All Posts By Alexandra Caspero

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge, a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their "Happy Weight."

Stay Young with HIIT Workouts

by in Fitness and Wellness, April 15, 2017

Let’s face it, aging isn’t always glamorous. As we get older, our metabolism begins to slow, our muscles weaken and we’re not as fast or agile as we used to be. Thankfully, research shows that exercise, especially high intensity interval training, or HIIT, can help prevent weight gain, improve muscle strength and reverse the signs of aging.

A new Mayo Clinic study indicates that high-intensity aerobic exercise can reverse some aspects of aging at the cellular level. In this study, researchers compared high-intensity interval training, resistance-only training, and combined exercise training in seventy-two healthy, but sedentary individuals for a twelve-week period. While all training types improved lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, only high-intensity interval training and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function. Read more

5 Spring Vegetables You May Not Know

by in Farmers' Market Finds, In Season, March 31, 2017

Seeing the first glimpse of spring vegetables make their appearance at the farmer’s market this month is a welcome change from winter’s hearty abundance. While the usual suspects — bright pink radishes, tender asparagus spears, and bright green snap peas — are there, you’ll also find more unexpected options like fiddleheads, ramps, morels and more. While these vegetables aren’t as common, don’t be intimidated! Familiarize yourself with each of these unique spring market finds and ways you can use each in a fresh and flavorful spring recipe.

 

Fiddlehead ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are the coiled tips of a young fern; deriving their name from the resemblance to the decorative end of a fiddle. This unique vegetable has a grassy, slight nutty flavor that’s similar to asparagus. Try them lightly steamed or boiled, then finished with olive oil and lemon for a quick side dish. They can also be swapped into almost any cooked recipe that features asparagus or haricot verts.

Let fiddleheads take center stage by replacing them for the asparagus in this Healthy Roast Asparagus with Creamy Almond Vinaigrette. Read more

5 Ways to Improve Body Image

by in Diets, Fitness and Wellness, March 2, 2017

In a social-media driven world full of perfect, curated images, it can be hard to not compare yourself to others, and love the body you are in. Since we could all use a little boost from time to time, we chatted with top fitness and nutrition experts on simple ways to promote positive body image. After all, there’s never a better time to start loving yourself than right now.

 

  1. Exercise because you want to, not because you have to.

Consider your relationship with exercise; do you do it because you have to or because you want to? When exercise is viewed as a mandate, essential only for desired aesthetics, it begins to feel like punishment, creating a negative experience that can last well after the workout is through. According to K. Aleisha Fetters MS, CSCS creator of Show Your Strength, “when people begin to exercise for performance, rather than trying to ‘fix’ something, their body image changes drastically.” Seeing your body adapting, progressing and performing tasks that didn’t feel possible before allows you to have new appreciation for what your body can do.

To begin, focus on what activities bring you the most enjoyment. Ignore the suggested caloric burns on the machines (they’re usually off anyways) and instead focus on what makes you feel your best.

 

  1. Don’t dwell in negative space

Even the most self-assured individuals can feel down about their bodies from time to time. After all, we’re only human. Instead of lingering in that space, turn a negative into a positive. Anne Mauney MPH, RD, author of fANNEtastic food offers up this advice. “Anytime your notice yourself criticizing your body, acknowledge it and then offer up something positive instead that’s not image related. Focus on the things your body can do, like enjoying a nice walk or picking up your child.” Read more

Have You Tried Pinole?

by in Have You Tried, February 23, 2017

Have you heard of pinole (pih-nole)? It may soon be giving quinoa a run for its money.  While this trendy superfood may be new to America, it has been around for centuries. Pinole is a grain mixture, made predominantly of heirloom blue and purple maize that’s roasted with raw cacao beans, then ground into a fine mixture. Served a multitude of ways, it’s most commonly combined with milk to form a thick, warm porridge. Similar in texture to oatmeal or grits, it’s a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.  Just two ounces of pinole provides 7 grams of fiber, 40 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 100 milligrams of anthocyanins; a specific antioxidant that may help reduce rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer and boost cognitive function.

In addition to being a great breakfast choice, pinole has historically been used as a source of fuel for endurance athletes. The Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico, known for long-distance running, consume pinole as their daily staple. These native people, whose lives are highlighted in the book Born to Run, relied on two things to fuel their hundred mile journeys: chia seeds and pinole. Read more

Diet 101: Whole30

by in Diets, Food and Nutrition Experts, January 26, 2017

As a registered dietitian, I’ve got a healthy skepticism towards most diets. Being in private practice for almost a decade will do that to you. I’ve seen clients come in on just about every eating pattern imaginable, from raw-food to paleo and everything in between. With the growing popularity of Whole30, I set out to examine the basics of the diet and nutritional truths behind some of the claims.

 

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is an elimination diet, with shares a similar philosophy with the Paleo trend. Both recommend eating lots of fresh, high-quality foods while ditching anything processed. Specifically, you are removing all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, certain preservatives and artificial sweeteners from your diet. According to the authors, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, these foods have been linked to hormonal imbalance, systemic inflammation, gut issues and more, though most of those claims aren’t backed by evidence-based research. Ideally, Whole30 is to be done strictly for 30 days; afterwards you can gently add back in said foods to see how your body responds.

 

Mindful eating

In addition to the diet recommendations, Whole30 encourages no calorie counting, measuring or weighing yourself for the entire 30-day process. Instead, the program focuses on non-scale victories, like improved sleep, skin, energy and overall feeling. The program isn’t promoted to be a long-term diet, but instead a reset button to focus on whole-foods that nourish your body.

As a long-time student of intuitive eating, I’m a big fan of switching the focus to non-scale victories and removing the added pressure of specific numbers and goals. For most dieters, these are big detractors and can often feel like punishment rather than an empowered choice. However, one of the tenets of intuitiveness is allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, without any parameters in place. Whole30 can fit this mindset if you are truly enjoying the foods you are eating and don’t feel deprived, but it’s not an automatic switch to mindful eating. Read more

What to Know About Functional Beverages

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, Food News, Trends, January 18, 2017

Ever since the juice bar craze, we’ve come to expect more from what we drink. Here’s a closer look at three popular functional beverage options, and the evidence behind their health claims.

 

Drinking Vinegar

While adding apple cider vinegar to your diet won’t cure cancer or the flu, it may be a secret weapon in keeping blood sugar levels under control. Unlike the more outrageous claims made by proponents of apple cider vinegar, there is enough evidence that consuming it may decrease the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance. The high acetic acid content in vinegar inhibits the enzymes that help you digest carbohydrates, thereby producing a smaller blood sugar response after eating. As an added benefit, this undigested starch becomes food for the good bacteria in your gut, acting as a prebiotic that supports overall digestion and a healthier immune system. While there seems to be a big push in using apple cider vinegar, any vinegar will get the job done. Acetic acid, the carbohydrate-inhibiting ingredient, is present in all vinegars, so feel free to use whatever one you enjoy best. Additionally, you don’t have to drink the vinegar to get the benefits — eating your favorite salad with a vinegar-based dressing will work just as well. Read more

Don’t Buy Into the New Year Detox

by in Diets, December 27, 2016

After spending the past month enjoying one-too-many cookies, peppermint mochas and spiked eggnogs, eliminating last year’s dietary sins seems like the perfect start. Supplements, coffee enemas, juice fasts, heat wraps and teas all promise a new, detoxified body, but do they actually work?

Detoxing is a rare medical need that’s been turned into a billion-dollar industry. Over the last decade, pills, juices, bars and shakes have been promoted as a magical formula to do everything from improving your health and digestion to getting you back into your skinny jeans.

More often than not, detox diets are nothing but liquid calories that lack the major nutrients our bodies need to function optimally. Following one of these cleanses often results in not consuming enough calories, which can leave you grumpy, hungry, and craving sugar, fat and carbs. In other words, starving yourself for a 3-day juice fast may backfire in additional weight gain once completed.

Fasting doesn’t support the body’s natural detox pathway. Our bodies are designed to clean from the inside; detoxing unwanted material daily through our liver, lungs and kidneys. Eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber will help your body’s detox pathway function optimally — more than any pill or supplement could.

If you’re motivated to start 2017 out right, follow these 5 simple tips for a healthy start to the new year. Read more

Holiday Pear Salad

by in Healthy Recipes, December 20, 2016

Looking for a stunning salad to serve this holiday season? This pear salad with quick candied walnuts and honey miso dressing is a must-try. The concept is easy, but the combination of flavors and textures gives the salad a complex feel. The base is a gorgeous mixture of delicate greens topped with tender and ripe pear, tart dried cranberries, sharp blue cheese crumbles and sweet walnuts. Then, it’s all tossed in a creamy miso dressing that’s packed with slightly sweet, salty flavor. It’s a must-serve for any holiday table.

I make these quick candied walnuts all the time to top salads and soups — or eat as a snack. With a fraction of the sugar in regular candied walnuts, they are just as nutty and sweet. The trick is melting the sugar over the butter-laced walnuts, then allowing them to cool in a single layer. Letting the walnuts sit allows the sugar to caramelize and harden into brittle-like pieces. Read more

Holiday Cranberry-Vanilla Panna Cotta

by in Healthy Holidays, December 18, 2016

Panna cotta might sound intimidating, but I like to think of it as an elevated version of Jell-O. To me, it’s a perfect dessert option: quick to assemble, practically foolproof and stunning to serve. This version is a lighter take on the typical whole-milk version. Thick Greek yogurt keeps it luscious and creamy, but with about half the calories and fat of traditional recipes.

If you can make Jell-O, you can make panna cotta. Bloom the gelatin in a bit of cold water, then add to a simmering pot of cream and fresh vanilla bean. The gelatin keeps the filling wonderfully delicate and wobbly. Since vanilla is the primary flavor here, it’s worth seeking out whole beans. Most well-stocked grocery stores will carry them in the spice section, though they can also be found online and in specialty grocery stores. Slice the bean lengthwise, then carefully open to reveal the fragrant seeds inside. Use a small paring knife to remove as many of the seeds as possible, then add both the bean and the seeds to the cream mixture.

This cranberry-vanilla panna cotta is a gorgeous option for any holiday gathering. Made ahead of time, the panna cotta will keep in the fridge for a few days. Read more

Healthy Sheet Pan Thanksgiving Dinner

by in Healthy Holidays, Thanksgiving, November 20, 2016

The words “quick,” “easy” and “Thanksgiving” typically don’t go together, but rules are being broken with this streamlined sheet-pan turkey dinner. It’s got all the elements of a typical Thanksgiving dinner, without the hours of prep and stovetop cooking. This dinner is just about the best thing to happen to hungry, time-starved cooks. Take a large baking sheet, add turkey, seasonings and vegetables, then roast until the meat is juicy and the vegetables are crispy and browned. Did I mention that cleanup takes less than two minutes? Throw away the sheet of parchment paper and place any leftovers in the fridge. Done and done.

If your meat section doesn’t have skin-on turkey breasts available, ask at the butcher. Most places that grind their turkey meat in-house use this type of cut to do so and should be able to supply you with a small breast portion. If you decide to use a breast that still contains the bone, you will likely need to increase the cooking time till done. Read more

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