Simple Tips for Everyday Healthy Eating

While it’s a given that we all need balanced nutrition for good health, it can sometimes be challenging to put this into daily practice. For many women, the hectic daily routine of work and family means that optimal food choices are put on the back burner. It can be overwhelming to think about making sweeping changes to your diet. The reality is that even small improvements can make a big difference. It’s also true that changes that turn into healthy eating habits are developed over time.

March is National Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward – a reminder that every bite counts. With every meal or snack, you can choose a nutritious option. The following are some simple ideas that can help you eat better each day.

Choose a color a day for fruits and vegetables

With many healthy eating options to select from, one way to narrow down your choices is to focus on one color of produce for each day. For example, on Monday, choose from the bounty of red options, including peppers, apples, berries and potatoes. When you begin to make choices based on the amazing spectrum of colorful fruits and vegetables, you can enjoy old favorites and experiment with new options, too.

Choose more whole grains

Eating grains, particularly whole grains, is an important part of healthy eating. Grains provide important nutrients, including fiber, several B vitamins and minerals, such as iron, magnesium and selenium. By swapping out white bread, biscuits, and pasta for whole grain alternatives, you may also help reduce blood cholesterol levels and your chance of developing heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Include low-fat dairy products or dairy alternatives

When possible, choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. For those who are lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free products available, as well as calcium-fortified, plant-based milk substitutes. Other beneficial sources of calcium to consider include sardines, leafy greens, and some types of beans.

Watch your portions

How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Americans are eating larger portions than ever, and this is a big contributor to the growing epidemic of obesity in the United States. Not sure how many calories you’re taking in each day? Check out the USDA’s SuperTracker. This tool can help you evaluate the foods you eat and compare them to your nutrition targets.

Keep healthy snacks on hand

You’ll reduce your risk of grabbing for a candy bar or other less-than-healthy snack if you have more nutritious options available. Easy options include nuts, protein bars and plain yogurt.

Find activities you enjoy

You don’t have to be training for a marathon to get sufficient physical activity. The key is finding activities that you like to do on a regular basis. A simple walk each day is a great place to start. Consider partnering with a buddy who can keep you “on track.”

Avoid fast weight loss diets

Fad diets may help you take off a few pounds, but it’s unlikely that the weight loss will last.

“Fad diets just don’t work,” says Marissa Licata, MS, RD, CDN, Registered Dietitian, Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Choose a weight loss plan that teaches you how to make long-term positive changes. Changes to behavior and the type of food you choose is where you’ll find long-term success.”

Get Expert Advice and Guidance

A licensed dietitian can help you improve your health and manage diseases. By working with you to create personalized meal planning, you gain the tools you need to make sound nutritional choices.

Want to learn more about resources to support your nutritional needs? At the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

holiday eating

Smart Holiday Eating Strategies

Favorite childhood memories often involve enjoying the sweets and treats of the holidays. While they’re still just as delicious when we indulge in them as adults, they can lead to unwanted, post-holiday weight gain. Navigating the dinners, desserts, parties and drinks that often go hand-in-hand with holiday celebrations can be challenging for even the most disciplined eaters. This is why many gain post-holiday pounds. One way to maintain a healthy weight throughout the year is to have smart holiday eating strategies for keeping calories in check throughout the holiday season.

“Often it’s a matter of doing simple things like not going to a party hungry that can help you avoid over-indulging during the holidays,” says Marissa Licata, MS, RD, CDN, nutritionist with the Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “While it’s always good to substitute healthier foods for richer holiday fare, making strategic decisions about how and when you eat during the holidays can make a big difference.” Licata suggests a variety of strategies for managing calorie consumption throughout the holidays. These include:

Don’t Skip Meals

We can all get busy decking the halls, shopping for gifts and getting together with friends and family. Yet, we still require the same level of nutrients during the holidays as we do the rest of the year. By ensuring we eat balanced breakfasts and lunches, we can greatly reduce our desire to overeat during a holiday event or meal.

Eat before a Party

It can be tempting to avoid eating during the day because you know they’ll be plenty of good food at a party. The reality is arriving at a celebration with an empty stomach is a surefire way to excessively snack (and be negatively impacted by the effects of alcohol). Before the party, eat a small healthy snack that will keep your appetite in check and you on track for eating right.

Bring Something Healthy to a Potluck

Making something for a potluck event is a wonderful way to showcase your culinary skills. This year, make it a point to whip up something healthy and flavorful. Not only will other party attendees appreciate your efforts, you’ll have a healthy option if your only other choices are cheese-laden spinach dip and pigs in a blanket.

Stand Away from the Buffet Table

It can be tempting to grab a handful of nuts or reach for that last canape, but you know they amount to empty calories that you don’t need. Don’t increase your temptation by standing close to the buffet. Instead, make a single trip through the line and eat only the items on your plate.

Carefully Select Your Buffet Offerings

Don’t make a seven-layer dip of everything on the buffet line. Choose only the items that you really enjoy and savor each bite. Loading a slab of prime rib on top of a collection of mini quiches, cocktail shrimp and chicken skewers will leave you feeling full and may keep you up all night with heartburn. Moderation is your friend!

Be Careful of Calorie-Laden Beverages

For many, holiday cheer involves a beverage or two. Yet, it’s very easy to consume hundreds of empty calories without even being aware of it. If you’re trying to keep weight in check throughout the season, you will want to avoid high calorie beverages like egg nog and high fat coffee drinks. Smarter options include wine spritzers, light beers, herbal teas, or even mineral water with a twist of lemon.

Stick to Your Exercise Schedule

Your calendar is booked, and you still have gifts to buy and trees to trim. During the holiday season, we’re all pressed for time, and scheduling exercise can seem next to impossible. Yet, exercise is not only necessary for keeping weight in check, it’s also a great stress reliever during this hectic time of year.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about nutrition and healthy eating. For more information or to schedule an appointment with our nutritionist, call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Managing diabetes

Managing Diabetes – Don’t Let Sweetness Be Your Weakness

Many consider diabetes to be like a roller coaster with significant ups and downs, but you have the choice to be fearful or to enjoy the ride. When it comes to diabetes management, living a productive happy life is possible, but it requires a consistent effort to keep your blood sugar levels in check by making healthy lifestyle decisions.

Getting Screened for Diabetes

The first step is diagnosis. Nearly one-third of those with diabetes don’t know they have the condition (source: CDC). Because there are often few or no symptoms of type 2 diabetes, early screening is essential to avoid developing complications of the disease which include damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) need to be screened every three years. All adults need to be screened at 40. For those who have diabetes risk factors, screening should start at an earlier age and happen more frequently (USPTF). Risk factors include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Family history of diabetes (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings with the condition)
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race/ethnicity (African-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander)
  • High blood pressure (equal to or greater than 140/90)
  • History of impaired fasting glucose or gestational diabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, and another 86 million have prediabetes with blood sugar levels that are higher than normal (source: CDC).

Healthy Eating for Life

Well-balanced meals are fundamental in keeping your blood sugar levels within the range recommended by your doctor and for living a long, healthy life – whether or not you have been diagnosed with diabetes. This requires knowing how food impacts your blood sugar levels. This includes the type, quantity and combinations of foods that you eat.

“If you are at risk of diabetes or have already received a diagnosis, having a consultation with a registered dietitian can be very beneficial in helping you on the right path,” says Marissa Licata, Registered Dietitian at Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “Diabetes isn’t just about avoiding sugar. It’s about being able to plan healthy meals, coordinating meals and medications and learning how to count carbohydrates and measure portion sizes.”

The Daily Routine

Along with eating healthy, there are other healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt which can help you manage your blood sugar levels. These include:

Exercising Regularly – When you stay active, your muscles use sugar for energy, and your body uses insulin more efficiently.

Following Medication Guidelines – Insulin and other medications may be prescribed if diet and exercise alone are not enough to manage your diabetes. Their effectiveness depends on the timing and size of their dose.

Managing Stress – Hormones produced in response to stress can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. It’s important to learn strategies for coping with stress in your everyday life.

Staying Informed – The more you know about your condition and what can affect your blood sugar levels, the better you can anticipate and manage fluctuations.

“When it comes to managing diabetes, the key is not to let it have you,” says Alyson Myers, MD, Medical Director, Inpatient Diabetes, North Shore University Hospital. “It’s vital to stay focused on day-to-day factors that affect your blood sugar levels. This means healthy eating, getting physical activity, taking prescribed medications, sticking to a regular sleep schedule and seeing your doctor on a regular basis.”

Join Us on the evening of November 16th for an important Katz Institute for Women’s Health (KIWH) Women’s Wellness event: Diabetes – Don’t Let Sweetness Be Your Weakness.

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about diabetes. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Dietary Supplements

Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Dietary Supplements
If you’ve walked through the health food aisle of your local grocery store lately, you’ve probably been amazed by the wide variety of dietary supplements on the shelves. The options are vast and growing – from traditional tablets and capsules to energy bars, shakes, drops and more. With the majority of women in the United States now taking one or more dietary supplements every day, marketers have certainly seen an opportunity when it comes to introducing new products containing vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and botanicals.

Are Dietary Supplements Necessary?
There is scientific evidence showing that some dietary supplements can be beneficial for managing certain health conditions and for maintaining overall health. For example, folic acid taken during pregnancy can decrease the risk of neural tube birth defects. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help maintain both brain and heart health. And, calcium and vitamin D may help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

“A multivitamin can be a good nutritional insurance policy for some women when it’s combined with a healthy diet and exercise to ensure they meet their daily nutritional requirements,” says Robert E. Graham, MD, MPH, FACP, Director of Integrative Health & Wellness at North Shore-LIJ Health System. “However, it’s important to remember that they’re only intended to supplement the diet not to be meal replacements.”

Safety and Risk
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a set of quality standards for dietary supplements to ensure their identity, composition, strength and purity. However, unlike prescription and over-the-counter medication, the FDA does not determine the efficacy of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Quality can be variable, and this is why it’s wise to carefully choose products that have been third-party tested for quality. Organizations that provide this type of testing include and NSF International.

Along with potential quality issues, there are other risks when it comes to taking dietary supplements. One of the most common problems is experiencing side effects from combining herbal supplements or other types of dietary supplements with either prescription or over-the-counter medication. Some supplements can increase the risk of bleeding or affect one’s response to anesthesia and shouldn’t be taken before or after surgery. St John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of both antidepressants and birth control pills. Even commonly-taken antioxidant supplements like vitamin C and E may reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.

There can also be dosage issues with dietary supplements. Getting sufficient amounts of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 can help women feel their best. Yet, taking too much can be dangerous. High intakes of vitamin B6 can cause nerve problems, gastrointestinal symptoms and sensitivity to the sun. High dose B12 vitamins have been linked to blood clots, diarrhea and damage to the optic nerve, which can even lead to blindness.

What’s the Best Way to Leverage the Benefits of Dietary Supplements?
If you are considering adding a supplement to your diet, the first step is to discuss benefits and possible side effects with your doctor.

“It’s important to consider all medications, as well as other factors such as age, diet, current health status and exercise regimen before taking any supplement,” says Dr. Graham. “For many women, dietary supplements can be incorporated into a healthy diet to add to what is needed to thrive.”

Do you want to learn more about dietary supplements? Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak with a women’s health specialist.

Health Tips, October 2015

1: Make Breast Self-Exam a Monthly Habit: Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump. Getting in the habit of a monthly self-exam is very important for women of all ages. While mammograms can help detect cancer before you can feel a lump, you can also be proactive by alerting your doctor if you notice any changes.

2: Get Outside and Enjoy the Season: The glorious colors of fall are all around. Before the cold winter weather strikes, take time for a daily stroll to appreciate the changing of the seasons. Along with burning calories, strengthening muscles and improving circulation, regular walking can help improve your mood, slow mental decline and even lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

3: Avoid the Temptation of Halloween Candy – Who isn’t tempted by Halloween candy that seems to be nearly everywhere throughout the month of October? Yet, before you reach for the candy corn or a peanut butter cup, it’s important to remember that the impact of these bite-sized treats can really add up. Just because they’re small in size doesn’t mean that they’re not loaded with calories. Avoid fall weight gain by opting for healthier options like a crisp apple or a handful of nuts.

Creating Healthy and Flavorful School Lunches

One of the many issues facing parents of school-aged children is how to create healthy lunches that actually get eaten and not thrown out. Packing a lunchbox full of nutritious items on a daily basis can be a tremendous challenge, especially when you have finicky eaters. We all want our kids to eat a healthy lunch to maximize their ability to grow, learn and play, but how can this be balanced with making their school lunch something that they actually enjoy eating?

We spoke to Sotiria Everett, RD and nutritionist at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, to get some tips on creating school lunches that meet kids’ nutritional needs while still being fun and flavorful.  She offered some creative kid-friendly lunch ideas that pack a nutritional punch.

Get Creative with Sandwiches
The sandwich has been a lunchbox staple for generations, and it still is! However, there are now many healthy and tasty alternatives to the old PB&J or bologna sandwich. Consider using tortillas, pita bread or even lettuce instead of sliced bread to create unique sandwiches that kids will love. Venture beyond lunch meat or peanut butter by filling sandwiches with nutritious options like hummus, fresh veggies, quinoa or low-fat cheese.

Offer Alternatives like Pasta, Salad or Soup
While sandwiches are a great lunchbox option, there are many alternatives that can create a visually appealing and healthy lunch. Cooked whole-grain pasta can be tossed with peppers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets and cubes of mozzarella to create a kid-friendly cold salad.  Hot or cold soups are also satisfying, healthy options.

Individual plastic containers or reusable Bento boxes can make a fun lunchtime meal. Offer small portions of a variety of favorites like hardboiled egg slices, cubes of leftover roast chicken, carrot sticks, yogurt dip and whole wheat crackers.

Ditch the Juice Box
Fruit juice has replaced the carton of milk as the go-to lunchbox beverage. And, juice manufacturers have done a great job making parents believe that juice is as nutritious as eating a piece of fruit. While juice offers some vitamins and minerals, it contains significantly more sugar and a negligible amount of fiber.

In other words, you’re better off packing a lunch with fresh fruit and skipping the juice box. If your kids love juice, consider only packing a small 4-ounce size juice box that has no added sugar or artificial colors.

A whole piece of fruit is a great addition to a lunchbox, but there are also many other ways to offer fruit. Slices of apples with peanut butter provide both protein and delicious crunch. A skewer with cubes of mangos, pineapple, and berries is loaded with vitamins and fun to eat. Offer lots of options when it comes to fruit and be creative!

Get Them Involved in Lunch Planning
It can be frustrating to find uneaten food in lunchboxes at the end of the day – particularly when you’ve put a significant amount of time and money into packing healthy food. One very useful way to get kids to eat their lunch is to enlist their help when it comes to planning, shopping and preparing lunch items.

Sotiria Everett recommends that parents and their children visit for age appropriate nutritional information that includes activity sheets, recipes and videos. There are lots of ideas for creating delicious, healthy lunches that have been taste-tested by kids.

Have questions related to nutrition? Find out more about the KIWH Nutrition Services Specialty Program or call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) to speak with a women’s health specialist.