After I finished my marathon, I realized my portions (and pants size) had expanded, and I really wanted an objective opinion of my diet, and some suggestions and strategies to improve it—so I could feel my best whether training for an endurance event or not.
I picked Nu-train because it was recommended by Physique 57, where I was a member at the time. (In fact, Dara will be representing Nu-train at a Physique event on 5/17—details to follow.) From the moment we sat down, Dara’s passion and knowledge of food and nutrition was evident and incredibly contagious! She had innumerable great ideas for improving my diet without giving up what I love. So of course I was thrilled when Dara said she would be happy to do an Q and A interview on my blog!
Thank you so much Dara and welcome to FitnessNYC…
1. If you could only recommend one step toward improving one’s health and diet, what would it be?
Being prepared and planning ahead. Always meal plan!
Try and think of when and where you’ll be eating and then plan your meal accordingly. Do you know you’re going to a restaurant for lunch or dinner? – why not go on menupages.com to check out the menu and plan ahead of time what you’ll be eating. Do you know you’ll be eating dinner more than 4 hours after you have lunch and will be out running errands in the afternoon? – why not plan on packing a small snack in your purse like an apple and Justin’s 100 calorie nut-butter (www.justinsnutbutter.com) for a quick on-the-go afternoon snack. Are you traveling and afraid you may not find any healthy food items for breakfast at the airport or on the plane? – why not bring a healthy granola bar in your carry-on-bag like Gnu Flavor and Fiber to keep you satisfied and prevent you from going for the chips on the plane. My clients that plan their meals ahead of time (as best as possible) are always more successful than those clients that are unprepared.
2. We are rapidly approaching swim suit season, do you have any tips for shedding a few pounds?
Water, water, water! 8-10 cups of water a day to help de-bloat you before swim suit season. And it’s ok if you’re going to the bathroom every hour or so (that’s normal!). I also suggest consuming other foods that are water-rich such as asparagus and making sure to eat lots of lean protein such as chicken and fish for lunch and dinner.
On the other hand, I always tell my clients to try and cut out the major ‘bloat foods,’ a couple of days before you put on that teeny tiny bikini including: beans, sugar-free and fat-free foods, foods high in salt like most canned soups, deli meats, commercial salad dressings, spaghetti sauce and other canned sauces like soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, bbq sauce and frozen meals (with a sodium level of more than 350mg total). Also be careful with carbonated beverages and chewing gum – as they both cause you to swallow more air, thus increasing your chances of feeling bloated.
3. Were you always a healthy eater or has becoming a nutritionist change the way you eat and think about food?
I grew up in a really healthy environment, so YES I’ve always eaten pretty healthy. My mother used to make home cooked meals during the week where we always started our dinners with fresh fruit (strange I know, but a great way to get our fruit intake out of the way before we were full). We always had a salad or soup and then had a main course which included a protein, a veggie and a starch. Although we always had dessert, it was portion-controlled. Although my parents never kept a lot of junk food in the house (chips, candy, chocolates, soda), I was never deprived of these foods when I went out. I’m not going to lie, I do have a sweet tooth, but I make sure if I consume candy or chocolate, I make sure the rest of the day is jam-packed with nutrient-rich foods.
Since becoming a dietitian, my eating habits have improved even more. I’m now more aware of balancing my meals, like making sure to have a good source of protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner and to include more fiber-rich foods in my diet.
4. What is your favorite indulgence?
Definitely frozen yogurt! But hey – it’s still a good source of calcium!
5. Do you think portion control is always important, even when it comes to fruits and veggies?
Of course! Although fruits and veggies are filled with tons of healthy vitamins and minerals and are both fairly low in calories, when you’re eating too many fruits and veggies, you are likely skimping out on other food groups like dairy and other lean sources of protein. Although I do recommend to my clients that they can have unlimited amounts of veggies in their diet and about 2-3 servings of fruits a day, I rarely see them going overboard with them and if they are, they are definitely skimping out on something else.
6. As city-folk, we eat out a lot. What is your advice for staying healthy in restaurants? Do you have any go to meals? And while, I am at it, what are your favorite restaurants?
Never go to a restaurant hungry! So many of my clients starve all day before they go out to eat and it always backfires. They end up stuffing their faces with bread, alcohol and dessert and often have a hard time getting back on track the next day. Make sure to have a small snack before you head out like a yogurt or even an apple and 1 tbsp of peanut butter. You will be less likely to feel ravenous at the restaurant and therefore less likely to go for an unhealthy option. I also always suggest ordering your alcohol WITH your first course as opposed to drinking before you eat to prevent your lowered inhibitions from getting the best of you and overeating.
My simple suggestion at restaurants: Always start with a simple salad or vegetable soup and consider ordering another appetizer for a main course. Make sure it’s a lean source of protein like prosciutto and melon or tuna tartare. If you’re still hungry, order a side of steamed veggies.
7. Along those lines, there has been a lot of blog discussion on the social pressures that occur when eating out. What are your thoughts on ordering healthfully without feeling left out or getting labeled as the salad girl?
What’s wrong with a salad??? Alright, I do agree that ordering just a plain salad for dinner is lame, but not all salads are boring and meant to be eaten only by women! When in doubt, a chicken Caesar salad is always a good options at a restaurant (since you’re including a lean source of protein), as long as you leave the croutons and ask for a vinaigrette instead of the Caesar dressing (or getting it on the side). This is New York – we not only expect good service, but we are also a little on the demanding side. Just make sure to have a smile on your face when you ask for substitutions and if your friends or co-workers make fun of you, just let them know that you care about your health and are taking measures NOW to prevent diabetes and heart disease. That may just shut them up!
Just because you eat healthy doesn’t mean you’re a boring eater.
Another tip is to be the first to order – when someone orders something healthy, people tend to follow suit.
8. Finally, what do your clients find most helpful about having personalized counseling from a nutritionist?
The accountability! Knowing that they have to come in for regular weigh-in visits and have to record what they eat makes them more focused and willing to stay on track.
I’m there to support and motivate them throughout the counseling process, which is also very comforting.
Thanks again Dara!
Just to give my opinion for number 8, I found the personalized strategies incredibly helpful. While I think I know a fair amount about health and nutrition, sometimes I need someone to help me identify (and be honest about) areas I could improve, and help me develop strategies to implement those positive changes—Gena has also been a rockstar for that. One of my favorite tips from Dara was to substitute Adora calcium supplements for Hersey’s kisses to satisfy my sweet tooth.
If you’d like more great tips from Dara, I recommend you check out and/or sign up for the nu-train newsletter, which is packed with healthy eating strategies and recipes from all three nu-train nutritionists.
Dara is also available for nutritional counseling at Nu-train (710 Park Avenue) for more information you can call 212-769-3200.
As I mention, she will be representing Nu-train at a Spring Stimulus Day at Physique 57 on May 17th. Here are the details from Physique 57:
“SPRING STIMULUS DAY!!
Sunday, May 17th
Spring Street Studio
We all know that excess is OUT which is why our efficient and effective workouts have never been more popular! Our Spring Stimulus Day invites you to take our quick-fix Physique Express class then sample Mat 57™ or Physique Yoga, as well as enjoy a naturally delicious treat from NuKitchen in the company of top rated nutritionists from Nu-Train, New York City’s premiere nutritional counseling group. After all, you are what you eat-and who’s not baffled by all of the conflicting advice?
- THE SKINNY:
- You start your journey with Tanya leading an invigorating 40 minute Physique Express workout.
- You choose either Mat 57™ with Lauren to zero in on your core or Physique Yoga with Vienna to feel long and lean.
- Nu-Train Nutritionists offer sane advice on how to nourish yourself on a budget and discuss the pros and cons of today’s costly cleanses.
- NuKitchen provides a refreshing healthy snack”