10 Steps to Shopping at Your Local NYC Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ market season is almost in full swing again! While many farmers’ markets are open year-round, truly the best time to shop locally is mid-summer to late fall, when most everything is in season and incredibly fresh. Learning how to shop for local produce at the farmers’ markets may seem a little daunting at first, but once you learn how it becomes autopilot.

union-square-farmers-market-photo-new-tork-city-cc

(Union Square Greenmarket image credit: http://www.jazzhostels.com/)

Shopping locally for your produce in the warmer months is simply the best way to get the most bang for your buck. Local produce is always in season, which means that the farmers have harvested their wares likely within the last few days. There are few, if any, grocery stores that can boast that their products are anywhere near this fresh. While most grocery store produce is harvested while it is still unripe (so that it may ripen and not spoil during transit), most market produce is left on the plant until it is ripe and then picked fresh, which not only allows for the best possible taste to develop but also allows the plant to plump up with more vitamins and minerals1.

June and July are the months that NYC farmers’ markets really kick off for the new season; but, August, September, and October in particular are the months when almost everything is in season and the prices drop––often even lower than the grocery store’s––as each farmer is trying to sell their food quickly since it’s all perishable. If you’re interested in canning, freezing, fermenting, or preserving food in other ways, those three months are the best time to buy.

In short, local food = tastier, healthier, and often cheaper!

Same as most other things, shopping at farmers’ markets is simple once you get a lay of the land. Here are 10 easy steps to guide any farmers’ market novice into becoming an expert.

1. LOCATION & TIME

First, find the nearest market to your house or work. This comprehensive map lists all current NYC markets (an updated map is usually released every July). Most markets in NYC are housed under the Greenmarket program, which is a part of the nonprofit GrowNYC, but there are other organizations such as Harvest Home and Down to Earth that host markets as well. Different organizations have slightly different models for their markets, so you may notice some variations among them.

Check the days and times to make sure you can make it. Most markets open early and close on the early side, too, so you might miss the entire thing if you wait until after work to show up. Arrive as early as possible so the farmers haven’t sold out by the time you get there.

2. CHECK OUT THE VENDORS

If you’re looking for a specific vendor or food item, be sure to search online for the name of the market and its list of farmers, vendors, and food categories. This should give you a good idea what you can find when you get there. Some markets only have produce, while other generally larger markets also have meats, cheeses, bread, honey, wine, pastries, seafood, or even locally made lip balm, lotions, tinctures, salves, soap, and teas.

The historic, world-famous, and ever-popular Union Square Greenmarket has the largest variety of local products in the entire city2, and you can almost always find what you’re looking for there. The prices can be a little higher compared to other markets, especially in the outer boroughs, but the quality and value is excellent. This market is open year-round on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8am to 6pm, weather permitting. The Union Square Greenmarket also features constantly updated lists of the farmers and vendors that will be in attendance at the market each day, so visit the website on the day you plan to go for the most current info. Additionally, the Union Square market has an app for both Apple and Android mobile devices where you can also find regularly updated lists of vendors.

3. BRING REUSABLE BAGS

Okay, so this step isn’t entirely necessary, but it seems a little silly to go through the extra effort of purchasing food that is super healthy, flavorful, and more sustainable…only to carry it all home in incredibly wasteful and polluting single-use plastic bags. If you’re like me, you already have a plastic bag filled with plastic bags sitting at home that you hate even looking at, so why add to the pile? Instead, plan ahead and bring your own bags. I find that canvas tote bags are my favorite type of reusable bag. Although they aren’t quite as sturdy, I also really like this style of reusable bags from ChicoBag or similar companies, which can easily be stuffed into a neat little pocket and then clipped onto your keys, belt loop, wallet, or anywhere so you always have it with you. I find it easiest to always have a few reusable bags tucked into my daily backpack so I’m always prepared to avoid taking home those horrible plastic grocery bags. [Editor’s note: Be sure to regularly wash your reusable bags to avoid any cross-contamination or bacteria build-up.]

Caylee Market

4. VISIT THE MARKET

Now it’s time to actually head to the market––Go! Explore! Taste! Enjoy!

5. WALK THE ENTIRE MARKET FIRST

Unlike the grocery store where like items are usually placed together in marked aisles, at the farmers’ market, different farmers on opposite ends of the location may sell similar or the same products (e.g., eggs) and it’s up to you to find the best option and price. So, take a lap around the market first and compare what’s being offered that day, making note of prices (ask the vendor for the price if you don’t see it posted). Then, retrace your steps and purchase what you liked the most, but not before you figure out how you’re paying (see the next step). The same farmers generally come to the same markets all season, so, just as you’ve memorized where to find your favorite foods at your regular grocery store, over time, you’ll come to recognize the individual stands by name and shopping at your farmers’ market will become easier and easier.

Caylee Market3

6. HOW TO PAY

It’s easiest to bring cash with you to the market. Normally, $20-$60 should cover enough food for about 3 people, so plan accordingly if you need to buy for more people, or are shopping for a party or similar. However, if you’re the type that doesn’t carry cash, then know that you are usually able to use your credit card at the farmers’ market, but it’s important to know that most farmers do not accept credit cards directly. Instead, you should head to the “market information” tent where you will tell them how much you would like to charge to your card, and they will give you wooden tokens equal to this amount that you can then give to the farmers in exchange for their delicious wares. You can also use SNAP benefits in this same way. If you have a wooden token worth $10, for example, but only spend $9 at a farm stand, the farmer should give you the remaining $1 in cash. Farmers cannot give cash back for SNAP tokens, thought, so you’ll have to purchase exactly the dollar amount on the token. [Editor’s note: If you’d like to volunteer at a GrowNYC Greenmarket tent or other position, click here to fill out and submit an application. Help is always needed and appreciated!]

Caylee Market2

GrowNYC market information tent

7. GET FREE PRODUCE WITH HEALTH BUCKS COUPONS

It’s easy to get free produce from the market! First, check this map of all NYC farmers’ markets and locate the markets with a carrot symbol next to their name. At these markets, the NYC Department of Health and other organizations host cooking and nutrition workshops that are each about 20-30 minutes in length. At the end of each workshop, every participant receives a coupon called Health Bucks, which are worth $2 in produce. Take this coupon to any farmer in exchange for $2 in fruits and vegetables! There is no limit to the number of workshops you can attend.

If you receive SNAP benefits, for every $5 you spend in SNAP at the market, you will receive an additional $2 in Health Bucks to purchase extra produce. Using your SNAP benefits at the market in this way allows you to buy 40% more food!

8. TRY ONE NEW FRUIT OR VEGETABLE REGULARLY

The farmers’ market has an incredibly vast array of produce, much of which you probably have never seen or eaten before. Be adventurous! Buy a small amount of something new and ask the farmer how to cook it. Whether you opt to try Jerusalem artichokes, romanesco, purslane, ramps, papalo, or something else totally new, make sure you write down or take a photo of its name so that you can also look up recipes later. Many vegetables do well simply sliced or diced, then sautéed. Yummy and nutritious!

Romanesco

(romanesco image credit: http://puntdesabor.com/)

9. BRING YOUR COMPOST & TEXTILES RECYCLING

There are even more ways to reduce your carbon footprint at the farmers’ market. If your NYC neighborhood does not yet offer compost (food waste) collection, then you can bring your compost to the farmers’ market. Instead of throwing away food scraps where they will just end up trapped inside a landfill generating greenhouse gases, collect any and all unwanted food scraps and drop them off at the market. From the market, your food scraps will be taken to a facility where they will be allowed to break down completely and turn back into dark, rich, soil. Kind of stinky but also kind of magic, right? Find markets that accept compost here.

Also, you can recycle any old clothing or textiles at the farmers’ market. The average New Yorker tosses 46 pounds of clothing and other textiles in the trash each year3. Unwanted clothes do not belong in the trash, so give them a second life by recycling them properly. Find markets that accept textile recycling here.

10. ENJOY!

Go home and whip up your delicious, inexpensive, and local bounty into a mouth-watering meal!

Remember, the farmers’ market is local, which means you will never find tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes, or coconuts, because those plants simply cannot grow in or near New York. And, since the market is seasonal, you won’t find peaches, berries, tomatoes, or other summer and fall produce in the winter or spring months. Often, there is confusion between actual farmers’ markets and other produce stands. If a stand has produce that isn’t locally grown or is out-of-season, then it is not part of a farmers’ market. [Editor’s note: For example, the carts you may pass on the street corner near your apartment or office building, or subway may sell fruit that is fresh, but not necessarily local or in-season.]

To conclude, I’d like to leave you with a list of some of my all time favorite farmers’ markets in the city:

  • Of course, the Union Square Greenmarket is not to be missed. At its peak, this market has more than 250,000 customers per week, and boasts more than one thousand varieties of fruits and vegetables4.
  • Another great market is the Jackson Heights Greenmarket in Queens, #128 on the map. This market has a wide variety of products, including meat, cheese, honey, and wine. They also host nutrition workshops where you can get Health Bucks for free produce. Bonus: There are nearby street vendors selling Mexican tamales that make for an excellent breakfast!
  • Finally, the 125th Street FreshConnect Farmers’ Market (#79 on the map) not only has a wide array of products, but also plays music and hosts events that celebrate the cultural roots of historical Harlem. In a quickly gentrifying area, it’s exciting to connect with the history of the area.

Happy shopping!

[Editor’s note: If you don’t live in New York City, you can learn about resources and programs in your state by visiting the Farmers’ Market Coalition website.]

References:

  1. Frith, K. (2007). “Is Local More Nutritious?” The Center for Health and the Global Environment website.
  2. Union Square, Manhattan. Wikipedia.com.
  3. Clothing Is Not Garbage.” GrowNYC website.
  4. Union Square, Manhattan. Wikipedia.com.

Caylee Clay Author Pic

Guest post by Caylee Clay, RDN. Click here to visit Caylee’s website or find her on Instagram: @eat_yer_veggies. All photos property of Caylee Clay, RDN, unless otherwise noted.

Bigger Fish to Fry

When it comes to getting away (from it all and for a decent stretch of time), how often is too often, if there even is such a thing? How much is not enough? I just returned from a week-long vacation after having not been on one for over three years, so, to answer my own question: three years might be too long to go without getting away.

This trip was pure bliss, not just because I was traveling with my honey, but because I’ve been so bonkers with school and business responsibilities, I promised myself I’d embrace the feeling of doing nothing. Being ever the planner, though, I enforced a strict dress code of “nothing with buttons or zippers!” and made sure everything we packed fit into carry-on luggage only so we could whiz through the airport as we pleased. Nothing will hold me back from bliss!

Thankfully, I’m not the outdoors-y, adventurous type to begin with, and the bf accommodates my lackadaisical ways, so it was easy to forego signing up for excursions and saying no to the local tour vendors who marched up and down our beach every hour, trying to lure us from beneath our umbrellas and onto a parasailing boat.

TCI Beach Umbrellas

I’m fine right here, thanks.

Grace Bay Beach ranks every year as one of the best beaches in the world and is located on the island of Providenciales within the Turks & Caicos Island (TCI) chain. We’ve been to Grace Bay three times and it was our second time back to Alexandra Resort (the same spot we booked the last time we took a vacation), which just turned all-inclusive and lost on us because we don’t eat a ton while we’re away, I’m a teetotaler, and see above regarding excursions. Meal prices onsite seemed a little exorbitant for us as a pay-as-you-go couple and TCI imports almost everything, so, while we made a point to go grocery shopping as soon as we landed and most of the items at Graceway Gourmet were equivalent to what we’d find shopping at home, quality-wise, it was a little challenging sticking to our food budget.

Version 2

“Ugh with this view,” said no one ever.

I think it goes without saying that when you’re on an island getaway, you’ll be eating a ton of fish (if pescetarianism is your thing). In TCI, though, most of that fish is in the form of conch fritters or fried grouper, so we were happy that our supermarket haul allowed us to give our tummies a break every few meals.

Version 2

A delightful veggie platter from our grocery trip.

Toward the end of our stay, we ventured back to have a meal at Lupo (you can’t really take me anywhere without me having a pasta craving at some point), a delightful rustic Italian restaurant that we found during our last stay on Grace Bay three years ago. I was thrilled to see they were still open for business and thriving.

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Enjoying Lupo leftovers (with a handful of greens thrown in, of course) on the balcony.

Now that we’ve returned from our getaway, I think I’m still in vacation mode and hope this feeling lingers a little longer. Being in New York City, it’s easy to get caught back up in the whirlwind of this environment and forget all about riding that wave of rest and relaxation. But, I’ll tell you this much: there is no way I’ll be letting another three years pass without giving myself another proper vacation. After all, what’s more important than to empty out your brain every so often, visualize amazing things, and take in some of the beautiful gems that nature and life have to offer you?

The Chicken and the Egg

We just wrapped up National Women’s Health Week and it got me thinking, being a national woman and all, how most of my clients and classmates––females in their 20s and 30s––are just now developing their identities, getting their first “real” jobs, and starting families, while my close female friends and I are in our mid- to late-40s, reminiscing about the million lives we seem to have already lived.

I’ve always said it’s never too late to start…whatever––a new habit, a new skill, a new career––but sometimes, UGH. Who has the time and energy? The older I get, the more set in my ways I’ve become (mostly about my routine and schedule) and now, with what already seems like two full-time jobs, I have to add a third: taking care of myself.

I was tempted to title this post “The Spring Chicken and the Rotten Eggs” because I believe that, while I’m young at heart and open-minded enough to want to soak up every new lesson and experience that comes my way, I’m starting to physically and mentally feel different, depleted. At 48 years old, I act half my age, but feel twice it. (Granted, the last few years of returning to school and rotating through my dietetic internship probably fast-tracked the age process for me.) I’ve got so many thoughts and ideas rushing through my brain at all times and a fairly full schedule. Before my feet even hit the ground, I’m a good part of the way through my to-do list. Yet, no sooner do I break for lunch, it feels like it’s time to wind down for bed and I’ve barely chipped away at the rest of my daily tasks.

Way, way back when I first learned about how oocytes develop and transition to ova, I did some mental math and figured I’d be hitting menopause when I turned 45. (The average age in America is about 511.) It hasn’t happened yet, but with each passing year, it has become all I can think about, waiting for it like a phantom hiding around the corner, ready to pop out and surprise me at any moment. I so want to embrace the decades in front of me, but I’m a planner by nature and I’ll admit I’m concerned about how to work around some of these challenges that seem to come with menopause. I’m already anxious, irritable, and depressed on any given day, sweat profusely when I’m barely moving, and often find it difficult to concentrate on—oooh! Squirrel!

But I think it’s easier to do than to undo, so how should we prepare for what awaits us on the other side of this decade?

17th-Menopause-talk

(image credit: http://www.sproutlifestyle.com/)

For starters, let’s rejigger our numbers so that we’re not overeating. To maintain a healthy weight, we’ll require about 100-200 calories less each day than we did twenty years ago2. (Click here to calculate your daily needs.) But be sure to still pay attention to nutrition by eating high-quality protein (including those of the plant-based variety like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds), a healthy mix of fruits and veggies, fiber-rich whole grains, and good fats like those from olive oil, salmon, and avocado.

We should also be keeping active and including strength training in our weekly exercise regimen to protect bone density and muscle mass and reduce our risk of fractures (ain’t no fun getting a hip replacement at any age, let alone when you’re 70)3. Plus, if you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re likely to gain weight.

Calcium plays a major role in supporting our health as we age, so be sure you’re getting your recommended 1,000mg a day by adding foods like yogurt, sardines, tofu, or broccoli to your meals (click here to read my previous post on calcium)4. Vitamin D is a big deal, too, and the easiest way to get 600 IUs is through daily sun exposure. Be careful not to overdo it here, though, because you don’t want to chance getting sunburned. A mere 10 minute walk outside during lunch will suffice. Otherwise, you can add a mix of fish, fortified dairy, cheese, or eggs (with the yolks) to your daily meal plan5.

Sleep is also important. Start setting an alarm for yourself about an hour before bedtime and give yourself time to unwind, relax, reflect, and mentally prepare for the next day6. This means detaching from technology, so no screens once that alarm goes off.

I’m considering putting together a month-long challenge in July for females over 40 (but open to anyone who wants to join)––something related to weight loss and lifestyle habits. I realize the summer, which can be packed with graduation parties, barbecues, and other social events, may be especially difficult to stick to new eating guidelines; but that’s why it’s called a challenge. Besides, I don’t believe in waiting for the “perfect” time to start anything and I think if we can do it then, we can sustain it long-term.

If any of the above has resonated with you, regardless of your age or menopausal status, please leave a comment below. Let me also know if you’d be interested in joining our July challenge. In the meantime, please check out this handout (that I designed last year when I was a dietetic intern at Betances Health Center) to help you better understand some of the wellness measures you can take through each decade of your life or click here to access the fact sheet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics if you’ve already entered the wonder(ful) world of menopause.

References:

  1. Women’s Health: Menopause.” The Center for Menstrual Disorders & Reproductive Choice website.
  2. Warren, R.M. (n.d.) “8 Diet Changes Women Must Make After 40.” Health.com website.
  3. Munger, R.G., Cerhan, J.R. & Chiu, B.C. (1999). Prospective study of dietary protein intake and risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 69(1), 147-152.
  4. Dawson-Hughes, B., Dallal, G.E., Krall, E.A., Sadowski, L., Sahyoun, N., & Tannenbaum, S. (1990). A Controlled Trial of the Effect of Calcium Supplementation on Bone Density in Postmenopausal WomenThe New England Journal of Medicine, 323, 878-883.
  5. Calvo, M.S., Whiting, S.J., & Barton, C.N. (2004). Vitamin D fortification in the United States and Canada: current status and data needs. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 80(6), 1710S-1716S.
  6. Jacobsen, M. (2014). Midlife Nutrition — Helping Women Over 40 Overcome Nutrition Challenges. Today’s Dietitian, 16(3), 30.

Open Wide: May 2017 Edition

These days, everyone from professor/author/food policy advocate Marion Nestle to my grad school classmates to my dietetic colleagues inspires me. In addition to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I have also been a student member of its many Dietetics Practice Groups (DPGs) such as Food & Culinary Professionals, Nutrition Entrepreneurs, and Public Health/Community Nutrition, among others. I make a point to carve out time every morning to read the many newsletters I receive to develop as much insight as possible. The more I learn, the more driven I am to do the best I can and make a difference in the field of nutrition…locally, nationally, and globally.

My long-term goal is to help fix what ails so many people in this country by teaching them (a) how and what to eat to optimize their health and reduce their risk of disease, (b) how to be savvier food shoppers, and (c) to really understand that what goes inside their bodies can have a huge impact on how they feel and act. Becoming a Registered Dietitian, opening my own private practice, and continuing to pursue a Master of Science degree in nutrition is setting me on the path to becoming an expert in my field. But there’s always so much more I can be doing and want to do.

Macaulay

(photo credit: Vickie Savvides, Sharon Pang)

In the next decade, I want to make DishWithDina a brand across all media to reach a wider audience and help people achieve their healthful lifestyle goals, be it through a talk show or a road show. For now, I’m starting small and allowing myself to be patient in my pursuits. I’ve been keeping up with weekly blog posts that I hope you have been finding educational and/or entertaining. This summer, I plan to launch DishWithDinaTV and cannot wait to share the line-up with you! By the end of the year, I expect to engage with more and more of you, both in-person and virtually, and look forward to learning about your own food stories.

Every minute of my life up to this point has paved the way for me to succeed in these new (ad)ventures. I am fearless, I am committed, I want to continue to be inspired, and I am thrilled to have a chance to be inspiring to others.

A Salad a Day

Eating healthfully does not have to be a difficult feat of strength and will. In fact, I encourage you to create a simple salad every day based solely on ingredients you have in your house or can easily grab at your local grocer and dump into a bowl.

I have been having so much fun with Mason jar salads lately. (Yes, food nerds like me think salads are fun.) Originally, my meal planning and prep work used to take up half a day every Sunday. I would divide all my ingredients into their own containers so I could mix and match and assemble a variety of veggie-friendly meals for myself during the week. But, lo and behold! I became a Mason jar salad convert.

Mason Jar Salad

My Mason jars are extra large (32 oz) and light green, but you could go for the clear, smaller version if you’re slowly working your way into the meal prep and veggie lifestyle. Assembly is easy, but requires some thought as you don’t want your fragile, leafy greens sitting in a puddle of dressing for three days. HurryTheFoodUp shows you how to properly structure your salad and TheMuse gives you lots of ideas about the kinds of foods you can integrate into your salads, so play around and experiment with different flavors each week. Try to always have a protein (chicken or chickpeas), a carb (sweet potatoes or carrots), and a fat (avocado or walnuts) in your combo. When you’re ready, you can simply shake up your salad and eat directly out of the jar or shake, dump everything into a bowl, and toss in a handful of croutons. Ta da!

Mason Jar Avocado

For more information and ideas about how to get lots of veggies and other yummy, good foods into your daily meals, check out my previous blog post “It’s Easy Being Green…” And please leave a comment below and share with us what’s been working for you or what you’re struggling with. We’re here to help make healthful eating as easy as possible!

Lead the Way to a Healthy Office Culture

Sometimes it seems we spend all of our time at work, and our eating habits are influenced very much by our office environment––from the tempting vending machines to the cool new lunch spot around the block to the boss buying bagels with cream cheese every morning.

Sitting down at work for eight hours (or more) a day is also a major disadvantage to our health. It increases the likelihood of heart disease, weight gain, and other illnesses. Not to mention, when we leave work, most of us sit in the car or subway, and then sit at home. That is a lot of sitting in one day.

You can still maintain a healthy, nutritious lifestyle at your office if you plan accordingly, make small changes every day, and learn how to “work” your workday to your advantage.

Workplace pic

(image credit: Hunter McMillan)

Use your workday structure to plan healthy eating. The great thing about being at work is having that daily structure. Although you may not know when certain stressors are coming your way, you usually know exactly when you have your lunch break and can escape for a little bit. Set that time aside for yourself to eat healthy, and mindfully, without any distractions. View your lunch time as an important meeting with yourself where you refuel and recharge.

Get a colleague on your team. It is important to have friends––and coworkers––who can support and live a healthy lifestyle with you. Announce to your colleagues that your health is important to you and tell them about your goals. Before you know it, you may have your whole office practicing healthier eating habits. Also, your boss will be thankful. After all, healthy employees are more cost-effective and productive!

Plan and pack ahead. This is key for eating healthy at work. Pack yourself a lunchbox the night before with a variety of healthy snacks that include fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. If you have a fridge in your office, use it to your advantage, and pack a yogurt and fresh berries. Make sure you have some options so when a craving creeps up, you have a good mix of foods to chose from. If you stay at work late, bring extra snacks. Sure, packing ahead of time may be a little time-consuming, but once you get in the habit of having healthier eating options at work, you’ll feel better and find that it was worth sacrificing some time upfront.

Keep a stash of backup snacks. In case you completely forget your lunchbox at home, or are simply rushing around, make sure you have some extra snacks at work. Some great options of non-perishable items are low-sugar protein bars and trail mixes, low-sodium beef jerky, and instant oatmeal. Keep items that are healthy, but not too tempting. You wouldn’t want to be reaching for your backup snacks simply because the temptation is there. This is your emergency stash.

Keep a clean desk. That is, clean from candy jars, cookies, and any other snacks. Studies show that snacks are more tempting when you see them, so try to keep them out of sight1. Follow these simple steps: Close the lid on that jar of candy and put it away in a cabinet. Move the box of donuts from the meeting room, to the break room. Take an alternate route to your desk to avoid that break room temptation.

Have a water bottle in sight. Staying hydrated is just as important as healthy eating, so always keep a water bottle on your desk and take breaks to sip on it. If needed, set an alarm clock to remind yourself to drink up. Other than keeping you hydrated, water will also help you feel fuller and prevent you from misjudging your feeling of thirst for hunger.

Break, move, and stretch. Every hour or so, take a few minutes to walk somewhere, whether it’s to the furthest bathroom or even for a breath of fresh air. If you don’t have anywhere to go, try to stretch at your desk, or do some squats, maybe your colleagues will join you! Finally, when you leave the office, ditch the elevator and walk down those stairs. Feeling even more active? Park your car few blocks away from the office or walk to a further subway station to get in a few extra steps on your way home.

It might take some time and dedication to manage your weight and eat healthy in an office environment, but it can be done. Stand up for your health, set some time aside to plan, and you’ll notice the difference soon enough. Don’t be surprised if your whole office follows your lead. Energy and a great mood is contagious, so cheers to a healthy office culture!

Editor’s note: Did you know May is Global Employee Health & Fitness Month? Click here to learn more.

References:

  1. Sonnentag, S., Pundt, A., & Venz, L. (2017). Distal and proximal predictors of snacking at work: A daily-survey study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(2):151-162.

Marta Dulaba Author Pic

Guest post by Martha Dulaba, nutrition student

Tending the Farm

I started the DishWithDina blog back in April 2005 (Happy Blogiversary to me!) as a way to remember all the yummy places I went to after I moved to New York City from New Jersey. In the transition from one platform to another and then integrating everything into this website, I think I lost a handful of posts along the way; but, I kept all the business cards and photographs (I was snapping pics of my meals before Instagram was even a thing) from every outing.

One of my rules of living in the city has always been to never visit the same place twice. With so much to do and see and eat, why not try something different every time you leave your apartment or venture in from somewhere else? Besides, you can’t ever guarantee your favorite places will be around long enough, so might as well check out as many as you can before they’re gone. (RIP, Benny’s Burritos and 7A.)

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Babies! (04/17/2005)

Such is the way with life, too, though. I don’t think any of us intentionally want to regret not doing something differently, not pursuing an avenue because it was unfamiliar, or fearing what would––or wouldn’t––happen if we ventured off our regular path. In that realm is where I find myself these days. It’s been over six months since I completed my year-long dietetic internship and I am still having issues recovering from the (albeit sometimes self-imposed) toll that experience took on my brain and body. But, as the seasons change and the year progresses and time between the “doing” gets larger and wider, I find myself reflecting on what could be instead of what should have been.

My grad school is finally letting up (one class left!) to a point that I see more flexibility and freedom in my schedule. I’m allowing myself to try new things, to remember what life was like when I would roam the streets of Manhattan, weaving in and out of each neighborhood, tasting and sampling the cultures and the livelihoods that awaited me. I went back to practicing yoga this week after a three-year-long hiatus. I bought hydrating facial masks and have been using them regularly. I met a friend for lunch and then went for a walk afterward. I find myself bolting out of the building and going for a run the minute a ray of sunshine peeks out from the clouds. For the first time in years, I’m reading books that have nothing to do with food, nutrition, or science and everything to do with helping me get back on track, refueling and improving my psyche so that I’m well prepared to develop and grow as each new season unfolds and new opportunities come my way.

In addition, I’ve met dozens of wonderful new people, after starting my private practice in October, who have donated their time and energy to help get my business up and running and now they’re contributing to and breathing new life into this blog. I look forward to sharing more of their contributions––and more of my own insights––with you over the year. And I invite you to share with us what rituals you enjoy, what goals you intend to pursue, and what old habits in your life you’re letting go of in order to make room for new ones.

Every Kid Healthy

The percentage of children with obesity nationwide has more than tripled since the 1970s1. The current average diet for the majority of nationwide kids consists of chips, candy, and soda, along with a not-so-nutritious school lunch and frequent fast food dinners. Children with obesity are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and other chronic health conditions and diseases that impact physical health, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes.

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(photo image credit: https://kurbo.com/)

That’s why Action for Healthy Kids has established “Every Kid Healthy Week” from April 24-28 as a great opportunity to help children develop healthier eating habits. The annual observance, which takes place among American schools nationwide, was created to celebrate health in schools and achievements in wellness. Its focus lies on the current efforts partnering schools across the nation have made and continue to make to improve the health and wellness of their students, through nutrition education, physical activity, and learning. Anyone can be a part of this promotion where schools are invited to host an event either during the official week itself or the entire month of April.

Action for Healthy Kids calls for volunteers of all ages who are passionate about helping children in the fight against obesity to contribute their time and energy in the events scheduled on the organization’s website. If you’d like to sign up to volunteer, search the website to see if your neighborhood school is already listed as a partner and if any events are scheduled with the school. If your school is not listed, ask them to register, take the pledge, and join! Action for Healthy Kids provides several resources, event ideas, and past success stories that any school can implement with the help of trusting volunteers. You don’t need to be a health professional to inspire children to take action.

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(photo image credit: https://i0.wp.com/)

Action for Healthy Kids understands that a child who is frequently active and maintains a balanced diet is much better equipped when it comes to being able to focus and learn in school. A healthy diet consisting of a wide variety of well-proportioned foods promotes optimal growth, enhances brain development, affects intellectual, emotional, and psychological development, and, most importantly, prevents obesity in our children. Aspire to become a role model to the children in your community: help kick-start a field day event, teach kids yoga, tutor on the dangers of excessive sugar consumption…and don’t forget to take the pledge!

References:

  1. Fryar CD, Carroll MD, Ogden CL (2014). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents: United States, 1963-1965 through 2011-2012. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Health Statistics.
Abigail Ortiz Author Pic

Guest post by Abigail Ortiz, nutrition student

Things We Don’t Talk About at the Table

Ah, poop. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last four-plus years of studying nutrition, it’s that Registered Dietitians loooooove to talk about poop.

And why shouldn’t we? It’s the one way to determine how healthy our clients are eating––whether they’re getting enough fiber in their diets, if they’re drinking enough water––and how healthy they are in general1. The color and consistency of someone’s bowel movements could help diagnose everything from stomach ulcers to celiac disease to colon cancer.

If you didn’t already know, there is a ginormous amount of evidence that the gut and mind are very much connected, so it makes sense that April is not only Stress Awareness Month, but it’s also IBS Awareness Month. (I could write about and discuss mental health and all facets of gut physiology every day for an entire year and wouldn’t make a dent in the amount of topics that can be covered under these categories.)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of those elusive gastrointestinal conditions that seems to get diagnosed only after other conditions can be ruled out, which can be frustrating for the person with IBS because there are sometimes no physical signs and no specific cause for it. People with IBS usually experience abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea (IBS can be considered IBS-C with constipation, IBS-D with diarrhea, or IBS-A when alternating with both), and/or bloating, among other things, and may also have some sort of sensitivity to stress and diet. None of these triggers may seem consistent during each flare-up, so it’s important for anyone suffering from the condition to jot down the what, when, where, and how an episode occurs to help recognize if there’s a pattern they can relay to their doctor.

Thankfully, once diagnosed, people with IBS can manage their diet, lifestyle habits, and stress to keep their pain and discomfort under control. Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) also helps as we understand how to incorporate a healthy, balanced diet and other treatment guidelines, based on scientific evidence, to manage the condition2. An issue with looking online for self-treatment of IBS is that it can be quite confusing and, because the human body is so magnificent, there is no general rule that applies to anyone suffering with IBS. Instead, it will most likely be a trial-and-error approach in adjusting one’s intake of fiber, carbohydrates, and fat to determine what alleviates or exacerbates the symptoms. The good news is that researchers continue to study nutrition therapy for IBS, so expect to see even more information on this issue in the very near future3.

If you think you might have IBS, please meet with your doctor first and request a referral to a gastroenterologist and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. It’s no fun being in pain, but it’s less fun having your condition worsen because you don’t understand what role your diet and lifestyle might play in it.

References:

  1. Greenfield, P. (2014). 7 Things Your Poop Says About You. Prevention website.
  2. Palmer, S. (2009). Soothing the Symptoms of IBS With Diet Therapy, Today’s Dietitian, 11(6), 34.
  3. Gibson, P.R. (2017). The evidence base for efficacy of the low FODMAP diet in irritable bowel syndrome: is it ready for prime time as a first-line therapy? Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 32(S1), 32-35.

Boiled Over

It’s fitting that April is Stress Awareness Month, being that I, along with so many of my friends, classmates, and colleagues, are suffering from anxiety and malaise lately. For me, it’s the perpetual reprioritization of school assignments and business ventures, both time-sensitive, that have me shirking my self-care. I also thrive on sunshine and all we’ve had lately here in the northeast has been clouds, rain, and more clouds and rain. Being in the health and wellness field doesn’t mean I don’t suffer the same triggers and effects as the rest of the population when it comes to mindlessness and emotional eating. In fact, that sometimes adds to my stress because I should know better and do better and be the example to my clients and everyone else in my circles, but I’m only human.

I realize it’s easier said than done, but reading the research and other information that’s out there lets me know I’m not alone and has helped me gain control––even if only temporarily––over some of my knee-jerk reactions when it comes to dealing with stress. I’m sharing the following with you in hopes that, if you are dealing with stress in your life, this might help quell your angst as well.

When it comes to overall wellbeing, I believe four factors play a role: food, mood, sleep, and exercise. Stress can affect any one of those and when one falls down, they all fall down. In regards to hunger, specific hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, insulin, and ghrelin are responsible for the food choices we make1. Being stressed also tends to leave us sleep-deprived and unmotivated to exercise (or motivated to drink alcohol), which can contribute to weight gain2.  But, when we overeat, comfort eat, and/or deny ourselves sleep and physical activity, we end up feeling guilty and, most likely, more stressed for having made poor decisions, falling off the wagon (if we were on one to begin with), and needing to start all over to get back on track to health.

Obviously, focusing on a healthful, balanced, nutrient-dense, mostly plant-based diet can help support us in times of stress and in general as some anti-oxidant foods can also act as anti-anxiety foods3, but how do we get to that mindset when we’re already so far down the rabbit hole?

One small step you can make is to clear the clutter, both figuratively and literally. Stop to reassess the true problem at hand, take a breath and step aside for a moment to get your thoughts together and decide what the next step should be, focus and figure out if there’s anything you can do to get rid of the stressor(s) in your path, forward plan to be sure you’re getting enough breaks during the day and the week so you can enter into challenging situations with a clear head to begin with instead of an already muddled one, watch a funny show, reach out to friends who can talk you down from the ledge you’re on and help put things back in perspective, meditate for 10 minutes or go punch something (preferably an actual punching bag) for 20, tell someone you love them, and, while you’re at it, tell yourself the same.

References:

  1. Lebre, M. (2016). Stress and weight management — Learn about the body’s physiological responses to stress and effect stress has on weight managementToday’s Dietitian, 18(4), 42.
  2. How stress can make us overeat. (n.d). Harvard Health Publications website.
  3. Naidoo, U. (2016). Nutritional strategies to ease anxietyHarvard Health Publications website.