Search This Blog

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pros and Cons of BBQ'ing

Had my first bbq’ed meal over the weekend. It was delicious and so simple and healthy. Boneless skinless chicken breasts done on the bbq with no added fat – just a tbsp or so of Diana Bbq Sauce, placed atop a salad of spinach, crumbled blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, hearts of palm, and sliced pear, and then drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. Although the meal ended with a slice of chocolate cake (or two), it was still very healthy overall. Or was it?

The chicken had some burnt bbq sauce on it (or was it caramelized) and this got me thinking about the pros/cons of grilling and the purported link between cancer and grilling. Here’s the scoop:

Grilling Pros:

-        Tastes delicious
-        Flavorful so reduces need for heavy, salt and sugar laden sauces; often spices and rubs are enough to add flavor
-        Low fat because fat isn’t needed to cook and because fat drips away rather than accumulates in the pan
-        Easy, quick, and low mess
-        Men like to do it

Grilling Cons:

Two types of cancer-promoting chemicals can form during the grilling process:

- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are in the smoke that interacts with the meat on the grill when dripping fat causes flames to flare.

- Heterocyclic amines, or HAs, are produced when meat is exposed to high heat or prolonged cooking. HAs are created inside the meat so they can’t be scraped away or trimmed off.

There is some association between exposure to HAs and PAHs and risk for colon and stomach cancers. HAs have also been linked to pancreatic cancer.

Because the Pros are too great (especially the last one), here are some tips to minimize the Cons so we can all continue to enjoy our summer bbq’ing:

  • To protect the food from PAHs, cover the grill with foil (make tiny perforations to allow fat to drip through) before grilling
  • Try not to burn or char food by cooking it slowly
  • Turn the food often to prevent burning.
  • Choose lean cuts to prevent fat from dripping and causing flares.
  • When buying a new grill, consider a gas-powered one so you can more easily adjust the flame.
  • Using acid-based and anti-oxidant rich marinades such as those made with vinegar, citrus juices, or red wine may decrease HA formation in steak by more than 80 percent
  • Scrape off any burned parts of meats before eating to remove PAHs
  • Try starting the cooking process inside, in the microwave for instance, and then finish it on the grill — just long enough to get the grilled taste.
  • The longer meat cooks, the more time HAs have to form, so avoid eating meat too well done.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Easy Spring Cleanse 1 week Diet: Do it!

Sometimes we just need to simplify our lives.. and our menus to lose weight! Do this for one week and I guarantee you will lose weight and feel recharged and renewed. Send me your before and after weights and any questions. Have fun! Your pants are going to feel so good soon.

Spring Cleanse

Eat ONLY the foods listed below: (sensible portions)

-       vegetables - all
-       fruit - all
-       sprouted whole grain bread (Ezekiel 4:9) OR whole wheat matzo (if you're starting over Passover)
-       quinoa
-       sweet potato
-       eggs or egg whites
-       nuts
-       avocado
-       butter
-       olive oil
-       fish
-    seafood
-       chicken
-       steak
-       bacon (max 2 strips per day)
-       beans and legumes
-       tofu
-       shirataki noodles (House Foods brand, buy at Whole Foods, Longos, or T&T grocery)
-       vinegars
-       spices, ketchup (sparingly), mustard
-       clear broth soup
-       Drinks: water, soda water, unsweetened almond milk (Blue Diamond Almond Breeze brand unsweetened chocolate or vanilla), tea, coffee (max 1 cup per day), red wine (max 4 glasses per week)

Optional: Use calorie tracker like to plug in portions of foods to make sure calories fall in good range for you. To find out how many calories you should be eating per day, go to It will have you plug in your age, sex, weight, and height and it will calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). You will then scroll down the page and it will tell you how many calories you burn in a day based on your activity level (be honest). Once you have this number, subtract 500, and this is how many calories you can eat in a day to lose 1 lb of fat per week, or subtract 1000 to lose 2 lbs of fat per week.

Example: A 35 y.o female that weighs 140 lbs and is 5”4, who does 3 spin classes per week and works at a desk job (i.e. moderately active), will burn between 2042 – 2161 calories per day (depending on which formula chart you use). To lose 1 lb of fat per week, she would need to eat approximately 1600 calories per day.

** Don’t be surprised if you lose more than 1 – 2 lbs of fat per week though because you will also be shedding water and glycogen weight.

Can't think of what to eat? Here are some breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas to get you started:


-       Ezekiel bread 1 piece toasted with butter and tomato slices
-       Ezekiel bread 1 piece toasted, smoked salmon, cucumber, tomato slices
-       Egg white omelet with mushrooms, onions, Ezekiel bread
-       Egg white omelet with vegetables and 2 strips bacon
-       2 hard boiled eggs, 1 slice Ezekiel bread toasted with butter
-       Handful almonds and apple
-       Apple and 2 hard boiled eggs
-       Grapefruit, 1 slice toast with butter


-       Mixed green salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with grilled chicken breast, grilled salmon, or grilled shrimp, 1 slice Ezekiel bread
-       Tuna and salmon sashimi, edamame beans, miso soup (or rolls without rice, i.e. wrapped in cucumber)
-       Canned tuna packed in water, drain, place in sandwich with Ezekiel bread, tomato and avocado slices
-       Egg white omelet, 1 slice Ezekiel toast, side salad or tomato slices
-       Bean salad – chickpeas and lentils mixed with olive oil, 1 sliced chicken breast
-       Apple, sliced chicken breast, carrots and celery
-       Steak sandwich – 2 slices Ezekiel bread, 1 piece lean steak, tomato slices, lettuce
-       Freshii restaurant type salad using mix of following ingredients: greens, cut up veggies, plain protein, i.e. not mixed with mayonnaise – chicken, bacon, tuna, etc.; nuts; raisins *dressing should be either vinegar only or vinegar mixed with small amount olive oil


-       same as lunch options, or
-       protein (i.e. grilled or steamed or bbq’ed chicken breast, steak, fish, seafood, or tofu), with steamed or grilled vegetables, with either sweet potato, quinoa, or shirataki noodles


-       nuts, fruit, cut up veggies, hard boiled eggs, glass almond milk
Good luck. Send this to as many people as you know and have a contest. Spring challenge. Email me for support/motivation. Do it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Potato Chips and Heroin: Science Reveals Similarity

Potato chips and heroine have a lot more in common than one may think. Whereas expressions like sugar addict, chocolate fix and overeaters anonymous suggest a similarity between food and drugs, a recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry actually confirmed that the brain chemistry between food addicts and drug addicts are exactly the same when it comes to cravings and urges.

Researchers analyzed the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of women who constantly ate uncontrollably, i.e often binged, eating past the point of hunger saturation. The brains of these women, when shown pictures of a chocolate milk shake made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, revealed increased activity in the same regions of the brain that fire when people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol experience cravings. Not surprisingly, when women who weren’t addicted to food were presented with the same milk shake picture, they showed a much lower activity in the same regions.

Now here comes the interesting part. Five seconds after which the women were presented with the photo, they were also given the Häagen-Dazs ice cream milkshake to taste. Over the top delicious, right? Wrong. Once the women actually tasted the milk shakes, those who scored high on the food-addiction scale showed dramatically less activity in the “reward circuitry” of their brains than the other women. 

This phenomenon of fantasizing about the “fix” and then being underwhelmed with the high is what leads to problematic eating and drug use behaviors. It explains the AA expression, “one is too many, a thousand isn’t enough,” and the drug expression, “chasing the first high.” The idea of the binge is better than the actual binge and hence the addict doesn’t feel satisfied with just one bite, one hit, or one drink and continues to chase the feeling by consuming more and more. Regret and ill consequences ensue. 

So what is the addict to do? The key is to break the circuitry. In order to diminish the behavior, one needs to treat the fantasy and the high of anticipation. In essence, once needs to learn to stop dreaming of how wonderful the indulgence is going to be because in reality, it’s not. Quite the opposite, in fact. The more the addict practices actively quieting the voice in the head and not giving in, the softer it will become and the less strong the neural firing will be. 

Many food addicts feel that they’re up against an impossible task since they can’t quit food all together as smokers, alcoholics and drug users can with their respective drugs. And it’s true – it’s much harder to become a controlled user than abstinent. This being said, most food addicts binge on certain foods and not others. I recommend becoming abstinent to these trigger foods, which are typically carbohydrates – bread, salty snacks like crackers, chips, pretzels, etc., and quick releasing sugar treats like ice cream, pop, and candy. This still leaves lots of food to enjoy. Yes, it’s too bad that these foods can’t be enjoyed, and yes it’s too bad that a recovering alcoholic can’t enjoy a glass of wine, but such is life. Acceptance and being grateful for the things you do have and can enjoy in life are key.

My recommendation: Take some time and really think about your binge foods. What’s calling your name? Write these foods down and quit - cold turkey. The hardest part is making up your mind. Once you’ve decided to quit, stop thinking and compromising and scheming and dreaming; shut your brain off as soon as it starts to fantasize: turn the channel if a tantalizing food commercial is on, avoid events and functions that might serve up your trigger foods for the first little while, don't stop at the drive through or convenience store or walk the grocery aisle with junk foods..and don’t give in. Practice. Within a few months, you’ll be well on the road to recovery; although hard days will be inevitable, in general, it will just keep getting easier and easier the longer you persist.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

If you're watching your carbs, try this

Nutty Chicken Slaw:

This is so easy to put together, literally 5 minutes, and it's tasty, filling, and low in carbs. Although it has only 350 calories, the fat, fiber, and protein content make it quite satisfying for a light meal.

Step 1. Get your sliced chicken of choice. Ideally you have fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the fridge - if you do, take one breast, cook it, and cut it in to slices. But if you don't, or if you're pressed for time, you can buy precooked chicken breasts, fresh or frozen, that are pretty darn good. I recently discovered Pinty's Chicken Breast Strips. These are so easy. You take the desired amount out of the box, place them on a plate topped with paper towel, and microwave for 3 minutes. Done! And they're delicious. I bought them at Food Basics. Check out the website; this is a great product to help you get protein in to your diet when pressed for time:

Lillydale also makes good precooked, grilled chicken breast strips (but be forewarned, they're quite salty).. they can be found on tables in the deli section of your grocery store.

Step 2.  Put the oven on broil. Spray a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray. Spread two tbsp of slivered almonds on the foil and place in the oven to toast *(watch closely because these can burn quickly). Also, measure them. If you just spread slivered almonds, as I did below, on tin foil and toast, you'll be surprised how many calories you may end up consuming. For instance, take a guess how many calories are in the picture below:

210!!! That may be more than you bargained for -- considering McDonald's Small French Fries have only 20 more calories at 230. Anyhow, the picture above is 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. I'd recommended you only use 1/8 of a cup, i.e. 2 tbsp, for a total of about 100 calories. Nuts are good for you and taste great, but they pack a lot of calories and fat so be mindful of portions.

Step 3. Grab your Broccoli Slaw. This stuff is great. You find it where the bagged lettuce sits in the grocery store. The stem of the broccoli is shredded and it's bagged, mixed with shredded carrots and cabbage.

Step 4. Take a few handfuls of broccoli slaw and place in a bowl (calories are negligible so don't worry too much about portion). Top with 2 tbsp of toasted slivered almonds and 1 chicken breast or about 8-10 strips of chicken. Top with a low calorie dressing of your choice. I chose Simply Natural Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette that I had picked up at Whole Foods - 2 tbsps have 60 calories.

Voila! A crunchy, delicious salad for about 350 calories. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I love a good bagel

This is my favorite bagel..

Bagel World Poppy Seed Bagel.. Delicious. The most delicious. But.. serious calories. My guess - 350 for one bagel. If you try to pull out the inside dough which many people do.. maybe you're down to 300 calories.

300 calories isn't crazy.. but it's a bit more than you'd want to eat when watching your waistline.. especially once you add the rest of the meal on your plate, whether it be the omelet or scoop of tuna or Greek salad..

Now I'm not suggesting you forgo any toppings or sides when indulging in your bagel, definitely not. Most bagels lack significant protein or fat and are essentially all carbs so this would be a very unbalanced snack or meal, and you'd be craving more carbs in an hour. You'd almost be better off having a Snickers Bar - 280 calories and at least it has some protein and fat.! I'm not suggesting that either though.. Here's the point:

A big, warm, freshly baked bagel is a treat, much like a Snickers bar is a treat; and while you can enjoy it on occasion, if you eat it too often, the pounds will pack on.

Here are some great substitutes that you can indulge in more regularly:

1. PC Blue Menu - PC Thins Multigrain Bagels: These are fabulous. They seem small in the bag but they're dense so they're filling and and take time to eat. They're great toasted. One bagel has 160 calories; 2 grams fat; 6 grams protein; 4 grams fiber; and 29 grams carbs.

2. Dempsters Bodywise 100% Multi Grain Bagel: For a low calorie bagel, this is excellent. Perfect on the side of an egg white omelet or toasted with 1 tbsp of almond butter or with some low fat cream cheese, lox, and tomato slices. One bagel has only 140 calories; 1.5 grams fat; 5 grams protein; 5 grams fiber; and 26 grams carbohydrates.

3. Weight Watchers brand bagel: This also is pretty good for a low cal bagel, but I like the other two slightly better. This bagel has 150 calories and 9 grams of fiber!

Oh and if you're tempted to try one of the low carb bagels like Baker's Deluxe.. beware that serious stomach cramps can follow. My suggestion is to go with the three I mentioned over the low carb option. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Vitamin D - should you add it to your diet?

Everyone seems to be obsessed with Vitamin D lately.. It's the new wonder vitamin that's touted to reduce breast, colon, and prostate cancer risk, help the immune system, promote bone health, and even help protect against diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Everyone seems to be taking it or at least wondering whether they should start. So I thought I'd put together a few facts to help you decide.

- Most natural vitamin D comes from the reaction of the sun on our skin. If you stay indoors a lot - i.e. car to desk job to car to house - and/or wear sunscreen when outdoors, then you are probably not getting much Vitamin D from the sun.

- Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. The main source is the flesh of fatty fish like cooked salmon, tuna, and mackeral as well as fish liver oils (i.e. cod liver oil). If you don't eat fish very often. them you're likely not getting much naturally from your diet.

- Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D - mainly milk. Some yogurt and margarine is also fortified. If you don't drink much milk, you're likely not getting much from your diet. One cup of milk has abut 100 IU Vitamin D.

*note: I checked my fridge and cupboards.. I have only two things that can contain Vit D: 1) Clif Builder's Bar - 1 bar has .00068 mg which seems like very little; 2) PC blue menu Celeb non hydrogenated, calorie reduced margarine. 2 tsp has 30% of recommended daily intake. I eat 2 tsp only once per week probably. So clearly, I'm not getting much from my diet.

- Certain groups of individuals are predisposed to deficiency and therefore more likely to need supplementation. These include: the elderly and people with dark colored skin (their skin doesn't make usable vit D from the sun as readily); obese (subcutaneous fat holds onto vit D and doesn't release it as readily into the circulation); people who have had gastric bypass and those that have fat malabsorption conditions; and breast fed babies (especially if mom has low vitamin D and baby isn't exposed to much sunlight).

- Tanning beds do supply UV radiation that triggers skin to make vitamin D.. but tanning beds also predispose to skin cancer so regular use is not recommended.

- Exposure to sunlight through glass will not result in vitamin D synthesis so sitting in a sunny office or driving all day won't boost Vitamin D.

If you have decided you are not getting enough Vit D and want to supplement, remember that too much of a good thing can be dangerous, so DON'T OVERDO IT. As I say in The Rebel Diet, "the dose makes the poison and the dose makes the cure." Unlike the water soluble vitamins B and C, vit D is fat soluble so we won't simply urinate out the extra - we'll store it in our fat and this can lead to overdose.Vitamin D toxicity is associated with weight loss (hey..not bad), but also heart disease, increased rates of cancer and increased falls and fractures in the elderly.

So how much supplementation is recommended? The RDI (recommended daily intake) for Vitamin D for adults is 400-800 IU/day. If you haven't been getting much sun and don't eat many food sources of Vit D, then you can get this through a supplement. If you feel you have a deficient level because of a lack of sunlight and food sources, then supplement with 1000 IU - 4000 IU (maximum) for a few weeks to get your levels up to snuff, but then aim for 1000 IU daily; this should do the trick and keep you in a good range. *Of note, prolonged sun exposure wil not lead to vitamin D toxicity because our skin regulates it and won't overproduce the vitamin D.

Here's the recommended UPPER LIMIT intake for Vitamin D so do not go above this:

Me personally, I take 1-2 vitamin D drops (1000 - 2000 IU) per day in the winter months (when I remember). And I only remember sometimes. And I get at least 10 minutes per day outside with walking to and from the subway (although only my face is exposed and my moisturizer is SPF 15). Sigh.. Too bad my almond milk isn't fortified..

If you are going to get your blood level tested, ask your doc to test 25 (OH) D and aim for a level between 50 - 75 nmol/L. Even though blood test reference ranges say that 25-75 nmol/L is insufficient and that 75-250 is sufficient, studies have shown that having blood levels consistently above 75 nmol/L has been associated with increases in all cause mortality, pancreatic cancer and cardiovascular events.

My recommendation - 1000-2000 IU daily when you're getting very little sun will keep you in a good, safe range (it's difficult to get blood levels above 75 nmol/L at this dose) wherein you'll reap the health benefits but avoid the health risks.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What 400 calories looks like..

I'll admit it. I chose clothes shopping over grocery shopping today. So when I got home ravenous from a long day of shopping, I was stuck with two options - frozen food or delivery. It was close.. sushi was calling my name - practically dialing my number - ordering me!!, BUT, I resisted and went with the freezer fare instead. It was delicious. Here's what I had:

PC Blue Menu Crunchy Chicken Breast

I love these. They're great. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Done. They're crunchy and delicious. They're great dipped in Ketchup or PC Blue Menu low calorie Plum Sauce.

One chicken breast has 170 calories and only 3 g grams of fat.

McCain Sweet Potato Fries

   I really love these. Crispy, flavourful. Here's the nutrition:

Not bad! 85 grams for 150 calories with 4 grams of fiber. To give you an idea of what 85 grams looks like, a bag of small McDonald's French Fries is 71 grams. So.. picture dumping a bag of small fries on your plate. It's not a huge portion but good enough to hit the spot.

Baby zucchini

Well I did manage to find one fresh thing in my fridge. Mini zucchini. I simply chopped off the ends, sliced them in half lengthwise and popped them in the microwave for 1.5 minutes to steam. I then added some salt. Done. Phew.. at least I included some green with my makeshift meal.

So, all said and done, here's what a lazy Sunday night dinner looked like for a total of 400 calories:

Alright so this isn't the best picture and it certainly doesn't do justice to how tasty the meal actually was (I should have laid it on a bed of greens and cut open the chicken and hired a food time). But, I have included it anyways because it reminds us what 400 calories really looks like. Not that much. So, here's the takeaway:

The  next time your plate is overflowing with a large piece of meat, chicken or fish covered in sauce (mine was the size of my hand and had no sauce), fried potatoes or rice covering half your plate (my baked fries took up only 1/4 of the plate), and sauteed vegetables covered in butter or oil (mine were steamed and had only a sprinkle of salt), don't kid yourself. Your meal probably has double the calories; 800. The truth hurts baby.

Now, for comparison's sake, had I ordered sushi, here's what I could have had for 400 calories:

Option 1: Spicy Tuna Maki Roll (with a few tempura bits in it) + 1 miso soup = approx 400 calories
Option 2: 3 pieces of tuna (30 calories/piece) and 3 pieces salmon sashimi (50 calories/piece) + 1 single person order edamame (150 calories) = approx 400 calories
Option 3: 1 Spicy Tuna Roll wrapped in cucumber *no rice (150 calories), 1 order salmon sashimi (150 calories), 1 miso soup and 1 wakame salad (100 calories) = 400 calories

Why did I choose 400 as the magic number? It just happened based on my meal. But -- if you have a 300 calorie breakfast, 400 calorie lunch, and 400 calorie dinner, it leaves room for two 200 calorie snacks for you to arrive at 1500 calorie/day, which in my experience, is the typical daily allotment for adults to lose weight comfortably yet see the results they crave.

Bon appetit! (Eat slowly. It helps.)