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  • January 07, 2022

    By Ellie Kelsey, RD, LD, CNSC

    Every January, our Nutrition team answers an influx of questions from patients resolving to improve their health and lose weight in the new year. Intermittent fasting—a dietary approach that cycles between periods of fasting and eatinghas become one of the most popular diet trends.

    While celebrities including Jimmy Kimmel and Jennifer Aniston have created a buzz about the weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting, people have fasted for religious reasons for centuries. 


    Clinical research on intermittent fasting is limited—and mixed. Some studies have shown that it can lead to improved health and mild or moderate weight loss. Others suggest that fasting has no significant long-term health benefits.


    If you’re considering intermittent fasting to improve your overall health or lose weight, it’s important to understand:

    • The plan’s basic principles  
    • How to find accurate information about intermittent fasting
    • That everyone responds differently to eating patterns

    Intermittent fasting is not a quick fix for weight loss (there’s no such thing) or a plan that “allows” you to eat large amounts of processed or fast foods within limited time frames. Knowing how to start fasting and what guidance to follow can be confusing; there’s no shortage of advice available from both medical professionals and non-experts.

    To help you learn how to incorporate it into your life safely, I’ve answered the five most common questions I get about intermittent fasting as a registered dietitian.

    Related reading: Mindful Eating for Healthy Weight Loss

    1. Is there a ‘right way’ to fast?

    Intermittent fasting is popular because it's less about what you eat and more about when. Most people in the U.S. eat during a 12-hour window each day: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., for example. Intermittent fasting changes this pattern by limiting the eating window or restricting calories during certain days. 


    But there’s no “right” way to fast. People choose different patterns based on their lifestyle and preferences. Here are four methods to consider.

    • 5:2 diet: With this approach, you eat as you normally would for five days each week. For the two remaining days—which are typically non-consecutive—you consume between 500 and 600 calories. On these days, choose low-carb, high-fiber foods, such as vegetables; grilled or steamed fish; boiled eggs; natural yogurt; low-calorie soups; and black coffee or tea. This approach tends to help those who respond best to only having to follow the “rules” during these two days. 
    • Alternate-day fasting: A subset of the 5:2 diet, this plan alternates a “feast” day with a “fast” day every other day. Like the 5:2 plan, you consume 600 calories or less on fast days. 
    • Circadian fasting: This pattern aligns your eating schedule with your natural hormone cycles. Our circadian rhythm—the body’s 24-hour clock—controls our sleep, digestion, hormones, and stress levels. Time your meals for early in the day when your energy levels are likely to be higher. Fast when the sun goes down and your energy decreases and digestion slows.
    • 16:8 diet: This time-restricted approach is best for people who like routine. You choose an eight-hour eating window each day and consume most of your calories in the middle of the day. Some people skip breakfast, eat from noon to 8 p.m., and then fast until noon the next day. Others may eat from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Combined with regular exercise, this method has been linked to reduced fat mass and body weight and can be easier to follow consistently than more restrictive patterns.

    I recommend trying different patterns to see which one—if any—works best for your lifestyle.

    When combined with endurance exercise, most of these approaches can result in significant weight loss and help lower the risk of heart disease. They have also been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

    Know the difference between 5:2 and 16:8 #IntermittentFasting? Get the answer to this common #fasting question, plus 4 more, in this blog from a registered dietician: https://bit.ly/3JIDabc.
    Click to Tweet

     

    2. Can I eat whatever I want on non-fasting days?

    Like any successful diet plan, no foods are off limits for intermittent fasters. But we always recommend that you eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods, whether or not you are trying to lose weight. 


    Eating more plant-based foods rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals helps keep your immune system healthy. It also reduces your risk of chronic inflammation, which is associated with diseases such as
    diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and several types of cancer.

    While many people try fasting to improve their health, some try fasting to lose weight. We rarely recommend that weight loss be the primary goal of a diet plan, as studies show this approach typically does not result in long-term weight loss or improvements in health. In fact, it often negatively impacts mental health. But if you’re fasting to lose or maintain your weight, even if it’s not the primary goal, you should also be mindful of the amount of food you eat. 

    Some people who choose more restrictive patterns of intermittent fasting eat more than they normally would on non-fasting days in anticipation of—or to make up for—eating less on fasting days. Because they’re consuming the same number of calories overall, their weight stays the same. 

    Related reading: Fight Harmful Inflammation with These 10 Healthy Eating Tips

    3. What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?

    When people fast, the body swaps its source of energy from glucose to ketones. This process, combined with exercise, is known as metabolic switching. Theoretically, it can change your body by flushing out damaged cells and replacing them with newer, healthier cells, making it possible to lose weight and reap long-lasting health benefits such as:

    Keep in mind that some people only experience one or two of these health benefits—or none at all. Everybody’s metabolism functions differently, and you might need to eat more often than someone else. 


    I know people who say fasting helps them feel more energetic and other people who tried fasting and said it made them feel anxious and jittery. If any diet plan makes you feel worse mentally or physically, it is not safe to continue.

    It usually takes two to four weeks for your body to become accustomed to new eating habits. Any side effects you may experience when you start fasting, such as headaches or irritability, usually disappear after a week or two. But if you’re miserable a week in, don’t force yourself to keep going. Accept that it’s simply not the right eating plan for you.

    4. Is intermittent fasting sustainable?

    The flexibility of intermittent fasting patterns makes it easier than other diet plans to stick to long term. If you’re eating a balanced diet, sleeping well, exercising, and in good health overall, it’s perfectly safe to fast long term, as long as you remain in good health, both physically and mentally. 


    There’s not a lot of long-term research or peer-reviewed studies about fasting. However, studies have shown that
    the 5:2 diet often results in short-term weight loss because people have a hard time sticking to it over time.

    The 16:8 method is often easier to maintain than the 5:2 plan because you’re eating every day. Yet even this approach can be difficult when you factor in weekends; some people fast only during the work week. The key is choosing a pattern that’s easily sustainable for your particular lifestyle.

    5. Who should not try intermittent fasting? 

    While intermittent fasting can be tailored to individual lifestyles, it is not safe for certain populations, including:

    • Anyone under age 18. Their metabolism and hunger cues are not fully developed.
    • People who are prone to restrictive eating patterns or have a history of eating disorders. Fasting can lead to or exacerbate binging and starving, over-restricting food intake, or eating/food anxiety.
    • Those who need to take medication with food at specific times.
    • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Fasting can cause low blood sugar. Plus, growing and feeding a baby requires sufficient—not restricted—calorie intake.
    • Anyone who becomes irritable, shaky, or anxious when they don't eat for a certain amount of time. 
    • People prone to constipation. While some report improved digestion after intermittent fasting, others have experienced constipation.

    If you fall into one of these categories and want to change your diet, talk with your primary doctor or a registered dietitian about sustainable ways to do so safely. People with any type of health condition should not try intermittent fasting or any other diet plan without close monitoring by their doctor.


    Many “wellness experts” provide well-meaning advice about intermittent fasting that can be harmful. In addition to speaking with a professional, when seeking more information:

    • Ensure research you read is peer-reviewed from a trusted source (such as the National Institutes of Health or a peer-reviewed medical journal).
    • View online searches with skepticism. If an “expert” is only presenting the benefits of a diet plan and also selling that diet plan, the information should be taken with a grain of salt. Many websites want to sell you a diet they claim is easy and magical for weight loss. However, in most cases the only loss you’ll see is in your wallet.

    Bottom line: Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.

    It can be easy to get swept into someone else’s excitement about a diet that works for them. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t experience the same results or if you find it difficult to stick to full-time intermittent fasting.


    I’ve tried—and enjoyed—intermittent fasting in the past, but it wasn’t conducive to my lifestyle long term. When changing your eating habits for better health or weight loss, do what works best for you with the guidance of a credible medical professional who knows your medical history.


    Searching for a diet plan that will stick?

    Our nutrition experts can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

All Blogs

  • January 07, 2022

    By Ellie Kelsey, RD, LD, CNSC

    Every January, our Nutrition team answers an influx of questions from patients resolving to improve their health and lose weight in the new year. Intermittent fasting—a dietary approach that cycles between periods of fasting and eatinghas become one of the most popular diet trends.

    While celebrities including Jimmy Kimmel and Jennifer Aniston have created a buzz about the weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting, people have fasted for religious reasons for centuries. 


    Clinical research on intermittent fasting is limited—and mixed. Some studies have shown that it can lead to improved health and mild or moderate weight loss. Others suggest that fasting has no significant long-term health benefits.


    If you’re considering intermittent fasting to improve your overall health or lose weight, it’s important to understand:

    • The plan’s basic principles  
    • How to find accurate information about intermittent fasting
    • That everyone responds differently to eating patterns

    Intermittent fasting is not a quick fix for weight loss (there’s no such thing) or a plan that “allows” you to eat large amounts of processed or fast foods within limited time frames. Knowing how to start fasting and what guidance to follow can be confusing; there’s no shortage of advice available from both medical professionals and non-experts.

    To help you learn how to incorporate it into your life safely, I’ve answered the five most common questions I get about intermittent fasting as a registered dietitian.

    Related reading: Mindful Eating for Healthy Weight Loss

    1. Is there a ‘right way’ to fast?

    Intermittent fasting is popular because it's less about what you eat and more about when. Most people in the U.S. eat during a 12-hour window each day: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., for example. Intermittent fasting changes this pattern by limiting the eating window or restricting calories during certain days. 


    But there’s no “right” way to fast. People choose different patterns based on their lifestyle and preferences. Here are four methods to consider.

    • 5:2 diet: With this approach, you eat as you normally would for five days each week. For the two remaining days—which are typically non-consecutive—you consume between 500 and 600 calories. On these days, choose low-carb, high-fiber foods, such as vegetables; grilled or steamed fish; boiled eggs; natural yogurt; low-calorie soups; and black coffee or tea. This approach tends to help those who respond best to only having to follow the “rules” during these two days. 
    • Alternate-day fasting: A subset of the 5:2 diet, this plan alternates a “feast” day with a “fast” day every other day. Like the 5:2 plan, you consume 600 calories or less on fast days. 
    • Circadian fasting: This pattern aligns your eating schedule with your natural hormone cycles. Our circadian rhythm—the body’s 24-hour clock—controls our sleep, digestion, hormones, and stress levels. Time your meals for early in the day when your energy levels are likely to be higher. Fast when the sun goes down and your energy decreases and digestion slows.
    • 16:8 diet: This time-restricted approach is best for people who like routine. You choose an eight-hour eating window each day and consume most of your calories in the middle of the day. Some people skip breakfast, eat from noon to 8 p.m., and then fast until noon the next day. Others may eat from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Combined with regular exercise, this method has been linked to reduced fat mass and body weight and can be easier to follow consistently than more restrictive patterns.

    I recommend trying different patterns to see which one—if any—works best for your lifestyle.

    When combined with endurance exercise, most of these approaches can result in significant weight loss and help lower the risk of heart disease. They have also been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

    Know the difference between 5:2 and 16:8 #IntermittentFasting? Get the answer to this common #fasting question, plus 4 more, in this blog from a registered dietician: https://bit.ly/3JIDabc.
    Click to Tweet

     

    2. Can I eat whatever I want on non-fasting days?

    Like any successful diet plan, no foods are off limits for intermittent fasters. But we always recommend that you eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods, whether or not you are trying to lose weight. 


    Eating more plant-based foods rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals helps keep your immune system healthy. It also reduces your risk of chronic inflammation, which is associated with diseases such as
    diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and several types of cancer.

    While many people try fasting to improve their health, some try fasting to lose weight. We rarely recommend that weight loss be the primary goal of a diet plan, as studies show this approach typically does not result in long-term weight loss or improvements in health. In fact, it often negatively impacts mental health. But if you’re fasting to lose or maintain your weight, even if it’s not the primary goal, you should also be mindful of the amount of food you eat. 

    Some people who choose more restrictive patterns of intermittent fasting eat more than they normally would on non-fasting days in anticipation of—or to make up for—eating less on fasting days. Because they’re consuming the same number of calories overall, their weight stays the same. 

    Related reading: Fight Harmful Inflammation with These 10 Healthy Eating Tips

    3. What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?

    When people fast, the body swaps its source of energy from glucose to ketones. This process, combined with exercise, is known as metabolic switching. Theoretically, it can change your body by flushing out damaged cells and replacing them with newer, healthier cells, making it possible to lose weight and reap long-lasting health benefits such as:

    Keep in mind that some people only experience one or two of these health benefits—or none at all. Everybody’s metabolism functions differently, and you might need to eat more often than someone else. 


    I know people who say fasting helps them feel more energetic and other people who tried fasting and said it made them feel anxious and jittery. If any diet plan makes you feel worse mentally or physically, it is not safe to continue.

    It usually takes two to four weeks for your body to become accustomed to new eating habits. Any side effects you may experience when you start fasting, such as headaches or irritability, usually disappear after a week or two. But if you’re miserable a week in, don’t force yourself to keep going. Accept that it’s simply not the right eating plan for you.

    4. Is intermittent fasting sustainable?

    The flexibility of intermittent fasting patterns makes it easier than other diet plans to stick to long term. If you’re eating a balanced diet, sleeping well, exercising, and in good health overall, it’s perfectly safe to fast long term, as long as you remain in good health, both physically and mentally. 


    There’s not a lot of long-term research or peer-reviewed studies about fasting. However, studies have shown that
    the 5:2 diet often results in short-term weight loss because people have a hard time sticking to it over time.

    The 16:8 method is often easier to maintain than the 5:2 plan because you’re eating every day. Yet even this approach can be difficult when you factor in weekends; some people fast only during the work week. The key is choosing a pattern that’s easily sustainable for your particular lifestyle.

    5. Who should not try intermittent fasting? 

    While intermittent fasting can be tailored to individual lifestyles, it is not safe for certain populations, including:

    • Anyone under age 18. Their metabolism and hunger cues are not fully developed.
    • People who are prone to restrictive eating patterns or have a history of eating disorders. Fasting can lead to or exacerbate binging and starving, over-restricting food intake, or eating/food anxiety.
    • Those who need to take medication with food at specific times.
    • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Fasting can cause low blood sugar. Plus, growing and feeding a baby requires sufficient—not restricted—calorie intake.
    • Anyone who becomes irritable, shaky, or anxious when they don't eat for a certain amount of time. 
    • People prone to constipation. While some report improved digestion after intermittent fasting, others have experienced constipation.

    If you fall into one of these categories and want to change your diet, talk with your primary doctor or a registered dietitian about sustainable ways to do so safely. People with any type of health condition should not try intermittent fasting or any other diet plan without close monitoring by their doctor.


    Many “wellness experts” provide well-meaning advice about intermittent fasting that can be harmful. In addition to speaking with a professional, when seeking more information:

    • Ensure research you read is peer-reviewed from a trusted source (such as the National Institutes of Health or a peer-reviewed medical journal).
    • View online searches with skepticism. If an “expert” is only presenting the benefits of a diet plan and also selling that diet plan, the information should be taken with a grain of salt. Many websites want to sell you a diet they claim is easy and magical for weight loss. However, in most cases the only loss you’ll see is in your wallet.

    Bottom line: Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.

    It can be easy to get swept into someone else’s excitement about a diet that works for them. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t experience the same results or if you find it difficult to stick to full-time intermittent fasting.


    I’ve tried—and enjoyed—intermittent fasting in the past, but it wasn’t conducive to my lifestyle long term. When changing your eating habits for better health or weight loss, do what works best for you with the guidance of a credible medical professional who knows your medical history.


    Searching for a diet plan that will stick?

    Our nutrition experts can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

  • April 23, 2021

    By Kerry Strom, RD, LDN, Dietitian Educator at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

    From fad diets to old wives’ tales about food, it’s easy to be misled into believing popular food myths. But just because a particular way of eating generates a certain result for one person, doesn’t mean it’s a universal truth that everyone should apply to their nutrition habits.

    Here is the truth about seven of the most popular food myths.

    Fad diets and popular #FoodMyths can make it confusing to know the truth about a healthy diet. Nurse Practitioner Skye Jones and Dietitian Educator Kerry Strom debunk 7 common food myths so you can start eating better today: https://bit.ly/3xnSDrg.

    Click to Tweet


    1. Myth: Carbs are bad.

    Truth: The right type of carbs are important for maintaining energy.

    You’ve probably heard that “bread is bad” and a low-carb diet is a quick way to lose weight and get healthy. While it’s true that certain carbohydrates are high in calories and don’t offer many health benefits, not all carbs are created equal. In fact, your body needs the right type of carbs to function at its best. Fruit and vegetables, for example, are high in carbohydrates but are nutritious food choices. When you swap refined carbs, like white bread, white rice, and white pasta, for fiber-loaded carbs, like sweet potatoes, and whole-wheat bread and pasta, your body benefits from fuel that provides energy and optimizes your brain function.

    2. Myth: Eating once a day is a good way to lose weight.

    Truth: Infrequent or inconsistent mealtimes can cause your body to go into starvation mode.

    It’s true that fad diets like “intermittent fasting” or eating all of your calories in one large meal a day can result in temporary weight loss. However, over time, your weight loss will stall—or possibly reverse. And, it can cause you to feel more sluggish which makes it less sustainable in the long run. When your body doesn’t know when it can expect its next meal, it can enter starvation mode, which means that it begins to hold onto calories. Instead, eat smaller, healthier portions of food every few hours to provide your metabolism with the nutrients it needs.

    3. Myth: Consuming carrots will improve your vision.

    Truth: Carrots are good for you, but eating them in excess isn’t going to give you 20/20 vision.

    By all means, tell yourself and your loved ones what you need to in order to eat healthily. But truthfully, you can eat all the carrots in the world and it won’t magically improve your eyesight. Still, carrots contain vitamin A and a host of other vitamins that do offer health benefits for your hair, nails, skins, and more, so definitely incorporate them into your diet alongside fruit and leafy vegetables.

    4. Myth: You have to stop eating at a certain time at night to lose weight.

    Truth: Your body doesn’t shut down at night.

    Your body does slow down at night, which means it may take longer to digest heavy food in the evening. But, you don’t have to avoid food completely after 6 or 7 p.m. to lose weight. If you’re hungry, satisfy your appetite by eating small, healthy snacks based on what you’re craving. A handful of nuts, for example, could eliminate your hunger while addressing your salt craving. In other words, you should be mindful about what you’re eating, but you don’t need to go to bed hungry.

    5. Myth: Eating fat will make you fat.

    Truth: Natural fats should be part of a well-balanced diet.

    Like carbs, there are good fats and bad fats. Saturated fats can make you gain weight quickly and are commonly found in processed “junk” foods, such as cookies and chips, and high-fat animal products, including pepperoni, bacon, whole milk, cream, and cheese. However, there are lots of fats found in natural, unprocessed foods. Avocados, nuts, and certain oils, like olive oil, stabilize your blood sugar and offer other body-boosting benefits, like improved heart health. And because ‘good’ fats help keep you satisfied longer, they are actually part of a healthy way to lose weight.

    6. Myth: A juice cleanse will help you lose weight for good.

    Truth: A juice cleanse isn’t sustainable or well-balanced.

    The first question you should always ask yourself when considering trying to lose weight is, “Will this be sustainable?” In the case of a juice cleanse, the answer is no. And, juice cleanses aren’t as good for your body as you might think. That’s because you’re only getting certain nutrients. While a juice cleanse may provide a high amount of vitamins, your body needs a more balanced intake of whole grains, protein, and healthy fats, alongside fruits and vegetables. While eating a well-balanced diet may not provide overnight weight loss results, it will help you develop healthy eating habits that will help you lose weight the right way.

    7. Myth: Cranberry juice is the cure for a urinary tract infection (UTI).

    Truth: There are more effective and healthier ways to treat UTIs.

    Cranberry juice is high in sugar, and sugar is not your friend when you have an infection, like a UTI. If you have recurrent UTIs, an over-the-counter cranberry supplement may help you prevent them without the negative effects of the sugar found in juice. However, a more effective way to address your UTIs is to increase your water intake and seek medical care from your primary care provider.

    Everything in moderation.

    Many popular food myths aren’t true, which is why it’s important to talk to your primary care doctor or a registered dietitian about a healthy diet. And, any food myth that tells you to restrict a certain food is going to cause you to eventually overindulge and undo any progress you’ve made. What I like to tell my patients is that no food group should ever be off-limits, allergies being the exception, of course. Instead, make small and steady changes to your diet, incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats. And, treat yourself every once in a while. That’s how to maintain a sustainable healthy lifestyle in the long run.


    Do you need help adopting a healthier diet?
    Schedule a visit with a MedStar Health primary care doctor today, or learn more about our other care options.

    Primary Care

    Care options with MedStar Health

  • December 16, 2020

    By Theresa A. Stone, MD, FACP

    Eating healthy is one of the best things you can do for your health. In fact, consuming a healthy diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, and whole foods can reduce your risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.

    While eating healthy can be a challenge anytime, it’s particularly difficult during the holidays. The average calorie intake during Thanksgiving alone is about 4,000 calories, and many people gain one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. As a result, it’s important to prepare your meals or snacks ahead of time so you can avoid eating tempting but unhealthy foods.

    Here are five healthy snack ideas you can try this holiday season.

    1. Date energy balls.

    Date energy balls are ideal for when you want a snack throughout the day or eating prior to a workout. Not only are they filling, but they are packed with carbohydrates, which are essential to consume before working out. To make date energy balls, combine the following ingredients and mix them together using a food processor:

    • 2 cups of walnuts (substitute almonds, peanuts, or other nuts you prefer)
    • 1 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut
    • 2 cups of soft, pitted Medjool dates
    • 2 tablespoons of almond butter (or preferred nut butter)
    • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

    Scoop the dough using a tablespoon and roll it between your hands to form balls. Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and place in the freezer for one to two hours before serving. If you want gourmet-looking date balls, you can also roll them in shredded coconut or cocoa powder before chilling.

    These snacks can be stored in a sealed container for about a week in the fridge or a month in the freezer.

    Eating healthy can be particularly difficult during the #Holidays. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, we share 5 easy to make #HealthySnacks for you to try this holiday season: https://bit.ly/34jCZjo.

    Click to Tweet


    2. Aromatic quick quinoa.

    Quinoa is gluten-free, high in protein, and a great source of carbohydrates. It can also work well as both a main dish and a side dish. To make this quinoa, use the following ingredients:

    • 1 cup of quinoa
    • Juice from one lemon
    • 3 tablespoons of tamari (soy sauce)
    • 2 medium-sized zucchini
    • 1 small broccoli head
    • 1 tablespoon of tahini
    • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
    • Salt and pepper

    You’ll want to place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with 1 ½ cups of water, lemon juice, and the tamari. Stir and cook on high heat until it comes to a boil. Then boil for one to two minutes and reduce to a simmer, covered, for 12 minutes (or until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy).

    Now, slice the zucchini in half, chop it into half-moons, and cut the broccoli into florets. Heat your pan on medium heat. Add olive oil, tamari, salt, pepper, zucchini, and broccoli, and sauté for seven minutes. Mix the cooked quinoa together with the tahini and sautéed vegetables and drizzle with olive oil.

    3. Mango salsa.

    Salsa is good for almost any occasion—and, thankfully, it doesn’t contain many calories and can be relatively healthy when you make it yourself. Use the following ingredients for a delicious mango salsa:

    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 jalapeno, diced
    • 1 red onion, diced
    • 3 limes, juiced
    • 3 red mangos or 6 yellow mangos
    • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
    • 1 ½ teaspoon of cilantro, chopped

    You’ll want to combine all of the ingredients together into a large bowl, mix them together, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving with pita chips.

    4. Glowing turmeric latte.

    Some people may not initially consider lattes a snack, but they can be filling. A glowing turmeric latte is lightly sweetened with natural ingredients, and can contain a good amount of protein (if you opt for regular milk). Turmeric, a spice from eastern Asia and Central America, is an anti-inflammatory and a good source of antioxidants, or substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals.

    Use the following ingredients to make a glowing turmeric latte:

    • 1 cup of milk (of your preferred milk type)
    • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon of honey
    • 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom

    To prepare the latte, combine all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium to high heat until the ingredients begin to boil. Then pour into a mug and serve.

    5. Zesty curried chickpeas.

    Zesty curried chickpeas is a wonderful dish that’s easy, fast, and tasty. Chickpeas contain many healthy nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, B vitamins, iron, and magnesium, making them an ideal main ingredient for any meal. To make this dish, use the following ingredients:

    • ½ teaspoon of salt
    • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
    • 1 ¼ teaspoon of cumin seed
    • 1 ¼ teaspoon of kalonji seed (also called black caraway or nigella)
    • ¼ cup of olive oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • ½ chili pepper, chopped
    • One 15-ounce can of chickpeas
    • ½ cup of water
    • ¼ cup of cilantro

    Heat your saucepan and add olive oil, onion, and chili. Sauté on low heat or until onion starts to brown at the edges. Add in the remaining spices, and continue to sauté until the spices are well mixed. Then add chickpeas and mix in the saucepan, add water, and let it simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Let the ingredients cool for a few minutes, then add cilantro and serve.

    While the holidays can make it easier to eat unhealthy foods, you can still continue eating a healthy diet by planning your meals in advance and sticking to them. Make sure to consider these snacks during the holidays this year.

    This is an updated version of an article previously posted on December 23, 2019. 


    Looking for more healthy food ideas?
    Click below for other quick and easy healthy recipes from MedStar Health.

    MedStar Health and Wellness

  • November 25, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Stress, pressure from family, and tempting treats over the holidays can make it hard to choose nutritious choices from Thanksgiving through the New Year. But eating healthy over the holidays doesn’t have to be hard. With a few simple tweaks to your mindset, you can learn to both enjoy special meals and foods this season while practicing how to eat intuitively any time of the year.

    Eating healthy over the holidays doesn’t have to be hard, thanks to these 7 tips from dietitian, Wendy Chatham. Read the #LiveWellHealthy blog to learn more: https://bit.ly/2J8a7Dz.

    Click to Tweet


    Tip #1: Prioritize what you want to eat.

    Over the holidays, many of us prepare special recipes that are reserved for this time of year. For example, many people enjoy baking Christmas cookies that they can share with family, friends, and coworkers. Grocery stores and specialty shops also sell a variety of holiday treats that aren’t available throughout the year, making them exclusive to the holiday season.

    We look forward to eating and preparing these foods that remind us of gathering with family and friends year after year. As a result, it can be helpful to plan ahead what special recipes and food you plan to enjoy throughout the holidays. Or, take an inventory of what food is available at a party before you start to fill your plate at a party. Think about the things that you enjoy the most, and determine what you’re going to say no to in advance so that you can eat the special things you love without stuffing yourself.

    Over the holidays, I enjoy making tamales for my family. Because tamales are filling and a complete meal all on their own, I choose to avoid tortilla chips or mixed nuts that fill snack bowls because I can have those any time I want. By planning the kinds of food we’ll refuse, like nibbling on appetizers before the main course, we free up space to enjoy the special foods that make the holidays unique.

    Tip #2: Avoid high-calorie beverages.

    From sugary sodas to alcoholic beverages like eggnog or hot buttered rum, it’s easy to go way over daily calorie recommendations by consuming high-calorie drinks. Consider that one small glass of hot buttered rum offers the same number of calories as a six-inch roast beef sub from Subway. Even juice, sweet tea, and Gatorade should be reserved for special occasions in the same way you would treat eating a birthday cake. That’s because high sugar levels can significantly increase your blood sugar and wreak havoc on your body.

    As you prioritize what you plan to eat and enjoy over the holidays, avoid drinking your calories and instead opt for low-calorie beverages. It’s one easy way you can choose to make healthier choices, as food will provide more nutritional value and feelings of fullness.

    Tip #3: You can say, “no, thank you.” No explanation required.

    Once you’ve determined what you do want to eat, don’t feel bad about saying “no, thank you” to what you don’t want to eat. It’s common for family dynamics to make you feel like you need to take a serving of everything or even have seconds when Grandma is guilting the table into finishing up a dish. But, no one should make you feel bad about what is or isn’t on your plate. Do your best to shake off any extra pressure and say no when you want to say no.

    Tip #4: Don’t feel obligated to clean your plate.

    Similarly to tip number three, you don’t need to clean your plate if you’re full. I like to tell people to “honor your hunger, but respect your fullness”. By all means, please eat when you’re hungry! It’s your body telling you that it needs nutrition. In fact, skipping meals only leads to overeating because you eat faster than your body can register your fullness. That’s why you shouldn’t fast all day before a holiday meal. Eat a snack or shake beforehand so you’re not starving by mealtime.

    When it is time to eat, pace yourself, eat slowly, and pay attention to when you’re full. Once you are, stop eating to avoid overeating or becoming sick. Some people think they need to finish their plate so they don’t “waste” any food. But, when you continue putting food into your body when you’re full, it’s still a “waste”. There will always be more food and opportunities to have leftovers.

    Tip #5: Ask for leftovers to be wrapped up for you to take home.

    If you’re full and can’t eat anymore, or you don’t particularly want something but feel obligated to try it so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings, ask for something to be wrapped up. You can always take something home to have later when you’re hungry again—or if it’s something you truly don’t want, you can throw it away in the privacy of your own home and no one will be wiser.

    Tip #6: Be mindful as you eat.

    Mindfulness means being aware of what you’re putting into your body. Studies show that if you’re eating while doing something else, like watching TV, driving, or working at the computer, the following things happen:

    • Your body can’t absorb all the nutrients
    • You’re less aware of how much you’re consuming
    • You enjoy the food less because you’re eating on autopilot
    • You overeat because you’re not paying attention

    Instead of eating mindlessly, think about what you’re eating and focus on how you feel after every bite. Studies show mindless eating can interfere with nutrient absorption. We should eat for enjoyment and nutrition, not to numb emotions, pass the time when we’re bored, or react to stressful situations. Practice self-care by being mindful as you eat.

    Tip #7: Exercise because you enjoy it, not because you need to earn your food.

    Finally, avoid falling into the mindset that you need to earn your food through exercise. Punishment is a poor motivator, and viewing food as something you need to work off will only hurt your view of both food and exercise. Exercise is good for you, and is to be enjoyed! Get moving because of the benefits exercise offers beyond calorie burn, including:

    • Elevating your mood
    • Improving your sleep
    • Relieving stress

    Some people will tell you to avoid eating certain foods to stay healthy. While I’m a dietitian, you’ll notice I didn’t tell you not to eat this or that. Rather, these tips for eating healthy over the holidays will help you develop sustainable eating habits that allow you to view food as nourishment and pleasure, not something that you need to work for or overindulge in.


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  • September 25, 2020

    By Jessica DeCostole, RD, LDN

    If you have found yourself mindlessly finishing off a big bag of chips or a quart of ice cream during these unsettling times, you are not alone. Many of us turn to food for comfort when we are experiencing stress.

    But emotional eating can negatively affect your health—both physically and mentally. It can lead to weight gain, or worsen pre-existing conditions like diabetes, especially if you aren’t able to do as much physical activity as usual. Those things, in turn, can cause or exacerbate depression or anxiety.

    Are you finding yourself turning to food for comfort or stress relief more often? On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, Jessica DeCostole, MS, RD, gives 5 tips for how to eat mindfully, stop emotional eating, and better your health: https://bit.ly/332OBaD.

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    The solution? Mindful eating. At times like this, it’s essential to pay attention to what, when, how, and why you’re eating.

    What is mindful eating?

    Mindful eating is an approach to food that brings mindfulness to food choice and the experience of eating, so you eat healthier and enjoy your food more. When you slow down and pay attention to how and what you eat, you’re more likely to make better decisions that will nourish your body.

    5 tips for practicing mindful eating.

    Unsure how to eat mindfully? Here are a few tips to help get you started:

    1. Unplug.

    Avoid watching TV and talking on the phone or texting while you eat. Stop working and step away from the computer. Set everything aside and take a break to enjoy and savor your food. Focus on your meal.

    2. Slow down.

    Your brain needs time to register that you’re eating and to communicate to your body when you are full. Set your fork down between bites. It’s likely that you’ll eat a lot less. This helps prevent overeating, weight gain, and digestive stress.

    3. Chew well.

    Devouring food without chewing very well can trigger unpleasant symptoms like bloating, gas, and indigestion. The saliva in your mouth is full of active enzymes that help break down food, making it easier to digest and allowing for better absorption of vitamins and nutrients.

    4. Only eat when you’re hungry.

    Ask “why am I eating?” before you take a bite. If your answer is boredom, stress, or another emotion, try redirecting yourself by calling a friend or taking a walk. This helps you avoid emotional eating and mindless snacking.

    Related: Easy ways to eat healthy during COVID-19.

    5. Be present.

    Notice the colors, shapes, and aroma of your food. As you take a bite of food, think about the flavors and textures as you chew. Truly focusing on your food will also encourage you to slow down and enjoy the experience of eating.

    Mindful eating can be a magical, stimulating experience that supports good health. By tapping into all of your senses, you will begin to appreciate your food more, and decrease your emotional eating habits and their negative side effects.

    Want more wellness advice?
    Download and read more articles like this for free in the latest issue of Destination: Good Health.

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  • August 21, 2020

    By Carissa Colangelo, MS, ATC/LAT, PTA, CSCS, MedStar Sports Medicine

    In a world where it seems everything in our normal daily life has changed in a very short period, it can feel like we are out of control. It is important at times like this that we stop and be mindful of creating or maintaining healthy habits with focus on controlling those things that we can. Here are a few tips to consider.

    It’s important in times like these that we be mindful about creating or maintaining healthy habits in our daily lives. Carissa Colangelo, MS, gives tips on how to do this during #COVID19 on the #LiveWellHealthy blog: https://bit.ly/34nrAjM.

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    Have a good sleep schedule.

    Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, particularly during times of high stress, is vital to our physical and mental health. Sleep helps boost your immune function, improve focus, control your mood, and increase resistance to stress. If you don’t usually get 7-8 hours of sleep, now is a great time to start making it a habit!

    Maintain healthy eating habits and stay hydrated.

    Having healthy eating habits is crucial, but can be especially difficult when the refrigerator is only a few steps away. Try to stay on a normal eating schedule and avoid unnecessary snacking. You might be someone that is used to constantly being on the go, so now is a great time to slow down, try that new recipe, and get creative. Don’t forget about getting adequate hydration throughout the day.

    Create boundaries for yourself.

    Many of us are in situations where you find your work life and home life have morphed into one. It’s important to create or continue work life balance and create boundaries. This includes both physical and mental boundaries. Your workspace should not be in the same place you sleep. You should try to adhere to clear set start and stop work times (as much as you can control) to allow yourself time to refresh, reboot and separate yourself from your work day.

    Keep a daily routine.

    Your normal daily routine may look completely different from your current one. Regardless, having a schedule and routine is great for creating better focus on tasks and allowing for better management of your time. It also helps maintain self-discipline, and creates self-accountability.

    Socialize.

    It’s common to feel isolated during these times. That’s why now more than ever, it’s important to continue communication with friends and family. There are several different virtual options to accomplish this. You can schedule daily or weekly phone calls, or if you have access to a smartphone or computer, use video chat services like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype. Maintaining your normal social infrastructure and staying connected with friends and family is vital to your mental health.

    Take time for positive reflection.

    Honest reflection is important in times like this. When things feel heavy it is important to focus on continued successes, find things that bring you joy and reward yourself. Remember, sometimes success is in the small things in life!

    Manage stress and anxiety.

    It’s important to allow yourself time to recognize these feelings and deal with them in a healthy manner. If you are feeling stressed or have anxiety about what is going on around you, take time for yourself to calm those feelings. Suggestions for managing stress include practicing progressive relaxation techniques, meditation, and deep breathing.

    Stay physically active.

    Physical activity may take some creativity as your usual team sports and gym routines are put on pause. Look to replace them with a body weight or exercise band strengthening program you can do at home. Remember, it is still okay to get outside and get some fresh air during a run, walk, or hike if social distancing is maintained.

    If you already follow these recommendations, keep up the good work and stay focused! But if not, try starting with one of these simple suggestions, and make healthy habits part of your new normal.

    Click below for more information from MedStar Health on COVID-19.

    COVID-19 Information