Nutrition Blog

Stroke Prevention Diet

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.

  1. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!)
  3. 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.
It can seem intimidating to make lifestyle changes such as losing weight or exercising. Be realistic and set small goals that you can achieve and stick to! A Registered Dietitian has the expertise and qualifications to assist you in making significant lifestyle changes – make an appointment today!



Mood Enhancing Exercise and Nutrition

By: Marissa Martino, RD

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!

The Functions of Water

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!

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

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