Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Steer Clear of Stomach Cramps

Nothing is faster to dampen mid-run euphoria than stomach cramps. Cramping can be debilitating, painful and put an unanticipated stop to your run. If you are experiencing intestinal distress a couple times or more a week, check out this month’s ‘Ask the Dietitian’ from Trail Runner Magazine

Monday, June 23, 2014

What is Carb Back-loading?

Carbohydrate (carb) loading is a well-known nutrition method that endurance athletes have been
practicing for ages. The classical regimen of carb loading involves a 3-day “depletion phase” of hard training and low carbohydrate intake, followed by a 3-day “loading phase” of tapered training and high carbohydrate intake before an event lasting more than 90 minutes.

What you may or may not have heard of before is carbohydrate back-loading which is a technique that is most popular in the world of weightlifters and bodybuilders. Carb back-loading piqued my interest after reading Pam Smith’s account on how she was able to win the 2013 Western States 100 mile endurance run. Pam wasn't about to give up her “carboholic” lifestyle and instead worked with a fitness professional to find an eating style that provided her with metabolic benefits, yet also fit her lifestyle.

Carb back-loading is a form of intermittent fasting. You eat little to no carbs during the morning and early afternoon hours until after a late afternoon workout when you have free carbohydrate reign. Carb intake then continues for the rest of the day. The concept behind this regimen plays to the daily rise and fall of insulin sensitivity in muscle and fat cells and the exercise-induced increase in insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. The theory posits that carbohydrates should be consumed at a time (after exercise) when it is used for glycogen storage gains in the muscle cells rather than for fat storage in fat cells. By depleting glycogen stores early in the day, you increase insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells so that when you do eat carbs, they are transported to muscle cells rather than fat cells.

This post is not a judgment of this dietary pattern; it is simply meant to bring awareness to readers of a style of eating that may pick up in popularity (especially if Pam wins again this weekend!) There are only a handful of studies looking at the effects of carb back-loading with most “facts” coming from anecdotal evidence.  As with any diet, don’t be afraid to be a skeptic, do some research and ask questions. Keep an open mind. Nutrition is a science, but one with no explicit scientific answer. So we keep experimenting, keep questioning and keep testifying.

What is your experience with carb back-loading? Have you dabbled in carb back-loading or know of someone who has benefited from this pattern of eating?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Peanut Butter Alternatives: Are they better than Regular?

A day is not complete without the creamy—sometimes crunchy—stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth goodness that can only be experienced with peanut butter.

This month's 'Ask the Dietitian' compares the most popular brands of low-fat, low-calorie peanut butter alternatives, Better’n Peanut Butter and PB2, with natural peanut butter.

Visit and check it out!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Eat + Mind = Full

To be mindful is to be attentive, intuitive and conscientious. These adjectives are not typically used to describe the eating patterns of most Americans. We live in a culture where eating is usually an afterthought, something to satisfy hunger, emotions and boredom. For some, it is even an inconvenience.

Three big factors that influence our ability or desire to eat mindfully are food rules, manipulation from the media and a perceived lack of time.

1. Food rules

Breakfast is from 6-10am, lunch at noon and dinner before 7pm. While our bodies like patterns and consistency, these implicit guidelines imply that there is only a small window of opportunity to seek out certain nutrients. We have learned to listen to external cues rather than internal cues for resolution on when, where, what and how much to eat.

2. Media manipulation

Food marketers are experts in knowing what piques consumer’s interest and attention. Visual seductions, fat shaming and playing with the chemicals in our brain have all been successful schemes in putting diners under a spell.  When we turn inward for answers, we are able to resist marketing temptations and disarm their tactics.

3. Lack of time

I hear it all the time: I just don’t have the time. Kids, career, finances, fatigue, stress—you name it, all stand in the way of being more thoughtful in how we think about food. I really believe that lack of time translates to lack of priority because when we stop and think about it, we make time for the things that are important to us.

Since we eat 3+ times a day and food is a big indicator of our health and the quality of our lives, my hope is that over time more and more people understand how important what, when, where, why and how we eat really is—with mind intact. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Saturated Fat: Redemption

Saturated fat is making a comeback after a recent meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that, “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD [cardiovascular disease].”

Saturated fat is found in dark meats, whole milk, low-fat milk, full fat cheese and yogurt made from whole milk and butter. For years nutritional science has shown correlation between high saturated fat intakes and heart disease, and therefore, has established guidelines to limit consumption to no more than 7% of calories.

This news has sparked heated conversations between saturated fat supporters and opposers.

We live in a “this is good and this is bad” culture. When you realize that this way of thinking does not apply to your diet, things get a lot less confusing. Rather than good or bad, think of a food or nutrient on a spectrum.  When comparing a piece of salmon with a steak, the salmon is more nutritious, but when you compare a steak with a doughnut the steak is more nutritious.

Dietary fat is just one factor that drives heart disease risk.  More and more emphasis is –and should be—placed on the total lifestyle factors. Obesity, genetics, sedentary lifestyles, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress and lack of sleep are just as detrimental to health as saturated fat, refined carbohydrates, cholesterol or sugar.

When you look at the big picture instead of a piece of the puzzle, things start to make a lot more sense.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Need More Nutrients?

How do I know that I am getting enough nutrients?
It is a question that many a runner wonders. This month's 'Ask the Dietitian' touches on how you can detect nutrient deficiencies without breaking the bank.
Visit and check it out!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oh, My Kid Won’t Eat That

“Susie doesn't like tomatoes. She tried one when she was 4 years old and spit it right out! So our family doesn't eat any tomatoes.”

Oftentimes parents are distressed with their child’s unwillingness to eat more fruits and vegetables and succumb to giving them the same repertoire of staples such as chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and other kid-friendly favorites. Your child’s fickle appetite is not an acceptable barrier to preparing healthy meals for your family.

It is so important to engage your children in healthy eating habits from an early age not only for growth and development, but so that when they are older, they will seek out healthy foods during unsupervised times with their friends. Research has shown that children who have healthy eating habits from an early age are physically and mentally healthier later in life.

According to a 2007 review in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, “the most important determinant of a child's liking for a particular food is the extent to which it is familiar. Put simply, children like what they know and they eat what they like. From the very earliest age, children's experiences with food influence both preferences and intake, and research suggests that the earlier and broader that experience, the healthier the child's diet. “

It may take 5, 10, up to 50 times for your child to accept a new food. So don’t give up; keep trying!

Be a role model. Chances are, if your child sees you enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables they will be more willing to eat them too.

Teach your child why it is important to eat healthy. Tell them that by eating their greens they will have strong muscles and bones so they can grow up to be a firefighter or a professional athlete.

Try preparing foods in a new or different way. Bake, boil, steam, roast, sauté; raw, cooked, wrapped, hidden, animal-shaped—there are endless possibilities of food preparation. Get creative!

Let your child help with grocery shopping and meal preparation. Getting them involved gives them ownership and responsibility and increases the likelihood that they want to eat them food they helped to make.

Dine out. Sometimes a new environment is enough to inspire your child to try something new.

Be patient and don’t force food. Pressuring your child to eat certain vegetables or fruit may cause them to feel negative about those foods and create unhealthy eating behaviors and patterns.

Serve family style rather than dishing up their plate. Let them choose from what is on the table, making sure that there is at least one dish the child is sure to enjoy.

Stick to a routine as much as possible. Your child will be prepared to eat and less likely to snack when they know a meal is coming.

The ultimate goal is for meal time to be a positive, relaxed experience for the whole family. It is an opportunity to grow together and learn more about each other while created healthful habits that will last a lifetime. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Okay, Dietitian, What do you Think About…

When some people find out that I am a dietitian, they are excited to share with me their latest diet, tell me how many pounds they have lost or ask me my thoughts on a particular supplement. I have been a dietitian for 2 years now and during this relatively short period of time I have grown, not only as a professional, but as a person. I have become a better listener, more empathetic. I am more patient (even though sometimes I am thinking, ‘Just shut up and eat it!’).

Today is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, a time to reflect on what being a dietitian means to me and thank all of the people in my life who have supported my career. I was always a straight-A student, but no lesson or textbook could prepare me for what the real world has offered. Sometimes I leave a client or group having more questions than them or feeling unsatisfied and obsessing over my answers. I have had days when I felt I have changed someone’s life for the better or made somebody’s day. I have had days when I have felt hopeless and defeated.

I have learned that being a ‘nutrition expert’ doesn’t mean that we have the right answers every time. Nutrition is an ever-evolving field and it is hard to keep up. What we dietitians are able to do is give you sound information and peace of mind that there is no one prescribed way to live and eat healthfully. Nutrition, diet and food are very personal. People have very strong thoughts, opinions and beliefs about what is right for their body, oftentimes based on the latest diet or study that the media is presently propagating. I am here to make sure that your eating patterns are positive, enabling you to live your life fully, and that you have a healthy relationship with food. Dietitians are a source of direction, motivation and support –key aspects that are often lacking when one sets out to lose weight or get fit.

Nutrition is a keystone in all of our lives and I am fortunate to be one of the many leaders bringing awareness to what it means to be healthy.  Thank you to everyone who reads my articles, my clients and my colleagues for your feedback, support and continuing education.

I love what I do.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Carbonation's Effect on Calcium

Google 'carbonated water and calcium absorption' and get page after page of concerned drinkers asking if consuming sparkling water is interfering with bone health. 

This month's 'Ask the Dietitian' from, answers the question and examines the link between carbonated beverages, calcium absorption and bone density. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Keeping Portions on your Plate in Proportion

What you think is one serving of cereal:

What an actual serving of cereal looks like:

The reality of portion sizes can be pretty disheartening when you take a close look. Is one bagel really four servings? And don’t get me started on granola… it is just ridiculous. Are you curious about actual servings of some of your favorite foods?

Here are some common items to help you keep your plate in perspective:

A deck of cards= 3 oz. of cooked meat, fish or poultry
A computer mouse= 1 serving of a potato
1/2 a baseball = 1 serving of pasta
A CD or DVD= 1 serving of pancakes or waffles
A hockey puck= 1 serving of a bagel
Four dice = 1 serving of cheese
A golf ball= 1 serving of peanut butter
A tennis ball = 1 serving of ice cream
1 egg = 1 serving of dried fruit
A ping-pong ball= 1 serving of salad dressing
A dental floss package= one piece of chocolate

A golf ball is about the size of a tennis ball, right?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Train Hard, Lose Weight, Don't Bonk

Want to know how you can reach your goal weight while still training hard? Read the latest 'Ask the Dietitian' column, '6 Diet Tweaks to Avoid Bonking' over at

Disclaimer: This article was published before learning the UK meaning of the term 'bonking.' My apologies to our British readers for any confusion this title may have caused regarding the content of this article.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Goes Up: Acid Reflux

Q: My daughter, an 8th grader and avid runner, has a problem with acid reflux. We have experimented with her diet trying to find the right thing to eat and the right time to eat. She used to have great success with chicken and rice 3-4 hours before a race, but that doesn't work anymore. There must be foods to remedy this problem; any suggestions?

A: Frequent acid reflux is often a symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. With GERD, stomach content flows backward into the esophagus which causes symptoms such as heartburn, pain that feels like an ulcer, difficulty swallowing and regurgitating stomach acid.

The standard practice of treatment for GERD is to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, avoiding high fat foods and foods with a high acid content, limiting caffeinated and alcoholic beverages,weight loss, waiting 2-3 hours before lying down and elevating the head six to eight inches while sleeping.

Unfortunately, when it comes to what to eat, there is not one go-to food that is sure to prevent relfux. What works for some may not give your daughter the same success, so this is a trial and error process to see what works and what does not. In the case of your daughter, it is really important to figure out a remedy sooner rather than later, because the uncomfortable symptoms of reflux could prevent her from eating enough energy that is needed not only to fuel her running, but also for proper growth and maturation.

Foods that are good to eat before a run and for those experiencing pain of acid reflux are:
  • Oatmeal
  • Bananas and other less acidic fruits
  • Poultry without the skin (try turkey boiled, baked or grilled)
  • Grains such as brown rice, couscous and bulgur
  • Eggs (hard boiled, scrambled or poached)
  • Nuts
  • Potatoes (boiled or baked)
  • Green and root vegetables,when appropriate (after a run)

    It is helpful to keep a record of when and what foods were eaten when flare-ups occur so that you can really pinpoint causes of distress and avoid them especially during crucial times such as before a race. Make sure that she has enough time to eat her meals slowly without having to rush to aid proper digestion.

    Acid reflux is no fun,
    especially when you have to run.
    Be careful when and what you eat,
    avoid acidic foods and fatty meat.
    Eat small meals and at a reasonable pace,
    and you will be ready to run your race.

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

    Comfort Cookies: Consuming Nostalgia

    This was my first Christmas away from home in 25 years. 

    This was the first time that I did not wake up in my childhood twin bed, walk down the hall and see all of the packages from Santa displayed with our respective stockings on top. This was the first Christmas that I was not at Grandma’s with all of my cousins for the infamous Christmas photo in front of the tree. We have been taking this photo since birth and the thought of me having to be photo-shopped in left a heavy feeling of sadness in my heart.

    Best Christmas gift.
    Naturally, I had a hard time being away from the people and traditions I have grown up with. Afterall, it is the only Christmas that I know. But on Christmas Eve, I received a package from the post man.

    Inside the box was a large Christmas container filled with 6 different types of cookies made from scratch by my mom, aunt, Godmother, cousin and sister. When I opened the lid, tears came to my eyes. Each arrived in one piece thanks to Mimi’s excellent packing abilities. I could smell the love, the nostalgia, Christmas. Each cookie was a hug , a priceless gift that means so much to me. I could taste the memories and feel the warmth of childhood.

    The power of food is amazing. Food can create both positive and negative experiences. It can shape how we perceive the world. Food can connect us to the past and it can transport us home in one bite.

    Happy 2014. May you be blessed with good food to fuel your health, your heart and your hunger for home.