About Me

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Technically speaking, I'm a dietitian, but I see myself as a listener, a motivator, coach and teacher of nutrition. I prefer to end a busy day with a glass of red wine while chopping vegetables. Lover of almost anything pickled and fresh baked scones just not at the same time. I'm happiest when I'm cooking for people I love. Why am I so into food? Because I KNOW how much eating well can change your life. What you eat every day is going to impact your body and your mind. It's a confusing world out there - full of diet and food advice that always leaves you feeling like it's that one next diet that's going to be the weight loss answer. Stop waiting for that magic diet, and begin to take one step at a time in the right direction. I'm here to help you on your life-long journey, there's no better time to start!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eating Your Favorite Foods and Learning to Balance

Monday night's dinner was delish, I can't help but share the love. Homemade spaghetti with meat sauce and vegetables. OK, so I didn't have time to make the pasta myself (wouldn't that be amazing!) but I did roll up my sleeves to create some serious sauce - made with grass-fed beef. Below is a great recipe with the nutrition facts for you so for anyone who's counting you can portion appropriately. I came across a well-written article from TIME magazine that happens to be 4 years old, but still a great overview of why YOU and everyone else needs to be buying and eating grass-fed beef and other meats. There are many reasons why, Here's the link to the article: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1200759-1,00.html

How many of you read that today's recipe is for spaghetti and immediately tossed it out as a "healthy"option for dinner? How can a person lose weight and eat spaghetti? Impossible - right? Wrong! I want to encourage you to stop categorizing foods into "allowed" and "not allowed" groups. What is important to pay attention to is not over-consuming more spaghetti than you need. That amount is going to be different for everyone, depending on his or her size, level of physical activity that day, time since last meal, hunger level, weight goals, etc. We want to focus on balance of the meal. Eating an entire plate full of spaghetti (as I did many many times in highschool after playing soccer for hours) is very high in carbohydrates and calories. All you need to do to spaghetti to keep it waistline-friendly is manage your portion, and balance out your meal with vegetables or a salad. No matter what the food happens to be - balance of the meal as a whole is key.

What do I mean by manage the portion? Well, 1 cup of spaghetti (2 standard portions) is about 180 calories and 38 grams of carbs. Add on 1 cup of cooked veggies, and a nutritious sauce with some protein and you have a calorie-controlled, fairly large portion that will prove quite filling. Often, people (or restaurants) will bulk up the pasta to 2 or more cups (4+ servings!!) and leave out the vegetables. THIS is where you're going to run into extra calories and prevent weight loss.

I encourage you to start thinking about your meals in terms of balance- not in terms of good and bad foods. Where is the starch/carb and how much do you plan to have? What about protein - tonight's protein is the beef, and for protein a little goes a long way. I used 1 lb of ground beef in the spaghetti sauce which makes 8 servings and still comes out to 17 grams of protein per serving. There is also protein in whole grains so by choosing whole wheat pasta you get more protein in your spaghetti (and better overall nutrition profile than white pasta). Then round out your meal with veggies! Not only are they super-nutritious and prevent diseases, but they are loaded with fiber so if you're trying to shed pounds add in more veggies to your pasta to fill up with only 1 serving of noodles.

Lastly, I have to insist on leaving you well-informed about spaghetti sauce in general. Please - take a look at the sauce you buy in the grocery store. Avoid sauces that have high fructose corn syrup or added sugar. You will be shocked at how difficult this might be! Also, look for one that is made without oil, or at least is made with healthier oils (still high calories though) such as olive oil or canola oil. It is truly shocking to see how much sugar is being plugged into foods that don't need it - especially tomato/pasta sauce. Look for canned tomato sauce - organic if possible. Then season it yourself and you can really create a health-promoting, delicious, sensational sauce!

Alrighty - if you've read this whole post you definitly deserve to get the recipe. ENJOY!!

Healthy Homemade Spaghetti with Grass-Fed Beef Sauce and Veggies

Nutrition Facts:

Sauce: per ¾ cup serving – 182 cal, 6.5 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 17 g protein

¾ cup sauce + 1 cup pasta + ½ cup veggies:
378 cal, 7.5 g fat, 53 g carbohydrate, 25 g protein, 6 g fiber

Sumner’s Sauce Recipe:

1 lb ground organic grass-fed beef or bison
1 medium yellow onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic – minced. (use more garlic if you love garlic!)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes – more for extra spicy!
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 16 oz. can authentic recipe marinara sauce (Trader Joe’s has a good one)
8 oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
1/3 cup red wine (optional)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cups steamed vegetables (cut into large bite-sized pieces)
• (Veggies that work well: zucchini, yellow squash, button or crimini mushrooms, cauliflower & broccoli)
1 package whole wheat linguini noodles (or the pasta of your choice)
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

*Make a large batch of sauce as it freezes well and also can be re-heated quickly for lunch and dinner.

**Calorie-cutting tip: Serve yourself more veggies and less pasta to decrease caloric density of this balanced and tasty favorite.


In a large pan sauté minced garlic and chopped onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until tender (about 3-4 mins). Add the ground meat and cook well, chopping with a spoon or spatula into small pieces. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and thyme. When meat is nearly cooked, add marinara sauce and diced tomatoes. Simmer sauce for 5-10 minutes and stir to mix the flavors. Keep heat medium to high, and stir in red wine and balsamic vineagar. Continue simmering sauce for another 10 minutes, until it thickens. The longer you simmer it the better it gets!

Cook pasta per directions on package and Steam vegetables in a separate saucepan or in the microwave for 4 minutes with 1 inch water in a microwave-safe dish.

Serve the sauce over veggies and pasta and sprinkle with 1-2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are You Creamy or Crunchy?

People often think of peanut butter as a food to avoid for weight management and weight loss. Good news! It’s time to put that thought to rest and start enjoying peanut butter for its great taste, satisfying texture, and most of all for its health benefits! This creamy comfort food has a high content of both mono and poly- unsaturated fats; the good fats we want to eat more of for heart health. Eating healthy fat in moderation helps to stay satisfied from smaller portions and snacks, to keep hunger and cravings at bay throughout the day. Eating peanut butter and other nut butters, like almond butter, can be an easy way to fit in your daily recommended one ounce of nuts to reduce your risk of heart disease. Nuts are also a great source of fiber and protein (think post-workout recovery snack).

Unfortunately, some of the most popular brands of peanut butter also contain high amounts of added sugar and trans-fat. Trans fat is the worst type of fat to consume and serves no purpose in the body. In fact, trans fat lowers your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and raises your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. Neither you nor your kids should be consuming peanut butter that contains trans fat, even if it is in small amounts. If you don’t have to mix the oil yourself – then you can assume the product has trans fat. Look for peanut or almond butter that contains very few ingredients: peanuts and salt (optional). If you see “hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oil” listed, choose a different product. Be aware of clever marketing slogans that can trick you into thinking a product is healthy. “Natural” really doesn’t mean anything; you need to look at the ingredients list. Depending on the product, peanut butter can go from a very healthy snack choice to a very unhealthy choice with the addition of a few unnecessary ingredients.

Read this article from the Mayo Clinic to learn more about trans fat:

Lately John and I have been loving a product called Naturally More. It is basically peanut butter with a boost of Omega-3's from ground flax and protein from egg white. There is a small amount of honey and cane sugar added in - but only 2 g sugar for 2 Tbsp - totally worth it in my opinion. The calories are slightly lower than regular peanut butter because of the higher protein content which displaces some of the fat.  I love this stuff. Y-U-M.   You can even go all the way and get the Organic Naturally More! Here's what it looks like:

Now that you know what to look for, enjoy nut butter in moderation. 1 tablespoon of this good stuff contains 100 calories, 7 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat. Spread it on whole grain bread, sliced apples or add to a shake to boost calories and protein.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The value of weight - what really matters?

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a sports nutrition workshop hosted by a co-worker of mine. Isn't it amazing how much you can learn about something, even when you've heard it, read it and preached it yourself - but then you hear the words again out of someone else's mouth and it's like you're hearing it for the first time all over again? The topic was nutrition for athletes, and yo-yo dieting; losing weight pre-season and gaining back the same 20 or 30 pounds over the course of the season, only to have to try and lose it again to get in shape for the next season. This cycle is incredibly stressful on the body. Even yo-yo-ing 10 or 15 pounds is hard on the body. We know that yo-yo dieting is not specific to athletes, but to everyone who has lost and re-gained weight once, twice, or ten times because of diets. Diets that are not based on sound nutritional since. Diets that do not support mindful eating, balanced eating and eating for your body's needs. One thing about diets I've mentioned before is how they are not sustainable. Guess what happens when you follow a strict diet for 2 weeks and lose weight, then try to go back to "normal eating"? Weight re-gain is what happens. The cycle has begun  and you are stuck. I want to get you unstuck. There was a person attending the workshop from Germany, and what was so interesting I thought our host did a great job of pointing out to him, is that in this country, as a dietitians, we spend a great deal of our time trying to educate people how to get away from the black and white mentality of being "on" or "off" with healthy eating. That more often then not, a client will not come back to see me if he feels he messed up his diet, failed, or fell off the wagon. This is what is keeping people overweight. This unnatural relationship with food and eating. But even before you can start learning about all sorts of wonderful healthy eating principles, recipes, calories and protein, you have to start in your own head. You have to decide that you're ready and that you're worth it, and that you CAN trust yourself to eat well, eat in moderation, enjoy food and say active. You need to trust the facts- that foods are not "good or bad" but it is the diet mentality, the fear of "falling off the wagon" and the temporary plan of diets which will leave you without reaching your goals.  I feel like what may be the number one most important factor for someone to lose weight, change her eating habits, and maintain whatever a healthy body weight might be for her is how that individual talks to herself in the mirror.

Giuliana Rancic is a celebrity who was recently interviewed on The View and she spoke out about her very personal struggle to get pregnant. She talked about how her doctor strongly recommended that she gain 5 or 10 pounds in order to improve her chances of conceiving. Sadly, as a woman working and living in Hollywood this is not something she has been able to commit to doing -even though it may mean the difference between having a baby of her own or not. I'm not sure how many of you know what this beautiful woman looks like, but she is very thin. She is beautiful, happily married, successful and ready to be a mother - but she cannot face the thought of putting on a few pounds because it may make her a little less of exactly what our society has created as the ideal picture of beauty.  To me, that is heartbreaking. I was literally talking to the TV - "Is she nuts!! Is she really that afraid of what people might say or think if she gains 5 pounds, that she is willing to sacrifice getting pregnant to stay ultra-thin?"  But then I realized, this is not her fault - it is the outcome of our environment, our culture, and the unrealistic, unhealthy ideals we all know have been created over the past few decades. Doesn't everyone see, that there is a strong correlation between obesity rates in our nation and the obsession with dieting, thinness and extreme ideals of beauty?  Beautiful, wonderful people who may happen to be overweight are getting stuck in the diet cycle that is the result of a society so foolishly invested in fad diets and thinness that it is a multi-billion dollar industry and growing each year. The diet industry is banking on the fact that none of their products or fad diets work - that we will continue to gain weight and continue to buy the lies. Throw in a food industry which makes it easier and cheaper to buy 500 calories of corn syrup and trans fat then it is to buy 500 calories of real food and you have one messed up place full of unhealthy people who are set up with ideals and expectations that are not achievable... a place where a woman does not even know if she can afford to gain 5 pounds to meet her daughter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Have you told them yet?

I'm talking about your friends, co-workers, family, roommates....have you told them about how you're not on a diet? If you're like a lot of people, and have in the past bravely announced to a host of important people in your life how you are about to start the "greatest, most sure-to-succeed, weight will drop like flies, this has to work this time, diet" then they will probably ask you to repeat yourself and wonder if you didn't fall out of bed last night and hit your head. And then you can respond by saying "That's right - you heard me. I am officially not on a diet and don't plan to be on one ever again!" Try it - it feels great. You are free from the diet gremlin voice that starts creeping up after the first couple days...when if you have one morsel of something that's "not allowed" you are doomed to failure and consumed by guilt.  We all know the popular diets you hear people raving about these days, low carb,  no fruit, raw cleanses....there are too many to name. Why put yourself through that? Food is quite possibly the most valuable, pleasurable, and health-promoting part of our lives - learn to appreciate food and what it is doing for you instead of battling with food. Now, please understand, I am not bad-mouthing diets because I don't want people to get healthy and lose weight. Its just that I've never met a diet I liked, nor one that worked for someone long-term and allowed them to keep off lost fat.  It's all too often mis- understood;  that the faster a person loses weight on a diet the better that diet is.  The truth is, slow, gradual fat loss (1/4 - 2 pounds /week) is a GOOD sign...that you are truly losing unwanted fat; not water, stored carbohydrates, and muscle tissue.

So today's thoughts are these:  Go out there, start your Friday and get talkin'! Tell some people that Friday is a great day to stop dieting - and never start again! You might be used to stopping your diet every Friday anyway.. right? But usually you then face... Monday!! The diet must start again - and the guilt, Oh the guilt of everything you ate and drank that you swore you wouldn't over the weekend, and now it's time to start again. Well, this time Monday rolls around you won't have to face that. What I want to encourage you to start doing today, yes today, not tomorrow, not Monday, but TODAY, is thinking about how food is your partner in this. Whatever your goals are: lose weight, feel better, lean up, etc, you can't do it without the right fuel.  Think about all the times during the day that you have a choice - and make the choice that's going to leave you feeling good at the end of your meal or snack. That is a good goal for today.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shopping List to get you Going

It may sound a bit strange to some, but shopping for food is one of my favorite activities. If I can make it to the Sunday Farmer's Market (we call it the "FM") I am really excited. It's an experience that envolves all your senses: smells, sights, sounds and makes you want to eat delicious, fresh foods.  After I've filled all my canvas bags, spent all my cash, and tasted fresh-picked fruits from local farmers, I get to come home, unpack all the goodies, wash and clean the crispy veggies, store the sweet-smelling tomatoes and basil and I'm all set for the week!

If you don't have the right food around, chances are you're not going to eat as well as you want.  Grocery shopping is essential to changing eating habits.  Our eating environment makes it very difficult to eat healthy when eating out.  So the solution becomes- stock up at home with good choices! What you need to keep in mind:
1) Your Lifestyle - how busy are you and how much time are you willing to dedicate to preparing food?  If you are very limited, opt to buy foods that can be easy grab-and-go options. Some examples are natural bars like LARABARS, individual yogurts, string cheese, pre-made salads (great at TJ's!), pre-washed and cut fruit and veggies... you get the idea.  It is quicker to grab a greek yogurt on your way to work than it is to scramble an egg or eat a bowl of cereal. There's no excuse for missing breakfast or for not having snacks with you during the day. It just takes a little planning and a little practice.
2) Your favorite foods!  Healthy eating does not mean boring or tasteless eating. Now...unfortunately I can't magically make fried chicken or onion rings healthy...but there is almost always an alternative way to prepare foods to make them more "health promoting", you just need to make it yourself.  If you're not a cook don't fret - learning and experimenting is the fun part anyway! Make pizza at home with fresh ingredients and everything can be enjoyed in moderation. I encourage you to plan to include your favorite foods and flavors in your weekly and daily food choices - remember- you are not on a diet!

I posted a shopping list under the Pages section to get you started. It's a long list, to encourage you to eat a variety of foods and think about all the options you have to start eating well! Pick out foods that appeal to you in each category, make your list, and head to the store.  It's easy- the more you do it, the more of a habit it will become and soon you will look forward to your grocery shopping if you don't already.  

Stock your own kitchen with fresh, flavorful foods that YOU like! The key word is “You”. These are some of my suggestions for foods to start with, but you need to have options on hand that taste good to you, otherwise you are likely not going to be eating the healthy food you bring home from the store. Lastly, make sure you buy what fits into your lifestyle – for example, if you’re always busy running around and trying to eat better, look for pre-cut and washed fruits and vegetables to minimize prep time. There are no rules here, no magic foods. Choose a variety and buy organic and local when possible. Always bring a list and of course eat something before you go so you are less tempted by things you don’t really need or want. Happy Shopping!

Stores you’ll Love:

Local Farmer’s Markets of course!

Trader Joe’s

Whole Foods

New Seasons - Portland

Santa Monica Co-op

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Belly Bulge - slim it down to reduce risk of serious complications.

Your health is not just based on a number on the scale - in fact, I always encourage my clients to look at all the indicators of their progress - fitness level, waist circumference, body composition (% body fat and lean mass), how they FEEL, quality of sleep, blood cholesterol and triglycerides, blood pressure, medication levels (can you reduce or eliminate one or more meds that are nutrition-related?).....

Here is a summary of expert opinion on what we are starting to learn about abdominal fat and it's effect on morbidity and mortality. My Dad sent me this....and now I'd like to share it with you.

Study: Belly bulge can be deadly for older adults

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Partner with your Metabolism - Feed It!

Think of your metabolism as a campfire.

What do you need to do to make sure your fire burns consistently all night, so that it doesn’t go out but that it doesn’t become out of control? To start, you need proper fuel for your fire. The same way you need dry wood to build a campfire, your body prefers certain types of fuel to work at an optimal level. If you don’t fuel your body adequately what can you expect to happen? Your metabolism function will decline and you will not burn as many calories. The campfire will weaken and eventually extinguish without proper fuel. Consequently, if you provide more fuel than you need, you will store calories (fuel) as fat to be used later. Keep this analogy in mind as you go through your day and plan for your workouts. Weight management is about balancing fuel type and timing with your energy needs. At the end of the day, did you burn more than you ate? If you can answer “yes” then congratulations, you have lost weight that day.

What is the “right” type of fuel for optimal burn?

There are no magic foods. Repeat: There are NO magic foods. A balanced combination of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein is ideal. Fad diets that focus on one of these nutrient groups more than another are not sound, and likely not realistic. If a diet is not realistic, you can bet you will have a pretty difficult time managing to keep lost weight off for good. Set yourself up for success and eat a variety of foods in the right amount for your needs. Don’t force yourself to stick to a “diet”. Focus your energy on learning what foods provide you healthy calories for energy to complete those tough workouts. Pay attention to your body’s natural hunger and fullness messages to prevent consuming more energy (calories) than you require. It is important to eat adequate carbohydrates when losing weight and building lean tissue. This is known as “protein sparing”. Since ‘carbs’ are your body’s preferred source of energy, if you do not eat at least 40% of calories from carbohydrate you will need to use the protein and fat you eat for energy. What does this mean for your muscles? The protein you eat will be converted in to energy at a very inefficient pace which leaves your muscles without adequate recovery protein available to repair tissue damage from exercise. You will risk losing the lean tissue you are working so hard to build. Do your body a favor and eat 40-55% of your total calories from carbohydrates so that the protein you consume can do its job and build muscle, repair cell damage and maintain lean tissue!

Why are certain carbohydrates better fuel choices than others?

Compare wood to newspaper: which is a better source of fuel for your campfire? Wood does for your fire what complex carbohydrates do for your body. They are slower to digest and provide long-lasting energy. On the other hand, newspaper is like refined sugar and simple carbohydrates; it gives you a big flame, then burns up quickly, leaving you starving for more! Choose complex carbohydrates most often, for more fiber and a longer lasting source of energy.

Examples of complex carbohydrates:

• Whole grain products (read ingredient lists and look for the word “whole”): pastas, quinoa, cereals, bread, crackers, brown rice, etc. Read labels and pay attention to serving sizes.

• Beans & Legumes (1/2 cup = 1 serving)

• Whole Fruit (with skin) 2-4 servings/day

• Vegetables – the more color variety the better

Examples of Refined Carbohydrates:

• Enriched or white flour

• All Sugar (read ingredient lists to identify sources of sugar): brown sugar, fructose, honey, molasses, corn syrup, cane juice, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, etc

• Soda and Juice – diet soda does not contain carbohydrates

• Sweets, sugary cereals, sweetened drinks (coffee drinks, shakes), etc.

Getting the most “bang-for-your-buck” from your food:

Foods can be considered “empty” foods if they aren’t providing you proper fuel to burn. When snacking, look for snacks that contain at least 3 g of protein and 3 g fiber. The protein will help to satisfy you and slows down the absorption of carbohydrate into your blood, giving you a more gradual rise in blood sugar instead of a quick spike followed by a “crash”. The fiber will help keep you full longer. For example: if your usual granola bar is 180 calories, but only has 1 g protein and 1 g fiber, you are getting 180 calories primarily from a refined source of carbohydrate. Look for a bar that contains a whole grain like oats, or a bar that contains nuts which will provide protein and a healthy dose of fat. You can swap that old granola bar for a bar that gives you the same amount of calories, but will be a better bang-for-your-buck to keep that “fire” burning stronger and longer. If you can choose more functional foods (think filling and a proper source of fuel), it will be easier to eat within your calorie targets for your weight goals. Is it better to eat a 100-calorie pack of Oreo’s with zero protein or fiber and feel hungry 20 minutes later, or to eat a 200-calorie bar made with nuts and fruit which will fuel you for 2-3 hours? What do you think? Remember – exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand when it comes to reaching your goals. If you aren’t fueling properly you are not setting yourself up for success. A restrictive diet too low in calories or carbohydrates will not get you where you want to be long term.