dogs · nutrition · running

catch up – nutrition news, running & puppies

I reallllly want to make posting a regular thing on here, but it will probably always be the first thing to go when life gets busy. And that’s ok, I have to be nice to myself on this one. Half-assing a blog post when I should be snuggling with Peanut on the couch isn’t useful for anyone anyways. But! Here I am with a little bit of time, so let’s catch up.

I was on a podcast!
I’ve recently gotten into podcasts – they make for some excellent walk to work or afternoon baking listening – and my favorites are of course running and/or nutrition-related. So I was super excited when Ali started her own podcast earlier this year, and it’s (not surprisingly) fantastic. She’s an excellent interviewer and always has interesting and inspiring guests. I’m lucky to have known Ali personally since our very early blogging days (in 2010, perhaps? WOW), and was super honored she asked me to be on the show last week. I love any excuse to talk about nutrition, my job, running and dogs and it was so nice to have an hour on the phone to talk to Ali, whom I don’t see very often anymore now that she’s an official New Jersey resident.

on the podcast we talked about my job, the difference between a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, a health coach (etc.) and why it’s so important to know the difference, did some nutrition myth-busting and also chatted running and rescue dogs. It was so, so fun and I’m thankful for anyone who listened already.

post-run overnight oats with all the fixings from the other day

the new york times wrote this
if you have ever been on any sort of “diet” (so, 99.9% of us, right?) this is such an important read. Actually, read this even if you are one of the few who has never been on a “diet”, because you likely know someone just like the author. Her first-hand account with chronic dieting and body image issues is heart-breaking and so common among the women I see and women in general. This kind of disordered eating (and yes, dieting can absolutely lead to disordered eating) is often overlooked in society today because it’s so normalized and accepted. But it’s not normal to categorize foods as “good” and “bad,” to restrict foods, food groups and calories, adhere to strict food “rules” and always be striving to try the next weight loss miracle. This passage especially got me: “I decided to stop dieting, but when I did, I realized I couldn’t. I didn’t know what or how to eat. I couldn’t fathom planning my food without thinking first about its ability to help or hinder a weight-loss effort.”  Having this sort of relationship with food is a terrible and unnecessary way to live your life, which food is and always will be, a big part of. It’s so hard to break out of, especially under the influence of social media, but it’s totally possible and so freeing (especially with the help of a non-diet dietitian!). I think surrounding yourself with positive and accepting people, messages and influencers is a great way to start. And be nice(r) to yourself!

running has been A+
maybe it’s the no pressure, not really training for anything mindset, but I’ve really been enjoying my runs lately. So much so, that I’ve been incorporating some regular workouts like weekday speedwork and a weekend tempo/long run combo. Right now my long runs (or “long runs” if you are reading this in the midst of marathon training) are about 12-13 miles, which is a nice happy place that doesn’t feel too long or take up too much time but also is significant and not easy. If that makes sense. I still want to do a few fall races – right now thinking of a 10 miler and a few half marathons – and see what happens. The no pressure mindset is key, though, and I don’t want to lose the simple enjoyment of running by making training super structured and rigid as I’ve done in the past.

peanut is a doggy school graduate
peanut graduated from her six week adult doggy training class with flying colors. She passed her “test,” where she had to do all of the commands we learned, on the first try. I was and am such a proud dog mom. She has come so far in the past six months, and this class was perfect to help build her confidence and learn some basic commands. The class was at Petco, and I highly recommend for anyone with a similar rescue dog situation.

is there anything cuter?

other stuff to talk about (help!)
I feel like there is so much nutrition-related stuff I want to write about that I don’t know where to start! If you’ve made it this far in the post (anyone? Bueller?), I’d love to hear what nutrition topics you’d like to hear about. I need some inspiration!

nutrition · running

endurance sports and low carb/ketogenic diets

I almost don’t want to mention this for fear or “jinxing”, but my running has been feeling good lately. Even in the almost constant gross heat and humidity, the miles have flowed a lot better than they have in a while. I don’t think it’s real rocket science as to why – I’ve been taking it easier, running with no pressure, resting a bit more and doing other things like yoga, barre and nothing. I liken this to taking a running “chill pill” and I think it’s sort of working.

because I was feeling all the feels about running this past weekend, I decided to go on a longer run down the West Side Highway and Hudson River Park. I love running down there, but usually only do so when marathon training because it’s an out and back run and takes a long time. The solution? Take my metro card and subway back home when I felt like it and was near a subway. I’ve actually never done that before because I don’t really like being soaked with sweat far away from home and always end up getting cold. But! YOLO, right? So I headed out for what I thought would be 10 or so miles without any fluids (there are tons of fountains) or nutrition (usually don’t use this for runs under 12-13 miles).

happy place. but from the winter/spring of 2016 as I usually don’t like taking my phone out mid-run

it was such a beautiful morning and I loved being out there without any sort of pacing plan or route. After about 8 or 9 miles my energy started getting a bit low, which is pretty normal for me these days since I take Peanut for a walk before my runs now and haven’t really nailed a new pre-run fueling plan. My usual half a banana doesn’t really cut it so much anymore. So, ok. Low energy, no fuel, but I had a credit card and an idea of where I could get the subway and a snack. The only thing is that it was a bit far away – I was downtown near Battery Park and the WTC and I wanted to be in Union Square. Those three or so miles uptown were tough, and as I neared my destination my legs felt more and more like heavy bricks. I felt so depleted, and I probably used my last glycogen store as I triumphantly pulled up to the Juice Generation on 18th street. All I could think about was slurping down something cold and sweet, and decided on an acai bowl because I’ve been wanting to try one for a while.

hit the spot in a major way.

and all this got me thinking of another nutrition trend I just can’t get down with, and that is endurance athletes going on “ketogenic” diets. One principle of the diet is basically running on the depleted state that I unintentionally ended my run on Sunday. It’s miserable. And I’d hate for anyone to purposefully do that to themselves under the false belief that it’s going to help them get that PR.

what exactly is a ketogenic diet?
these are diets very low in carbohydrate, low in protein and very high in fat, with the goal of putting the body into ketosis. This is when there is a build-up of acids called ketones in the body, as a result of burning fat stores in the absence of glucose. A true ketogenic diet is something like 5 percent carbohydrate, which is very hard to do unless you’re eating butter and cheese all day and have some direction from a dietitian. In fact, most athletes who say they are on a ketogenic diet are often just on a low carbohydrate, high fat diet because they are consuming too many carbohydrates to achieve ketosis. That said, though, they are still consuming far too little carbohydrates to fuel their activity!

so what is the point?
there has been some recent hype touting performance enhancements achieved by drastically cutting carbohydrates and increasing fats, with the idea being the body will burn more fat as fuel. We don’t necessarily need to achieve ketosis to do this. The body has limitless stores of fat and very limited stores of glycogen, so this is thought to be a much more efficient fuel source and one that can help us go longer, faster. It sounds good on paper, at least.

but that’s really all it is, and it’s not for lack of research. If an individual begins consuming a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, the body will physiologically adapt by increasing fat oxidation and reducing carbohydrate utilization. But while our capacity to use fat for energy enhances when we have consistently limited carbohydrate stores, this does not translate to a better performance in endurance events. There is a lot of recent research to back this up. If we train our body to use a less-preferred source of fuel (fat), it will also do so during an endurance event like a marathon. The problem is that all it really wants is carbohydrates, which it has adapted to use less of. Even if you carbohydrate load in the few days before said event, the body remains less efficient at using glycogen stores once it adapts to using more fat.

one of my fave carbohydrate forms – toast!

more research
this study is the most recent and thorough I’ve read, and I had the pleasure of listening to one of the study investigators – Dr. Hawley – speak at FNCE last year. He talked about the study a bit (it had yet to be published) and gave such compelling evidence as to how and why low carbohydrate, high fat and/or ketogenic diets just don’t work for endurance athletes. His study used elite race walkers who were all put on the same intense training program, but one group followed a low carbohydrate, high fat diet, another a high carbohydrate diet and another a periodized carbohydrate diet (still high in carb, just spread out differently during the day). At the end of the training program, all athletes had improved aerobic capacity, but only the high carb and periodized groups experienced an improvement in race performance (a timed 10K). This is because, as I mentioned above, when we adapt to a high fat diet by increasing fat oxidation, we also adapt by using less carbohydrates and reduce carbohydrate oxidation. It’s this adaptation that limits performance capacity.

another important point is that our brain and central nervous system also depend on glucose (what carbohydrates are broken down into) to function. And if we are in a state of depletion, we also may not be thinking clearly. This can effect things like pacing, perceived effort and even simple decision making during a race. Not really a recipe for success, right?

in conclusion…
still, the anecdotal evidence persists and with the help of social media, one or two “success” stories can and has snowballed into a real trend. I don’t think this one will last forever, though, with science firmly rooted against it. And because even anecdotally, if you look at the plates of most top endurance athletes, they are more often than not generous on the carbohydrate front. And that is for good reason.

 

 

dogs · nutrition · running

day in the life

in thinking about the blog posts I like to read the most, the more personal ones usually come up. I really admire people who just put it all out there in the internets, and while I don’t think I’ll ever quite get there (consider yourselves lucky…), a “day in the life” kind of post seemed like a fun idea. I picked last Thursday because it contained a little bit of everything work-wise and was non-stop busy until around 8:00 p.m., which is pretty typical lately. Here we gooooo.

5:30 a.m. wake up right before my alarm and Peanut staring at me from her “spot” in my/our bed above my pillows. I like this spot because she is comfy and there is little chance I can roll over on her. She sneezes and it’s too cute, and we snuggle for a few minutes before getting up. I’m reading Rebecca Scritchfield’s new book Body Kindness, and the chapter I read before bed the night before was all about sleep. So naturally, I think too much about how important sleep is and couldn’t fall or stay asleep. Oh well.

she woke up like this

6:15 a.m. we are back from our walk around the neighborhood and I feed Peanut her breakfast before heading out for my run. She is excited for breakfast and then not excited that I am leaving, but Mommy wants to run. I have about half a banana with some peanut butter and head out. This was a cool-ish morning and I felt pretty good. As I come out of my sleepy haze about 2 miles in, I remember that I have an interview with Runner’s World about marathon fueling (!!) and think of things I want to say. And also pinch myself because, #livingthedream. I see my friend Baker just after I get pooped on by a bird. That’s good luck, right? I ran for a little more than an hour, which is my current happy place.

7:30 a.m. get home and say hi to Peanut, quickly shower and make breakfast.

sprouted grain toast, greek yogurt, berries, nuts butter, more berries and coffeeeeeee

8:45 a.m. after getting ready, practicing Peanut’s new commands (we are learning the simple stuff like sit and stay during our weekly training class), checking emails and watching a little Today, we head out to daycare.

9:00 a.m. drop Peanut off at daycare. We just started going this week and I was so nervous that she wouldn’t make dog friends or there would be a mean dog or she would hate it. But, so far so good. I say goodbye to her and get a little too emotional when leaving. I am an unapologetically crazy dog mom and I’m ok with it.

9:15 a.m. stop at Whole Foods to buy the perishable ingredients for my meal prep class at work that night, like veggies, shrimp and tempeh. I do one of these classes every month or so for my patients and it’s super fun. I’m not allowed to use heat because it’s a fire hazard, so thinking of things to make requires some creativity. Tonight we’re making Vietnamese spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce and I’m pumped.

9:45 a.m. arrive at work. Check my patient schedule and the treatment schedule of ladies receiving chemo that day to see if there is anyone I need to follow up with. I don’t have anyone until noon so I prep for my Runner’s World interview at 10:30.

11:10 a.m. the interview went well (I think, stay tuned for the October issue!). I head to the hospital cafeteria for lunch because I’m usually always starving by 11:00 a.m. and that’s when they switch over to lunch. Get my usual and head back to my office.

greens, tuna, avocado (brought from home), broccoli, chickpeas, quinoa salad and baked sweet potato

12:00 p.m. after having lunch at my desk reading some articles, I head down to our chemo suites to see a few patients. A lot of my work is with women who have already undergone treatment for breast cancer and who are doing very well. They are survivors and they are all amazing. Another good chunk of my work is with ladies currently undergoing treatment (i.e., chemotherapy), and while the day to day mix changes, today was a mostly treatment day.

1:00 p.m. run upstairs to meet a dietetic intern who will be with me for the afternoon. I love having interns and always find myself talking non-stop about all things nutrition and breast cancer I want them to learn. It’s also interesting to hear what they’re doing during their internship, since most of them that come to the hospital were in the same internship I did. Still not nearly enough talk on intuitive eating and embracing a non-diet practice, but hopefully we’ll get there.

2:30 p.m. we see another patient after picking her up some fruit ice from the cafeteria, and then get to work on some meal prep class prep. Ha. Today this was basically chopping a lot of vegetables, putting down table cloths, that kind of stuff.

3:30 p.m. leave work to pick Peanut up at daycare, take her for a little walk and feed her dinner before heading back into work for my class. I live about 25 minute walk away and am usually too stubborn to take a cab or even Uber, so walking wins. Before heading back, I inhale some whole milk Greek yogurt and Purely Elizabeth granola (my fave, so good) straight from the 32 ounce yogurt container and remember that I forgot to have a snack in the afternoon.

5:00 p.m. get back to work and finish prepping, check some emails and do some other admin things.

6:00 p.m. my class starts and I’ve got about 15 ladies participating. They are skeptical at the preparation of rice paper for the rolls, but they go with it and it actually works! I am relieved. I usually talk a bit about nutrition as we’re preparing our meals, so we touch on things like cruciferous veggies (we had some cabbage) and healthy fats (in the peanut sauce!). We also have shrimp for the rolls and I ensure them that although shrimp does contain cholesterol, it’s absolutely fine to eat and won’t affect blood cholesterol. Ditto for eggs. I love telling people they can eat eggs. We chat, we eat, and start to clean up.

success!

7:30 p.m. I save the cutting boards and knives to clean the next day and make sure the conference room (where I have my classes) is clean. Head out into the gloriously lovely summer evening and walk home with my intern, who was a huge help.

8:00 p.m. try not to think about how tired I am and take Peanut for her last walk of the day. I wish she could tell me about the friends she is making at daycare and if she likes it or not, and then think that I worry too much about her having human feelings. She tries to say hi to another dog on the walk and I think daycare is making her more brave and social. Hooray! When we get home, I have more yogurt and granola because I was talking too much to eat enough during the class. Typical. Peanut looks at me with her little puppy dog eyes and I give her some yogurt.

impossible to resist

9:00 p.m. we wind down and get ready for bed. I remember to do some journaling, and then we get into bed while I read a bit more Body Kindness before shutting the lights off. Thankfully, this chapter was not on sleep and I drift off instantly.

dogs · nutrition · running

running these days

i really appreciate everyone who took the time to comment on my last post! It’s nice to feel supported and to hear your thoughts. I’m sure I’ll write more about the topics of disordered eating, being a non-diet dietitian and nutrition myth-busting in general as I’m super passionate about these and there is just so much misinformation out there.

taking a break from nutrition-talk for a little bit of running talk, though, since I don’t talk about that nearly as much in my daily life. Running and I are in a weird place right now – I’m still enjoying getting out to the park regularly for some miles, but my desire to race is very up and down and my race times reflect that. In fact, I just ran a 10K at a pace slower than my marathon PR pace and felt like total crap.

race in which I felt like total crap. 

up until then I had been on the fence about a fall marathon, but took it as a sign that maybe this called for a hard no on the whole 26.2 thing this year. 2017 will be the first year I haven’t run a marathon since 2009 and honestly, it feels weird. Like, what is summer without an early Saturday morning 16-20 miler, or the fall without a marathon to look forward to as the temps cool down? Am I going to have so much FOMO during NYC Marathon week?

is this an existential crisis?

so dramatic, I know. But for a long time, I seem to have defined my seasons and scheduled life things around marathon training and everything that goes along with it. And thrived on it, really. I’ve always been an athlete and running marathons has been a way to fulfill that need to push physical limits and work towards new goals. It feels so strange to purposefully not do something that I have so enjoyed in the past, but I have to admit now that it also feels pretty darn good both physically and mentally. I have been loving waking up on weekend mornings and taking Peanut for a nice walk without worrying about getting in a crazy amount of miles before it gets too warm out or the park too crowded. And I love not being exhausted after said crazy amount of miles with little motivation to do much or make plans to go out. It’s also nice to go to yoga, take a barre class or day off without worry about how that affects weekly mileage, workout performance, etc. It is, dare I say, liberating.

it took me a little bit to realize that I’m still a runner, even if I don’t run a marathon this year, and that aside from all of the workouts, long runs, races and paces, I love the simple act of running and how it makes me feel. I think I lost touch with that a bit. So the non-plan plan for right now is to just run. If I feel like speeding up on some days, I’ll speed up. But if I don’t, that’s fine too. I’d like to do some shorter races in a few months – maybe a 10 miler and a half marathon – but not if it adds unnecessary stress or I start to feel burnt out again. Enjoying the fact that I can run is the only real goal for this year, and I think that’s a pretty good one.


peanut agrees. 

nutrition · running

a little on social media and disordered eating

recently I wrote this op ed for the Equinox web magazine Furthermore.

it’s called “just eat the pizza” and the title alone encompasses some of what my nutrition philosophy continues to evolve to these days. And that’s not to say I think people should eat pizza all day, every day – though it is delicious – but to try and avoid putting foods like pizza into certain categories (“bad” or “good”) or to always be striving to eat only things that are deemed “clean”, superlatively healthy, or whatever your definition of “perfect” eating is. Goals like this can come from the best of intentions – to feel better, perform better, etc. – but can so often traverse into more of a restrictive eating pattern, fuel a very destructive diet mentality and lead to disordered eating.

super delicious “earth mother” pizza from two boots with broccoli, spinach, mushroom, jalapeño, tomato and REAL cheese

even though I like the social medias like Instagram as much as the next person, I think it can absolutely fuel disordered and restrictive eating patterns and almost normalize them to a really vulnerable population. The problem stems from what makes Instagram and other social and digital media platforms what they are – pretty much anyone can say anything, especially when it comes to food and nutrition because most people have an opinion. Distinguishing between opinions and evidence-based facts gets so muddled and for the most part, doesn’t seem to matter so much. And if you take pretty pictures of your meals highlighting what they are “free” in, like grains, dairy, gluten, sugar, etc., these must be “bad” for whatever reason and you must know what you’re talking about when it comes to health, right?

but no!

something I saw recently that has been promoted by a heavily followed young RD (this is so disappointing), celebrity “nutritionist” and a popular health website is a week-long “sugar detox,” to help show people the “dangers” of added sugars in certain foods. Huh? It’s never necessary to do a “sugar detox” to become aware of added sugars in foods – especially to the people who are following these folks and reading the website in the first place. They probably already know! This is fear mongering, and another way to normalize restrictive eating patterns and diet mentality under the guise of something that sounds positive and “healthy.”

Let’s be real here – the added sugar in ketchup is not going to hurt you. But stressing about things like that absolutely can.

nutella and banana crepe. with added sugars. and also palm oil. unless you’re eating it all day, every day, it’s fine. really.

that’s just one example of the crazy things I’ve seen recently on social and digital media, and they just keep coming! I don’t follow a whole lot of these accounts, and I’m kind of torn when it comes to unfollowing them all, or checking in to see what’s happening every now and then because I’m bound to get questions from patients and clients about this stuff and it helps to be aware. Does anyone else feel me here?

if I could shout one thing from the rooftops (or the social medias, heh), it’s that you don’t have to eat super “clean”, restrict food groups, and police every bite that goes into your mouth to feel good in your body, perform well athletically and live a long, happy life. You just don’t. And if you obsess over that stuff day in and day out, you’re missing out on a lot of actual living. Because in a world where there are no “good” or “bad” foods, eating can’t be perfect or imperfect, it’s just there to enjoy. And when that happens, there’s so much more space to have fun and explore the things that will make you a truly happy, healthy person.

so interested in hearing thoughts on this, if you’re still out there 🙂

 

 

dogs · nutrition · running

the {life, dog, work, nutrition, running} updates

the other day I was thinking that, hmm, I wish I had an outlet to write about what’s currently happening in my life, my nutrition philosophy and how they have both changed and evolved a lot in recent months. And then I was like oh right, I have a blog space! It’s terrible how I’ve gotten away from regular blogging because I used to love it so much, but life happens. The blogosphere and social media has changed a ton lately too, with Instagram and podcasts and whatnot, it’s kind of hard to figure out which one to focus or say what on. I don’t even read a ton of blogs anymore, but the ones I do read are awesome, and I so appreciate people still putting out great content! I’m going to try to be one of those people again.

life updates
I guess the biggest update on the life front is my new-found dog mom status. In February, I adopted a ~3 year old Dorkie rescue from a shelter here in New York and she immediately became the light of my life.

peanut butter hogan. 5 lbs of ridiculous cuteness (i mean, that face…)

peanut was rescued from a puppy mill after being used as a breeding dog for most of her life. Before getting her, I had no idea that even occurred, but it does and it’s awful. The animals are kept in cages with little to no human interaction or medical care, and bred over and over again to make puppies to sell at pet stores. The Amish are HUGE offenders here – something else I didn’t know – and the way they treat their animals is appalling. Here is more information if you’d like it.

as a result, Peanut is a VERY fearful dog. It took her weeks just to walk around my apartment, and a few more weeks before she even wagged her tail. She is more afraid of people than other dogs, and any loud sound or big object (etc.). It breaks my heart in a way I never thought possible to think about what she went through. But! The good news is that she is making progress every day, and is the sweetest little girl who will be spoiled for the rest of her life. So here is my PSA – adopt don’t shop! Rescue dogs are the best.

work updates
since I’m a single dog mom, it has been an adjustment juggling work and dog momming, and if I’m being honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. I live within walking distance of my job, which is awesome, so I can come home during lunch and take her out. This is also exhausting, however, and a bit time consuming. I try to schedule my patients accordingly and for the most part it works, but I’ve been feeling lately like something has to give so I can spend more time at work and so Peanut can hang out with other dogs a bit more. We’re trying out a daycare next week, so fingers crossed on that one! I worry about her so much because she is really tiny compared to other dogs (are helicopter dog moms a thing?).

anyways, in January I was promoted to “clinical nutrition and wellness manager” at the breast cancer center where I work. I love this title – it really encompasses what I’ve tried to build into my position since I started about 1.5 years ago, and that’s looking at the patients wellness as a whole in addition to nutrition. Sleep, exercise, stress management, etc. These play such a pivotal role in overall health and in the case of my ladies, the prevention of breast cancer recurrence. There is so much great research coming out about it as well!. Which brings me to…

nutrition updates
gosh, where do I start! I think I’ve mentioned on here my interest in intuitive eating, and that has only continued to grow after reading the book, continuing to practice yoga and meditation and following like-minded dietitians on social media, blogs and podcasts. My favorites are Robyn of the real life RD, Kylie of immaeatthat, Heather of the RD real talk podcast, Anne of fannetastic food, Alexis of hummusapien, Kara of the foodie dietitian, and Christy Harrison’s food psych podcast. I want to be friends and have such a brain-picking session with them – intuitive eating, body positivity and a non-diet mentality is hard to come by in the clinical setting, and I’m working really hard to make this a part of my practice.

cornmeal blueberry pancakes are never a bad idea!

my passion for this philosophy stems from my own personal struggles, as well as seeing so many of my patients come from years of yo-yo dieting, food restriction and poor body image that has left them totally miserable and lost. I’m also fascinated by the hormonal affects these behaviors have on the body and how we can heal them. This for sure is a whole new post(s), which is my goal for next time.

she comes to work after hours sometimes to help me with my groups 🙂 

I just told Peanut to hold me accountable for posting here, and she’s pretty hard to say no to, so…

(in proofreading, I realized I forgot to mention running. that’s for sure an indication of how my running has been going lately, for the most part. to be continued on that one…)

nutrition · running

nutrition and breast cancer

well, I’m glad I transitioned to this blog knowing there was no pressure to post on the regular! I’m not sure I even have any readers left, but I do still like to get my thoughts out there regardless of whether anyone is picking up what I’m putting down…

sunrise2

pink for breast cancer awareness month!

this month has been a busy whir of marathon training (taper is so close I can feel it!), a big nutrition conference (FNCE, for those of you in the “know”) and ongoing breast cancer awareness month happenings. I’ve worked exclusively with breast cancer patients for the past year at an amazing breast cancer center, and it has changed me in so many personal and professional ways. The ladies I counsel are tough, hilarious, generous and more inspirational every day. I look forward to going to work in the morning and coming up with new ways to incorporate the latest research into new programs, groups and strategies to get them excited about leading a healthy lifestyle (and preventing recurrence!). Nutrition and lifestyle (stress reduction, sleep, exercise, etc.) are paramount when it comes to prevention of both breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer diagnosis, and it’s never too early to make some changes if you need to. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and it also has the highest survival rate of all cancers, making prevention of recurrence so, so important and absolutely possible. Here are some of my top tips for breast cancer prevention I recently wrote about for the MSH blog, and they’re also wonderful first steps to adapting a healthy lifestyle and feeling good in general – what’s not to like about that?

eat more vegetables
high fruit and vegetable intake has been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer and a higher long-term survival rate for those who already have breast cancer. Women with higher fruit and vegetable intake are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, which is also linked to reduced risk. I recommend at least five servings (1 cup = 1 serving) of fruits and vegetables daily; more than seven is even better. If it seems difficult to incorporate this amount of fruits and vegetables into your diet, keep it simple. Aim to make each meal colorful, slowly increasing fruit and vegetable content until they comprise at least half of your meal.

cook more at home
research shows an increase in survival rates among breast cancer patients with diets low in saturated and trans fats. In the standard American diet (shorted appropriately to SAD), these fats come from fried food, fast food, processed food, and high-fat animal products like butter, full-fat dairy, and red meat. I recommend limiting saturated and completely avoiding trans fat for my patients, though evidence is mixed on saturated fat intake for the generally healthy population. Instead, cook more at home! Not only can we control what goes into our meals – no sneaky high-fat additives – but we can also experiment with fresh, seasonal ingredients and pile on the veggies. Opt for baking, steaming or broiling lean proteins like fish, roast vegetables with a drizzle of heart-healthy olive oil paired with a whole grain such as quinoa, or create a one-pot wonder like hearty vegetarian chili.

limit alcohol
multiple studies have linked excessive alcohol intake to many different cancers, including breast cancer. Because higher alcohol intake is associated with increased blood levels of estrogen, limiting or cutting alcohol out of the diet is especially important to those with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. My recommendation when it comes to alcohol intake: less is more, and certainly no more than 2-3 drinks per week.

focus on real, “whole” foods
packaged food that seems healthy because of terms like “all natural,” “made with whole grains,” “lightly sweetened,” “low sugar,” “energizing,” “made with real fruit,” etc., can often influence our choices in the grocery store. Such labeling is unregulated and, quite often, these foods are full of junk (I talked about this in my last post too). Before adding these items to your shopping cart, take a peek at the ingredients list. Keep an eye out for added sugars, artificial sweeteners, dyes, preservatives, and chemical additives. Generally, if the ingredients list contains unrecognizable food items or items, it’s not what you want to put in your body. Focus on “whole” foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. This leaves little room in your diet for the processed stuff.

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yay plants!

my brain also is on information overload from the nutrition conference I was at this week, and I hope to post about an awesome talk I attended about fueling for endurance sports (and the importance of carbohydrates despite anecdotal hype to the contrary). stay tuned!