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Eating Healthy

The Scoop on Gluten-Free Diets

by Ashley Wojcicki 7. September 2014

It seems like every week you hear about a new “fad” diet that promotes weight loss and improved health. The gluten-free diet, in particular, has been getting increased attention especially in social media with celebrity endorsements and Pinterest recipes popping up on your Facebook timeline. With most people having heard of a gluten-free diet, you would expect everyone would know what gluten is. However, try asking someone on this diet “What is gluten?” and you might be surprised that they don’t even know what gluten is or why they are avoiding it.  So what’s the scoop on gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein composite found in some grains (such as wheat, barley, rye, and some oats), that help give the grain elasticity and texture when cooked.  People with the genetic, autoimmune diseases such as Celiac’s are advised to avoid foods with gluten because of a negative response by the body’s immune system when it’s consumed.  Those with diagnosed gluten-intolerances and wheat allergies, also are likely be advised by their doctor’s to follow gluten-free diets.

In regards to gluten-free diet for those without intolerances, many people embark on the gluten-free lifestyle to hop on the weight-loss band wagon.  By eliminating gluten-containing products such as breads, pastas, baked goods, and many of the processed/packaged food items (you’d be shocked to see how many products have gluten added), people may experience quick weight loss related to overall decreased calorie consumption especially from high fat, processed foods. It’s also suggested that people may be displaying a heightened awareness of their food choices, and making more healthful choices such as low calorie fruits and vegetables.  More healthful food choices can lead to improved nutrient intake and energy levels.

So where can we go wrong with this diet?  Gluten- free does not necessarily mean fewer calories. Gluten-free products such as breads or other packaged items can be substituted with increased amounts of added sugars and fats for taste and texture. Therefore, these products still contain calories (possibly more than the gluten-containing product), and excess calorie consumption from gluten-free products can still cause weight gain!  

In addition, gluten-free diets can also lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as essential B vitamins, iron, and calcium that are found in enriched/fortified grain products.  It’s important to discuss with your doctor or registered dietitian if you are following a gluten-free diet, as a daily multivitamin may be warranted.

All in all, a gluten free diet is an overall lifestyle change. Here are a few basic tips for following a gluten free diet:

  1.  Read food labels- Any products labeled “gluten-free” can be included as part of your healthful diet.  If there is no label, read the ingredient list and the “contains” statement on the label. Products with ingredients such as wheat, barley, rye, oats (unless marked GF), and malt (unless a gluten free source is mentioned such as corn-malt) will contain gluten. If you are still unsure, consider contacting the manufacturer.   Sometimes the products may not contain gluten, but are processed in a plant where cross-contamination may occur.  People with celiac’s disease or gluten-allergies should be more mindful of these precautions.
  2. Incorporate gluten-free grains into your diet- Grains such as quinoa, wild/brown rice, buckwheat, amaranth, and sorghum millet are all good gluten-free replacements.  Look for enriched or fortified gluten-free grain products at the market such as bread, pasta, and cereals. Not only are they gluten free, but contain essential vitamins, minerals. 
  3. Invest in a gluten-free cookbook.  Many of our favorite dishes can be made gluten-free.  Convenience foods such as breads, baked goods, sauces, and dressings can be made in bulk and frozen for later use. This can help keep your budget under control by saving specialty gluten-free items for special occasions or if needed in a pinch. 
  4. Look for gluten-free labeling on restaurant menus. Don’t be scared to ask if a gluten-free menu is available.
  5. For additional gluten-free resources, check out www.eatright.org for reviews of gluten-free book, cookbooks, and apps.

No matter what dietary lifestyle you choose to follow, always take the time to discuss with your doctor and registered dietitian to ensure you are meeting your nutrient needs for optimal health benefits.


Kids Eat Right Month

by Carolyn DePuy 20. August 2014

August is Kids Eat Right Month - a new nutrition education campaign created by Kids Eat Right, an initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This month is dedicated to promoting nutrition to our youth which will help ensure they live happy and healthy lives!

Ways to promote nutrition to children include:

1. Teach your children about healthy choices. Talk to them about “Superstar Foods” like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy versus “Sometimes Foods” like snacks and treats high in fat or sugar.

2. Introduce your children to a variety of foods every day. Stay away from only providing “kid foods,” such as macaroni and cheese or chicken tenders - there’s no reason children cannot have quinoa or bok choy!

3. Encourage your children to help plan meals, from developing the menu to shopping, preparing and serving the meal. Getting children involved provides a hands-on learning experience and they may be more likely to try dishes they helped create.

4. Grow a vegetable garden and have your children help take care of it. They may be more likely to try different produce if they see it grow.


Ultimately, the more exposure children have to good nutrition the more likely they will carry healthy dietary habits throughout their lives.


One of the biggest challenges you may run into is getting youngsters to eat at least three servings of vegetables a day. If your kids won’t go near them, then disguise them! Here is an easy, kid-friendly recipe that will help kids get in their veggies:


Zucchini Pizza Bites





1 large zucchini

Olive oil spray

2 tbsp marinara sauce

1/4 cup shredded part skim mozzarella


Pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese to taste


Cut zucchini about 1/4 inch thick. Spray both sides lightly with oil and season with pepper. Broil or grill the zucchini for about 2 minute on each side. Top with sauce and cheese and broil for an additional minute or two. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top if desired and serve.


Independence Day Recipe

by Yvonne Best 1. July 2014

July 4th is quickly approaching! Many summer meals are high in fat, calories, sugar, and/or sodium. Think about your health this summer and try this quick low calorie, Independence Day-themed treat.


Strawberry-Blueberry Parfaits

Serves 4

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed if frozen

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed if frozen

4 six ounce containers fat free or low fat vanilla yogurt (try Greek for added protein)

1 Tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Four parfait glasses or wine goblets


In each of the four parfait glasses or wine goblets, spoon 2 tablespoons strawberries, a heaping 1/3 cup yogurt, and 2 tablespoons blueberries. Repeat the layers, using the entire remaining yogurt.


In a blender or food processor, process the remaining strawberries and blueberries with the sugar and cinnamon until smooth. Spoon the pureed mixture over each serving, about 2 tablespoons each.




Healthy Tips

Eating Smart when Eating Out

by Carolyn DePuy 25. June 2014

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are over 900,000 restaurant locations in the United States which bring in around 683.4 billion dollars in industry sales.  Looking at these statistics, I think it’s safe to say that eating out has become a staple in American culture – whether the reason be for convenience, social gatherings, date nights, celebrations, or food cravings. Unfortunately, the increase in eating outside of the home has been associated with the rise in overweight and obesity. The good news is that eating out and eating healthy are not mutually exclusive. The key to avoid sabotaging a healthy diet is eating smart when eating out.

To help you do this, here are some tips and tricks for eating right at restaurants:

Do your research: Check out the restaurant online before heading there– restaurants typically provide nutrition facts on their website. Look for entrées with 500 or less calories, less than 300 mg of sodium, and less than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories for a guilt-free, heart healthy option.

Pay attention to food preparation:  When deciding on your meal, choose options that are baked, broiled, grilled, steamed, or stir-fried.

Be first: Order before anyone else in your party so you won’t be influenced by their orders.

Portion control: Many restaurants now offer smaller sizes of entrée meals called appetizer portions or lunch portions. If this isn’t an option, split an entrée with someone. If no one else is agreeable, consider ordering an appetizer and a salad with light dressing instead of a full entrée. Avoid all-you-can-eat specials and buffets which make it easy to overeat.

Take some home: Get twice the enjoyment out of your meal with half the calories by making tonight’s dinner tomorrow’s lunch. Ask your server to prepackage half of your meal to take home which will take away the temptation to eat it all at once.

Substitute your sides: Many restaurants give you the option to substitute standard side dishes with a salad or cooked vegetables – take advantage of this option to cut calories while adding fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your meal.

Rethink your drink: Choose water to accompany your meal, it will save both calories and money!

Finally, enjoy your time eating out but make it an occasional treat. Remember, eating at home allows you the most control over your meals while being budget friendly.

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Healthy Tips

Nutrition Tips for Race Day

by Ashley Wojcicki 29. May 2014

With the warmer temperatures and sunshine finally here, many of us are breaking out of our “gym routine,” and hitting the pavement for some fun and even competitive training.  Throughout the past few years, road races, especially 5ks (3.1 miles), have become increasingly popular for both “newbies” and veteran runners alike.  These races offer a lot of great benefits such increasing physical activity, improving cardiovascular health, and even an opportunity to raise money/donate to charity.  Road races, can give people the chance to train for an event, that some might have thought was the ‘impossible.’

Being a runner myself, I’ve learned that the physical training is only half of the equation for a successful race. Proper nutrition and hydration can be the missing component to your best performance. With a few of my colleagues participating in their first 5k race this month, I have been inspired to share some nutrition tips to help fuel you for race day.  (Please note, the following tips have been adapted from one of my favorite references,  Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 4th Ed.)

Day/Night before race:

  1. Eat balanced meals including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Shorter races like 5ks do not require the body to ‘carbohydrate-load’ for additional energy.  Maybe try to include an extra serving of a carbohydrate with dinner the night before the race, for example a piece of fruit for dessert, 1/3 cup rice or pasta, ½ cup dry cereal or a glass (1 cup) of milk.  
  2.  Drink extra water and fluids through-out the day. Your urine should be light/pale in color.


Morning of event:

  1. Pre-race meals should be mostly carbohydrate foods. Examples would be ½ cup cereal and low fat yogurt/milk, banana with peanut butter on toast/English muffin/crackers, or oatmeal.  These foods can be easily digested (less risk of stomach distress during the race), and are ready to be used by our muscles.
  2.  Try to consume your pre-race snack/meal 1 to 2 hours prior to your event. For example, if your race starts at 9:00am, you may want to plan to eat around 7:00am-7:30am.  Keep in mind, larger, energy-dense meals (such as a breakfast sandwich) may take longer (> than 2 hours) to digest, so plan your meal timing accordingly or you’ll be feeling sluggish at the starting line.  Also, have your meal ready to go the night before to prevent extra stress in the morning.
  3.  Practice your race day nutrition routine.  Schedule a few workouts into your training of similar intensity of your race day pace and experiment with foods that will help you perform your best.  By having nutrition plan, this will decrease any risk of stomach upset, heartburn, and/or cramps.  Also, if you notice yourself not being able to tolerate a meal early in the morning before a training run, you may also want to consider eating your “breakfast” or an additional snack the night before a race.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids!! Shoot for 2-3 8oz glasses of water 1 -2 hours before your event. Check your event information ahead of time to plan for water stops as needed during the race.

Remember, nutrition is just as important in your training plan as your workouts.  So don’t forget to plan and prepare to fuel for success on race day!


Clark MS, RD, Nancy. (2008). Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook; 4th Ed. Illinois: Human Kinetics.


Here’s one of my favorite post-race/run smoothie recipes to recover after your hard work!

Peanut Butter/Banana Smoothie  (Nutritional Information calculated for 1 Serving using www.Sparkrecipe.com)

1 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter

1 medium ripe Banana

2 ice cubes

¼ cup low-fat milk (I prefer to use skim or light soy milk for the protein, but almond milk works too)

½ cup fat-free plain or vanilla Greek yogurt

½ tsp Vanilla Extract

Optional: 1 pack of sugar or artificial sweetener for desired sweetness


Amount Per Serving



  Total Fat

8.0 g


  Saturated Fat

1.8 g


  Polyunsaturated Fat

0.0 g


  Monounsaturated Fat

0.0 g


1.3 mg


154.1 mg


453.1 mg

  Total Carbohydrate

41.0 g


  Dietary Fiber

4.0 g



28.3 g


18.1 g





Healthy Tips | Recipes

Malnutrition Awareness

by Melissa Stopera 28. April 2014

Recently, accompanied by a group of my colleagues, we completed a Medical Grand Rounds here at Ellis Hospital to promote awareness of malnutrition.  The prevalence of malnutrition is roughly 33% upon admission to the hospital, equating to 1 in 3 of hospitalized patients.  Malnutrition has many faces and causes, and is seen across people with varying body weights, ages, and medical problems. 

Malnutrition is defined as inadequate intake of energy or protein over prolonged periods of time resulting in loss of fat stores and/or muscle stores and can be starvation, chronic disease, acute disease, or injury related.  Nutrition is an underlying daily requirement in all people that is an extremely important component of health status, strength, mobility, and recovery.

Malnutrition is associated with falls, infections, readmissions to the hospital, and mortality.  Within the hospital, we screen for risk of malnutrition and intervene with diet liberalizations, nutrition supplements, and in severe cases alternative nutrition support.  I wanted to share this information briefly, as a reminder of the importance of nutrition in our family members and friends. 

Malnutrition is commonly characterized by changes in body composition (loss of subcutaneous fat or muscle), and/or declines in functional status (ability to purchase or cook food, ambulate, chew, etc.).  Family members and friends are often the first to notice these subtle and often under reported changes, and it is important to offer support to prevent decline and malnutrition associated poor outcomes as mentioned above.  If you are concerned about malnutrition, Registered Dietitians commonly treat malnutrition and here at Ellis we do so through outpatient counseling.  To learn more about outpatient nutritional services, please visit our website at http://www.ellismedicine.org/services/nutrition.aspx.


Clean Out Your Pantry

by Yvonne Best 5. April 2014

It seems as though spring is finally here! Now is a great time to clean out your pantry and fridge to prepare for the summer. Perhaps you can replace some of your existing foods with healthier, lower calorie options?

As a dietitian, many people ask me what I eat. I thought that for this blog post I would share with you some of the things that are in my pantry and fridge on a regular basis. I do like my sweets, but try not to keep them in the house!

In my pantry:

·         Kashi GoLean cereals – filled with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

·         Prunes – loaded with fiber to help keep you full and regular.

·         Tea bags (green and black) and coffee – contain antioxidants and can count towards your fluid intake for the day since they are made with water.

·         100% cacao baking cocoa powder – contains antioxidants, iron, and a little fiber. I like to make my own hot chocolate with a cup of milk, a teaspoon of this, Splenda and a drop of vanilla extract.

·         Unsalted mixed nuts – contain heart healthy fats and protein. Just watch your portion size and consume no more than a handful.

·         Canned tuna and salmon – a cheap, easy source of protein and heart healthy fats.

·         Canned pumpkin – filled with beta carotene, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. I usually make pumpkin pancakes with this on the weekends.

·         Spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, etc.) – filled with antioxidants and a great way to flavor your food without salt!

·         Oatmeal – a whole grain that provides fiber. Choose the oatmeal in the large tub (whether it be quick oats or ones that need to cook longer) over the pre-sweetened, packaged oatmeal.


In my fridge/freezer:

·         Tofu – the only plant protein that is a complete source of protein. I like to add it to my eggs, pasta, smoothies, etc. It takes on the taste of practically anything you cook it with.

·         100% whole wheat bread – loaded with fiber, which helps keep you full and your bowels regular. Just make sure you read the label to ensure that it is made with 100% whole wheat flour.

·         Greek yogurt – great source of calcium and protein. Some are fortified with vitamin D, too!

·         Raw vegetables: kale, red onion, garlic, spinach/green mixture – filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

·         Mayonnaise made with olive oil – a lower fat version of your favorite mayo. Creamier than light mayo.

·         Ground flax seed – providing fiber and protein, flax seed has a somewhat nutty taste. I like to add it to my yogurt, cereal, and smoothies.

·         Eggs – great source of protein, vitamin, and minerals. I like to eat mainly egg whites and only a few yolks per week.

·         Skim milk – a low calorie source of vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Aim for at least two glasses per day of skim or 1% milk.

·         Salad dressing made with yogurt (you’ll find it in the produce section at the grocery store) – provides lower fat, lower calorie versions of some of your favorite flavors like ranch and Caesar.

·         100% whole wheat flour – I use this when baking. It contains more fiber than white flour.

·         All fruit spread (instead of jelly) – has less sugar and a little more fiber than regular jelly.

·         Vegetable burgers – with lots of different varieties, these can be part of a quick, easy meal. Just be cautious of the sodium content of some of them!

·         Frozen vegetables: spinach, eggplant, broccoli florets, edamame, pepper and onion mix, green beans – Just as nutritious as raw vegetables, frozen tend to be cheaper and obviously, won’t go bad as quickly! Make sure you are not choosing varieties with added sauces and salt.

·         Frozen quinoa blend – a great whole grain, even for those who cannot eat wheat.

·         Water pitcher with filter – I always try to have a bottle of water with me that I reuse. A pitcher with a filter (like a Brita or Pur pitcher) is an inexpensive way to ensure safe drinking water.



Feel free to post comments to share what's in your pantry!





Healthy Tips

Try a New Recipe this Spring Season

by Carolyn DePuy 26. March 2014

Although you wouldn’t know it by stepping outside, Spring is here! Celebrate by making a delicious salad inspired by the Spring Season. Pearl Couscous with Lemon Asparagus and Tomato acts as a great side dish or a nice lunch entrée. You won’t regret making this quick and easy recipe that’s RD approved!

Pearl Couscous Salad with Lemon Asparagus and Tomato

Servings: 5

Serving Size: 1 Cup

Calories: 170

Fat: 4 gm

Total Carbohydrate: 30 gm

Fiber: 5 gm

Protein: 6 gm

Sodium: 10 mg


  • 2/3 cup whole wheat pearl couscou
  • 3/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • 1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1-1/2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add asparagus and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and rinse in a colander under cold water.

Add couscous to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.

Chop asparagus into small 1/2 inch pieces.

Drain the couscous and place in a large bowl.

Add chopped asparagus, tomatoes, red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and pepper to the bowl. Mix together with the coucous and Enjoy!

Serve room temperature or chilled.

Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste.com

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Mindful Eating By: Nicole Goben, Sage Dietetic Intern

by Melissa Stopera 10. March 2014

Throughout a typical day we are constantly plagued by distractions.  We watch TV, surf the Internet, work, and use our cell phones, often all at the same time.  These distractions continue into our meal times, and can have a serious impact on how and what we eat.

Evidence shows that “mindless eating” triggers us to eat too much, too fast, which can cause poor health effects.  The largest concern is the potential to overeat. The brain plays a huge role in regulating hunger and fullness, so when the brain is tuned out we often consume more than our body needs at that given time. 

Mindful eating is defined as an awareness of “physical and emotional sensations while eating or in a food related environment.”  Mindful eaters do not eat out of habit or boredom, but out of physical necessity.  Once a mindful eater begins to eat, they focus on their food with no distractions.  With this being said, mindful eating can be a very important skill for weight loss and maintenance. 

Overall, remaining aware of your eating habits will allow you to better regulate your food intake, which is 100% necessary for weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some tips to help make you a more mindful eater:

  • Eat slower! Try eating with your non-dominant hand, taking sips of water between bites or setting your fork down between bites.
  • Make meal time special; turn off the TV, eat in a quiet place and use your nice tableware.
  • Rate your hunger before you eat to help reduce emotional eating.
  • Don’t fight cravings; acknowledge why you might be having this craving and think of a way to satisfy it in a healthy way.
  • Try a yoga class; the practice has been known to help people become more mindful eaters.


Upcoming Congestive Heart Failure Support Group: “Healthy Eating 101- A Lesson From Our Chef”

by Melissa Stopera 10. February 2014

Ellis Medicine offers a fantastic nutrition related support group for people and family members coping with Congestive Heart Failure.  This group provides an opportunity to learn from the following experts:  Registered Dietitian Yvonne Best & Manager and Chef of Dining & Nutrition Jason Belanger.

This support group, titled “Healthy Eating 101- A Lesson From Our Chef” involves a live cooking demonstration & tasting of low sodium, heart healthy recipes presented by Jason.  Yvonne will give a thorough presentation on Heart Health & nutrition related recommendations for dietary management of congestive heart failure.  This group is intended to be interactive, and will provide real life guidance to improving low sodium dietary compliance when dining out, grocery shopping, and cooking at home. 

The support group is scheduled for Thursday March 6th from 5:30-7:00PM.  It will take place at the Ellis Hospital Graham Auditorium at 1101 Nott Street, Schenectady.  This group is free of charge, but does require registration.  To register, please contact Diana Michaelson at 518-243-4401. 

Personally, I have experienced this group first hand, as last year I presented the nutrition related recommendations component.  We had a wonderful group with delicious food & conversation.  If you have any specific questions about this group, feel free to call me at 518-243-4345.  I highly recommend attendance.

Hope to see you there!


Healthy Tips | Recipes