.). Scrambled egg whites instead of scrambled eggs. Trim off the visible fat. Take the top bun off of your hamburger or ask for a lettuce wrap. Ask for the dressing on the side, and dip your fork in it before scooping up your salad. If you eat out a lot, these tricks are probably more useful.

But seriously, if you’re going out to eat for a special occasion, or going to a special restaurant, don’t be afraid to indulge. If you do find yourself eating out multiple times/week, these tips may be more helpful to keep from weighing you down.

What do you think of the article? Did your favorite dish make the list? What are some other ways you navigate unhealthy restaurant calorie bombs?

The Best Diets in 2015

First and foremost, HAPPY NEW YEAR! New Years Day is one of my favorite days of the year because: 1) I feel like it’s one big culmination of all the joy, family, and friends of the holiday season; and 2) I love the idea of starting with a clean slate. The new year is an opportunity to reevaluate your life. It’s a time to look back on the past year and see how you’ve grown as a person, what changes you have made, and think about the direction you want to take yourself in the year to come.

I’m going to be cliche here and say it,  you have to admit that this is a good time to try out and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Be it new eating habits or new fitness routines, we have just come off of a holiday season full of celebrations, fancy dinners, sugary cocktails, and cookies galore. Why not take the month of January as an opportunity to start with a clean slate?

Which brings me to the point of this post. For the past 5 years, US News has been putting out rankings of the country’s most popular diets. And they have just published  The Best Diets of 2015. To quote US News, the diets are ranked as follows:

“A panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed our profiles, added their own fact-finding and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.”

Here are just a few of my thoughts. This post may come off as biased, but these are my personal (and dare I say it, professional) opinions. You can find the full article here:

Best Diets 2015 – US News

The best diets overall, according to this article, are the DASH diet and TLC diets. As a registered dietitian working in a large city hospital, on two different cardiac units, I teach patients about both the DASH diet and TLC diet several times a day, every day. These diets discuss lowering sodium intake and trans fats and replacing them with more whole grains, healthy fats, and colorful fruits and vegetables. These diets really are amazing for everyone, not just people with heart issues, and can help you look better and feel better just by eliminating a lot of the processed foods that have infiltrated the typical American diet.

The best diets for weight loss are Weight Watchers and the Health Management Resources (HMR) diet. While I honestly have never even heard of the HMR diet, I must admit it does sound… interesting. I’m not the biggest fan of diets that include home food deliveries or shakes and meal replacement bars (like Jenny Craig or Medifest – both also made this list). I think a good weight loss diet shouldn’t have to incorporate a particular product made by a manufacturer to be successful. On the other hand, I think Weight Watchers is wonderful and I like that it incorporates real life techniques. I’ve done Weight Watchers myself in the past and found that it taught me how to prioritize healthier foods. It made me focus on eating foods like fruits and vegetables a habit that I still practice daily today.

I’m also really happy that the Volumetrics diet made this list again in 2015 (#6). Call me biased but I love this plan because it was created by Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition at Penn State, in a metabolic kitchen right next door to the research lab I worked in as an undergrad. BUT, Nittany pride aside, I do believe this diet has the research and the theory to back it up.

And finally, I have to say I’m kind of surprised that the Paleo diet came in last place for the second year in a row. Yes, I do think the Paleo diet is difficult to replicate in modern times, and I do love my legumes, whole grains, and cheese (which are alas, forbidden). But I think a lot of the key points behind it are pretty sound (focusing on lean meats and increasing fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds), and I definitely don’t think it’s worse than say, the Acid Alkaline diet and the Supercharged Hormone diet. I mean, really?

So, if you’re curious, take a moment to read this list and see if there’s anything out there you want to try in the new year. Some of these seem a little out there and whacky, which honestly makes me question the validity of this list, but there are a few good ones that may be worth your while.

Best of luck in achieving all your health and fitness goals that you have set for yourself this year, and Happy Eating!

Pass the Happy with ClassPass

Lately I’ve been living in a constant state of soreness, and I honestly find it amazing. Now that the weather is colder, it’s difficult to go outside and run. Interestingly, I’ve been taking (most of) my workouts indoors, and have been travelling all around the city with ClassPass. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned ClassPass before, but let me tell you a little bit more about it and why it is awesome.

ClassPass is basically a monthly gym membership, except there’s no central location, and it’s for people who love workout classes. I’ve belonged to several gyms in the past, and I found that I really only go for the classes. I need someone else to be constantly telling me what to do, challenge my body, and make my workouts interesting. I can’t just go to a gym and run aimlessly on an elliptical. Even if I do hop on a treadmill or elliptical machine, I always have to pick a pre-entered program that’s constantly switching up my speed or elevation.

But I digress. ClassPass partners with hundreds of boutique gyms and fitness studios throughout NYC (they’re quickly expanding to many other cities), and allows you to sign up for trendy, challenging, and fun classes for $99/month. I joined back in August and can honestly say it has changed my life for good. It’s addicting to scroll through the countless classes that are offered, and it’s always exciting to show up to a new studio or class without knowing what to expect. Several of my friends and coworkers are also on ClassPass, and it’s fun to catch up and bond by going to a class together. That being said, I was looking at my information on ClassPass and realized that I’m about to attend my 50TH CLASS!! I feel like I never stick with a fitness regimen for this long. The classes I take on ClassPass are so diverse that I feel as though my body, and my mind, just never get bored.

If you’re curious as to what type of classes they have to offer, a few my favorites include:

YOGA:

1. Om Factory

  • I take the aerial yoga class, just because it’s so different, and makes me feel like a graceful circus freak. Plus, the upper body strength needed to hold you up on that fabric is insane, and I’m honestly sore for days after this one.

2. Yoga Vida

  • This is just a really pretty studio (I’ve only been to the Union Square one), and their Vinyasa flow classes are held in a large lofty room.  They are usually heavily attended, but the atmosphere is friendly and I have yet to have a teacher who I didn’t immediately love.

3. Hot Yoga at New York Yoga

  • I really like how they offer the 60 minute class, because to be perfectly honest, I can’t stand to be in that room for more than an hour. I also landed my first headstand here without the wall, so this place holds a soft spot in my heart.

4. Exhale (Upper East Side Location)

  • This is technically a spa? I’m pretty sure, and while I haven’t actually gone here for any facials or massages, the locker rooms are to die for, and the yoga and barre classes aren’t too shabby either. I go here when I want to feel pampered and get relaxed.

SPINNING:

1. Flywheel

  • I really love any class offered by Flywheel. This place does not need an explanation and the dietitian in me loves that they offer free fruit (along with free spinning shoes, water bottles, and towels). I’m SO happy ClassPass gives me access to all their studios in the city.

2. Peloton Cycle

  • This place blows me away, it’s SO NICE. The 45 minute Live DJ Rides on Fridays are the absolute best way to kick off your weekend; they’re like a dance party that also happens to torch calories, win/win.

3. SWERVE Fitness

  • SWERVE is another gorgeous spin studio, but their classes are unique in that they split the room up into teams and are competition-focused, which pushes me to go harder.

MISCELLANEOUS:

1. Chaise Fitness

  • This class is an infusion of pilates, ballet, and I honestly don’t even know what else, with the utilization of an overhead bungee system. All I know is that it’s challenging and a constant arm workout, but it’s super fun and the classes fly by.

2. CityRow

  • CityRow offers group rowing classes where half the time is spent doing drills on a rowing machine, and the other half is on a mat working with weights. It reminds me of a spin class because they blast fun and motivating music, but it’s honestly much harder. I love.

3. Throwback Fitness

  • Throwback Fitness is just plain fun. They incorporate games that are reminiscent of recess in middle school, except are more challenging. You get a real sense of camaraderie in this studio and everyone seems to become friends by the end.

2. The Fhitting Room

  • Oh dear this studio is tough, so sign up with a friend or two. They offer high intensity interval training classes (HIIT), which are taught by 2 instructors. The dynamic between the instructors is fun and they usually give good individualized attention. This was probably the most challenging class I’ve taken to date, and I can’t wait to go back.

3. Uplift

  • This really adorable studio is for women only, and their Strength and HIIT classes are enjoyable. I always have an empowering workout when I go here.

CLASSES I REALLY WANT TO TRY:

These are just a sampling of my favorites and the classes that are next on my list to try. You can see how you just can’t get bored. These classes are also great opportunities for cross training if you’re a runner, and in my opinion, help to make me a more well-rounded athlete.

ClassPass is also available in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Philly, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. It’s really awesome how much it has expanded since I started taking classes. Also, their customer service is wonderful, and they always run great promotions. If you think you want to sign up, I highly recommend trying it for a couple of months. Even if you don’t think it’s for you, hopefully this list can lead you to a cool new workout that you do want to try. With ClassPass, I know for a fact that I have been brought out of my comfort zone and my little fitness shell, and I’m never going back to the boring elliptical.

OMFactory Union Square
But really what’s an elliptical?

Are you on ClassPass? Do you have a favorite class that didn’t make the list? If you’re not on ClassPass, do you have another fun workout place that you go to? Sound off in the comments!

Oats

Like avocados, oats are another amazing super food that I just can’t seem to like. OR, maybe it’s just that I’ve been eating them wrong my whole life. I’m part of the minority that loves oatmeal cookies, however I CAN’T STAND the taste or texture of oatmeal. Again, like the avocado, something about the mushiness really puts me off. Which is a shame, because oats are an amazing food that have a lot to offer.

Oats are high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which together increase satiety or fullness; reduce blood cholesterol levels; and protect against obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. One cup of oats yields a surprising amount of protein: 10g to be exact, which is a little bit more than an egg. Oats are additionally good sources of potassium, iron, and magnesium. The two most popular varieties are steel cut oats and rolled oats, or old fashioned oats. Steel cut oats are less processed, and therefore sit lower on the glycemic index (how high a person’s blood sugar spikes after consumption) than rolled oats, however both foods are otherwise nutritionally similar. I tend to buy the rolled oats, as they stay fresher longer.

And fortunately for me, there are many ways to enjoy the super nutritional benefits of oats that don’t involve mixing them with water to turn out a gooey, mushy product. For instance, they can be mixed with nut butters to make delicious, portable, and convenient energy bites, or they can be combined with a few ingredients to make a quick cookie. My favorite way to enjoy oats, however, is via smoothie. I found this recipe on Instagram (@immaeatthat – sidenote: this girl has multiple recipes that use oats, and they all look phenomenal. Check out her blog here.) and adapted it to my own tastes by adding a dash of maple syrup and using pumpkin spice instead of pure cinnamon. This smoothie is super quick, easy, satisfying, and most importantly, DELICIOUS. 

Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

Yields: 1 smoothie, or 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 dash vanilla extract
  • 1 dash lite maple syrup
  • 1 dash pumpkin spice, or cinnamon

1. Put all of the ingredients into a blender, blend until smooth.

2. Top with cereal, additional spices, or whatever you like.

3. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts per smoothie: Calories: 275; Total fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 35 mg; Sodium: 191 mg; Total Carb: 52g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Protein: 18g

Do you have a non-conventional way to enjoy oats? Share in the comments!

Cleanse with Caution

Welcome to December, where we find ourselves on the other side of Thanksgiving and it’s officially acceptable to get excited about the holiday season. People bring in holiday treats to the office on a daily basis “just because” and it’s easy to lose sight of health and fitness goals. Our healthy habits that we’ve spent all year incorporating into our daily lives tend to unravel away as we allow ourselves to indulge in party after party, and treat after treat. Many people turn into panic mode at this time of year as they see the numbers on the scale slowly begin to creep up. A quick fix that many people turn to is the juice cleanse. Juice cleanses are often marketed as a tool to jumpstart weight loss, promote health, and rid the body of all things evil (cough sugar cookies cough).

But are cleanses even that good for you? Are they even safe? Do they actually work? There’s a lot of information out there, and I looked at two different articles that promoted opposite sides of the juice cleanse. I think after reading both, the information is still just as jumbled.

The Real Reasons Juice Cleanses Can Get Your Health Back on Track

Summary Points:

  • This article was written by a doctor, so it’s probably a respectable resource.
  • Drinking juices allows the gut to rest and not work as hard, so phytonutrients can be absorbed more easily.
  • Cleanses rest the liver, which is often overloaded with toxins, so much so that it can’t keep up with how much junk we put into our body.
  • Cleanses do the thinking for us, we don’t have a choice in what to eat so it breaks the habit of making unhealthy choices.
  • Cleanses jumpstart weight loss by curbing the appetite and providing a naturally hypocaloric diet, so your body will “naturally start losing weight.”
  • Juicing ensures proper hydration, allowing metabolic and bodily functions to carry out more efficiently.

OK, OK, but what about the opposite side of juice cleansing. Why is it so polarizing and why do so many people advise against it?

4 Myths About Juice Cleansing

Summary Points:

  • Cleanses and juicing programs that last 3-5 days (the typical length) are expensive.
  • There’s no scientific evidence backing long-term health benefits claims made by juicing companies.
  • A healthy set of lungs and kidneys, as well as liver and GI tract are in a constant state of cleansing and detoxifying the body, so why do you need juice to do what your body already does naturally?
    • In regards to the “overtoxifying” point made in the previous article above, if your liver was not able to handle the overload of toxins you ingest, well, you would likely be dead by now.
  • The weight loss from juice cleanses is likely from water elimination, as the body burns through its glucose stores for energy, it pulls water out with it.
  • The lack of calories leads to irritability, shakiness, headaches, as well as constipation from a lack of fiber.
  • The “glow” many people experience from a cleanse may just be psychological.
  • The weight loss is unsustainable, rendering juice cleanses a “quick fix.”

So what’s the verdict? Both articles bring out excellent points, though on opposite sides of one another. I’m leaning clearly towards the second article, which also happens to be backed by a dietitian. I just simply don’t see how cleanses can really detoxify your body and jump start healthy weight loss.

From what I learned throughout graduate school and my dietetic internship, providing an inadequate amount of calories can put your body in starvation mode, encouraging it to hold on to as much fat as possible (your long-term energy storage) while expelling protein, causing you to lose muscle mass. Additionally, your liver and kidneys are natural detoxifying agents; providing them with easy-to digest juice is not going to lighten their workload any more. If anything an abundance of these nutrients is only going to be expelled in the urine (except for the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K). Additionally, the juices eliminate the pulp and skins of the fruits, which contain all the fiber. The fiber slows down the absorption of the good nutrients and allows the GI tract more time to get all of those nutrients into the bloodstream. Fiber also slows down sugar absorption, so taking these juices that are naturally high in sugars while eliminating the fiber can lead to blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes. Not good. This may not be the case in juices that are made mainly of vegetables (with one or two fruits to flavor it, like lemon and an apple), but still, these mainly-veggie juices may lack adequate fiber.

My personal advice: If you find that you’re slipping off track during this time of year, don’t be so hard on yourself. Allow yourself the treats and holiday cookies, just don’t go overboard. Instead of eating 5 cookies in the office, try to only eat 2. Make sure the rest of the meals you eat throughout the day are in line with your personal health goals. If you want to keep your weight down, load up on healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins like you normally do. Continue to fit in exercise into your daily routine. When at a party, try to be mindful by savoring every flavor and don’t show up hungry, so you’re the one making the choices, not your grumbling stomach. If you still want to try a juice cleanse, that’s fine, just try to eat at least 1 meal per day that consists of healthy, real, non-pulverized fruits and vegetables with protein.

A cleanse is a simple fix. You’ve been doing so well all year, so why change what you’re doing now? Keep working at building up your healthy habits, because that is what’s going to give you the long-term benefits.

What are your thoughts on juice cleanses? Have you ever done one? What was your experience? Sound off in the comments!

And happy eating!!

Thanksgiving Sides That Won’t Leave You Stuffed

The weather is getting colder, the leaves are falling off the trees, the wind is slapping you in the face with mucho gusto. The fall is ushering its way out and winter. is. coming. This bittersweet turn of the season means it’s time for my favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. I find that nothing is better than a day devoted to family, food, and football. However, Thanksgiving also kicks off the holiday season, which can mean day after day of holiday cookies, festive cocktails, and other forms of celebrations that can lead to hundreds of excess calories a day. Not that indulging every now and then is a bad thing. You should never feel like you need to deprive yourself of anything. But, if you want to stay healthy throughout the holiday season, there’s no better place to start then at the beginning, Thanksgiving. Here are a few ideas to get you going…

1) This Caramelized Butternut Squash. It combines two of some of my favorite ingredients of all time (butternut squash and brown sugar) to make a vibrant, sweet, and comforting starch that would balance out any Thanksgiving plate without tipping over the scales the next morning. I swapped out the butter in the recipe for 2 tablespoons of olive oil to cut back on cholesterol and calories, and felt that it didn’t make much of a difference in how the brown sugar cooked in the oven, but feel free to stick to the recipe or add any additional spices that you want.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: Calories: 228; Total fat: 5g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium: 297 mg; Total Carb: 49g; Fiber:7g; Protein: 3g.

2) This healthy peanut butter brownie recipe is a good dessert option for Thanksgiving, or for any holiday party. It’s made with boxed Devil’s Food Cake Mix and, get this, a can of pumpkin puree. And that’s it! This recipe comes straight from Hungry Girl, a great website that offers lower-calorie recipes and interesting snack ideas. Now, I have to admit, while making this the batter looks quite questionable, and I had to resist adding more liquid like an extra egg or water (the batter gets THICK). But, the finished product is actually light and quite tasty, and I gave it to my unknowing friends who said that they were delicious, and couldn’t detect a drop of pumpkin flavor.

The original recipe for the peanut butter pumpkin brownies can be found here, I used Peanut Butter and Co’s Smooth Operator peanut butter as opposed to reduced fat peanut butter because, to be perfectly honest, that peanut butter is just soooooooo good.

Seen here with Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Frozen Yogurt and some frozen blueberries (not included in the nutrition info).

Nutrition Facts per Serving (using full fat peanut butter, sorry Hungry Girl!): Calories: 154; Total fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 240 mg; Total Carbs: 26g; Fiber: 2g; Protein: 3g.

What are some of your favorite healthy Thanksgiving/Holiday treats?

Also, can you tell that I love the color orange/any and all orange vegetables??

GREEK YOGURT SOS!!!

I really want to go to Greece. The plate smashing, the bright blue waters, the history, and of course, the Greek yogurt. There’s no snack that I find more versatile and delicious. Greek yogurt is more extensively strained than regular yogurt, removing much of the liquid, whey, and lactose, leading to the thicker texture that we all know (and hopefully love). Greek yogurt serves up more protein per ounce than regular yogurt, rendering it a healthful and powerful snack that keeps you fuller for longer.

HOWEVER, when perusing the dairy aisles for a good Greek yogurt, I’ve noticed that there is now A TON of different options. It’s hard to sit in the aisle looking at all the different labels to determine which one is the best, so I went ahead and did it for you!

I researched 3 (of probably the most, at least in my opinion) popular Greek yogurt companies and compared their strawberry non-fat Greek yogurts. I also threw in a new company on the rise, which technically isn’t a Greek yogurt but is considered an Icelandic Skyr (thicker than Greek yogurt, if you can imagine, but very comparable flavor and nutrition-wise).*

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 9.39.56 PM

*Note: I typically buy the 2% or full fat versions of these yogurts just for taste and mouth-feel purposes, and used 0% fat (or fat free) here in order to make sure I’m comparing apples to apples.

The bottom line: Do you notice how when you take away the flavor and go for the plain yogurt, the sugar drops (the only sugar in plain yogurt is the naturally-occurring lactose, or milk sugar) and the protein shoots up? Of the flavored yogurts, Chobani has the most amount of protein, but also the most amount of sugar, 23 g is NO joke. 1 teaspoon of sugar = about 4g, so just imagine dumping 5 spoonful’s of sugar into the little yogurt container, it’s a lot! Siggi’s has the least amount of sugar with a still impressive amount of protein. The Fage and the Yoplait are pretty much comparable in sugar and protein content.

In my opinion, the best option is to go with the plain Fage (only 10 more calories as the Chobani, but with 3 more grams of protein, which I think outweighs the fact that it has a little bit more sugar considering the serving size for the Fage is 6oz, compared to the Chobani which is 5.3 oz), and dress it up on your own accoutrements, such as real fruit, nuts, granola, berries, and sweeteners like honey. For instance, one of my favorite breakfasts to bring to work is plain Greek yogurt, frozen tropical fruit, and salted roasted cashews with a ½ packet of Splenda. If you must go with a flavored yogurt, buy the Fage or a Chobani “fruit at the bottom” variety where you can control how much of the fruit/sugar mixture you actually mix in, and try to only eat half of the entire flavoring.

So hopefully this helps the next time you’re stuck blocking up the dairy aisle with a blank stare on your face (we’ve all been there, right? No? Just me? OK then). Happy eating!

Race Recap: The New York City 10k

This past weekend I ran my 2nd 10k in 1 month. I seriously can’t believe it. I used to hate exercise, specifically running, and now I feel like I’m signing up for races left and right. I committed to this particular race, The New York City 10K, on a complete whim. Still riding the runners high off of the Run 10 Feed 10, my roommate told me she signed up for this race that was a mere 3 weeks after. Blame FOMO (fear of missing out), because I immediately felt the need to sign up. The race was held on Roosevelt Island and had a much smaller feel than the Run 10 Feed 10. While my roommate had to unfortunately miss it due to a lingering illness, I braved the chilly morning and headed out there by myself. This race went along MUCH MORE smoothly than my first 10K 3 weeks prior. If you recall, I wanted to die on at least 3 separate occasions during the Run 10 Feed 10. However, this race felt like the total and complete opposite. Here’s what went down…

I stepped off the tram that was full of a ton of other runners and wandered onto the receiving field. This particular race was not sponsored by any large company, and it didn’t have any charities associated with it either. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. I kind of like the idea of forking over a registration fee and running a race if you’re going to help a greater cause, rather than some unknown business, but I digress. I milled about for around 30 minutes as more and more people started showing up. It was SUPER cold and I had a running jacket on, and I wasn’t sure what I should do with it, because I tend to heat up. I figured I would run with it unzipped so at least the timer on my bib would technically be on the “outer most layer” aka not covered up by a running jacket. Before I knew it the race started and I was off.

Miles 1-3: I kept a steady, very slow pace (like a typical jogging pace for me) and just cruised. And cruised. And took in the different sites of NYC from the perspective of Roosevelt Island. At one point I was getting annoyed with my unzipped jacket so I put my phone in my mouth and tied it around my waist. Classy. And then I cruised some more. If you recall I was dead by mile 3 of the Run 10 Feed 10. I hit the halfway point of this race though and just kept on cruising.

Mile 4: I zoned out on mile 4. Don’t remember a thing.

Mile 5: I snapped back to reality on mile 5. This is a race – start challenging yourself! I picked up the pace and felt like I brought up my effort level from about a 75% to 90%.

Mile 6: I turned a slight corner and saw the finish line way off in the distance and I started FLYING. I don’t think I’ve ever sprinted like that before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had enough energy at the end of a run to sprint at full speed for 30 seconds or more. I flew over the finish line and felt elated! I didn’t even want to stop. I felt like I had a few miles more in me to go and I couldn’t help but smile as they handed me a HUGE medal that’s literally the size of my face. I asked a random stranger to take my picture and headed back on the tram home feeling accomplished.

Things that I had going for me for this race that really helped me compared to my first 10K:

  1. The start time. This race started at 8 as opposed to 7, which meant I was able to wake up at 6:30 and nibble on a little bit of food, as opposed to 5 AM which just feels way too early for me to even think of doing anything. I was also able to get in a little more sleep as opposed to my first 10K, where I had to be all the way across town ready to go by 6:55 AM.
  2. The weather. The temperature was about 45 degrees, which is cold, but I’ll take it any day over the hazy humid day of the Run 10 Feed 10. The air was crisp and felt good in my lungs, even though I was still kind of fighting a little cold, and overall I just felt more healthy and breathed more easily during this race.
  3. The course. This may have made some people angry, but the actual race course was kind of narrow, which caused a little bit of traffic, which helped me slow it down and pace myself with the people around me.
  4. My game plan/attitude. My goal for this race was to do the entire thing without walking, and I knew the only way I could do that was to fight the adrenaline at the start that tempts me to run like I stole something way too early out the gate. The first 3 miles I tried to keep it super slow, about 30 seconds slower than my race-pace (so about a 9:50 minute mile), and that helped me conserve my energy and not get blown out like a candle on a birthday cake too soon.

So, I think I like the way I handled this race a lot better, and it lead to a much more enjoyable experience. I am already looking forward to my next race coming up soon (who am I??).

This time kills me.
This time kills me.
I think we spotted the finish line RUNNN
I think we spotted the finish line RUNNN

race1

All smiles. No suicidal ideations.
All smiles. No suicidal ideations.



Do you have any other good racing strategies? Also can we talk about my hair and the little bubble/helmet/headband thing it has going on? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Fascinating World of Farmers’ Markets

This past week I took the day off and wandered down to the amazing Union Square Greenmarket – a large farmers’ market that offers seasonal and regional fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and baked goods from 140 vendors. This market is humongous and full of produce, and I love that I get to see what familiar foods are SUPPOSED to look like, as opposed to the uniformed, shiny, waxy looking produce that you see in supermarkets. The stuff you find at the farmers’ market is the real deal, truly dirt candy, that you can buy and eat in the way that nature intended. However, I’ll admit, the market is also brimming with foods that I have never seen before, and that I may not know what it is or how to eat it. That being said, it’s still really fun to go in and explore the different stalls and learn about different fruits and vegetables that I don’t get to see every day.

http://instagram.com/p/hyxLc_v3GE/?modal=true

Look at that BUTTernut squash (I bought this at a farmers’ market almost a year ago and still find this hysterical)

So, the farmers’ market can be really great, and even though I love food and like to think I’m an adventurous eater, I tend to get very overwhelmed when I browse through the seemingly endless maze of stalls. These are my personal tips for navigating a large farmers’ market, and how to experience it in the best possible way:

1) Go in with a plan

If I go to the farmers’ market without a list, there is a 100% chance I will end up with a million things that I will never actually eat or cook, and will just sit in my refrigerator slowly rotting. Go in with a recipe or a shopping list and only buy a reasonable amount of each food (i.e. 1 bulb of garlic, 2 onions, 2 tomatoes, 1 carton of berries, 1 loaf of bread, etc. etc., etc.) so that it doesn’t spoil and you don’t waste your money. I find that the foods at the farmers’ market spoil a lot more quickly than they do when bought from the supermarket.

2) But don’t be afraid to browse

Farmers’ markets are a great way to kill some time. Look at the flowers, the weird looking plants, the freshly baked goods and jams, and wander the rows and rows of fresh produce. It’s visually pleasing and mentally relaxing.

3) Try something new

Don’t be afraid to try a vegetable, fruit, or herb that you’ve never tried before. I went with a coworker once and she bought kohlrabi – a vegetable that I have never heard of before and was too afraid to buy. We make many regrettable choices in life, and not buying that exotic kohlrabi is one of mine (am I a food geek? Yes, this last sentence absolutely proves that I am).

4) And stick to your staples.

I always buy the same produce at the grocery store: onions, carrots, celery, spinach, grape tomatoes, a few apples, bananas, and garlic. All of these are common staples at the farmers’ market, and are offered in different varieties and strains to help me switch up my daily flavors. Think orange and yellow tomatoes, different varieties of lettuce, colorful purple carrots, etc.  They’re also sold at a much cheaper price than at the supermarket. The food at the farmers’ market is likely better than organic foods and are a fraction of the price.

5) Touch everything (ew). 

Make sure what you’re buying is in good condition and ripe (or not yet ripe, depending on the food). Don’t be afraid to really feel what your food is supposed to feel like in its most natural state.

6) Wash everything (ok, good). 

I mean, just reread number 5. This one should be self-explanatory.

7) Talk to the vendors

There’s no better way to learn about about the food you eat than to talk to the source directly. Sometimes I feel that living in the middle of the city where takeout rules what’s for dinner and there’s not a tree in sight makes me feel detached from nature and wholesome foods. Interacting with who is tending to your food and getting to know more about where your food comes from gives you a deeper appreciation for what you’re eating, which in my opinion makes the whole cooking and eating experience all the richer.

So, this past weekend when I went to the market, I went in with a recipe in mind: this Butternut Squash Gruyere soup from one of my favorite food blogs: How Sweet Eats. I can’t even begin to tell you how rewarding it was to buy all of the ingredients (except for the butter, oil, spices, cheese, and chicken stock) from local farmers. I even think it made the soup taste more velvety, wholesome, and nourishing. So go online or to pinterest and find a recipe that looks good and go. OR, take one of your go-to dinner recipes and switch it up by buying the ingredients locally, see how the flavors change or if it makes you feel any differently!

To find a local farmers’ market near your area in the US, click here.

Check out the recipe for the soup HERE.

Note: I excluded the coconut milk to cut back the calories and used only about 2 oz of cheese as opposed to 6 oz because I honestly did not want to sit there and grate 6 oz of cheese (so time consuming!). The soup still came out absolutely wonderfully and the chickpeas on top added an awesome spicy crunch. This soup also tastes amazing when topped with walnuts and gorgonzola. Enjoy!!

Brace Yourself, the Pumpkins are Coming

Linus from Charlie Brown was on to something when he sat around for hours on Halloween waiting for the Great Pumpkin. In fact, his obsession with the pumpkin has made me think that he was quite the trendsetter. Seeing that we are well into my favorite season of Fall, I’ve noticed that everyone has officially gone off their rocker, and pumpkin is cropping up in everything. EVERYTHING. So far I’ve seen the likes of pumpkin spiced lattes (of course), lip gloss, yogurt, Pringles, even hummus.

But, I deplore you to stay away from these pumpkin-themed foods (yes, even the latte). For the most part, the flavor in these products comes from chemicals and artificial flavoring, and are not the real deal.

Enter one of my favorite supermarket buys in the fall and winter months: a can of pumpkin puree. A brand that I trust is Libby’s and the ingredients list reads: PUMPKIN. And that’s it. To compare, the ingredients in Pumpkin Spice flavoring syrup used in Starbucks reads as: “SUGAR, CONDENSED NONFAT MILK, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, ANNATO (FOR COLOR), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, CARAMEL COLOR, SALT, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE),” and can be found here.

Real pumpkin offers so many health benefits, and all of these pumpkin-flavored imitators offer none of them. That’s why I choose to skip the imposters and buy the pumpkin puree, which is versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes. Like applesauce and other fruit purees, pumpkin can substitute butter and oil in baking recipes to provide that wonderful fall flavor while upping the nutrient value. Click here to learn how to substitute butter and oil with pumpkin in your favorite baking recipes.

More importantly, the bright orange color, as seen in the sweet potato, is enough to tell you that the pumpkin is bursting with nutrients. Pumpkins are a great source of potassium and magnesium, which help to lower blood pressure; vitamin C, to boost immunity and to fight those winter colds; and fiber, which not only keeps you super full but also improves GI health, lowers blood cholesterol, and prevents blood sugar spikes. Not to mention there is only 1g of sugar and 0g of fat in a 1/2 cup serving of pumpkin puree, so it’s truly good for your waistline (unlike the Pumpkin Spice Latte syrup mentioned above, which is seriously just pure sugar and empty calories).

My favorite, and probably also the easiest, way to eat pumpkin is in a smoothie. This recipe is great for breakfast, after a workout, or even dessert, and, it’s made even better when topped with this yogurt dip that I’m now obsessed with made by Something Swanky (find her original recipe and post here). 

Pumpkin Spiced Cinnamon Shake

Servings: 1, Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 0 minutes.

Ingredients

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 banana, frozen

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 scoop vanilla whey protein

1 T honey

1/2 tsp pumpkin spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and mix until silky smooth. Best when eaten with a spoon and/or slurped with a straw (depending on the thickness and your mood on that given day).

Demolished.

Nutrition Information (for shake only, excluding the yogurt dip): Calories: 309, Total Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 45g, Total Carb: 55g, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Protein: 22g. *

*This recipe meets 158% of your Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin A, 19% DV of potassium, 20% DV of Vitamin C, 38% DV of Calcium, and 14% of Iron, woo!

How do you like to cook with pumpkin? Have you seen any other bizarre foods that have been pumpkin spice-ified? Sound off in the comments!