All Posts By Jason Machowsky

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Ask the Experts: Change a Habit, Change Your Health, Part 1

by in Ask the Experts, March 23, 2013

vegetables on scale
“If you could recommend just one habit that someone should start doing to eat, and live, healthier, what would that habit be?”

That’s the question I posed to a group of my colleagues – registered dietitians and nutritionists – in the trenches coaching and counseling people in the science, and art, of eating better. Rather than focusing on huge overhauls that may not be sustainable (i.e. no carbs, no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, etc.), I wanted to look for keystone eating habit changes that could have a butterfly effect through the rest of your daily routine and get you the health and fitness results you want.

I was amazed — within 24 hours I had over 60 responses. As I began sorting through the feedback, I realized that many of the recommendations fell into a seven broader categories, which I’ll be summarizing and presenting in two posts.

Buckle up, here are the first four:

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One Small Change: The Three Week Challenge

by in Healthy Tips, January 13, 2013

apples with peanut butter
If your New Year’s resolutions have you making more than one major change to your physical activity or eating habits, I recommend you stop most of them right now. Sounds preposterous for me to ask you to stop making healthy changes, right? Well, what if I asked you how many of those healthy changes do you expect to be doing one month from now? Three months? Six months?

Research shows that it takes, on average, about three weeks to form a new habit . . . and that may be if you’re not trying to break old ones. Many of our habits are the result of “the path of least resistance.” We choose to do what we do, and eat what we eat, based on what’s easiest for us considering our current schedule, priorities, skills and preferences. In other words, you may be really good at whipping up dinner when you get home from work, but during the workday, the vending machine is the closest thing you have to a lunch break. And cooking from scratch every night means you may not be able to make it to the gym or go for a run as often as you like. All actions have consequences, so it’s important to consider whether the new actions you’re taking are leading to the results you want. If you’re making ten changes at once, it’s hard to know which one(s) are sustainable, if any.

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One Small Change: Another Old Friend, Corn

by in Healthy Tips, December 7, 2012

corn chowder

Similar to the potato, corn is another one of those foods that gets a bum rap because of how it’s usually served: fried (corn chips/corn dogs), processed (corn syrup), extruded (many sugary cereals) or otherwise fashioned into foods you never thought were made with corn (ketchup, salad dressing, soda, cookies, bread and more). One can of soda is rich in corn, in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which shocks our body with an insulin-spiking 120 calories of simple carbs, and no nutrients whatsoever. That’s Mr. Hyde.

Yet there is a brighter, more natural side to corn; the one you see when you take a long ear and slowly peel back layer upon layer of its stringy exterior to reveal a yellow, white or multicolored bonanza of kernels that you can eat straight off the cob. Beyond its juicy crunch and naturally sweet flavor, corn’s got some serious nutrients too. Just one cup (the size of your fist) packs 5g of protein, 4g of fiber, and it has a natural source of many nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese…all into a 130 calorie package. So grab an ear, Doctor Jekyll is in!

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One Small Change: Avoid the Health Halo

by in Healthy Tips, November 6, 2012

food labels
Just as the first impressions of a person can influence our perception of them far into the future, research shows the same can be said for the foods we eat. Once a food or restaurant is deemed “healthy”, we tend to let our guard down and forget about the facts of what we are truly eating – a proverbial junk-food wolf in a nutritious sheep’s clothing. This phenomenon for food has been dubbed the “health halo” effect.

You may have experienced a similar situation in another aspect of life: relationships. One of your friends may have become so smitten with one feature of a potential suitor (they’re attractive or fun to be around) that they completely disregarded the ten other red flags about them (i.e. they’re chronically late, don’t have a job, quick to yell at others) even though everyone else, including you, clearly saw the inconsistencies. Don’t let the same thing happen to you with the foods that you eat!

Here are a couple “seductive” labeling tactics that could lure you into eating foods that may just end up becoming a bad date for you and your waistline:

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One Small Change: Your Old Friend, the Potato

by in Uncategorized, September 23, 2012

Ahh, you can have them baked with cheese and bacon, mashed with cream and butter or deep-fried in oil. So versatile, yet so unhealthy: the white potato. But do potatoes deserve such a bad rap? Take a moment, and let’s rediscover one of the best “unhealthy” foods around.

Taken by itself, the great spud compares quite well in calories, fiber and nutrients to most other starches like pasta and rice. A medium potato with its skin (2 to 3 inches wide) has 130 calories, three grams of fiber, three grams of protein and is a source of vitamin C, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. Comparatively, one cup of pasta or rice (the size of your fist) has about 200 calories for similar amounts of fiber.

So why does the potato get such a bad rap?  Obviously how we prepare it can have a huge impact. Loaded potato skins probably have more bacon, cheese and sour cream than they do potato.

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One Small Change: How Often Should I Eat?

by in Healthy Tips, September 7, 2012

energy bars
A common point of discussion on the this blog is what to eat, I wanted to take a moment to discuss another important topic: when should we eat, and how often? What follows is a combination of research findings and my own experiences working with clients as a registered dietitian.

Current research has shown that we should be eating somewhere between three to six times per day, though no one frequency has been proven to be better than others. If you find yourself consistently starving at a certain point in the day (and maybe making a less-than-ideal food choice), then consider adding in an additional healthy mini-meal or snack to your routine. Here are a couple great options to consider:

Energy Bars (above)
Turkey Roll-Ups
Cracked Pepper Potato Chips With Onion Dip
Vegetable Pizza Snacks
Figs With Ricotta, Pistachio and Honey

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One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time

by in Healthy Tips, July 30, 2012

baby carrots
Ever wonder how some people can just eat  all day and never gain weight? While some are just born with a naturally high metabolism (thank your parents), the vast majority of us frequent eaters must choose foods that give us the nutrients and energy we need to function throughout the day for less calories.

Notice it’s not about less food, but less calories. “Nutrient density” represents a food’s nutrient bang for its calorie buck. Understanding nutrient density and learning how to choose nutrient dense foods is the key to eating better . . . and more.

An example: Let’s say you want a snack. Consider one of these three options:

  1. A candy bar
  2. A low-fat yogurt, medium peach and a few almonds
  3. 15 baby carrots, a whole 10 oz. package of cherry tomatoes, a full bunch of celery and a couple tablespoons of hummus or low-fat dressing

You could eat the first option very easily and possibly still be hungry (or crash) an hour later. You’d probably be satisfied with the second.  How about the third option, sound like a bit much? Sound like it’s impossible to eat at one sitting? That’s the point.

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Healthy Eating: If We Know What to Do, Why Don’t We Do It?

by in Healthy Tips, June 29, 2012

fitness
How many times do you hear people say, “I need to eat healthier” or, “I would eat better but . . . (insert excuse or justification here, such as schedule, demands, kids, being tired, etc.)? You can have the best intentions in the world, but in the end, the only way to actually get results and make a difference in health, fitness or weight is by taking action.

Taking action can be challenging; it usually means leaving your comfort zone and making a change to your current habits. So before taking action on any new change: a new role at work, going back to school, working out more or eating better, there are three important questions you should ask yourself to know if you are headed down the right path:

1. Why do I want to take action and make these changes? Eating healthier, whether it be eating more fruits and vegetables or eating less fried food or soda, is a commitment you make to yourself. And the changes you make must be sustained in order to get results and have a real impact on your life. But after a long, stressful day of work, what’s going to be the inspiration that makes you choose a yogurt and a piece of fruit instead of a brownie or bag of chips? What’s going to keep you from having that extra drink when you’re out with friends? Whatever answers those questions is your motivation to change. Consider why you want to make these changes, and what you are changing for. Is it to have more self-confidence in the way you look? Is it to serve as a role model for your kids? These are big motivators that keep you focused when times are tough. Figure out your true motivations for change and taking action will become inevitable!

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One Small Change: What Causes Cravings?

by in Healthy Tips, May 29, 2012
control cravings
Craving cookies? Find out why.

You had a fantastic breakfast of oatmeal with low-fat milk and berries, a mid-morning apple and almonds, and a salad for lunch. Then 3 pm rolls around and it hits you: those cookies your co-worker brought into the office seem just too irresistible to pass up. You start thinking about them more than your work . . . more than your significant other . . . more than anything that exists on earth. Ever have a craving?

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One Small Change: Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen

by in Healthy Tips, April 18, 2012
refrigerator
Out with the old, in with the new.

The weather is getting warmer and spring cleaning is in full effect for many of us throughout the house. When you get to the kitchen, don’t stop after mopping the floors; take a look at the cabinets, pantry and fridge. It’s a good time to capitalize on the new season to overhaul your home food environment; clearing out unhealthy foods is a great first step toward making better eating decisions at home. But once you’ve cleared your pantry of the not-so-healthy processed foods (see our list of the 5 worst offenders and toss those first) and the foods that have been lurking for months past their expiration date, don’t make the mistake of filling your pantry back up with junk.

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