Nutrition Blog

Weight Loss the Natural Way

By: Catherine McGinty, FNP & Angela Luciani, RD

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.

Diet for Controlling High Blood Pressure

By: Marissa Martino, Registered Dietitian

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is when the blood flow through your blood vessels and arteries is too strong. As your heart beats, it pumps blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. As our blood pressure rises, the blood pushes harder against the walls of your arteries. This is natural during certain periods of your day, including when you first wake up and during exercise. However, prolonged high blood pressure strains the heart, damages vessels and kidneys, and increases risk of a heart attack and stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women; however, it can be controlled and even prevented with a healthy diet.

The most common regime you will see for hypertension is called the DASH diet, or Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension. This diet focuses mostly on limiting salt intake. The reason we monitor salt in regards to high blood pressure is because salt retains water. The more water we have present in our blood, the higher the volume of blood. Thus, more pressure is put on our vessels to transport the blood. The average recommendation for salt intake is <2,300 mg a day, but the DASH diet recommends <1,500 mg daily. This means inspecting our food labels since salt is added to the majority of processed foods. The DASH diet also includes eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber, along with limiting saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fats, and sweets.  It’s also important to make sure that there is enough potassium in the diet since this vitamin balances the salt in our bodies.

You may also notice that the DASH diet suggests the consumption of fish. This is because fish contain Omega-3’s, which are healthy fatty acids. These type of polyunsaturated fats help lower our bad cholesterol (LDL), and raise our good cholesterol (HDL). DASH is almost identical to the Mediterranean diet, which equates to a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts/seeds, and whole grains, and little to no red meat or dairy products.

Helpful tips on controlling blood pressure include following the DASH diet, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, learning how to read a nutrition label and consider keeping a sodium diary to monitor your daily intake. Cooking and preparing your own foods is always better than eating out since you have complete control over the amount of sodium being added. You can also use spices and herbs rather than salt to flavor your foods. Be sure to have your blood pressure checked by your doctor and work with a dietitian to assess what behavioral changes are benefitting you so that you can improve your health and feel your best. 

Stress Eating

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!

The Hottest Beauty Product Yet: Nutrition

By: Angela Luciani, R.D.


You may know that good nutrition can help you feel good on the inside, but does it affect how you look like on the outside? Yes! The foods we choose to consume can directly impact our skin just as much as the products we use ON our skin. Studies suggest that certain foods affect your skin. A well balanced diet is key to keeping skin looking healthy and feeling great.

Here are some tips to help you find your way towards healthy skin.

Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking plenty of fluids ensures that your body stays hydrated. Dehydration can often can cause fatigue and lead to aging. Water is the best choice for healthy skin. Drinking more water also promotes cleansing, flushes toxins out of your system, reduces bloating, and increases your skins moisture level. Don’t forget to drink up! 

Avoid refined carbohydrates or consuming too many carbohydrates in one sitting
Your skin contains collagen and elastin fibers which allow connective tissue to remain firm and keep its shape. When you consume foods that are high in sugar, you cause your blood sugar to spike and as a result, the sugar is broken down into molecules that stick to elastin and collagen, which makes them less flexible. It also disrupts collagen turnover.

Incorporate antioxidants into your diet
Antioxidants work as a defense system against free radicals that harm our skin leading to wrinkles, dry skin and tissue damage. There are many different types of antioxidants which help protect from various types of damage to your tissues. Choose a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to pack the most punch - bell peppers, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, berries and citrus fruits are all great choices!

Include “healthy” fats in each meal
Fat is a structural component of your skin, so it is important to eat a diet that incorporates healthy fats to maintain healthy and elastic skin. Remember: Not all fats are created equal. High intakes of Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and have been found to be protective again UV rays and sunburn.  Adding these healthy fat sources can help keep your skin smooth and soft, naturally, while new skin cells replace old cells. 

The Secret to Success: Meal Planning

By: Angela Luciani, Registered Dietitian

meal planning

Most of us have been there before – We want to eat healthy, so we go to the grocery store, purchase a ton of healthy foods/ingredients: vegetables, fruits, poultry or seafood and maybe even some snacks. We get home, we make lunch or dinner for a few nights but then reality sets in. By Wednesday, we either are sick of the food we have or we don’t have the right ingredients to make what we wanted. Plus, it’s the middle of the week/almost the weekend, so what do we do? Eat out of convenience because it seems faster and easier. So, when life gets busy, how can you stay on track?  Whether you’re trying to get fit, lose weight, or just eat healthier in general, one of the keys to success is PLANNING.  

Start small.

If planning out every single meal for the week sounds overwhelming, start with planning dinners so you know you have at least one balanced meal for the week.

2.     Set time aside.  

Find 15-30 minutes out of your busy schedule where you can sit down and plan your meals for the week. Maybe you can make use of that 30 minute train ride into the city or on your way home can or perhaps an afternoon over the weekend when your husband is watching football.

Choose recipes with a purpose.

There is an endless amount of blogs, magazines, cookbooks to choose recipes from for the week.

Try to select recipes that will overlap so that you can minimize how much you have to purchase. I like to compile my recipes -When I find a recipe I like, I print it out or write it down on a piece of paper and keep it in a folder. This way, I always have a fresh recipe dish to choose from so that my meals for the week don’t get repetitive or boring. Keep an eye on the nutrition facts and keep in mind serving sizes - choose recipes that are healthy and will help you meet your goals.

4.     Make a Master Plan

Choosing a format to create your meal calendar is up to you. A simple notecard, a printable template, an excel spreadsheet  or using an electronic version are all great ways to help you stay organized – whichever you choose, it is always a good idea to keep a paper copy for a visual. This helps hold yourself accountable for what you are supposed to eat for the week – and you can plan ahead for those nights you have business dinners or happy hours. Hang it on the fridge to remind yourself of your plan.

5.     Plan your grocery list. 

Save yourself some time and do this in conjunction with writing out your recipes/calendar meal plan. If you are unsure of what you have in your fridge, freezer or pantry, now is the time to check. Do an inventory before you leave and cross off the ingredients you do not need to purchase. Nothing is more frustrating than starting to make your meal and realizing you don’t have one of the ingredients.

6.     Get the prep work over with

Don’t just unload the groceries from the car when you get home – Prep the ingredients for your week, dice up the vegetables, cut up the fruit and portion out your snacks. Prepping your meals and snacks ahead of time will make it more likely for you to grab these foods when you are hungry.

Using these tips can you set yourself up for success! Eating meals and snacks spaced out every three to four hours throughout the day will help maintain your blood sugar and will also prevent hunger before meals, which often times can lead to overeating. 

Optimize Your Workout: Post Exercise Nutrition

By: Angela Luciani, Registered Dietitian


How can you get the most out of your workout? Putting in time at the gym is just part of the equation to getting the results that you are looking for. While you may know the importance of pre-exercise nutrition, if you are not properly fueling your body afterwards, you are probably cutting yourself short. Whether you are a weekend warrior or a seasoned veteran - you may have different nutrient needs but eating the right foods at the right time to help recover from the wear and tear of exercise is essential.  Feeding your body after a workout allows you to see the results you want in terms of increasing your energy levels, strength, endurance, building lean muscle and losing weight. Skipping your post-workout recovery can put you behind for your next workout and also increase your risk for illness and injury.

What should I eat after my work out?

A combination of both a carbohydrate and a protein is best. Also remember to rehydrate the body with fluid and electrolytes to replenish what’s lost when you sweat it out.  Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen and are the body’s main source of fuel during exercise. Protein is necessary to reduce muscle breakdown and stimulate growth.  After a workout, it is necessary to replace the fuels that have been “used up.”  Carbohydrates replace the fuel while protein rebuilds and repairs. Keep in mind - carbohydrates are known as “protein-sparing.” If our diet is too low in carbohydrates, our body will find other means for recovery and will start to break down muscle.

How soon should I eat?

Eating or drinking a carbohydrate within 30 minutes after you exercise has been shown by research to result in better glycogen repletion. This window of time is important because glycogen and protein re-building is at it’s highest; therefore, it is the most ideal time to re-energize  and is ideal for a speedy recovery.

Keep in mind…

After a hard workout, it is easy to reward ourselves - but resist the urge to overindulge. Consuming more calories than you actually burned can be counter intuitive and can be just as bad as skipping your post-workout meal.

Developing a good post exercise nutrition plan is important for exercising and in order to feel your best!

Here are some examples of some great post-workout snacks/meals:


  • 8 oz low fat chocolate milk
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  •  A handful of almonds and juice
  •  A glass of milk with an english muffin
  •  A hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit
  •  Greek yogurt with ½ cup of yogurt and 1 cup of berries
  •  Burrito with beans (½ cup), cheese, brown rice (½ cup), guacamole (2tbsp) and salsa
  • Turkey on a whole grain wrap with veggies 


Healthy Snacks in a Hurry

By: Audrey Hasse, Registered Dietitian

Healthy Snacks

When you’re on the run all day, as most of us are during the busy summer months, remember to take a few healthy snacks along with you.  Here are some tips to make snacking easy, and a list of some healthy go-to snacks.

Snacking Tips:

·          Try to incorporate protein into your snacks.  This will help keep you fuller, longer. 

·          Bring a little cooler or lunch box in your car to transport snacks at the right temperature all day.

·          Avoid processed “snack foods” and stick to real, whole foods such a fruits, veggies, protein, and fats.

·          Keep your snacks around 150-200 calories

·          Snacking throughout the day will help keep you from over eating when you get to mealtime.

·          Plan your snacks ahead of time and portion them out each day to avoid overeating.

·          Don’t use snacking as something to do when you are bored, instead use it as a means of fueling your body throughout the day.

10 Healthy Go-To Snacks

·          1 piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts

·          Plain Greek yogurt with a small handful of nuts

·          1 Kind Bar with 5g of sugar or less

·          String cheese and an apple

·          1 hardboiled egg

·          Veggies and hummus

·          2 Wasa crackers with avocado and grilled chicken

·          Apple with peanut butter

·          Carrots and guacamole

·          Edamame or veggies with edamame hummus

Are You Drinking Enough Water??

By: Audrey Hasse, Registered Dietitian

By- Audrey Hasse Registered Dietitian

It is always important to drink plenty of water.  However, now that the weather is heating up and summer is right around the corner, it becomes even more crucial to get enough water each day.  The gold standard for water intake is at least 64 oz. every day, which boils down to eight -8o.z glasses.  So, think about your day, how many glasses do you drink?  If the answer is not at least 8 glasses, try to increase the amount.

Here are some other ways to increase water intake:
  • Eat foods with high water content
  • Cucumber
  •  Watermelon
  • Green, leafy veggies
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower and broccoli
  • Berries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Melon
Add flavor to your water, naturally:

  • Add slices of lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus fruit
  • Get an infusion water bottle that allows you to put fruit in the center cylinder to keep your water flavored all day.
  • Add cucumber for some freshness
  • Try adding mint or other fresh herbs to your water for an interesting flavor enhancer

Plan out your glasses of water throughout the day

Here’s an example

  • 1 glass immediately when you wake up
  • 1 with breakfast
  • 1 in the morning before lunch
  • 1 with lunch
  • 1 in the afternoon
  • 1 right before dinner
  • 1 with dinner
  • 1 at night

Get a big water bottle and drink it all day long, try to fill it up as you go throughout your day

Spring Cleaning... For Your Pantry

By: Audrey Hasse, Registered Dietitian

Spring Cleaning for your pantry 1

The time for the big spring clean is upon us once again, thank goodness!  In your quest to rid your house of all things winter and start fresh this spring, don’t neglect your pantry.  Take advantage of this fresh start to purge your pantry, fridge, drawers, and other secret hiding spaces of all the junk that has accumulated over the past few months (or years). 

Here are a few tips to help you purge your kitchen of the unhealthy items and replace them with whole, fresh, healthy foods.

Check the labels:  As a rule, you should always check the nutrition label and ingredient list before buying any foods, condiments, drinks, etc.  If the item is high in sugar, high in sodium, or has trans fat, get rid of it.  Always check the serving size.  Although a container may appear to be one serving, make sure you check to see just how many servings it contains. The following additives are a big red flag and a good indicator to purge that item from your pantry.

·         High fructose corn syrup
·         Artificial colors
·         Artificial flavors
·         Artificial sugars
·         Anything with a number
·         Enriched wheat
·         Hydrogenated oil
·         Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
·         Preservatives (such as BHA, BHT, potassium sorbate)

Chuck the junk:  Get rid of the foods, snacks, and drinks that are keeping you from sticking to a healthy eating routine.  Here are some items to toss:

·         Bread
·         Potato chips, pretzels, crackers, corn chips
·         Ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, popsicles
·         Candy, cookies, brownies, cake
·         Fried foods and snacks
·         Soda, diet soda, juice, artificially flavored and sweetened drinks
·         Artificial sweeteners

Check the expiration date: Make sure the food in your fridge and pantry has not expired.  If it is expired, toss it out and replace it with a new, healthy version.

Donate your discards:  After purging your kitchen of everything you no longer want or need, you may feel a little guilty about throwing it away.  If you have a lot of unopened food, do some research to find a local food pantry, food bank, etc. and see if they will accept your unopened items. 

Replenish your stock:  Take inventory of what you got rid of and try to replenish your stock with the healthy alternative.  For example, if you got rid of condiments containing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, find a natural alternative with minimal ingredients.  A few great places to shop that don’t allow many, or any, of the unhealthy items on their shelves are Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Mom’s Organic Market.   

How to Fuel Your Body for the Broad Street Run

Fuelbroadstreet 1 1

With the Broad Street Run coming up, it’s important to properly fuel your body. Everything you eat and drink leading up to the run has a direct impact on performance. In order to help you better prepare,  our dietitian, Theresa Shank, RD LDN has outlined the best advice to strengthen your body for this year’s race.

Because of the high level of exercise your body is about to endure, hydration is key to regulating body temperature throughout the race. Not only is body temperature a concern, but also without proper hydration your body may experience muscle cramping, which can make for a very unpleasant Broad Street Run.

: Drink at least 16 ounces of water or sports drink an hour or two before the race.

During: Drink 5-12 ounces of water or sports drink every 15-20 minutes during your run.

*Don’t drink TOO much. If you start to hear “sloshing” in your stomach or nauseous then wait at least 15 minutes before drinking more.

Post exercise: Drink 16-30 ounces of water or sports drink.

*Because you are running 10 miles, a sports drink with 5-8% of carbohydrate (Look at Daily Value Percentage) is appropriate for achieving proper hydration and replenishing of glycogen stores.

Pre-Exercise Nutritional Goals: 
It is important to prepare your body with adequate nutrition in the hours leading up to your 10 mile run. Two-three hours before the race, eat a full meal with at least 50 grams of carbohydrate.

Example: A bagel with a tablespoon of peanut butter

Pre-Exercise Fuel (30 minutes – one hour before): 30 grams of Carbohydrate

You want to eat a snack in at least an hour before the race that contains carbohydrates, protein, and a little bit of fat to power through your run.


·          6 ounces of Greek yogurt w/10 almonds and ½ cup fresh/frozen berries

·          2 slices of whole wheat bread with 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter and 2 tsp. of fruit preserves

·          1 hard-boiled egg, a slice of whole wheat toast and a small piece of fruit

·          1 English muffin with ½ banana and 1 Tbsp. of almond butter

·          8-ounce smoothie with 1-cup plain Greek yogurt, ½ banana, 1 Tbsp. peanut butter, ½ cup orange juice or low-fat milk, and ½ Cup ice. (blend together)

Post Exercise Fuel:

After the race, your body is continuing to burn calories. You must ensure proper nutrition after the event to replenish your body with the energy it lost. Focus on eating a small snack with a 4:1 carbs to protein ration within the first 15 minutes after your run. Choose a snack low in fat and fiber to insure proper digestion. Later, within two hours after your run eat a balanced meal.

Post Workout Snack Examples:

·          1 Cup of oatmeal with ½ cup frozen berries or ½ banana

·          8 ounces Greek yogurt with 1 piece of fruit

·          1 slice of whole wheat bread with 2 slices of turkey and 1 slice of low-fat cheese

·          Sweet potato with lean protein

·          8 ounces low-fat/non-fat chocolate milk

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