Food is a reward. Food is love.

Comfort foods are often used as rewards.  When I was seven and I didn't want to go to ski school my father would promise me, "If you go skiing, Ali, you'll get a Wendy's frosty!"  Right there, a child is taught that when they have to do something they don't like, they will get a treat. Sometimes he was even at the end of the slope, all bundled up with that special yellow cup in hand. If I was very lucky I might even get a chicken sandwich and fries.  

My father is not at fault as most of us are inclined and taught to show love with food.  My dad's grandmother, Ada, would fry meatballs and bake outstanding chocolate cakes to make her young grandson happy.  To this day no one can truly recreate her recipe.  If I am in the Catskills at my parent's house making an egg omelette, my mother Joanie will intervene, "let me do it!"  It is her way of showing love.  Her mother does it.  Most mothers do it.  I do have to admit that Joanie's Spanish omelette does have that je ne sais quoi, which can only be described as cooked with a little extra love.  

The beginning stages of dating often revolve around meals.  Quite possibly, this stage never ceases.  On our second date my now boyfriend cooked a large tower of stacked eggplant Parmesan to impress. Garlic spinach and Malbec were also at hand.  I was happy.  Food makes me happy.  Was this learned from the frosty skiing days?  Though the man was now different, I was being shown love (well probably lust) with comfort food.

Unrequited love and breakups also revolve around meals.  It is cliché but quite true that the heartbroken often find themselves staring into an empty carton of Ben & Jerry's or something like it.  Since he couldn’t bag The Little Red-Haired Girl, Charlie Brown chose chunky peanut butter (as do I).  Binge eating or eating in general is a way to avoid reality.  Reality is dimmed when focusing on taste and smell. This is a short-lived adventure; when the meal is done the light is turned back on and reality is shining through.  Often reality is accompanied by feelings of guilt for indulging.  See my article at Elite Daily for further information on why the heartbroken crave carbohydrate-ridden piles of food:  The Heartbreak Diet

Yesterday while working on a project, my sister Jillian was acting slightly cranky.  If someone is in a negative mood around me I often ask, "Are you hungry?"  Maybe I am now at fault here, but it's a quick fix for a distraction.  Food is distraction.  In this case, my food fix didn't solve anything, as Jillian had a turkey & swiss sandwich 30 minutes before I arrived. She wasn't hungry.  Something else was bothering her.  I should have asked, "What's wrong, do you want to talk about it?"  But I am prepared to solve with food. I even carry snacks for all.   

All of these discussed reasons are why many find it difficult to stick with a "diet."  They will be on track for a few days but then they want a reward for working that 12 hour day. They might want to bake their boyfriend some red velvet cupcakes to apologize for their fight the night before.  A friend was just cheated on by that jerk, so a tipsy brunch is in order.  Food is used in both times of celebration and grief.  Weddings & birthday parties for all ages revolve around "the cake."  After funerals, during the Jewish ritual of sitting Shiva, food is sent to the homes of the grieving.   

It is important to form a healthy relationship with food.  It is everywhere.  It will be around next week at your coworker's birthday.  It is next to you on check out lines at all types of stores these days, even at Staples.  Why does an office supply store need food on its check out lines?  I just went in for some printer ink and now I have gummy bears staring at me. 

Your best bet is to learn the role that food plays for you.  Food is not a reward.  Food is meant to nourish and to help sustain a healthy and active life.  Try to eat for that reason.  I should have offered Jillian a walk around the block to blow off some steam; maybe my father should have said, "you will be so happy when you're older and can impress all of the boys on the black diamond hill."  

Give someone a card for "no reason" to show love rather than shoveling food in their mouth.   It is better to feel the sadness than to mask it with french fries.  When your friend loses her job, actually talk about it.   Acknowledge the vast array of feelings that we feel and what comes along with them; this will allow for a few bites of the birthday cake, only one glass of wine on that date, and some excellent skiing skills. 



Nutrition Truths

I recently read the NY Time's piece "Why Nutrition Is So Confusing."  To sum it up, the author questions the validity of nutrition research in terms of dieting in order to avoid developing obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Over time, 600,000 research articles have been published focusing nutrition for obesity and diabetes. Even so, American's are just getting bigger and bigger.  Healthcare costs are sky rocketing.  

I do see where the author is coming from BUT I do believe that there are some undeniable truths about nutrition.

Calories In, Calories Out

This is an oversimplification but if you eat more calories than your body burns - you will gain weight.  On the opposing end, if you burn more calories than you ingest, you will lose weight. Finally, if you are burning what you are eating you will be at a stable weight.   Again, this is not definitive as age, activity, metabolism and TYPE of food will play a role in weight/health but the underlying idea is true.  

Whole foods vs. Processed foods

If your great, great grandmother could enjoy it, I say go for it.  Eating food at it's most natural state is best for health. The more ingredients added the more likely it is to have adverse effects. These additives are commonly food dyes and chemicals to increase shelf life.  I'm sure you have heard how Subway just removed the chemical Azodiacarbonamide from their bread.  This chemical is actually found in rubber used for shoe soles and yoga mats!  Who wants rubber in their bread?  No one.  When I was in my teens I would "diet" using a ton of Splenda and products like Special K and Kashi.  These brands are marketed as low calorie, which they are, but they also come with some hidden surprises.

Choose whole grains over processed refined starches

Unless you are on Dialysis (and even this research is questionable), always choose whole grain products.  When refined grains are created the germ and bran are removed from the grain kernel via a heating process leaving the endosperm (starch.)  All of the fiber and nutrients are removed.  This is done to increase shelf life and to create a smoother texture.  In other words, it is done in order for the food corporations to make that money.  Whole grains provide energy, vitamins and fiber promoting a healthy digestive system & aiding in weight loss/weight maintenance.  

Don't remove a "food group" (protein, carbohydrates, fat) 

Over the past twenty years or so, removing a whole food group from your diet is a popular weight loss strategy. For example, both the Atkins and Dukan diet promote a diet FULL of protein and removal of all carbohydrates.   Shutting out a food group puts you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.  It also will make you CRAVE and WISH for that one thing you are denying yourself.  It is just human nature.  These diets usually are short term and when one returns to eating "normally", the weight returns.  

What works for you might not work for the next person

I prefer 3 meals with 2 (or 3) small snacks per day.  Others may chose six small meals while some follows the lead of horses and cattle grazing throughout the day. There isn't a conclusive answer to an eating pattern that works best.  I do believe, you MUST start your day with breakfast even if this is only a piece of fruit or toast.  Past that, it is an individual choice to what you and your body agree with.  

Live a little

This mantra is something that I am learning everyday as I get older. You can enjoy in moderation.  You won't gain three pounds from having some rice.  If you go overboard and have the BAG of rice, then look out.  It is honestly sometimes a challenge for me to be able to enjoy everything without going overboard or completely restricting.  All you can do is try.  



"I'll lose ten pounds in 2014"

It's the New Year and resolutions are being made.  One of the most popular resolutions is to "lose weight."  

A few weeks ago I composed a tweet that in order to lose 1 pound per week you have to burn an extra 500 calories per day.  3,500 calories = 1 pound.  Even though this is important to keep in perspective, I realized that I do not want to be a Dietitian who stresses numbers on the scale.  There is already enough of that everywhere.  The media and this country focuses on an unrealistic, unattainable, idealistic life & body that most people cannot attain.  I do want to be a Dietitian that teaches HOW to eat healthy and WHY to eat healthy.

I've been underweight.  I've been overweight.  During stressful or upsetting time periods I seem to gain a few pounds and during "happy" times I lose them.  All in all, if I do see myself gaining any weight, I look at what I am eating and why I am eating it.  Then I alter accordingly.  I don't step on the scale everyday.  I don't recommend it either.  It'll drive you crazy.  

During a conversation last night over dinner about resolutions I decided mine was to be less self critical.  I think we should all focus on self-acceptance, health, energy, overall well-being & mood.  

Happy New Year full of healthy eating! 


My favorite time of day during ANY YEAR. 

My favorite time of day during ANY YEAR. 

Ginger Stir Fry



Ginger strengthens immunity & improves digestion/absorption of essential nutrients in the body.  Today I was feeling a cold coming on.  I am visiting my parents so my mother & I decided to make this Ginger-based quick & easy recipe packed full of nourishing & beneficial ingredients.  The prep time is 20 minutes, total cook time from start to finish ~45 minutes. 


Ginger is a herb often used in: 

- alleviating nausea, dizziness, motion sickness, morning sickness & stomach pains

- pain reduction from menstrual cramps, common muscle soreness & arthritis

- relieving respiratory ailments

-preventing cold/flu





1 onion

2 tablespoons of ground fresh organic ginger

9 ounces baby bella mushrooms (1 pack)

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

1 green pepper

1 orange pepper

canned or fresh beansprouts (14 ounces) 

5 ounces shredded carrots (can buy already shredded) 

2 medium size green squash

1/2 cup string beans 

4 tablespoons of ground ginger root

olive oil

5 tablespoons low sodium lite teriyaki sauce 

black pepper

brown rice 



1. Coat wok pan with olive oil

2. Cut up onion into small pieces & put in wok

3. Add 3 tablespoons of low sodium teriyaki sauce 

4. Use food processor to grind ginger into small pieces OR garlic press to press ginger directly in work OR chop ginger into small pieces

5. Put half of the ground ginger into wok

6. Sprinkle black pepper, then sauté

7.  While sautéing, cut peppers into thin strips 

8.  Add peppers, sauté on low flame for 5 minutes  

9. Add string beans 

10. Slice mushrooms, add mushrooms 

11. Slice squash, add squash

12. Add carrots 

13. Add 2 tablespoons of teriyaki

14.  Saute' all of the vegetables on low to medium light until close to fully cooked, stir frequently. (Should take ~10 to 15 minutes)

15. Add beansprouts

16. Add other 1/2 of ginger (about 2 tablespoons, can add more depending on taste buds)

17. Stir, cook for 2-3 minutes 

18. Plate over 1/2 cup of brown rice

19. Eat

20. Feel good

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But what is a Dietitian?

Everyone is a Nutritionist or "Nutrition Expert" these days.  I do want to take a quick minute to explain the difference between a Registered Dietitian & a "Nutritionist." 

A Registered Dietitian (R.D) is a food & nutrition expert that is regulated by the American Dietetic Association & the Center for Dietetic Registration.  There are strict pre-requisites, including years of biochemistry & a year long internship at a hospital.  Finally, a national exam that some study months for (me).  While practicing as a Dietitian, there are continuing education credits that must be completed in order to keep your license.

The term Nutritionist is not regulated by anyone.  Some do have years of education but others only have weekend courses in nutrition.  I like to compare it to cooking - there is a trained Chef and then someone who likes to cook.  Just because you can cook, doesn't mean you are an expert.

Below is a section taken from the American Dietetic Association on the benefits of seeing a Dietitian:

The highest level of nutrition counseling. Anyone can call themself a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has completed multiple layers of education and training established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition to holding a bachelor's degree, an RD or RDN must fulfill a specially designed, accredited nutrition curriculum, pass a rigorous registration exam, and complete an extensive supervised program of practice at a health care facility, foodservice organization or community agency. What's more, roughly half of all RDs and RDNs hold graduate degrees and many have certifications in specialized fields, such as sports, pediatric, renal, oncology or gerontological nutrition.

Personally tailored advice. When you see an RD or RDN, the last thing you'll get is one-size-fits-all diet advice. "A dietitian is like an investigator seeking to learn about your current and desired state of health," says McDaniel. "At your initial visit, expect to do a lot of talking while the dietitian does a lot of listening." After learning about your health history, favorite foods, eating and exercise habits, an RD or RDN will help you set goals and prioritize. Follow-up visits will focus on maintenance and monitoring your progress.

Help managing chronic diseases. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer it can be hard to know what to eat. "An RD [or RDN] can review your lab results with you, help you understand your condition and provide education about the nutrients that affect it," says Angela Ginn, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy. "Then, he or she will help you create an eating plan that includes all the important nutrients that can help you manage your condition."

Guidance navigating food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. When you suffer from conditions such as celiac disease, food allergies or lactose intolerance, it's easy to be overwhelmed by what you think you can't eat. That can translate into a boring diet and may even lead to nutrient deficiencies. An RD or RDN can teach you how to read food labels so you’ll know which ingredients to avoid and a help you find substitutions to keep your diet balanced and tasty, too.

A weight loss program that really works. Fad diets may sound like the quick ticket to weight loss, but they rarely work for very long. A registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist will partner with you to develop a safe, effective weight loss plan that you can stick with for the long haul. To guide and motivate you, an RD or RDN will use creative and out-of-the-box strategies to help with meal planning, grocery shopping, food journaling and mindful eating.



Anyhow, this is not knocking down anyone who drinks green juice while reading nutrition & wellness books because I think we need to raise the awareness of just how important food really is.  Food is medicine.  This is just to clear up any confusion.  

Happy eating! 




Sweet Winter Salad


During these holiday times we tend to over eat.  There is an abundance of food in our offices and homes, tempting us to make impulsive food decisions we might normally not.   The winter season menu is full of comfort foods with heavy carbs & cream. 

To balance out those heavy meals, here is a healthy salad recipe which satisfies the ever-craving sweet tooth.  It's small dose of naturally sweet ingredients balanced with unsaturated fats & crunchy vegetables, make this salad a good substitute for those impulsive choices. 



1 box of mixed green/baby spinach

1 red bell pepper cut up in thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper cut up in thin strips

1 cup baby tomatoes sliced in half 

1 avocado cubed

1 6oz package of slivered almonds

1 4oz package of pine nuts

1 package original terra chips (crushed)

1/3 cup oil

1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar

¼ cup sugar

3 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons grated onion



1. Combine Oil, vinegar, sugar, ketchup & onion in a covered container, shake vigorously

2. Combine all other ingredients except almonds pine nuts and terra chips in large bowl

3. Sprinkle bowl with pine nuts & slivered almonds. 

4. Add dressing, mix well

5. Crumble the ¾ of the terra chips on top of salad


Adapted from a recipe by Shira L. Newman