5 Quick Fixes for the Most Common Diet Mistakes

common-diet-mistakesYou may think your diet is making the marks when it comes to clean eating when in reality you’re probably making the same common diet mistakes everyone else is. That’s why you’re not seeing the results you want. Take a moment to be honest with yourself. Are you eating too much? How about not enough? Maybe your weekends are filled with alcohol induced comas and skinny iced-vanilla lattes. Or how about those salads everyone loves oh-so-much. Ever take the time to measure out the calorie-ridden salad dressing you dress it with? You’re in luck! Here are 5 Quick Fixes for the Most Common Diet Mistakes:

1.    Oversized Portions: It’s pretty self-explanatory. You’re just eating way too freaking much! No, you do not need to eat a 12-ounce steak in one sitting. Steak is healthy, yes. But 12-ounces is not. A calorie is a calorie no matter how you look at it, and eating too much of anything is not good for you. Restaurants are the biggest villains. They serve double, even triple the portion size necessary for any one person’s body. How is your metabolism supposed to keep up with 2 or more cups of cooked pasta doused in cream-based sauce. You know what, don’t order that meal to begin with and you’ll be better off.


Fix: A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables, ¼ with protein and the rest with complex carbs. This can be true for a salad or sandwich too. If you’re really good, get yourself a food scale and weigh/measure your food components before serving. If you’re dining out, order the smaller steak and ask for steamed veggies on the side. Eat half of the baked potato and instead of ordering Sushi, opt for Sashimi with a bowl of steamed white or brown rice, that way you can choose how much rice you want to eat. It’s easy to fix a portion size problem; it’s a matter of putting it into practice.


2.    Liquid Calories: It’s easy to consume excess calories when you’re drinking them. The amount of people that have no idea alcohol and coffee drinks are high in calories is crazy. You may think your skinny latte is healthy, but if you sweeten it with sugar and throw in a squirt of vanilla syrup you’re sorely mistaken. One of the worst things you can do is drink your calories. For the most part liquid calories are far from nutritious and most definitely do not fill you up. Personally, I’d rather eat a cookie than have a cocktail so I don’t even understand the whole mindset behind it in the first place. Wouldn’t you rather eat your calories than drink them? On top of that, they add up much more quickly. Probably because they go down smoother too, lol.


Fix: Opt for calorie-free and sugar-free beverages like black coffee with artificial sweetener or sugar-free juice drink mixes like Crystal Light. How about having unsweetened iced tea with a splash of lemon or a diet soda. Or maybe you really want to enjoy a cocktail, choose something with far fewer calories like Rum and Diet Coke. Stray from cocktails made with fruit juice or cream liquors. And of course, choose light beer over the regular stuff.


3.    Skipping Meals: The misconception that skipping meals or only eating 1 meal per day causes weight loss is alive and rampant. This kind of thinking has been debunked over and over with scientific data stating that if we do not eat for extending periods of time, our bodies will store what food we do feed ourselves. It’s the conservation effect. In preparation for famine or starvation the body stores food as fat. If we eat throughout the day our body recognizes that it’s being fed regularly therefore it uses the food we eat as energy for things like daily living and exercise.  Skipping meals (including breakfast – the most important meal of the day) puts our bodies in a state of starvation. Your energy levels will suffer, stress levels will skyrocket and your body fat will increase.

Fix: Eat 4-5 meals per day including breakfast. Start the day off with a well-rounded breakfast of lean proteins, complex carbs and fruit, and healthy fats. Don’t go more than 3.5 hours before having another meal or snack. That way you keep your metabolism revving and you’re fueling your body throughout the day. Try it this way for just 1 week and then tell me how you feel.


4.    Not Eating Enough: A huge culprit in the nutrition community is people who don’t eat enough. They’ll come to me with the complaint that they don’t know why they’re not losing weight and that they barely eat anything all day. Therein lies the problem right there. Not eating enough food can do damage to your metabolism just like skipping meals can. Consuming fewer calories than your body needs in fact does lower your metabolic rate. This means that you eat less food and burn fewer calories. That’s right, you can put on body fat this way too.

Fix: Eat lots of healthy foods! It’s pretty simple – fuel your body with the appropriate amount of healthy calories for your resting metabolic rate (RMR) or Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). You can use either BMR or RMR; a simple calculation to find RMR is below. Use this calculation to determine the amount of calories your body needs for daily function. For weight loss, subtract 500 calories. For weight gain, add 500 calories. For maintenance, keep it the same.

•    For men: (10 x w) + (6.25 x h) - (5 x a) + 5 •    For women: (10 x w) + (6.25 x h) - (5 x a) – 161 w = weight in kg; h = height in cm; a = age


5.    Condiments and Toppings Get the Best of You: You think you’re doing a good job by ordering the grilled chicken salad at Chili’s instead of the chicken tacos. But what you didn’t take in to account is that all of the toppings loaded on to that salad make it just as bad as the tacos. Salad dressings, condiments, croutons, tortilla strips, dried fruits, it all adds up. Great job at serving yourself a snack of fresh veggies, but you screwed it up by coating your carrot sticks with high-calorie, high-fat ranch dressing.


Fix: There’s no reason why you couldn’t use any of your favorite condiments and toppings – just pay attention to how much you’re using. Go back to mistake #1: Oversized Portions – make sure you’re not over-serving yourself with calories that don’t fill you up. If you want nuts on your salad, measure out 2 tablespoons full; if you want olive oil on your salad, measure out 1 or 2 tablespoons. You hopefully get the point. Another great option is to find healthier alternatives. Maybe you could find a fat-free Ranch dressing or reduced sugar ketchup. Swap-outs like that can cut calories in half!

We’re all human and no one’s diet is perfect. Pay more attention to what you eat and your progress will move that much faster.

What kind of diet mistakes have you made in the past and how have you overcome them?

Be A Healthy Eater -- Not a Dieter

Be a Healthy Eater -- Not a Dieter
Be a Healthy Eater -- Not a Dieter

I swear, I've spent years trying to fix the damage I did to my body while dieting. That's right. Damage. I know you're thinking..."damage, wth is this chick talking about, she must be smoking something." Then again, there are those out there who can totally relate. I've finally gotten to a point where I can honestly say that I am a healthy eater, not a dieter and I'm still losing weight and feeling great!

Here's how it works. You spend years going on diets in an effort to mold your body in to what you think is your ideal body image. The diets you're using restrict you from eating various foods or entire food groups, may be too low in calories, cause you to alter your life around when and where you can eat, and ultimately you end up isolating yourself from your friends, family and social functions - all in the name of "dieting." It's just not healthy. No matter how you look at it. I've been there. I've looked at everyone's comments as nonsense and claimed that "I ate healthier than every one of them" because I was the one on a strict diet. In the end I see how unhealthy that lifestyle is.

Then there's the end result that drives you forward. The desire to be at a certain weight or certain shape and feeling like the only way to get there is with a strict dieting program. How good does it feel to be in shape? How good does it feel that your clothes are too big, or your abs are beginning to show? But what I didn't know, or failed to admit applied to me, was that dieting the unhealthy way would damage my metabolism - not just for a few months, but for years to come.

After years of contest dieting or strict dieting to get the weight off, I ended up gaining 30 lbs while still dieting and feeling like there was no way I was going to ever fix it. My metabolism was beat to death. It wasn't until I re-learned my own bodies natural feelings of satiation and fullness that my hunger cues came back. It's been almost 2 years since my last "diet" and I've finally gotten to a happy place. I've lost 7 lbs simply by adding more cardio to my weeks, not by altering my diet. And my outlook on my body is more positive now than it has been in almost 10 years.

Any diet that tells your brain you can't eat certain things is probably not the best idea. Some people are better off with a laid out diet plan, but in my experience, it's led to nothing but binge-eating and Orthorexia (an eating disorder where you obsess over dieting so much so that it in essence takes over your life). A friend of mine, Wendy, recently brought up a great point on this topic and related it to the Paleo diet. Unfortunately many of the people who read the story mistook it for a dig at the Paleo diet and caused some controversy, so Wendy took it down (she has a similar story about figure competitions here). I however, totally got it. Her point was that consciously putting yourself on a strict diet such as the Paleo diet, or any other diet turns in to a psychosocial issue that can lead you down a slippery slope of depression, binges and eating disorders, not to mention you could end up with a metabolism the speed of a snail. Not fun.

What I'm trying to say is that putting a label on the way you eat can psychologically mind-f*ck you in to a downward spiral of yo-yo dieting and depression. So whenever I'm asked at my CrossFit box if I'd like to participate in the 30-day Paleo challenge, my answer is always no. Just the word diet might set me off. The thought of depravation, timed meals and psychotically weighing every morsel of food that I put in my mouth is already making me want to stop at 7-11 for a pint of ice cream.

"It's not a diet, it's a healthy lifestyle."

I know much of this rant goes against an article I posted only a few days ago, but it really doesn't. In that article I made a suggestion that you take the guidelines I laid out and apply them to your life just as they are - guidelines. Use them as a tool to guide you through your daily meals and alter it to fit your life and preferences. There's no rule that says you have to measure everything precisely and stick with the plan to the T in order to get results. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Giving yourself loose guidelines to follow will only help you transfer a conscious effort in to an unconscious effort - a lifestyle change.

Do yourself a favor and leave the OCD at the door. Pay attention to your body and eat naturally nutritious foods that are satisfying and good for you. Get an idea and an understanding of what goes in to a healthy eating plan for someone who is physically active and try to eat like that. Have protein with every meal, enjoy fruits and veggies, nuts, oils and other healthy fats, and a small amount of complex carbs. If you feel like having dessert at Sunday dinner, enjoy and don't worry about it. It's when you obsess and spend too much time thinking about the dessert that leads to a binge followed by guilt. Free your mind and your body will follow.


The DIY Diet

Fad diets and body cleanses are becoming a thing of the past. With a never-ending recession and the explosion of Pinterest, it’s no surprise the DIY-ers are taking over. So why not take the DIY route when it comes to your diet too!

The freedom that comes with the DIY diet is what makes it so sustainable. No longer will you have to follow a hard-back book or count points. DIY-ing your diet is the answer to your diet woes – all it takes is a little bit of time and effort and you’ll be on your way.

You can create a DIY diet many different ways, but what I’m providing for you here are 3 different variations that you can easily DIY based on your personal goals. Because every body is different, your diet will be different than your girlfriend’s diet even if she has the same goals. And you can take this diet to whatever level works best for you meaning that you can choose to only use the steps to success or you can take it up a notch by calculating your macro-nutrient needs and measure your foods accordingly. Either way you will have success as long as you stick with it for at least 4 weeks. FYI it takes 3-4 weeks for you to see any changes to your body, 6 weeks for your friends and family, and 2-3 months for the rest of the world. So get started!

Steps for Success:

1.    Your first assignment is to figure out how many meals you can commit to eating daily. When I say meals I’m not talking about Thanksgiving size servings. What I am saying is that snacks are considered meals too, so those count. At minimum you should have 3 meals per day. However, my suggestion is that you opt for 4-6 meals per day instead to help you avoid cravings and overeating at any one given meal. Eating more often has also been shown to boost your metabolism by keeping the furnace burning.

The easiest way to determine the amount of meals you can commit to eating per day is to think about your daily schedule. Are you an early riser and late to bed? If so, you should have more meals than someone who maybe goes to bed early every night. Can you eat at your desk at work? Etc. etc. Write down your schedule and pencil in times at which you plan to eat breakfast, lunch, snack then dinner, etc. etc.

2.    Protein is your friend – eat it at every meal! The key to a healthy diet is to incorporate lean proteins in to your day with every meal and snack. This could be as simple as making a smoothie for breakfast with Greek yogurt (your protein source), fresh berries and tossing in some crushed almonds or grilling chicken (protein) for dinner and having leftovers for lunch the next day. Keep it simple and prepare food in advance for best results.

3.    Fill up on nutrient dense foods like complex carbs, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. Carbs provide energy your body needs to get through the day and an intense workout. Choose healthy ones like oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grain breads, pastas and fruits. Healthy fats keep you feeling fuller longer, promote soft skin and hair, and help boost weight loss. When it comes to healthy fats – stick with oils (olive, sunflower, coconut, etc), avocado, low fat cheeses and mixed nuts.

4.    Fruits and Veggies are free foods. If you’re feeling hungry after lunch or dinner, have an apple or an orange. It's a much better choice than seconds or dessert and you'll find yourself full and that your craving for something to eat has been satisfied. It’s amazing how hard it is to overeat fruit - it’s just not something most people can stomach.

5.    Plan for success. A great way to stay on track is to plan out what you’d like to eat for each meal every day of the week. Write it out on paper so you can see it visually, then prep as much as you can in advance and make sure you have everything on hand in the house for when you need it. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail. So write it down, shop for supplies, and prep. If you work outside of the home, prepare your lunch and snacks for the day the night before, that way you can throw it all in a lunch tote with some ice packs before heading out the door in the morning  you won’t end up picking up something expensive and unhealthy for lunch elsewhere.

Up a Notch:

For those of you who feel ease with a set diet to follow, here is your chance to calculate your own diet and DIY-it. The macro-nutrient numbers below are estimates and do account for actual food consumed. These numbers are also geared toward someone who is exercising 5-6 days per week. Choose your goal and follow the calculations below. Once you have your numbers you should then divide each by the number of meals you want to eat per day. Those numbers will then be the amount of protein, carbs and healthy fats you should be having at each meal.

1.    Weight Loss – Protein: 1.2 grams per lb. of body weight Carbs: 1g per lb. body weight Fats: divide carbs by 2

2.    Muscle Building – Protein: 1.5-2 grams per lb. of body weight Carbs: 1.2 – 1.5 grams per lb. of body weight Fats: divide carbs by 3

3.    Maintenance – Protein: 1.2 grams per lb. of body weight Carbs: 1.2 g per lb. of body weight Fats: multiply carbs by 0.6

Example using a 125lb girl who is looking to lose weight: a girl who weighs 125 lbs. should have 150 grams of protein (at 1.2g/lb. bw) per day; 125 grams of carbs and 62.5 grams of fat (round up to 63).

These are all estimates. Eating slightly over or under is perfectly acceptable and will not hurt your progress. This diet is equivalent to about 1667 calories per day.

Her diet might look as such: -    Meal #1: 40g Protein; 50g Carbs; 20g fat -    Meal #2: 35g Protein; 40g Carbs; 13 g fat -    Meal #3: 35g Protein; 30g Carbs; 10g fat -    Meal #4: 40g Protein: 30g Carbs; 20g fat

A great way to use this method without getting in to the nitty gritty is to simply use these numbers as an ideal of what you plan to eat at each meal. What I mean is that you keep this stuff in your head and when you go to serve yourself a meal you will have a roundabout portion size appropriate for your goals. Knowing that you want to have about 40g of protein for breakfast you can easily opt for 3 or 4 egg whites with a protein smoothie made with 1 scoop protein powder and fruit with a side of whole-wheat toast with natural peanut butter on top. You get the point – hopefully.

Don’t be afraid of herbs, spices and condiments. Get creative with your meals and change things up often to avoid diet boredom. The benefit of a DIY diet is that you get to choose what you want to eat and when. And if after 4 weeks you are not seeing the results you want, that means it may be time to re-evaluate and make a change. Until then, stick with the plan and have confidence - the results will follow. Good luck!

Stop Post-Workout Pain with Branch Chain Amino Acids

It's only 1 or 2 days after an intense workout and you can barely move. Those 3 rounds of deep lunges you did?  Yup, you can definitely feel them today in your glutes. Using the restroom isn't so easy. It's more like falling on the toilet seat rather than sitting on it. Or falling in to the car rather than getting in to the car. A tough as nails workout is gratifying, but the aftermath? Not so much.

You'll often find fitness pros preaching the powerful recovery properties of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), but do these powdered products live up to the hype? They sure do. Don't expect a miracle after 1 or 2 doses. Supplements are one of those things in life that require consistency over time to reap the benefits. And even then, the "effects" are not going to just appear one day like "oh wow, there are the results I was looking for." What will happen however is that you'll notice you're not so sore after a tough workout, you feel stronger, you have more energy for your workouts and you may not get sick as often. But that's only if you're taking BCAA's regularly.

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the leaders in the field, BCAA's have been touted to aid in exercise recovery due to their ability to promote protein synthesis (muscle building), decrease protein degradation (breakdown of muscle tissue), aiding in glycogen resynthesis (assisting in energy production), delaying fatigue, and improving mental toughness during exercise. The ISSN recommends taking BCAA's before, during and after an intense workout. For the full breakdown of ISSN's protein and BCAA recommendations, click here.

Over the years I've used BCAA's on and off consistently in a few different ways. Here are your options:

1. Take 5g three times a day (first thing in the AM, 30 minutes prior to lunch and 30 minutes before bed OR first thing in the AM, 30 minutes pre-workout and immediately post-workout).

2. Drink it during your workout (mix 5-10g BCAAs in water and drink throughout your workout).

3. Take 5g in the morning and drink it during your workout.

4. Take 5g any time you remember to.

Brands you may want to try:

Scivation Xtend One of my favorite brands, I used BCAA's consistently over 4 or 5 years when I was competing. It's only lately that I've been feeling like I should grab a jug again in an effort to improve my own exercise performance. Don't be fooled by the name, Xtend is a blend of BCAAs and Glutamine making it the perfect powder for recovery, energy production, and improved immune function. It's also sugar-free, caffeine free and carbohydrate free - perfect for women! Added bonus? It comes in a handful of delicious flavors. Some of my old favorites were Green Apple Explosion and Watermelon Madness. Good prices for Scivation Xtend are found here and here.


Muscle Pharm Amino 1 Recently I came upon this product with interest. After reading it's profile, it looks to be a solid BCAA product. Like Xtend, it's sugar-free and caffeine free, it mixes easily in water and comes in various fruity flavors. At this point, the biggest difference is that Amino 1 uses a 3:1:2 ratio of BCAAs, is packed with electrolytes for rehydration and does not contain Glutamine. If you're looking for a basic BCAA caplet instead of a powder you mix in water, Muscle Pharm also makes BCAA 3:1:2. Good prices for Muscle Pharm Amino 1 are found here and here.


Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy I've tried this product before. The Orange flavor tastes like an orange drink - super yummy. Essential Amino Energy contains all essential amino acids including branch chains, but what it also contains is caffeine. This product is great for a morning or early afternoon workout, but you may have trouble getting to sleep at night if you take it later in the evening. Good prices for Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy are found here and here.

If you're unsure of what BCAA product is best for you, a simple Google search can help you with your decision. Be sure to read reviews on the products before making your final choice. The three products I have listed here are not the only products on the market, they are just products I am familiar with and feel confident promoting.

P.S. Any of these products would make awesome stocking-stuffers for the fit-fanatic in your life!

Have you ever tried BCAAs? If so, tell us about your experience? What brands do you recommend?

7 Tips to Avoid Calorie-Overload on Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving and there is so much to be thankful for. To start, I'm thankful for the food I'm about to indulge in. Though I'm not particularly thankful for the discomfort and guilt I'm likely to experience post-feast. Like anything else in life, the best way to tackle T-day is to go in with a solid plan. Try these 7 tips for success to avoid calorie-overload and guilt:

1. Burn some calories. Starting the day off with a workout or run can help ease the idea of eating a plate full of Thanksgiving goodness later in the day. If your gym is not open on Thanksgiving, take this opportunity try an outdoor workout or check out a local gym you've been wanting to drop by. Today I'm heading to CrossFit Suffolk for a morning WOD. My usual gym is not open and a break from the norm with great company every once in a while is well-deserved and needed. Another great way to get in a workout is to find a local Turkey Trot (5k walk/run the morning of Thanksgiving). Search online in your area for more information.

2. Don't starve yourself all day. You may think that "saving" your calories during the day for what you may expect to eat at night is wise. Think again. Not only are you setting yourself up for failure, but you're putting your body in to "starvation mode" making it more likely to store every calorie you put in to it. Go about your day as usual without skipping breakfast and lunch. If you are having an early Thanksgiving dinner, opt for a light lunch beforehand.

3. Focus on the activities. Thanksgiving is the time to reflect and be thankful for those around you. Spend this time to catch up with family you've not seen in a long time, hang out with the little kids, and get to know the new faces at the table. The more you talk, the less you eat (hopefully).

4. Eat only what looks good to you. Instead of trying every item on the table, serve yourself small portions of the things you want most. If it's not a food item you are crazy about, what's the point in wasting precious calories on it. Enjoy what you like and you'll end up feeling good about what you did eat afterward.

5. Get your fill of veggies and protein. Stuff your plate with turkey, veggies and salad before topping on the carby sides like sweet potato casserole, stuffing and cornbread. It's the carby sides that put your calorie intake and discomfort over the top. Opt for bite size portions of those and fill up on the lean stuff instead.

6. Steer clear of liquid calories. Fill your glass with water and other calorie-free beverages. It's crazy how many calories you can take in from sipping a cocktail or other beverages. Watch out for cream sauces, dressings and gravies as well - they can be filled with unwanted hidden calories you didn't know you were taking in. Use sparingly.

7. Walk it off. Start a new family tradition by walking around the block together after the big meal. Any sort of movement will burn some calories and your overstuffed tummy might feel better as well.

With these tips in mind you can leave the elastic waistband pants at home and walk away from Thanksgiving without regret.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

A Call To Action: Kids Nutrition Starts with the Parents

I was a Pediatric Dietitian for 11.4 weeks. It was a part-time gig with full-time gratification. I don't have kids but I do know how to relate to them. But when it comes to nutrition for kids, all Dietitians know that counseling the parents [not the kids] is half the battle.

For just under 3 months [on the weekends] I'd drive 5o minutes to a town on Long Island called Garden City. In Garden City there's a Pediatrician who's working to curb the childhood obesity epidemic, her name is Dr. Joanna Dolgoff. Her program Red Light Green Light Eat right is on its way to changing the world of Kids nutrition counseling and weight loss. She's been in the news and on TV promoting her successful program numerous times and when I had the opportunity to get involved even for a short period, I was more than excited.

There are certain aspects of nutrition for kids that play a crucial role in the way kids think and eat on a daily basis. Working with kids and their parents only reiterated what the nutrition world has been touting for so many decades.

1. Kids nutrition starts with the parents. This one is more important than any parent would ever imagine. If you don't teach your kids healthy eating habits from the start, your child will be more likely to have a host of health problems as an adult including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, the list goes on. Your job as a parent is to lead by example. "Do as I say, not as I do" is not a good tactic - instead serve healthy foods for everyone in the family and place emphasis on how tasty fruits and vegetables really are. Your kids will follow suit.

2. Peer pressure is the biggest saboteur. There are kids out there who have no problem ignoring pressure from their friends to eat pizza or other junk foods. On the other hand, most kids fall victim. One of my biggest challenges as a Pediatric Dietitian was helping kids overcome pressure from their friends to eat junk food instead of their healthy counterparts. As parents it's your job to teach your children how to have confidence in their decisions and choices in all aspects of their lives including what they choose to put in their mouths. As kids get older it becomes easier for kids to practice confidence, but that's only if they have positive support, influence and guidance from their parents.

What do you do with kids who just don't want to try new foods? Get them involved! Make food fun and interesting, show them how delicious healthy foods are and you'd be surprised at how interested they become.

What do you do with kids who don't understand why we should eat healthy foods? Work on teaching them simple concepts - start with 'Healthy foods make us grow strong and smart'. Focus on the positive and take small steps. Kids are surprisingly resilient and their desire to learn and eat healthy is far beyond any adult. Kids are proud to eat healthy and make healthy decisions - you just have to open their minds to it.

photo credit: Wendy Copley via photopin cc

Do your kids eat healthy? What have been some of their favorite go-to nutrient packed meals?