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Lauren Antonucci, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDE, CDN
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National Eat Better, Eat Together Month!
October is national Eat Better, Eat Together month which means it's the perfect time to focus on an important subject...family meals! Finding the time to sit and enjoy each other's company over a good meal has been progressively declining in our society. Unfortunately, the frequency of family meals has become so elusive because of the inescapable demands we put on our lives, and in turn we've lost the concepts of breaking bread and coming together over food. There are many benefits of doing so. Family dinners are linked with more nutritious meals and greater consumption of a variety of important nutrients. Children and adolescents who eat with their parents are more likely to eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and to eat moderate amounts -which leads to higher intakes of important nutrients such as calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins and vitamins E and C, zinc, folate and fiber. According to multiple studies, those of us who eat higher amounts of the above nutrients will also enjoy lower risks of developing chronic diseases. Studies also suggest a possible link between family dinners and lower prevalence of childhood obesity.
In case you need more reasons to resume family mealtimes, we are here to tell you that children and adolescents who eat with their families are also more likely to perform better in school and have fewer behavioral problems. Perhaps most importantly, family meals create the time for communication and reconnecting after the long day of demands that we all endure. Here are 3 easy ways to bring eating together back into the mix:
1. Include Everyone
Get everyone involved in the cooking process when possible-especially, the kids! This is a great time to teach basic cooking skills and to discuss the importance preparing balanced meals that will carry over into adulthood. Kids are also more likely to eat nutritious foods such as vegetables and whole grains when they are involved in the cooking process. Delegate tasks for the kids, such as pre-chopping ingredients and having them mix them together to form a dish. From a young age the can create a salad with pre-chopped tomatoes, cucumber and shredded carrots, as they get older they can contribute more on the chopping end.. Involve family members in all steps of making a meal...from setting the table to cleaning up. This is a great opportunity to promote healthy and helpful habits-and will help take some of the burden of the work around meal prep and clean up off of you.
One of the bigger barriers in dining together is the lack of planning. We recommend l
ing over the calendar at least once per week to find AT LEAST 2 meals where everyone can come together to eat together. Even just starting with one family meal per week is better than none! From there, you can work to and expand into three and four times a week. Schedule an hour time block once per week to plan recipes and prepare a shopping list, and get the entire family involved. Ask family members for ideas in foods and give tasks to each person for them to complete. You can also assign one night a week (or more) to a type of cuisine like "Stir-Fry Night" or "Taco Tuesday's" for easier planning. Always remember to incorporate important food groups including whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats to promote balanced eating and greater nutrient intake. If time is an issue (and of course it is!), do some prep work when you have more free time (such as Sunday) before hitting the busy work week. I have found that making double batches of main entrees and storing half in the freezer to pull out for last-minute meals is a great way to save time on crunched weeknights.
This is the most important step. Use this time to reconnect with everyone and enjoy being together as a family. Turn off (or put away) all phones (Gasp! That means parents too!), and forget about the endless "to-do" lists and life stressors. Focus on the present and enjoy the fruits of your labor as this time is irreplaceable. Try to let family dinners be just that...time to eat together as a family! Give yourself an hour to simply be present with loved ones and the nutritious meal on the table!
Have Fear, Halloween is Near!
As you are well aware,
October also means Halloween - what's Halloween without a few treats??? You know that we at Nutrition Energy are fans of allowing ourselves treats as desired-but an entire night devoted to the acquisition of as much candy as possible that will then reside in your kitchen can be downright scary (and I have three kids, which means 3x the candy!). Do not get spooked by allowing yourself to have a few pieces of candy on and around Halloween night. A few treats will not derail the healthy and mindful eating that you have committed yourself to. We are here to help you though so that the kids can enjoy and we do not have to suffer the aftermath.
Halloween and the fall season is actually a great time of the year to begin or continue practicing balance and mindfulness when it comes to eating, since it's the official kick-off to the holiday season. There are plenty of healthy and delicious fall veggies to be picked and enjoyed for weeks to come, and Halloween is only one night (if you do it right!)
Here are the 5 Nutrition Energy Do's & Don'ts of Halloween:
1. Do eat some candy! Yes, we really mean it.
It's never good to completely restrict or have an eliminated foods list. Instead of avoiding candy completely, eat a piece or two. Choose your favorites and wait until toward the end of the trick-or-treating session to eat them (so that you do't get tempted to continue). Moderation breeds mindful eating!
2. Do eat dinner before going trick-or-treating.
Some might skip dinner or even lunch and dinner to save their calories for trick or treat candy, but we are here to tell you that will backfire. Eat a healthy, hearty meal before Halloween night begins, and please feed your kids too. Filling up with a healthful, high-fiber meal that includes protein plus veggies before you head out the door, or before you start hiding our candy at your door, will help prevent you from snacking on treats out of hunger.
3. Do keep the candy out of sight.
Out of sight, out of mind. Both before and after Halloween, keep the candy high and away in a place of inconvenience. Make yourself (and your kids) work work to get it down, which will hopefully decrease your number of trips into the stash.
4. Do find some better swaps.
-Chocolate is inevitable! But, there are multiple types. Dark chocolate is a great replacement for milk and white chocolate, and has been researched for its aide as an anti-oxidant, as well as its role in possibly reducing blood pressure. However, that does not give you the green light to eat more of it. Again we stress, moderation in everything!
5. Do share candy with others...thoughtfully
In New York City, there are many that are less fortunate than others. If you know of anyone who would appreciate a piece of candy, (or two or three), and might not buy it on their own, then by all means grab a few on your way out the door in the morning and share away.
1. Don't bring the candy to work
- By getting it out of the house and moving it to work, it's just relocating it into a different environment for you (and your co-workers) to eat it. Do not make your office a dumping ground for any treat you and your co-workers don't want tempting them at home. By holding yourself accountable, you do the same for others! Bonus points if you can make a "no bringing candy to work" rule throughout the office!
2. Don't mistake a "Mini" candy bar for a "Fun" size
Mini Snickers = 40-50 calories
Fun size = 90-120 calories
Regular = 200-250 calories
- It's amazing how easy it is to consume 3-4 "Fun" size Snickers during a conversation at your desk or in the break room. Just like that, you've consumed 1.5 full size Snickers bars without even thinking about it. Be conscious when you snack. Read serving and portion size before you munch.
3. Don't dread Halloween because of the candy overload
- Use it as an opportunity to challenge yourself to make new healthier habits and to teach your kids about moderation, balance, and healthful eating.
4. Don't purchase Halloween candy until very close to Halloween
- Instead, wait until the last minute before buying it. The sooner you bring Halloween candy into your home, the easier it becomes to give into sweets before the holiday even arrives. Plus, it might even be on sale if you want until the last minute.
5. DO NOT restrict your craving!
- Our bodies and brains are primarily fueled by carbohydrates, which at its basic structure is a sugar. We need fuel to carry us through our day to be efficient and effective in what we do. Moderate your craving for a sweet. Sit down and enjoy your treat, mindfully, so you are satisfied! Do not try to deny yourself all sweets, just choose mindfully and enjoy.
-No more tricks with your treats.
-Be honest with yourself on what you want and what you are really eating.
-As stated above, 1-2 mini candies, yes! The entire bag "somehow disappeared", hopefully, no. We want you to enjoy, and not dread this fun dress up holiday and allow a few treats into your life.
Fueling for the New York City Marathon and Beyond!
As we are now only a few weeks away from the New York City Marathon, your long training seasons and long runs is now (mostly) behind you! The dedication and hard work that you have put into your nutrition, hydration, and training is coming to a head and it is time to "race". You are likely feeling both anxious and excited to put all your work to the test and perform at your best! Here are Just a few last minute reminders as the race nears closer:
- Taper...but not taper too much.
If you feel strong then consider a light session early in the week; for example, 30 minutes including 3 x 5 mins at your maximum or your marathon pace with a 2-3 minute jog as recovery. This will just get you exposed to a little pace and feeling faster.
We asked one of our go-to marathon and triathlon coaches, Coach Jonathan Cane, for some final marathon taper and race day running strategies and here is what he said:
Taper tip. Trust the taper. Don't try to get fitter between now and race day. Typically, we go decrease mileage by 25% per week , keeping intensity for the first week or so, then also backing off on intensity as well as volume toward the end of the taper.
Owner of City Coach Multisport
1. Mile 1, on the Verrazano Bridge has the most net elevation gain of the whole race. It should be your slowest of the day.
You have plenty of time to make up for a slow start or plenty of time to regret a fast one.
2. Pace groups are great, but consider that they're crowded, and the pacers are human. If you do run with one, you should still pay attention to make sure they're on pace. Also, keep in mind they're visible from a distance, so you can benefit from them without being mixed in with the crowd.
3. Run the tangents.
26.2 is plenty long. The course is measured along the tangents, so anything else is cheating yourself. (What can I tell you, I'm married to a math teacher.)
4. Drafting isn't just for racing cars and bikes. Tuck in behind (or to the side of) others in headwinds and crosswinds.
By Endurance Coach Jonathan Cane
-Your body needs quality calories and carbs daily in order to keep your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) topped up so you feel great on race day.
-Yes you will be running less, but that does not mean you eliminate carbs.
-You may want to decrease portion sizes by about 1/4 as you taper over the next two weeks-but do not eliminate any one food group.
-Don't stuff yourself silly the night before the race. It will only leave you feeling sluggish on race day.
-Eat your last main meal at 6-7pm and keep it higher in carb with 1 serving of protein and minimal veggies.
-Snack on easily digested carbohydrate snacks afterwards if needed. Great choices include cereal, crackers, banana, applesauce or a granola bar
-Eat your normal high-carb pre-race or pre-long run breakfast 3-4 hours prior to your start time. Resist any urges to suddenly change what has worked so well for you in training just because someone else is doing something different.
-Eat another high-carb snack 1 hour prior to your start time. This can be the other half of your bagel, some cereal, sports drink or an energy bar.
-Final fuel top off 10 min prior to your start time can be an energy gel or 6-8 oz of sports drink-to propel you over the bridge and the first three miles of the marathon.
-Continually monitor fluid and sodium intake-and urine output. No, you don't have to measure it in milliliters, but do check your urine color. Pale is good, the color of apple juice means you are dehydrated.
-Sip sports drink the day before and morning of your marathon to ensure you have adequate fluids and salt
ring a bottle of water or sports drink, and drink 6-8oz in the 10-15 minutes before the race starts. Practice this several times in training if you have not already done so.
-Take in enough, but not too much, fluid along the course
- Inadequate hydration leads to low energy, dehydration, poor performance...or worse.
- Too much fluid (especially without sodium) can lead to hyponatremia
- Drink as you practiced in training and match YOUR sweat rate
The cups you receive during a marathon may contain anywhere from 60 ml (2 oz) to 150 ml (5 oz.)-check before you drink. Take 2 cups and pour one into the other if both are under-filled
- Dress so that you are warm, but not too hot.
-You want to wear whatever will keep you cool and comfortable. Arm warmers, throw-away clothing or am extra hat
may help on a cool morning.
- Run at the pace you have practiced.
-On race day, your adrenaline will be pumping and you will naturally run at a faster pace. Control the temptation and stick to your pace.
- Follow your plan and trust your training
The reason why you are able to complete a full marathon is because of the planning and commitment you have made to your training. Even if you are somewhat under-trained, as long as you fuel well and pace smart, you can do this!
The hard work is done and now it's time to let your training and talents take over as you enjoy running through the 5 amazing boroughs on NYC.
A Note from Lauren...
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year - from the color changes on the trees, to the cool, crisp breeze on my face during my morning runs, to the warm, hearty meals at the end of the day with my family.
Yes, I enjoy all the seasons for different reasons, but the excited energy of the city is hard to ignore as the days get closer to the marathon. I love getting up early with my family to cheer on the runners - seeing their hard work pay off when they accomplish such a physically-challenging goal.
This is also the time of the year when we begin to be surrounded by sweets - starting with Halloween, then around the corner is the Holiday Season! Yikes! Just like in our article above - don't deny yourself all sweets, but choosing sweets mindfully and in moderation will help keep you satisfied and still keep your nutrition in balance. Do you remember all my summer ice cream posts on Instagram? :)
Need some help figuring out your training and race day nutrition plan?
The sports dietitians here at Nutrition Energy can help you navigate the confusing world of bars, gels, hydration needs, recovery nutrition, etc. Have a favorite race day product? Tweet us @NutritionEnergy or let us know on Facebook!
Lauren Antonucci, Director