One of the most common things that I hear from people is that they don’t eat breakfast.  The reason is usually lack of time, not hungry, or as a way to lose weight. 

As cliché as it may sound….Breakfast REALLY is the most important meal of the day! Studies show that people who eat breakfast manage their weight better; have lower cholesterol levels; have greater concentration and performance in school or work; have more energy throughout the day; and have an overall more nutritionally balanced diet.   

So, does the McDonald’s Deluxe Breakfast with a large biscuit, which contains 1140 calories, 59 grams of fat, and 2250mg sodium count as healthy breakfast? 

Obviously, NOT! J Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to breakfast:


  • The best breakfast foods are high in fiber and protein because they keep your energy level up throughout the morning and keep you full for several hours.
  • Aim for at least 5 grams of fiber + 5 grams of protein at breakfast.
  • Avoid sugary or refined foods, they will only make you hungry and may make you eat more later.
  • It only takes 5 minutes or less to prepare a quick breakfast.

Some healthy breakfast ideas:

o       Whole grain cereal with low fat milk and fruit

o       Oatmeal made with low-fat milk and topped with nuts or fruit

o       Veggie omelet and whole-wheat toast with peanut butter

o       Low fat yogurt (plain or greek-style) with fruit

o       Whole-wheat English muffin topped with low fat cheese and 1 cup berries

o       1 cup low-fat cottage cheese with fruit and 1 slice of whole-wheat toast

  • Breakfast burrito- 1 egg with low-fat cheese on whole-grain tortilla topped with salsa

o       Yogurt smoothie and kashi granola bar (for on the run)

If you MUST eat fast food, go for:

o       McDonald’s Egg McMuffin (300 calories; 12 grams fat)

o       BK’s Ham Omelet Sandwich (290 calories; 13 grams fat)

o       Starbuck’s Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Feta & Egg Wrap (240 calories; 10 grams fat) 

One of my favorite books is “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch (both dietitians).  When I work with clients who are struggling with eating, I guide them by using these 10 Intuitive Eating principles:

 1. Reject the Diet Mentality- Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently.

2. Honor Your Hunger- Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food -Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.

4. Challenge the Food Police-Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating under 1000 calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.

5. Respect Your Fullness- Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor- When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food -Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.

8. Respect Your Body- Accept your genetic blueprint. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.

9. Exercise-Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise.

10. Honor Your Health -Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well.

Here is the recipe that was used for the “Conscious Cooking” demo that I participated in this weekend with Ingrid Cheng at the Holistic Health Club Retreat.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Cucumbers

2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 chicken thigh, boiled and shredded
1 bunch green onions, chop fine
2 tsp. fresh Chinese parsley (optional)
1 tsp. sesame and flax seeds
2 tbsp. White vinegar
2 tsp. Soy sauce
2 tsp. Teriyaki Sauce
1 tbsp. Sesame oil
Sprinkle of sugar, garlic salt, ground black pepper
In one bowl, flavor thinly sliced cucumbers with a sprinkle of sugar, garlic salt, ground black pepper. Add 2 tbsp. white vinegar and 1 tbsp. sesame oil and mix.
2. In separate bowl, flavor boiled and shredded chicken thigh with 2 tsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. Teriyaki Sauce, 1 tsp. sesame oil and a sprinkle of ground black pepper. Mix well.
3. Add 2 to 1. Garnish with sesame and flax seeds, finely chopped green onions and Chinese parsley (optional). For a spicy kick, add a dash of Chili Pepper.

Vegetarian option: substitute teriyaki baked tofu and agar for chicken.
Handful of agar, chopped evenly (length of finger)
1. Boil water, put chopped agar in hot water and quickly pour out into colander
2. Pat agar with paper towel to dry further
3. In one bowl, flavor thinly sliced cucumbers with a sprinkle of sugar, garlic salt, ground black pepper. Add 2 tbsp. white vinegar and 1 tbsp. sesame oil and mix
4. In separate bowl, flavor agar with a sprinkle of garlic salt, ground black pepper and sesame oil. Mix well.
5. Cut teriyaki baked tofu into slices. Add sliced tofu and agar to 3.
6. Garnish with sesame and flax seeds, finely chopped green onions and Chinese parsley (optional).

Understanding how foods can function to benefit your health is an important ingredient to choosing healthy foods and living a healthy life. Here are some of the health benefits that are packed into this simple little salad…..

Cucumbers– The flesh of cucumbers is primarily composed of water but also contains Vitamin C and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. Cucumbers’ hard skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including potassium and magnesium.

Chicken- Chicken is an excellent source of protein. 4 ounces of chicken contains almost 30 grams of lean protein, which is over half of the average person’s daily need of protein. The leanest part of the chicken is the breast, but, even the dark meat has little fat and calories…just be sure to take the skin off. Chicken is leanest when it is prepared baked, roasted, grilled, and not fried. Protein is an important part of everyone’s diet as it helps build and maintain the muscles in our bodies.

Onions- Onions are low in calories yet add abundant flavor to a wide variety of foods. With only 45 calories per serving, onions are fat and cholesterol free, very low in sodium, high in vitamin C, and a good source of fiber and other key nutrients.

Higher intakes of fruits and vegetables have been associated with a variety of health benefits. Research shows that onions may help guard against many chronic diseases. That’s probably because onions contain generous amounts of a flavonoid called quercetin. Other sources are tea and apples, but research shows that absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that from tea and more than three times that from apples. Studies have shown that quercetin protects against cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

In addition, onions contain a variety of other naturally occurring chemicals known as organosulfur compounds that have been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. (Source:

Flaxseeds– In just 1 or 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, you will get an abundant amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is proven to help reduce inflammation (such as in arthritis), protect bone health, protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Flaxseeds are also a good source of fiber, magnesium, folate, and several other nutrients.

Sesame seeds- Surprisingly those little seeds provide a very good source of manganese, and copper and a good source of other minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. There are many health benefits associated with those nutrients. Sesame seeds also contain compounds called phytoesterols, which may help to lower cholesterol.

Garlic– Garlic is one of the most powerful anti-cancer foods according to the National Cancer Institute. It has also been found to lower blood cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, boost the immune system, lift mood, and have a calming effect.

Tofu– Tofu is a protein and nutrient rich food made from curds of soybean milk. It contains the highest quality protein compared to any other vegetable source. Research shows that soy protein may help to lower blood cholesterol, improve good cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and improve symptoms of menopause.

Diets Don’t Work

August 13, 2008

Oftentimes, my clients come to me asking for a diet to help them to lose weight. They seem to believe that even though they’ve tried hundreds of diets in the past, this one will finally work. Their hopefulness of yet another diet (to fail at) is incredible.

This type of repetitive behavior actually goes against psychological theories on positive reinforcement (behaviors that are positively reinforced are strengthened and increased in frequency) and extinction (behaviors that are not reinforced are weakened).

In the case of dieting, the behavior (self-deprivation), often results in cravings; feelings of guilt and loss of control if diet “rules” are broken; as well as numerous other physical, psychological, and emotional effects. After some initial weight loss, weight is often regained. So, why would someone continue the dieting behavior, when they are not being reinforced positively for their efforts?

Most dieters often get caught up in a cycle….they have a desire to lose weight or be thin; they diet; they start to get cravings; they give in to cravings and overeat; they regain lost weight (and often more!); and finally, they start another diet.

My goal as a nutrition therapist, is to help individuals release themselves from the diet mentality and to get out of the diet cycle; to learn to have a more peaceful relationship with food and themselves; to learn to trust their bodies’ signals about eating; and to live a happier, healthier life. 🙂

As many of us may be traveling this summer and may let our usual healthy behaviors fall to the WAIST side, here are some tips to help you to maintain your health, while enjoying your time away from home:


1.    Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you’ve reached the airport or an hour into your long car ride to think about what you’ll be eating while you are away. In preparation for your trip, hit the grocery story and pack healthy foods that may be easy to carry with you. Try: Kashi TLC Granola Bars, fruit, veggie sticks, nuts, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, Fig Newtons, or Kashi TLC Cookies.


2.    Eat Consistently. Continue having regular meals approximately 4 hours apart.


3.    Bring’ em with you. They didn’t invent Ziplock bags for nothing. Carry healthy snacks with you at all times to avoid unhealthy temptations or overindulging later. 


4.    Remember to HYDRATE! Traveling, especially on airplanes, may make you dehydrated. Be sure to carry a bottle of water with you at all times (purchase it after you get through security!).  Plus, you never know if you’ll be stuck someplace without access to water.


5.    Keep Physically Active. Don’t ditch your exercise routine just because you’re not in your usual surroundings. If you’re on a relaxing vacation, try to get up early and go for a walk, swim, or jog before you hit the beach. Or, if you are planning on doing sight-seeing, consider exploring the area by foot.


6.    As always, make the best choices possible when eating out. Avoid fast-food restaurants or high fat menu items such as fried, sautéed, or foods prepared with high fat ingredients such as oil, butter, cream or cheese.


Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E and manganese and a good source of magnesium, copper, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and phosphorus. One single serving (1/4 cup) provides 11 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (which may help to lower blood cholesterol levels) and 7-8 grams of protein (more than an egg).

Black Beans- Black beans are one of the more unsuspecting top nutritional foods. They are excellent sources of fiber and folate (needed before and during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects) and good sources of manganese, protein, magnesium, thiamin, and iron. Like many of the other top foods, they may help to reduce risk of cancer, heart attack, but also, they can help to stabilize blood sugar. Try warming yourself up with some black bean soup or serve with rice next to your favorite entrée!

Blueberries are rich in nutrients (and flavor), while also low in calories (60 per ¾ cup). They contain one of the highest amounts of antioxidants compared to any other food. Which means they have the potential for reducing free-radical damage which can lead to conditions such as heart disease and cancer. They may also improve short-term memory and promote healthy aging.

Broccoli is one of the richest vegetable sources of calcium, iron, and magnesium. It is also a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber . Broccoli also contains phytonutrients- a group of compounds that may help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.

Citrus Fruits (such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes) are loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and phytonutrients that can help lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Try having a grapefruit with breakfast or add some orange slices to your salad at lunch.

Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids- a type of fat that may protect against heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, and stroke. Omega-3’s may also help to decrease triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure. In addition, salmon is a good source of protein and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Spinach provides the most nutrients with the least amount of calories compared to any other foods. It is highest in vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. The contents in spinach may help to boost your immune system and may help keep your hair and skin healthy.

Sweet Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, which may help to slow the aging process and decrease risk of some cancers. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and iron. They are low in calories and taste great with a little cinnamon and splenda on top!

Tomatoes- Tomatoes are rich in many vitamins and minerals, but are especially high in vitamin C, A, and K. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant known to protect against heart disease and many types of cancer. Add tomatoes to soups, salads, and sandwiches or use whole tomatoes on top of your favorite pasta!

Whole Grains- Whole grains such as barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread, pasta, and cereal are rich sources of complex carbohydrates, B-vitamins, minerals (iron, magnesium, selenium), and fiber. Whole grains may help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, reduce risk for heart disease, give you energy, and can help you to feel full (due to the fiber) which can help you to eat less and manage weight. Try starting you day off with a bowl of whole grain cereal such as Fiber One or Kashi GoLean (provides over 1/3 of daily dietary fiber needs).