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!

10 Things To Do With KIND Granola

The holidays are my favorite time of year. Not only are they filled with joy and cheer, but the doorbell rings almost daily with packages from all of my online shopping! The other day I opened the door to 2 boxes of KIND products - woohoo! That was truly a treat because I didn't order any bars or granola, the fantastic people at KIND sent them my way complimentary for me to share with my clients, friends and family. First thing I did when I popped open the boxes? Took a picture of course!

KIND product packages say "Ingredients you can see & pronounce" - I love that! Sure enough their granola bags have a window to see the product inside and the bars are wrapped in clear wrap. The ingredients list is definitely easy to read and understand with natural recognizable ingredients. And the part I like most is that their products contain no refined sugar. A+ in my book!

Then I unwrapped a bar and took a bite. OMG the cinnamony sweet goodness of the Apple Cinnamon & Pecan Fruit and Nut bars is so satisfying. The textural blend of crunchy (nuts and granola) and gooey (dried fruits) are complimentary to the slightly sweet yet still salty flavor profile that's got a hint of cinnamon and just the right amount of apple.

Oh and the granola? It's perfect all by itself. It put my homemade granola to shame. For one, it's called Cinnamon Oat Clusters with Flax seeds which means it's got clusters and flax seeds - two things my granola does not have. Might have to try to duplicate this flavor profile and crunch factor. Then I thought, what the heck should I do with all this granola?! To start, I decided to share it. I sent a bag and a box of bars to the Air Force base with my fiance to share with his shop mates. From what I'm told, they all loved it and were thankful for the healthy treat.

On the box it says to eat it "any way you like it: on-the-go, over yogurt, or with milk!"

So that's just what I did.

But then I thought, what else can I do with all this granola?

Here are my top 10 things to do with KIND granola:

1. Share it! 2. Eat it straight out of the bag. 3. Put it on greek yogurt for a healthy snack with a tasty crunch! 4. Soak it in milk and enjoy hot for a warm breakfast cereal. 5. Use it as the topping for your baked apple or apple pie. (more on this later in the week) 6. Use it in muffins and other recipes like stuffing instead of bread crumbs. 7. Top your pancakes and waffles with it. 8. Put it on frozen yogurt or ice cream. 9. Make a parfait with fruit and yogurt! 10. Eat it like cereal in milk or almond milk.

Do you have a creative way to enjoy KIND Granola? Share it here! I'd love to try something new!

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?

6 Ways to Stop Obsessing Over Your Diet

I know you're thinking, "that's not me, I don't obsess over my diet." But if you're reading this post I wouldn't be surprised if you are someone who pays more attention to your food than your personal life. It's more common than you think. For the extreme, it's got a name - Orthorexia, which is characterized by an obsession with dieting to the extent it interrupts your personal life, causes stress, and an unhealthy relationship with food.

Are you someone who has to stick to your diet to the T or else it's as if the world has ended? Do you feel guilt after a treat and immediately start planning how to burn off the calories? Do you find yourself binging alone on a Saturday night with everything you can find that looks tasty? If so, you've probably taken dieting a bit too far. I should know, this was me just 2 years ago. It began with dieting for a Figure competition and ended [about 2 years ago] with a realization that my inability to "feel full" after a normal size meal was just not normal. How do you fix this though. It's definitely not easy. Changing your mindset is the secret to changing anything in your life - and if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to have it no matter how long it takes. Even if you don't take your diet to the extreme, these tips can help you avoid taking it too far.

1. Stop dieting. That's right, I said it. Drop the word diet and the strict meal plan and you'd be surprised at the magic that happens. Set your mind free from restrictions and start eating healthy for the flavor, for the satisfaction, for the health of it. Once you let go of the idea that you have to eat a certain way to reach your goal or be a certain way, you'll find that your body will respond even faster. I'm not telling you to eat whatever you want, I'm suggesting that you quit telling yourself (and other people) that you're on a diet and allow yourself the freedom of eating for enjoyment. Trust me, it works. To this day, I can't fathom going back on any kind of diet - I feel like it's going to put me right back where I was miserable two years ago.

2. Eat foods you usually say no to. Cutting out entire food groups is not the answer to your dieting sorrows. In fact, it's a symptom of Orthorexia. For me, I was so adamant that I couldn't have fruit that I was missing out on nature's candy. Everyone knows that fruit is full of fiber, nutrients and flavor. But because I believed fruit had too many carbs for my strict diet, I wouldn't eat it - ever. Slowly I began putting fruit back in my diet by way of an apple here and there. Today fruit is a staple in my day. Maybe you eat fruits but you won't eat fats, or grains, or protein. Add those foods back in - they are packed with nutrients your body needs and will open your options to so many delicious foods.

3. Find a hobby that has nothing to do with food. Keeping yourself busy with something you enjoy doing will take the focus off your strict meal plan. If you're going to be out all day, bring a healthy lunch with plenty of snacks. Pack a variety of healthy foods you wouldn't normally have. Keep the focus on your experience not on what you're eating. And if you're still hungry after you eat, have a piece of fruit or glass of water.

4. Slow down. Instead of exercising endlessly to lose weight, find the fun in exercise and workout to get fit and healthy. Say yes to that date Friday night and don't obsess over missing the gym. You can always find time tomorrow to make up the workout you missed. Doing things to make you happy means finding time to socialize and have fun - in that case, the gym can wait.

5. Stop binging. Ok maybe you don't binge. But if you do, you've got to stop. It's just not healthy. The emotional roller coaster you're putting yourself on is an endless cycle. Restricting your diet leads to binging. Stop restricting and stop binging. If it becomes too difficult to tackle on your own, you may need to talk to a professional who can help you get better.

6. Stop Obsessing. Eating a cookie or two is not going to cause you to gain any weight. Eating cookies all the time will. Keep your diet in perspective and enjoy foods when you want them. Remember that you have the power to make the right choices and giving yourself the freedom to enjoy life and food will lead you to the body, mind and life that you want.

Have you ever been on a diet? What was your experience dieting and how did it affect you mentally and physically?

Some of My Favorite Things at #FNCE

This year was my first time attending the AND’s annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo – or FNCE for those of you “in the know.”  My attendance was sponsored by my 9-5 so I spent much of my time working the booth and fighting off freebie-loving attendees.  But since this show is the biggest Nutrition show of the year, I had to get around the expo to see who else was there.  I tried to take as many photos as I could, however after scrolling through my camera album it seems as though I forgot a few.  Anywho, here is a list of some of my favorite everyday things that were also at #FNCE! 1.    Some amazing Trail Mix at Forgotten Booth Name (oops) – I’m kind of neurotic when it comes to mixed nuts.  If it’s got any amount of sodium in the mix, I probably won’t eat it. I just don’t like the salty flavor, which usually leaves me thirsty.  I feel terribly, but my first question to the man at booth #563 was “does this have sodium in it?”  Ultimately, the almonds were the only item that contained salt.  I always love a good healthy trail mix and this one was full of nuts and dried fruit.  It even had shaved coconut and dark chocolate!  P.S.  shame on me, I don’t remember the actual blend and the man at the booth didn’t know either.  But doesn't it look good?

2.    Walnuts! – California Walnuts was there with a big fancy booth that had a big fancy walnut on top.  I love walnuts for their big bite of heart healthy fats.  I use them often to add crunch to cottage cheese, banana bread, oats and more.  Throughout the weekend I sent out a handful of tweets to @cawalnuts not because they were running a Twitter iPad 3 giveaway but because I love walnuts!

3.    Daisy Cottage Cheese – any brand of cottage cheese is good in my book, but Daisy brand was representing at FNCE this year.  They even had a cottage cheese bar where you could choose your toppings.  I picked plain old perfect strawberries.

4.    Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk – Silk was there with a handful of their most popular milks.  My favorite from Silk is their Unsweetened Almond Milk.  I use it in recipes, in cereal, in protein shakes and for a healthy beverage on it’s own.  Rich can’t even go one night without his Unsweetened Almond Milk with low-fat Honey Graham Crackers.  It’s his favorite after-dinner dessert.

5.    Kind Bars and their new Granola! – Kind bars are super-yummy and packed with dried fruit and nuts (just my kind of snack!).  They were exhibiting both their amazing bars and their flavored granolas.  I can’t remember which one I tried, but it was yum, and I also took home a sample so I’ll get back to you with a recap of that one at a later date.

6.    Annie’s Salad Dressing – Seriously the best Organic low-cal salad dressings around.  You’d never know they are low-cal by tasting them.  My particular favorite is the Lite-Gingerly flavor (thanks to my kick-a$$ friend Wendy in Wyoming).  When I found their booth, I spent 5 minutes explaining how addicted I am to their dressing – this rant was followed by them handing me a handful of coupons.  Perfect!  I love coupons!  And I love this dressing!

7.    Red Mill Flours – You can find this stuff in Whole Foods, Stop N Shop, Publix and wherever else you buy your groceries.  It’s good stuff!  I’ve used their flax meal and Almond flour before with success.  I stopped to chat with the girl at Red Mill for a few minutes; she had this fabulous cookbook on the table that I’m dying to get my hands on.  I’m hoping she sends me a copy [which I will of course share the contents with you all when she does].  She also mentioned a new flour she had coming out soon.  I’ll share that with you at a future date as well.  Anyway, if you’ve not tried any flours out of the usual, give Red Mill a shot - they have affordable good quality products.

8.    Chobani Greek Yogurt! – Yay for Chobani!  Our booth was directly across from Chobani [which I planned for] that made for a very hungry weekend.  Everyone who walked by had a cup of Chobani yogurt in their hand from Chobani's Greek yogurt bar.  That’s right, they had a Greek yogurt bar where you could choose your flavor and choose your toppings.  I chose plain yogurt with cashews, blueberries and coconut.  It was amazing to say the least.  Chobani always goes over the top for events – their café/kitchen theme went over well and so did their two new flavors – Banana and Pear.  Yum yum!  Can’t wait to try these again when they hit stores!

After a long 4-day event, I can honestly say my time at FNCE was a success.  I learned a few good things from the educational sessions, tried some yummy new flavors and foods, and met some great people.  Before I go, I have to give a shout out to my good friend Marie Spano who I only found out was there via Twitter.  Thanks Twitter for keeping me in touch with my friends!

Did you attend FNCE this year? What were some of the highlights for you? If not, what are some of your favorite healthy treats and snacks?