- 02 January 2017
- Nutrition Blog
There’s no reason to wait for a positive pregnancy test to start making healthier choices and aim for an overall healthier lifestyle. Incorporating healthy habits is important and beneficial at any stage of pregnancy but also before conception. Implementing healthier habits before pregnancy can improve the health of the mother as well as the baby by preparing the body for the high demands of pregnancy. Women are susceptible to a number of complications during pregnancy. Research suggests women who are obese (BMI over 30) have a higher incidence of pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, cesarean delivery, and macrosomia. Being either underweight or overweight can reduce the chance of conceiving. Ideally, both partners should aim for a healthy BMI (between 18.5-24.9). Excess body fat or insufficient amounts can interfere with fertility. Starting pregnancy at a healthy weight can lower the risk of complications. Eating well can help keep blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight at normal levels and can help reduce incidence of complications.
While there are a various factors that influence a healthy pregnancy, good nutrition is, without question, a determining factor in both a healthy pregnancy and baby. Women who are overweight or obese before conception are more likely to have a baby with a structural defect, including neural tube defects. Neural tube defects may be preventable through a healthy lifestyle and adequate nutrition. Spina bifida is a condition in which the fetal spinal column is unable to close completely during the first month of pregnancy, causing damage to the developing spinal cord. Anencephaly is a more serious defect and prevents the development of the brain. Birth defects occur in the first weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects; therefore, it is important to have these nutrients in your system during early stages of the baby’s development. Women of childbearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms (.4mg) of folic acid daily to prevent these two common and serious birth defects. Women carrying twins or more, and those with epilepsy or diabetes require extra folic acid. Another essential vitamin to prevent neural tube defects is choline. Ensuring adequate choline may not only lower the risk of brain or spinal cord birth defects but it may also enhance the development and function of the placenta and possibly lower an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses including mental health disturbances, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. The recommendation for choline is 425mg per day for women and increases to 450 mg per day when pregnant and 550 mg per day for lactating women.
Optimal fetal brain and eye development is dependent on omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA which can be found in seafood and fish oil. Research has revealed long-term benefits of prenatal omega-3 fatty acid intake includes higher memory function later on. DHA may lower incidence of colds in infants and shorten duration of symptoms associated such as coughing and fever. Women should aim for 650mg of omega-3 fatty acids, of which 300 mg is DHA per day. Consuming 2-6-oz servings of low mercury fish per week such as wild caught Alaskan salmon, tilapia, shrimp or cod provides 100-250mg of omega-3, of which 50-100mg is from DHA. Consider incorporating fish oil capsules, which are low in contaminants of mercury to assist in meeting the recommendations. Vegetarians can obtain DHA from algae-derived DHA supplements.
Iron is necessary for both fetal and placental development and needs increase dramatically after becoming pregnant. Consumption of foods rich in iron is necessary to prevent a deficiency and/or anemia. Research suggests that iron stores at time of conception are a strong indicator for risk of developing iron deficiency anemia later in pregnancy and deficiency may increase risk for preterm delivery. Pregnant woman need at least 27 milligrams of iron each day.. Low levels of Vitamin B-12, which is essential in the production of red blood cells, can also lead to anemia. The RDA for B-12 for pregnant females is 2.6 micrograms and 2.8 micrograms for breastfeeding females.
The best thing you can do for your baby is eat a healthy, well balanced diet. It is important to understand the benefits of good nutrition prior to, as well throughout, pregnancy in order to minimize potential risks and complications. A well-balanced diet is achievable; however, may be difficult to obtain optimum levels of nutrients through diet alone; therefore, incorporating a prenatal vitamin prior to and throughout pregnancy may be necessary and can improve your chances of having a healthy baby.
- 28 November 2016
- Nutrition Blog
By: Marissa Martino, Registered Dietitian
Not many people associate emotional well-being with nutrition. Usually when we think about what we eat, we relate that to our physical health and how it affects our weight and appearance. However, that is only scratching the surface of the variety of roles that food and nutrition play. Food is made up of two categories: macronutrients, or the caloric content of food- which includes carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The second category is called micronutrients, which consist of all of the vitamins and minerals. These macro and micronutrients are what affect our mood, energy levels, hormone balance and even the chemicals in our brain such as serotonin and dopamine.
Nutrient deficiencies can happen from not getting a good mix of unprocessed foods such as: whole grains, beans and legumes, lean proteins and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Each color category of fruits and vegetables provides a different phytochemical make up. For example, dark purples and blues are primarily beneficial for their anthocyanin content, which is good for brain and cognitive health. Greens provide isothiocyanates, which supports liver function and cell health. Yellows and oranges serve as a good source of beta-carotene which supports your immune system and eyesight. When we don’t eat enough of nutrient dense whole foods, we are denying our bodies the correct balance of nutrients. Eating a diet high in carbs and processed foods can mess with our blood sugar levels and serotonin stability which can contribute to mood swings and depression. A lack of B vitamins (which come from legumes, whole grains and seeds) can cause irritability, fatigue and poor concentration.
Another important part of the equation is making sure we actually absorb the nutrients that we eat! Many of us have poor “gut” health and chronic inflammation. Our “gut”, or intestines, are actually what absorb the nutrients from the food we eat and pass them into our bloodstream where they can be used. Your intestines are most likely inflamed if you experience any type of IBS, such as constipation, diarrhea, and cramping or bloating after eating. This means that you’re probably not absorbing the nutrients from your food correctly. Probiotics are the number one source for reestablishing a healthy flora in the gut. However, contrary to popular belief, food sources like yogurt do not contain enough probiotics to balance out the healthy bacteria. Taking a probiotic supplement that is more concentrated with the right amount of live cultures is extremely important for mental, emotional and physical health. To learn more about how nutrition and which probiotic brands are the most beneficial and affordable, make an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians today!
- 24 October 2016
- Nutrition Blog
By: Marissa Martino, Registered Dietitian
Anyone can be affected by the negative habit of stress eating, whether it’s more prevalent during the holidays, or even all year around. There are many reasons why we binge eat because of stress, but luckily there are also many ways to confront this destructive behavior. First, is to understand exactly why we stress eat. Biologically, our bodies are regulated by hormones, many of which control and greatly affect our weight. Cortisol, the “stress hormone” can actually create cravings and make it physically harder for our bodies to drop fat. This hormone is important to be aware of since it can create nervous energy and make us “orally fidgety”, causing nail biting, teeth clenching and also eating without being aware. To grasp stress eating, we need to first understand that for many people, emotions become tied to eating habits, which makes weight and anything related to, such as food, a very emotional subject. It’s important to recognize what emotion is driving us to eat, and realizing that the end result is always the same- guilt, along with the same emotions from before eating lurking close by. This is why the first step to combating stress eating is to figure out what your triggers are.
What emotion prompts you to crave foods, and what caused that emotion? The next step is to become comfortable with confronting that emotion and learn how to openly communicate with whomever or whatever the trigger is for that emotion. Another trick is to keep a food journal. As a dietitian, I recommend this for everyone- whether you’re dealing with stress eating, want to lose weight, or even just become a healthier version of yourself.
Documenting everything that you consume will make you much more aware of your selections. You can also assess your hunger levels each time before you eat or drink- are you physically hungry (grumbling), or are you just bored? After you eat or drink, then document your satiety level. If you were actually hungry, the result of eating should be satisfying. If you ate or drank due to stress or boredom, your satisfaction level will be much lower.
Another important key is replacing a stress eating with a healthy habit. Once you understand what your trigger is, tame that stress by engaging in something that interests you, whether it’s yoga, going to the gym, meditation in a quiet place. Fight boredom with whatever hobbies interest you and don’t forget to do a hunger check before eating or drinking. If you are concerned with weight loss, keep temptations out of the house to avoid any mishaps. Battling stress eating is a journey to understanding ourselves better and becoming healthier physically and also mentally. Also remember that we are all human, and if we fall off track, don’t wait until the next day to get back on track. Learn from your setback and move past your obstacles as quick as possible. Believe in yourself and be a part of your own support system!
- 26 September 2016
- Nutrition Blog
On average, women spend roughly $75-$100 on skin care products a month, and some over $250 a month! This probably doesn’t sound surprising to all of those Ulta and Sephora addicts out there. Whether it’s for clear, wrinkle-free skin, shiny hair, strong nails or a healthy glow, we are constantly looking for the next best skin care product.
Rather than focusing so much on what we put on the outside of our bodies, we should also focus on what we’re putting inside our bodies. What you eat has a lot to do with your appearance - not just your waistline. Nutrients that we get from whole foods can have several benefits for our skin. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E can help prevent wrinkles and increase elasticity in our skin. Did you know that tomatoes contain a chemical called lycopene which has been shown to improve our skin’s natural SPF and protects it against sun damage?
However, the food we eat can also do the opposite. Refined white products such as sugar, salt and highly processed foods, can increase stress hormones that cause breakouts. A diet high in saturated fats promotes the production of free radicals that can prematurely age skin. On the other hand, healthy fats such as omega 3’s that we get from salmon and flax seeds can help strengthen skin cells and reduce inflammation. Other fats that are essential for healthy skin include avocado, olive oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds. Minerals such as zinc promote healthy skin turnover; on the contrary a zinc deficiency can cause abnormal pigmentation along with stunting hair and nail growth. Last but not least, one of the most important nutrients that we can include in our diets for a beautiful complexion and healthy glow is water!
Take a look at what you are eating (and what you aren’t) and try to make some changes to improve your diet! You may start seeing changes right away and be able to cut back on some of those cosmetic expenses by simply changing your eating habits. And of course, if you need help sorting through the different foods that can help your skin look its best, you can always make a nutrition appointment with us. We look forward to helping you look and feel your best!
- 26 July 2016
- Nutrition Blog
By: Marissa Martino, RD
Type 2 diabetes has been on the rise for the last decade, with a whopping 1.4 million Americans diagnosed each year. This accounts for adults and children. The most disheartening concept about this statistic is that type 2 diabetes, unlike type 1, is actually controllable and even preventable. Diabetes is when your body can’t regulate blood glucose- or sugar- properly, causing all sorts of harmful and long term effects. Type 2 is the form of diabetes that develops from insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that allows the sugar from the food that we eat into our cells, which is then converted into usable energy. If we eat too many foods high in carbohydrates and simple sugars, our blood sugar skyrockets. Insulin is then released in an attempt to lower and regulate our blood sugar. This feedback mechanism causes blood sugar to be lowered, which is the “crashing” feeling we get about 45 minutes after a sugary snack such as a muffin or donut. This rollercoaster effect of constant high and low blood glucose wreaks havoc on the body, and eventually leads to insulin resistance. Our cells become less sensitive to insulin, causing an influx of glucose in the bloodstream. Uncontrolled high blood sugar over time causes the blood to become sticky and viscous. This leads to damaged blood vessels and nerves which affects eye sight, hearing, lack of feeling in hands and feet, chronic inflammation and dehydration.
After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the goal is to regulate blood sugar levels with diet before resorting to medication and insulin injections. The difficult part about this is, most of us are already comfortable with a certain type of lifestyle- which is usually filled with some unhealthy habits. And habits, as we all know, are not so simple to break. Our lives are hectic and busy, with the majority of the country constantly eating on the run. When we think about what foods are “convenient”, almost all of those options are carb based. Bagels, granola bars, soft pretzels and even food items we deem healthy, such as yogurt or smoothies can be culprits.
A large part of diabetes education is first understanding the vast amount of hidden carbohydrates entangled in our food system. Once we learn how to look at a food label and understand about how many grams of carbs we should be eating per sitting, it’s becomes less challenging to adhere to a diabetic friendly lifestyle.
An attainable goal is to stay under 200 grams of carbs a day. We should aim for no more than 30 grams for a snack, and average between 30-60 grams at meal time. The “diabetic exchange list” is a convenient source that lists all popular food items and the total carb count. A simple rule of thumb is to remember that 15 grams of carbs is roughly 1 slice of bread, 1/3 cup cooked rice or pasta, or 1 cup of fruit.
One of the most important guidelines to stabilize blood sugar, is to make sure that protein, fiber, or a healthy fat sources are combined with any carb. This is because fiber, protein and fat are slower digesting nutrients, meaning they will delay the rate carb digestion, preventing the high spike in blood sugar. It has also been shown that saving the carb portion of a snack or meal for last can also help slow down the rate of absorption. For example, if your snack is a handful of almonds and an apple, eat the almonds first and then the apple. The simple sugars from the apple will be more slowly digested thanks to the fiber, protein and healthy fats from the almonds.
By making sure that there is always fiber, protein and or healthy fat every time we eat, we are ensuring that blood glucose levels are stabilized. Even if it is a “complex carb” still try to add a protein. If you like oatmeal in the morning, add a hardboiled egg or a handful of walnuts. Also, rather than the sugar packed instant oatmeal, use plain or steel cut oats and add a drizzle of local honey or fresh berries. If you like a yogurt as a snack, make sure it doesn’t have more than 15 grams of sugar! (My favorite brands are Siggi’s, Chobani Simply 100 or Oikos Triple Zero).
Exercise is also a very important and useful tool in lowering and stabilizing glucose levels. The cells present in muscle are actually very sensitive to insulin, so the more muscle mass we have, the more our bodies will respond to insulin.
Changing habits takes time, focus and dedication. Registered dietitians can guide and support you to a healthier lifestyle, helping you to make achievable and sustainable adjustments.
- 30 June 2016
- Nutrition Blog
By: Angela Luciani, RD
July is national ice cream month … As temperatures heat up, many of us are looking forward to cooling down with a summer treat. When you head to the frozen section of the grocery store – you may get brain freeze just looking at all the new and different options out there… light, low fat, slow churned, coconut milk, Greek yogurt… the list goes on. The good news is you can have your ice cream and eat it too – remember, it is how much and how often you enjoy ice cream that can become problematic.
So how do you navigate through all of these options and which ones to choose? It is important to keep in mind that a single serving of ice cream is a half cup. The pint of ice cream you see at the store has a total of 4 servings! Instead of eating straight from the carton, measure out your serving size and put the rest back in the freezer. If you’re going out for ice cream – ask if you can have the kid’s size or only ask for one scoop.
When choosing which type of ice cream to purchase, choose brands whose ingredients you can recognize, and compare the fat and sugar content before deciding which one to go with. Traditionally – ice cream is made with cream; therefore, you will find that the “ultra-premium” ice cream brands, such as Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen-Dazs, will have more calories and saturated fat per serving than others (up to 50% more than regular ice cream). While they certainly are delicious –there are many alternatives you can choose that can provide less calories and less fat, making it a treat that you won’t feel guilty about! Halo Top ice cream is a great option as it provides 240-280 calories and 24gm of protein per pint! They offer flavors including chocolate, mint chip, birthday cake and many more! Edy’s slow churned ice cream contains more milk than cream which can make it a better choice. Frozen yogurt has less calories than ice cream, but still can pack in a lot of sugar, leaving you craving more – self-serve Fro-Yo can lead us to overeating –so you must continue to be mindful of your serving size. For a “lighter” premium option, try choosing the Ben and Jerry’s fro-yo version. Still craving more, or realizing that half serving isn’t going to cut it? – instead of going for that extra serving – add berries or nuts as a topping to make it more filling!
If you can’t have dairy or are looking for dairy-free options – Ben and Jerry’s has come out with a new ice cream product that is made with almond milk.
Don’t be afraid to try making your own! There are plenty of recipes all over the internet on how to make healthier homemade ice cream options. See below for a relatively simple and easy to make recipe!
Banana Nutella Ice Cream – makes 3 servings
- 6 ripe bananas – frozen
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ¾ cup Nutella
- Cut bananas into 1-inch slices and transfer to food processor.
- Blend until smooth consistence.
- Add vanilla and nutella – Pulse until combined.
- Eat right away or store in airtight container.
- 27 April 2016
- Nutrition Blog
By: Angela Luciani, RD
May is stroke prevention/awareness month. Each year, about 800,000 people suffer from a stroke (1). Anyone can have a stroke, including children. Having a stroke can be scary for many people because it is often an unpredictable event; however, up to 80% of strokes are preventable (2). There are some factors that increase your risk for a stroke that you cannot control such as age, gender, race as well as family/personal medical history but there are some steps you can take to modify your lifestyle in order to help reduce your risk.
- Incorporate a heart healthy diet – Diet plays an important role in reducing your risk for stroke as well as many other chronic diseases. Both poor cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are risk factors for having a stroke but can be improved with nutrition. Choosing a heart healthy diet includes the following:
- Incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods
- Limit saturated fat and trans fat which can be found in items such as butter, cheese, fried and processed foods, red meat and other animal-based foods
- Choose lean meats and poultry such as chicken or turkey without the skin
- Incorporate fish at least two times a week for added benefits of omega 3’s
- Aim for a healthy weight – Obesity increases your risk of having a stroke. A normal BMI of 18.5-24.9 is recommended. Losing weight can have a significant impact on your stroke risk.
- Exercise daily – Exercise is one of the best ways to stay in shape as it can not only help you maintain or achieve a healthy weight but it also helps lower cholesterol levels and can keep blood pressure at a normal level. (It’s also a great way to de-stress!)
- Cut back on the alcohol! – Consuming too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and/or trigger an irregular heartbeat – both of which also increase your risk for a stroke. Alcohol can also tend to be high in calories, so regular consumption can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
- 28 March 2016
- Nutrition Blog
Have you ever had a really stressful day at work, then decided to take a jog, attend your yoga or kickboxing class, or even go lift some weights at the gym? Chances are you felt much better afterwards, and the stress from earlier that day melted away. This is because exercise actually has both short term and long term effects on mood. Research shows that moderate exercise enhances mood within just 5 minutes of activity. Many studies have also shown that exercise can help and prevent anxiety disorders, also known as fight-or-flight responses. Those who participate in exercise have a decreased response to anxiety sensitivity than those who are sedentary.
Some have the idea that exercise will wear them out and be tiring, when actually the opposite is true. Exercise boosts energy. During exercise, blood flows more freely throughout your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to important organs, tissues and muscle. Your body also releases chemicals called endorphins during moderate exercise. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that trigger a positive feeling. Ever felt a post workout high, or general sense of well being and confidence after exercise? That is your body responding to these feel-good chemicals being released during your workout.
If you don’t belong to a gym, or don’t know where to start in regards to exercise- first and foremost, get outside! Take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk or jog along a trail. Incorporate some jump squats or walking lunges to increase heart rate and blood flow. If you are at home, you can create your own plyometrics or HIIT (high intensity interval training) circuit. Sprint up the stairs in your apartment building, hold yourself in a plank position, use your body weight for wall-sits, squats or pushups. The options here are endless.
In conclusion, the benefits of daily exercise are remarkably valuable in so many ways- including weight control, improvement of mood and sleep, boosts energy and combats health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. Need any more convincing to get up and move? Remember, sweat is free!
- 29 February 2016
- Nutrition Blog
By: Marissa Martino, RD
Our bodies are composed of over 60% water, which means that this essential nutrient is vital to our health. Water plays many roles and has a variety of functions, along with maintaining a certain homeostasis in each of us. A deficiency in water can result in noticeable symptoms, such as dry mouth, eyes and nose. But it can also affect parts of our body on a cellular level that we can’t necessarily detect right away- such as carrying nutrients and oxygen to our blood. Water regulates our body temperature, lubricates and cushions our joints, aids in digestion by preventing constipation and also helps to put less of a burden on our kidneys and liver by flushing out our systems.
A very generic number for water intake is 64 oz a day. This number changes in regards to how physical our job is, our sweat rate, and the temperature of the weather. It’s important to make sure we are at minimum, replenishing the amount of water we lose each day. More than 1.5 liters of water are lost just by perspiration, breathing and urine output. This amount is before any physical activity! If we are dehydrated during physical activity, we don’t sweat as much which can cause our body to overheat.
Some simply forget to drink throughout the day, and others just don’t prefer to drink plain water. There are many ways to fix these problems! First, go out and splurge on a nice water bottle. This will give you an initiative to have it with you throughout your day. Place your water on your desk and set little goals for yourself- for example, by 10 am you will have drank the first half of your water bottle, and by 12pm you will have finished your first bottle and refill at lunch time. There’s also unlimited ways to flavor your water without adding sugar or artificial flavorings. Fruits such as citrus, berries, even mango and pineapple infuse awesomely in water bottles to give a little natural sweetness and vitamin boost to your water. Or you can go the herbal route with mint, lemongrass, rosemary, basil, or sage which mix very well with veggies like cucumbers. You could try a refreshing blend like citrus, mint and cucumber or you could energize your afternoon with raspberry and black tea infused water. If you are craving a bit more sweetness, a drop or two of stevia will do the trick. If bubbles help quench your thirst, add these flavorings to carbonated seltzer water. The combinations are endless!
- 29 December 2015
- Nutrition Blog
Obesity rates have more than doubled in adults and children with an estimated 64% of women being classified as overweight or obese (NIH, 2009). Obesity is measured by the body mass index (BMI) which takes into account one’s height in relation to their weight. A BMI greater than 30 is considered to be overweight.
Being overweight can increase your risk for developing many diseases including but not limited to the following: coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, joint disease, gynecological problems such as infertility and more. Weight loss can be the cure for many of those diseases, so it is important to take control of your health and seek help and treatment when it is necessary.
Many diet programs advertised online, in magazines or on television are available at your fingertips, but do they really work and if they do, how long can you keep that weight off?
The weight management program at Rittenhouse Women’s Wellness Center is designed to help educate you on the right way to lose weight for the long-term. Whether or not you have a chronic disease or could just stand to lose a couple pounds, our program is available to individually tailor your needs to meet realistic weight loss goals.
The program consists of 6 months of nutrition counseling with Angela, one of our Registered Dietitians, who will do a formal assessment that includes an analysis of your current diet, nutrition education, and meal planning advice. The program also includes 2 comprehensive follow up appointments with Catherine, one of our Nurse Practitioners, who will monitor your weight, blood pressure, and any laboratory work as needed, in order to help you see the progress in your overall health as you lose weight.
Unlike fad diets that can be restrictive and difficult to maintain, RWWC’s weight management program will focus on three essential components: healthy eating, lifestyle modifications, as well as ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine that will help you lose weight and keep it off.
If you are interested in losing weight, have chronic conditions like PCOS, diabetes, or high blood pressure, or have a BMI over 30, please contact the front desk or your provider to see if this program is right for you.