Foods that Protect Your Skin From the Summer Sun

Summer means fun in the sun, whether that includes a beach trip, days spent at the pool or a weekend hike in the mountains. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, so it's really important that you and your family protect yourselves during all your outdoor activities this summer.

Obviously, there's no substitute for using an SPF lotion that's appropriate for your skin -- liberally, every day (seriously... no skimping!). You can also replenish hydration at the end of the day with an ultra moisturizing lotion. But bet you didn't know that what you eat throughout the day can also do a lot to aid in protecting your skin from the sun. If you're looking for some ways to up your skin protection via nutrition, you're in luck. Here are some foods you can eat to assist your body in both protecting itself from the sun and in repairing any damage.

Kiwi

When people think about vitamin C, they typically think about citrus fruits, like oranges. Kiwis actually have more vitamin C, about 127 milligrams compared to an orange's 80 milligrams. This antioxidant has been shown to protect and treat UV damage to your skin by increasing its capacity for fibroblasts to repair any damage done by the sun. Kiwis are the perfect fruit for a summer dessert. Mix them with any of your other favorite summertime fruits and throw together a guilt-free refreshing treat. 

Tomatoes

These juicy summertime favorites should be next on your summertime shopping list. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to increases skin protection from the sun in several studies. Summer is the perfect time to pick up tomatoes at a local farmers market for optimal freshness. Toss them with fat-free feta cheese, olive oil and basil for a quick and light lunch.

Almonds

Almonds are packed with vitamin E, which contains antioxidants that repair sun damage. In fact, a quarter cup of almonds contains about 45 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin E, making them a perfect snack to bring to the beach. Choose pre-portioned snack-packs or almond butter packets to make sure you don't mindlessly overeat.

Salmon

You've heard over and over that salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but what you may not know is that omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects that may decrease sun sensitivity. Since sunburn and sun damage is essentially inflammation, a diet heavy in salmon might help both prevent and treat, as well as protect your skin from free-radical damage. If you're looking for an easy way to change up your summertime menu, salmon can be your new go-to dinner. It's versatile, easy to make, and is one of the healthiest (and lightest) proteins for an evening meal. Top a big green salad with a piece of steamed salmon with lots of lemon juice and herbs for an easy, but flavorful dinner.

Green Tea

A study funded by NIH and the National Cancer Institute found that "drinking green tea can reverse the effects of sun damage to the skin and prevent skin cancer." It does this by preventing UV radiation -- the induced suppression of the immune system, which is a risk factor for skin cancer. 

Cocoa

The flavonoids in dark chocolate have been shown to fight skin cancer and shield skin from sun damage because they absorb UV light. But before you run out and grab the nearest candy bar, you should know that it's still possible to obtain the skin protecting benefits with a small portion (about three ounces). 

Chia Seeds 

Chia seeds are a superfood superstar for good reason. Not only do they provide lots of fiber, science is starting to realize that chia can be great for your skin, as well, since it's packed with antioxidants and omega-3s. Mix them with coconut milk and chill overnight in the fridge, then add fresh fruit for a summery take on your standard morning oatmeal or portable chia bar. 

Raspberries 

These delicious little berries contain a powerful combination of antioxidants and vitamin C to protect your skin from the sun and skin cancer. They are also packed with fiber (eight grams per cup) and are super easy to add into your daily snacks. Toss some into your yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal for refreshing natural sweetness. I like to spread organic peanut or almond butter onto Ezekiel toast and add fresh raspberries on top instead of jelly. 

Flax

If you haven't tried flax yet, this summer is the time to do it. The National Institute of Health says that flaxseed oil, in particular, can protect your skin against UV rays and keep your skin moisturized so it won't dry out. Best of all, you don't even have to cook this seed, and you shouldn't since cooking breaks down the nutrients. 

Protect your skin for years to come from the outside AND the inside by eating these foods all summer long!

Recovery Strategy: The Veggie Night

Want to jump-start your diet week? Had a long weekend or vacation get away from you? Or perhaps you had an over-indulgence at a barbecue or picnic. Try a Veggie Night. A Veggie Night will re-set your eating clock and get you back to clean and mean. A Veggie Night is just what it sounds like: a night where your dinner is comprised of simply vegetables. Some of my clients routinely use Veggie Nights one night a week as a matter of routine. Others reserve their Veggie Nights as a re-set tool or when you get home very late and just want something simple and fast. A Veggie Night dinner might be a baked white or sweet potato and two measured cups of steamed vegetables of your choice. This meal can be on your plate in under ten minutes if you use your trusty microwave and you'll feel back on track in no time!

Ten Tips for Keeping Weekend Weight Off

Brunch anyone?

Brunch anyone?

You're only human if halfway through a workweek, you've already begun a countdown to the weekend. What's not to love? There's extra time to spend with the kids, dining out with friends, and sleeping in. But if you're not careful with your choices, the weekend can really wreak havoc on a waistline. Between Friday happy hours and Sunday brunches, the weekend is jam-packed with opportunities to eat tempting food. Some people use it as the perfect excuse to let their diet slip away. You've worked hard all week to keep your weight in check, don't give up now! From Friday night to Monday morning, keep these 10 tips in mind so you don't end up with more weight than when you started!

  1. Don't be a weekend warrior. Putting pressure on yourself to lose weight while trying to enjoy your downtime can potentially stress you out and lead to emotional eating. Take a more realistic approach and aim to maintain your weight instead of losing it. If you wake up on Monday at the same weight you were when you left the office on Friday, consider yourself a success!
  2. Start strong. The first few hours of your weekend can set the tone for the whole thing. For instance, if you start off your Friday night with happy hour and a couple slices of pizza for dinner, you'll probably continue this behavior all the way to Monday morning. It ruins the effort you put in all week, and makes you less likely to reset your good habits when the workweek begins. Kick off your weekend the right way with a flavorful yet reasonable dinner option. Try a lean cut of red meat, such as filet mignon, to ensure satisfaction without tons of calories. Or if you're craving Chinese food, allow yourself to enjoy some Moo Shu chicken; just skip the pancakes and opt for lettuce wraps instead. It's perfectly fine to reward yourself after a week well done, as long as you choose something that will keep you on the right track!
  3. Get in some "you" time. Lazy weekends are great every once in a while, but allot some time into your morning to work up a sweat. Putting it off until later in the day gives you the chance to get too busy and just not go. Simply get up a half-hour earlier, and hit the gym. Even twenty minutes will help! Got some extra free-time on the weekends? Try out that class you've been eyeing or go for a long run in the park with your running-buddy! Make working out a social activity and you'll be more likely to fit it in. 
  4. Take advantage of breakfast. It really can be the most important meal of the day. I recommend clients take a few moments of their downtime to enjoy some morning fare. There are so many healthy, smart options readily available. Nix the pancakes and calorie-laden waffles and order an omelette instead. An egg-white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and peppers has only about 250 calories, but tons of satiating protein. Switch it up and choose hot sauce over ketchup since it contains less sugar. Avoid starting your morning with any type of simple carb such as bagels, Danishes or muffins. These types of foods will only lead to additional carbohydrate cravings throughout the day.
  5. You snooze, you lose. If you do decide to sleep in, don't feel as though you have to make up for the meal you may have missed. Move on to whatever meal is next, and go from there. You may need to add a second snack later in the afternoon, but it's much more ideal than doubling up on meals.
  6. Think ahead, and be prepared. Planning meals ahead of time and packing a few healthy food items can be your best defense against fast food and mindless weekend snacking. Why waste the calories on the drive-thru when you can enjoy something scrumptious at dinner with friends instead? Save your indulgence for a time that is really worth it. Keep a fiber bar and a piece of fruit with you at all times. You'd be surprised how this pairing can fill you up and ward off future cravings.
  7. Embrace finite foods. Extra free time can mean extra pantry time. There's less structure on the weekend, which increases your chance of going on a random pretzel binge. Keep finite foods on hand, so you know exactly where your snack begins and ends. Stick to items like a Greek yogurt with a single-serve pack of almonds or a high-fiber nutrition bar. Avoid snacks that aren't pre-portioned or next thing you know, you'll have seven servings of trail mix under your belt!
  8. Enjoy one extravagance. Dining out is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax after a hard week. It can seem virtually impossible to stick to a boring grilled protein and a side of steamed vegetables when everyone around you is partaking in a decadent meal. Whether it's a second cocktail, a shared dessert, or a reasonable portion of starch, allow yourself to enjoy one extravagance. Be sure to plan it at a time when you're around loved ones. It automatically makes the treat that much more enjoyable.
  9. Stay hydrated. Daily hydration routines usually fall by the wayside on the weekend. People tend to weigh more on Monday because they've dined out for the past few days and consumed considerably less water. Aim for at least a liter by lunch to ensure proper hydration.
  10. Recover on Sunday. Unwind after a busy weekend, and opt for a low-calorie frozen entrée for dinner. Choose one that's less than 300 calories and 500mg of sodium and has at least 3 to 4 grams of fiber. It's a controlled, finite meal that will give you a head start on your week. Or, partake in a "veggie night" dinner to recover from a particularly rough weekend. Choose 2 cups of your favorite non-starchy vegetable, and pair with one baked white or sweet potato. Simple yet slimming!

How to Eat Well & Enjoy Your Vacation

Summer time and the livin’ is easy – so naturally it’s time to take a few precious days off and kick up your feet.

Even if your schedule is crammed with BBQ’s, kids’ camp carpool, and a multitude of other events, life moves slower in the summer and most of us save and save and save up our carefully coordinated vacation time for a few glorious days out of town. Whether it be just a weekend getaway or a “bucket list” worthy adventure, summer is universally a time for traveling. But despite being in the thick of bathing suit season, the inevitable war-cry of “screw it! I’m on vacation!” could wreak havoc on your eating habits long after the suitcases are un-packed.

But sticking around town in the sticky weather isn’t the only way to cure a case of the vacation inspired “eff its”. The key? Always be prepared. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If your traveling is taking you far, far away from here, that’s when your routine really can easily go out the window. While you’re in uncharted territory, it’s easy to write off bad choices as “survival”, swearing to yourself there can’t possibly be any other options. And quite honestly – it’s okay to give in to some of your temptations. Seriously! Vacation should not be stress - it's vacation after all! Starting off with the attitude that it’s okay to indulge will actually help because you will be less inclined to defiantly say “to hell with this” twenty minutes into your trip.

Start by planning out the first twenty-four hours. Keep your routine for as long as you can, have a great breakfast (try your hardest not to leave it up to airport food chance), and even try to pin down the first place you’ll dine in advance and have some concept of the menu, just like you would locally.

From there on out, the best attitude to have is one of freedom without having a free-for-all. If you’re in Boston and just HAVE to try to the chowder, try the chowder. Just try and stick to a cup instead of a heaping bread bowl. In this case, I consider alcohol to be “free” so you don’t have to factor that into your day.

Try to start every day off with a good breakfast. Even if you hit the breakfast buffet every day, there’s bound to be a good egg option, some whole wheat toast and fresh fruit. You’re at your most motivated in the morning and can control your choices more easily. You might be surprised that vacations don’t have to be the daunting beasts they seem – with all the activities and plans, you’re probably not snacking out of boredom or mindlessly munching and you're likely moving more than on a typical day.

Most importantly, when the party is over and you’re back home don’t let “real life” be your undoing. Don’t beat yourself up to get back on track immediately but slowly work your way back to your normal routine. Also be prepared for your first night back. Instead of ordering greasy Chinese takeout the minute you unlock your door, grab a controlled frozen meal from your pre-stocked freezer. 

Beach Bummin’

Spending your valuable vacation time at a beach house might seem safer than skipping town entirely – you stock the food, you can cook your own meals – but that doesn’t absolve you from the same “I’m on vacation” mentality. Plus, you are open to the mindless munching and snack attacks that might get overlooked on an overbooked trip.

Stock your summer spot with good-for-you goodies, but be realistic – if you’re only equipped with fat-free goods and dietary delights, it’s almost a sure thing that you’ll be high tailing it to the local ice creamery once that “it’s vacation” mentality sneaks in. Plus, if your traveling companions are active, svelte kiddos, the snacks will be an unavoidable factor as well. Burger cookouts and visits to the local crab shack don’t have to be your undoing. Let yourself have the number one thing you’re craving and you’ll be more likely to reel it in from there.

It’s a lot easier to stick to a healthy breakfast when you stock the house yourself, and you can even masquerade a little exercise as a shell-collecting excursion.

Beach day munchings can be easily maintained because you can pack up your cooler in advance. Again, make great choices but be realistic – salads will suffer on the sand dunes so wrap your fixin’s in any healthy wrap (La Tortilla, Siete, and Maria & Ricardos make great options).

Just because you’re at the same spot you spent every childhood summer, doesn’t mean there’s no adventures to be had. Plan a few day trips instead of spending every day flopped on a beach towel. Even if it’s just a visit to the next town over’s flea market, it can make the annual vacation seem new and exciting every year. Plus, then you’ll spend the days you do plan on just taking it easy, actually taking it easy.

Happy trails!

Be Prepared for Your Healthiest Summer

The summer season is fast approaching and, surprisingly, many people struggle the most this time of the year. Between relaxing, traveling and socializing, it’s easy to pack on the pounds between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Here's a list of some of the best (and worst) options available to you at the beach, bar, barbeque, and beyond so you're prepared no matter what summer fun throws your way. 

BBQ Tips

  • AVOID: Hamburgers with the works (cheese, mayo, etc.), coleslaw, potato salad, the "punch" cocktail (aka sugar bomb)
  • BETTER OPTION: Bakes bean salad (as long as it's vegetarian), bunless hamburger or hot dog
  • BEST OPTION: Grilled chicken breast, salad, corn-on-the-cob, roasted veggies

Bar Tips

  • AVOID: The frozen margarita
  • BETTER OPTION: Margarita on the rocks with lime juice instead of sour mix
  • BEST OPTION: Vodka on the rocks with soda and lime

Beach Tips

  • AVOID: Ice cream, chips, pretzels
  • BETTER OPTION: Sorbet or Italian ice
  • BEST OPTION: Bring some fresh or frozen fruit like grapes or bananas 

Travel Tips

 

  • Try and avoid the pickable, popables that are common when attending summer parties such as nuts, chips and guacamole and the creamy dip for the crudités. Cheese platters can also lead to disaster eating. Try and save your calories for mealtime as the mindless munching in between meals can lead to the summer weight gain.
  • When traveling, you may want to choose alcohol as your healthy carbohydrate intake for the day. Try and stick to the lightest choices such as vodka, wine or light beer. In addition, when out, try and have your first cocktail WITH your meal because alcohol on an empty stomach can lower your willpower and lead to extra indulgences.
  • The first 24 hours of your trip set the tone for the rest of the weekend so make sure you have a game plan for the day that you travel. I suggest waiting until you’re half way through your travels to have a light meal or a snack like a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or a yogurt and piece of fruit. For example, if you’re driving out to the beach and your trip is 2 hours, avoid shoving in a sandwich before you leave. Instead, wait until an hour into the trip to pull your sandwich out.

Easy Dinner Recipe: Shrimp in Parchment Paper

This is one of my absolute favorite fresh and tasty recipes right now. Not only is it loaded with veggies and protein, really easy to make, and gluten-free, but it's ready in under 30 minutes and has minimal cleanup.

I'll even walk you through how to make it in the clip below that I pulled from a recent Food Fix office hours session. It's a bit low budget but you'll get the point.

Ingredients:

  • Parchment paper
  • 5-6 cooked frozen shrimp
  • Bok choy
  • Bean sprouts (not soy)
  • Shiitaki mushrooms
  • Coconut Secret Garlic Sauce (or other low sodium sauce of your choice)

Directions:

  • Place the veggies on the parchment paper, top with shrimp, drizzle Coconut Secret over everything, and wrap up the package
  • Cook in oven or toaster oven at 375 degrees for 22 minutes
  • Top with optional hot sauce to taste

Want more recipes like this? Check out The Food Fix - my battle-tested, structured, healthy eating plan that will teach out how to successfully eat right for life.

The Mother of All Brunches

The annual day to celebrate the main lady in our lives comes along with a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings. Everyone gathers together, there’s flowers and candies and of course talk about all the Mother’s Days past. It’s a family day by definition and the one day where moms proudly get to declare “be nice, it’s mother’s day!”. And because wherever mom is, home will always be, there’s a nice sense of comfort this day. Which goes without saying we all inherently want to do the most comforting thing: eat. Since it’s a Sunday, most folks end up at some sort of brunch or early dinner. It’s true, you might be surrounded by sabotaging family members -- like your Great Aunt Geraldine who chases you around the kitchen table urging you just to taste her tiramisu -- but your mom taught you better than that! You can survive no matter where the day might take you, and just have fun honoring that lady you love so much. Do it for mama!

If Brunch is at a Restaurant

Choice-wise, you could be perfectly fine with this route. Most brunch menus come fully stocked with egg-white omelets chock full of veggies and yumminess. You could always get two eggs poached or scrambled and pair with some wheat toast and even some ham. The only trouble you might run in to is a lot of brunch spots have very tempting drink specials. Mimosas, Bloody Mary's and Screwdrivers, oh my! Many would go straight for the Bloody Mary, citing “tomato juice” and the celery stick swizzler. But this baby is packed with salt – which will only make you want sweet. Two Bloody Mary's, one large pastry later…and you’ve got a Mother’s Day massacre. Instead, toast mom with just a glass of champagne and skip the OJ to avoid the extra sugar. And come on, it’s brunch! No matter how nuts your mother-in-law makes you, it doesn’t warrant a liquid breakfast.

If Brunch is at a Relative’s House

Ok, this is probably the stickiest situation you’ll find yourself in (literally – there’s Aunt Geraldine with her ooey, gooey, temptation of love, tiramisu again), but don’t panic! The spread usually goes something like pastries, bagels and all the fixin's. Feel free to have half a bagel (if it’s what you crave, it satisfies the urge and also won’t inspire your mom and her crazy sisters to come chirping that you don’t eat enough). Pick a whole wheat or pumpernickel bagel and scoop out the middle. Have with a little cream cheese (a little more if they’ve armed you with fat free), cucumber, lettuce, any veggies you can get your hands on. There will probably be fruit salad so go for something like that.

If Brunch is Hosted by You

If you managed to convince the masses to come to your place, then good for you! The ball is in your court and you’ve got this. Cut corners wherever you can – Tropicana makes a great 50 percent less sugar OJ, make your mimosas with that, stock your spread with fat free cream cheese. Salsas and even black bean dips make great mix-ins for omelets, and with some fat free cheese and sour cream on top…a fiesta for your mouth and your madré! For something a little sweet and different, combine 4-6 egg whites, cinnamon, vanilla extract, agave or Splenda whipped for 4-5 minutes (think meringue consistency). Spray a pan with nonstick and pour in a serving. Right before you fold over your blintz, add a little part skim ricotta or cottage cheese mixed with blueberries. Fold over and serve up! Not much to them, no recipe needed – just like mama used to make!

Tips to Get in Your Best Summer Shape

Who's ready for summer?! Believe it or not, Memorial Day is just around the corner. While I am not a big fan of the "bikini body" mantra that dominates magazines as summer approaches (health is a year-round journey), there is something to be said for warmer weather making us more aware of our bodies. No longer are we hidden by chunky layers. Instead we are whipping out the bathing suits and showing off our hard work to the world. Getting your body that extra push can be a dreaded challenge, and although going to the gym is important for staying in shape, following a proper diet is even more important. You can have the tightest abs in America but if they are hiding under a layer of fat, no one will see how hard you have been working. Here are my top tips for getting your body healthy and prepared for the warm summer days ahead. These are also great to keep in mind any time of year when you need that extra push. 

  1. Salad Savior: We all suffer from salad boredom, but if you kick your salads up a notch, it is a great way to get in your veggies and protein. I love this seasonal recipe: mix two cored, diced apples with the juice of one lemon. In a bowl, combine large chunks of watermelon, one head of sliced endive, four chopped celery stalks and one tablespoon of walnut oil. Mix together with the the apple and lemon juice. If you don't have walnut oil, you can substitute for a healthy, flavorful olive oil. 
  2. Make Snacking Finite: Having a healthy snack that comes already portion-controlled is a great way to limit your snacking. Single-serving packs of nuts or nut butter, a hand-held fruit or an individually-wrapped serving of dark chocolate are great options. 
  3. After Dinner Snack Attack: If you are a dessert-lover, try making your own frozen yogurt. Just freeze a cup of your favorite Greek yogurt and let it thaw a few minutes before eating. If you want to try some fun flavors and don't want to freeze it yourself, I love Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bars.
  4. Push Back Dinner: If you tend to eat an early dinner and find yourself snacking the night away, try eating a later dinner so you are not as hungry and can keep the snacking to a minimum.
  5. Leader by Lunch: Start your morning off right, and the rest of the day will follow. If you start your day with a healthy breakfast like two hard-boiled eggs and a banana, it is easier to stay healthy throughout the rest of the day.
  6. Drink Up!: I can't stress enough how important it is to drink water. Good, old-fashioned water can help cleanse the body and actually keep you full. I recommend drinking one liter before lunch. If you want to spice it up a little, add some fresh lemon, lime and/or cucumber slices instead of going for the artificially-flavored stuff.
  7. Portion Control: Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Make sure to keep your portion sizes in check. Try eating off of a smaller plate. Filling up a smaller plate rather than a large one will keep your brain satisfied while keeping the calories down.
  8. Bread Is the Devil: Like I always say, bread is the devil. I know it is hard, but eliminating processed carbs like white bread and rice will help keep your figure at its best. No one has ever come to see me because they are eating too much broccoli. 
  9. Don't Forget Fiber: Filling up on foods that are high in dietary fiber will not only help keep you fuller longer, but is a great tool to help you lose weight. Try getting your fiber first thing in the morning with your breakfast. 
  10. Skip the Cocktails: We all know how tempting frozen margaritas and daiquiris can be, but eliminating those sugary drinks will save you tons of calories. If you feel the need to have a drink, go for a light beer or glass of wine, or a vodka and soda with a splash of lime.