Kathy LaBella RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT      1-860-437-0050

General Nutrition

Healthy Winter Habits To Transform Your Life

 Jennifer Scott, guest blogger

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Many people make New Year’s resolutions, aiming to make their lives better and improve their well-being over the next year. Sadly, most people give up on those goals within the first few weeks of the year. There’s no reason to wait until January 1st to start working towards your goals. In fact, winter provides ample opportunities to stick to your typical healthy routines while also developing new, healthy habits that will have you entering the New Year a healthier you.

Meditation

Meditation is a growing trend among people from all walks of life, from busy professionals to self-development gurus, and everyday people like us. When you examine the benefits of a few minutes of meditation each day, it’s easy to see why. Just 15 to 30 minutes of meditation each day can change the way you approach life, give you more balance, and actually cultivate the development of new, positive connections and neural pathways in the brain while breaking down existing and less-beneficial connections.

Commit to a daily meditation practice, and you’ll develop greater empathy, be better able to manage your emotional response to situations outside your control, have less anxiety, and overall become more centered and less easily influenced by other people and events.

Personal Development

Meditation is sometimes viewed as a subset of personal development. While meditation alone can be helpful, there are other aspects of personal development that are equally beneficial for furthering your goals. If winter for you means more downtime, more time spent curled up in a blanket to stay warm, more time spent in idle traffic during snowstorms, or less opportunity to enjoy your favorite outdoor summer pastimes, then there’s no better time to kick your personal development efforts up a notch.

Listen to a podcast in the car or on the train on your way to and from work each day. Choose a few personal development books to enjoy in front of the fireplace in addition to your favorite fiction novels this winter. Sign up to take an online course to further your career or explore something new.

Healthy Eating

Those comfy, bulky sweaters many people wear in the cooler months certainly help to keep you warm, but they also help to hide an extra inch or two around the waistline. If you’re normally a healthy eater, don’t sacrifice your usual habits just because it’s winter.

Think ahead to the goals you’ve set for the spring or summer. Planning on taking a cruise this spring? Heading to Jamaica in early summer? Keep these goals in mind through the winter, but don’t deny yourself the occasional indulgence.

If your diet hasn’t been quite up to par, use your downtime this winter to make some positive changes, develop some clean eating habits, and experiment with cooking some healthy alternatives to your usual not-so-healthy fare.

Volunteering

There’s truly no better time than to spend some time or resources giving back to your community or to a worthy cause than over the holiday season. When you’re taking time to think about the many things you’re thankful for, think about ways to help out those less fortunate.

From donating and wrapping gifts for children in need to raising funds, assembling care packages for military personnel serving overseas over the holidays, helping to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, donating ready-to-cook meals to families in need, and much more, there’s no shortage of possible ways you can contribute to the greater good this winter. Plus, you’ll get to experience the good vibes and positive energy that come from performing selfless acts.

Exercise

Winter makes it easy to skimp on your workouts. Shorter days mean less sunlight, thus less Vitamin D, and subsequently less energy (for many people). Plus, snow storms can put a bit of a damper on your plans to hit the gym.

You only need a few items to equip a home gym of your own and eliminate excuses that get in the way of reaching your goals. Buy a few dumbbells or kettlebells, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and perhaps a balance trainer and pull-up bar, and you have everything you need for a total body workout in the comfort of your home. There are even workouts that rely entirely on body-weight resistance, no equipment needed.

If you’ve been thinking of making some changes in your life, your season of renewal can begin today. There’s no need to wait for the New Year or for spring to start making a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. Start developing healthy habits that you’ll stick with all year long.

Image via Pixabay by langll

Jennifer Scott is an advocate of mental and overall health who has used her experience to inspire others that they too can maintain a healthy body and mind. More about Jennifer and her blog can be seen at Spirit Finder http://spiritfinder.org 


Summertime Tomato Bruschetta

As we near the end of summer, I’m still serving up my favorite summertime tomato bruschetta known to many of my friends for over twenty years. Simple, delicious, nutritious, and attractive with plenty of tomatoes, garlic, red onion, and fresh basil.

Tomato Bruschetta with fresh Russian pumpernickel bread.
Tomato Bruschetta with fresh Russian pumpernickel bread.

While many love the flavor and color, I like the fact one serving adds up to more than 10 percent of vitamin A, and 25 percent of vitamin C for the day. Vitamin A is essential for our vision, skin, bone formation, and immune function. Vitamin C is an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage, it is also involved with our collagen formation, nervous system, and it helps to enhance iron absorption into our bloodstream. In addition, this recipe contains eight percent of our iron needs, and the allyl sulfur compounds from the garlic and onion may help to protect against stomach and colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, and lycopene. Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction, and helps to reduce blood pressure. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is a phytochemical (natural plant chemical) that is known to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is better absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, and this recipe can either be made with raw or cooked tomatoes depending on how you like your bruschetta to be served up. Either way, it’s always a perfect dish to have at your summer gathering, or to bring to your next party.

Tomato Bruschetta Recipe     Number of Servings: 10

6 Plum tomatoes, cut small

4 Medium vine ripe tomatoes or garden fresh, cut small

½ Cup red onion, chopped

2 Garlic cloves

½ Cup fresh basil, chopped

2 Ounces balsamic vinegar

1-1/2 Tsp olive oil

¼ Tsp fresh ground black garlic pepper (or regular pepper)

15 Slices of 100% whole grain bread or homemade grain bread

Chop tomatoes. Finely chop onion, garlic, and basil. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper – add more for flavor.

Toast bread on one side under broiler, then cut the bread in half. Serve cold bruschetta on top. Serve on a platter or individual plates.

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  1. Spray bread with a light coating of olive oil, rub with garlic, and broil tomato mixture with mozzarella cheese on top. Note this adds calories to the stated amount below.
  2. Use tortilla chips in place of bread, and use bruschetta topping as a dip in place of salsa.

Calories: 150-170 depending on the size of bread. Average Carbs: 28g, Protein 7g, Fat 4g, Fiber 7g

Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 25%, Iron 8% based on percent of daily values for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT


 

Improving Your Performance With Beetroot Juice

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Photo by Kathy LaBella

Beetroot juice is no fad, and I’ve been drinking it myself for couple of years on and off while reading the research studies that prompted me to start recommending it to many of my clients. Why beetroot juice? In addition to being a good source of vitamin A, C, iron, fiber and carotenoids; carotenoids
can be converted into vitamin A, they are an antioxidant with many health benefits, and carotenoids provide the pigment of the plant, but the main reason why I recommend beetroot juice is for the nitrates. Nitrates naturally occur in vegetables, and are abundant in beets, spinach and other leafy greens. There are two reasons why I recommend nitrates, and especially those found in beetroot juice; one is the increased amount of nitrates found in beetroot juice lowers blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and two it increases athletic performance and energy because it helps with the blood flow by opening up the arteries, and it may improve the blood flow to working muscles. Beetroot juice is also really easy to consume without any preparation.

The scientific name for beets is Beta vulgaris, and to date there are several studies on the benefits of beets, beetroot juice, and nitrates.

Considering beetroot juice is positively documented to help with athletic performance, and I too have noticed the benefits in my beach runs, I do recommend it to active performers, and it may be most beneficial to musicians and vocalists who are frequently on stage or touring. This is because nitrates are converted to nitrites and later nitric oxide in our body that helps to regulate blood flow, and in turn help maximum oxygen uptake or consumption known as VO2 max for short; V meaning volume, O2 for oxygen and max for maximum. So what is this and why is it important? VO2 max is how much oxygen can be consumed when we are running at our maximum rate or speed usually measured as aerobic capacity on a treadmill. We can increase our VO2 max with aerobic training, and with nitrates such as those abundant in beetroot juice. As for the importance while performing, active musicians can often use a bit more oxygen intake, a little more stamina. I often think of a drummer who gets fatigued, hitting the wall like a runner (for more information on drummer’s fatigue please read my blog http://www.peakperformancerd.com/preventing-drummers-fatigue-with-nutrition/) or vocalists and opera singers who have to put out a lot of energy in every performance, often several times per week. A higher VO2 max improving your respiratory system increases your vocal or playing abilities on stage means less fatigue and higher output in your performance. This also comes in handy when you have to perform at higher altitudes over 1,500 meters that is just under a mile above sea level or equivalent to a mountain around 5,000 feet high.

As for studies with musicians, I don’t know of any to date, all of the information here is based on my findings and expertise as a sports dietitian who works with musicians to improve health and performance through diet, fitness, and nutrition. And if by chance you don’t find much of a physical difference with beetroot juice, know that your arteritis and heart will know a difference, not only from the nitrates, but from the many other heart healthy antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol.

As for taste, well, you may not exactly like it unless you really like beets, and I do like beets, but not necessarily straight beetroot juice. I recommend chilling it, and you may want to try diluting it, or camouflaging it by mixing it into a smoothie. As for the amount, some studies used high volumes up to 500mL equivalent to 16.7 ounces, that’s a lot of beetroot juice! I usually recommend 4 ounces prior to performance, and if you really want to increase your VO2 max aim for at least 4 ounces per day. An actual serving size is 8 ounces (240mL) for 110 calories, 3g protein, and 24g carbohydrate. Along with the beetroot juice, consider regular aerobic activity such as running or cycling, and push yourself to the limit by singing while exercising, all will continue to improve your VO2 max and performance!

Stay tuned to Kathy LaBella for news and programs about nutrition and health for musicians. And as always, individual counseling sessions are available and covered by many insurance plans, please visit http://www.peakperformancerd.com where you can also connect onto social media.


March Is National Nutrition Month® Savor The Flavor Of Eating Right

“Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” is this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month® that is focusing on cooking at home, following your traditions, and expanding your tastes by trying new adventures with food.

 Eating Right with grilled scallops
Broiled scallops over grilled vegetable salad

Eating right and eating healthy can be made simple with a little planning, especially now that spring is here and local fruit and vegetables stands are opening up all over. Eating right can actually save time and money with simple quick meals made at home or packed daily for your lunch and snacks.

 

Fruits and Vegetables – I encourage many fruits and vegetables for their abundance of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, as well as the ability to be a quick fix we can grab on the run from bananas and apples, to berries and grapes, to carrots, celery and peppers to take on your way out the door. Whether you opt for weekly shopping or daily stops along small markets, adventure out to try something new by adding a variety to prevent boredom. While at home, bring on the flavor and add a little cinnamon or nutmeg to your cut up fruit. And be sure to enhance your vegetable dishes with sautéed or grilled garlic, onion and herbs!

Nuts and Grains – Incorporating nuts and seeds are easy to pack along in a small container, or spreading peanut butter on whole grain bread for the road is simple while providing protein, and fueling your body with carbohydrates and healthy fats for the energy to get you through a few hours. In the evening making long grain rice only takes 30 minutes while you prep the rest of your meal or cut vegetables. If you have no time for rice, try thinly slicing a sweet potato for indoor grilling combined with your other vegetables and sprinkled with pine nuts; it only takes about 10 minutes to grill up a healthy meal. Another simple quick fix is adding nuts and seeds to a salad mixed with fresh herbs for dinner, combining taste, color and nutrients.

Protein – There are many choices today for protein that you can add into your day from Greek yogurt or soy yogurt to protein packed smoothies for a quick nutritious breakfast or a snack while at work that will keep you full without all the calories. Pack lunch the night before by adding lean fish, poultry, or beans in with a salad for lunch consisting of dark greens such as spinach with cut up broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a few olives topped off with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or pack leftovers from your dinner to take to work or school the next day to ensure you’re eating well. Top off your meats and seafood with rosemary, oregano, pepper, fresh squeezed lemon or orange for flavor.

 Eating Right
Spinach, broccoli, tomato salad w/olives

Savoring the Flavor – Take the time to enjoy your meal! It does not take any more time to put your food onto a nice plate, add a little flavor with your favorite spices and herbs, and pour yourself a cold water in a nice glass with a lemon wedge, or add fresh chocolate mint leaves to green tea. Use a cloth napkin, light a candle, relax and enjoy your meal. It doesn’t have to take long, only long enough to enjoy and savor the flavor.


Part 1 Of 2: I Never Exercised A Day In My Life, But I’m More Fit Than Many Half My Age

I Never Exercised a Day in My Life, but I’m More Fit than Many Half My AgeI once heard Steve Vai say during an interview, “I never worked a day in my life”. Vai is a Grammy award winning guitarists and songwriter who has produced several albums and performs world tours that have ranged from playing with top rock bands to symphony orchestras, yet Vai says he has never worked a day in his life. That’s because Steve Vai is doing what he loves; it’s not work to him, it’s a passion that is clearly exuberated as heperforms, a passion he only happens to make a living at it.

I can’t say I never worked a day in my life, but being a registered dietitian nutritionist and an advanced health and fitness specialist with American Council on Exercise, I can say I never exercised a day in my life! I may be affiliated with exercise, but yet I don’t feel I’ve ever done it. I say this because the word “exercise” sounds like work to me, it projects a negative connotation. Who wants to exercise? It’s like telling someone they have to do something and it’s saying you have to work at it. Adult physical activity guidelines indicate we need a minimum of 150 minutes of activity or exercise per week that include a combination of cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercises such as balance. I agree we need to be active and I educate people on what the guidelines mean and how to achieve them, but the guidelines can be a little overwhelming if you’re not sure where to begin. I prefer to play, have fun and enjoy activities I choose to make part of my lifestyle. It only happens to be that I enjoy activities that keep my body and mind in motion and in return it keeps me more fit then many people who are half my age who choose to be inactive.

I grew up swimming, skiing, biking, dancing, walking and running through trails in the woods. This was never exercise it was fun; doing what I loved and trying new adventures as they came along. As children, we don’t think about the correlation of exercise and the prevention of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and bone density, or maintaining a waistline; children only think about the activities that are enjoyable to them. At the age of fourteen, I was introduced to weight lifting machines in gym class. It wasn’t exercise to me because it was too much fun! I was tall and I was much lighter in weight than other kids in my class due to my small bone structure, but I discovered I was one of the strongest among my female classmates. Therefore, I found something that was both fun and easy for me to do. That’s the key, enjoying what you’re doing. Weight training and feeling comfortable in the weight room only became a passion of mine once I entered into my twenties, a lifestyle I continue in my home gym today at least four days a week that begins at four in the morning following meditation and before my workday. But I never exercised. It’s only relaxation to me that ensures a happier day to follow, a ritual that’s only part of my life along with several other activities that became passions, but never exercise.

In college I remember classmates frantically studying for exams without taking a moment to relax. I would see their jaws drop at times when I would get up in the middle of studying to run to the gym for an hour. Some thought I didn’t care about my studies, but the reality was it was my way of regrouping, clearing my mind, relaxing my body, getting rid of any anxiety by doing what I enjoyed. What many didn’t realize is that a one hour break away to the gym helped me to perform better on exams.

Throughout most of twenties, I taught at a modeling school and agency that included teaching group exercise classes in addition to runway, communication, and media classes. It was the exercise classes that were my favorite to teach because to me it wasn’t exercise, it was a pressure-free high energy class that felt more like dance and left everyone feeling good at the end. During my prior runway days, I was fortunate enough to have a group of close friends I worked with who truly loved going out dancing and not drinking. It was our way of socializing and having fun while staying fit.

In my mid to late thirties while having a private practice as a sports nutritionist and consulting dietitian, I ventured out to try other activities. It went from golfing a few days a week to cycling long distances though the hill towns near surrounding Northampton, Massachusetts where I lived at the time, to long hikes though the mountains, to trying my hand at rock climbing and learning whitewater kayaking. I also skied at least one day a week in the winters. Much of it was part of my career at the time where I was affiliated with a fitness club where I had an office location, and I also lifted weights there, but never considered any of this to be exercise.

Activity can change as we change and age, unexpected injuries or illness can occur, and there’s marriage, family, children, divorce, death of a spouse, child, or parent, to the loss of a job and financial changes or moving away to new demographics. Staying active and finding new passions are all part of change and I found it’s important not to let road blocks get in the way. I’ve been through many of these changes, one event in particular was before moving away from Northampton, Massachusetts I had an automobile accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury, a fluid filled cavity in my spinal column referred to as Syringomyelia that caused inflammation and pinching of nerves along with numbness and excruciating headaches. Being intolerant to medication I opted for nothing or an occasional Aleve. I was told I would never lift weights again, and told to never ski or run, and I was given a diagnosis with a possibility of being wheel chair bound before my fortieth birthday. I was thirty-eight years old at the time…

Part 2 Of 2: I Never Exercised A Day In My Life, But I’m More Fit Than Many Half My Age

Kathy LaBellaI was told I would never lift weights again, and told to never ski or run, and I was given a diagnosis with a possibility of being wheel chair bound before my fortieth birthday. I was thirty-eight years old at the time.
To Be Continued…

Part Two
I immediately started thinking of things that I could do for work and activity if by chance I would lose much of my mobility, and at the same time being single and self employed I had to keep going and couldn’t miss a day of work! I was accepting of what could be, but at the same time tenacious and determined to regain strength in my upper extremities by imagining holding invisible dumbbells, and soon started lifting actual weights at home until I moved onto five pounds and up. I eventually regained 75 percent of my strength and I skied cautiously as tolerated, and accepted not to do the activities that weren’t tolerated such as sea diving, whitewater kayaking, and at the time underwater swimming in general was painful.

In my early forties I moved to Essex, CT located near the Connecticut shore at mouth of the Connecticut River. It was a new lifestyle, and new activities to venture out to. I built a new home, office and nutrition and fitness practice where I had a large industrial home gym all in one location. Although I missed my old activities, I immediately wanted to emerge myself into this new area and explore new passions to be learned and I wanted to learn what my future clients might be doing for their activity. I took a few days of sailing lessons and later discovered many of the shoreline bike trails, but my real passion became sea and river kayaking without the Eskimo rolls; it was absolutely incredible! I found my new love! At the time, I was still having problems road running, although I did run one race and decided road races weren’t for me, just not all that fun to me. Instead, I learned of the many trails near where I lived and softer ground was the way to go. Not only was I connecting with nature and animals, but it was easy on my neck, back, legs and feet. Trail runs and hikes were fun and stress relieving, not at all like exercise or work. After moving to Essex, I decided that driving to Vermont to ski on a regular basis was a bit too far at three hours away and opted for snowshoeing. It’s not quite the feel of downhill skiing, but it was a good compromise that gave me a challenge in the snow and it was free! Therefore, I accepted, adopted and loved the new activities brought into my new life. And then there was gardening… massive gardening in the new two plus acre house I built! It was another new discovery that was fun and active, but it wasn’t in anyway exercise.

Now in my fifties, I have moved onto Waterford, Connecticut, leaving many Essex adventures and my former practice behind, and while discovering new activities along with playing music again, I spent two years researching to form a new practice based on the special nutrition needs for musicians, particularly active and touring musicians. While living on the mouth of the Niantic River that opens up into Long Island Sound, it gives me the ability to paddle in my kayak frequently as the waters edge is in front of my cottage. In the winter, I resort to using my indoor rower and I discovered beach running is more enjoyable than the wooded trails, yet soft on the spine. And this year I stopped using a landscaper to mow my yard and bought an electric push mover that’s become an enjoyable weekly ritual following a weekend beach run.

Music helps with activity along the way. I’m always plugged in and have portable speakers for the Kayak, and yes, sometimes Steve Vai is playing, along with my many other selections of music.

As for today, I will continue to kayak, beach run, meditate, and lift weights in my small cottage gym because it’s not work or exercise, it’s only a way of life, and an extra forty to seventy minutes a day that takes the place of what could be wasted time otherwise. Being active at whatever it is you enjoy is important. It’s only a bonus that fun activity keeps your body and mind fit while staving off arthritis, preserving muscle mass, preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and increasing endorphins all while reducing stress, enhancing immunity, memory, and quality of life. Activity keeps you younger than your chronological years.

So as this evening falls when many people are sitting on their sofa watching their television and I’m a bit tired after a long day of activity and work, I turn off National Public Radio that’s playing in the background. I sit down in silence and at first, turn toward my piano but instead, I pick up my guitar to play before I go to bed, and then think Steve Vai has never worked a day in his life, and I an exercise specialist and dietitian nutritionist has never exercised a day in my life.

I encourage you to find your passion- a new activity, get out and play or learn a new musical instrument, and remember to eat well, stay healthy, happy, and active because the benefits have endless rewards!

Cheers!
Kathy LaBella, RD, CDN