A (less) sweet new year…

Happy New Year to all of my FIT readers. Yes – I aware that it is September, but if you are Jewish, you celebrated Rosh Hashana last week (or the new year). The jews ring in the new year with sweet foods (for a sweet new year) but I was pleasantly surprised to find the healthier changes at my family meal. Quinoa with carrots and raisins (for the sweet kick), a chicken dish with prunes and olives (a traditional favorite), a huge and wonderful salad with beets for a little sweet addition, and a big fruit salad with dates for dessert. The brisket and the cakes (which are generally not my favorite anyways) seemed to be an after-thought for most people at the table.

Which got me thinking about celebrating and food. Many of my clients lament how difficult it is to maintain a healthy diet because of family get-togethers, or birthday parties at school, etc. – all celebrations that are tied to unhealthy and sweet food choices. But what if a few people started to make a change? Would it catch on?

I am going to challenge our FIT readers to spearhead change. Next time you have to bring something over for a pot-luck, bring a farro salad instead of pizza or chips and dip. When you have to send your kid in with a sweet treat, make a healthful choice. You cannot control what you or your kids are surrounded by all the time, but you can control how you contribute. Here are a few suggestions:


1. “Pink” pancakes – this recipe was inspired by a client who tried it with her 3 year old successfully! If this particular recipe is a little too healthy, just add beet puree to your regular pancake mix. The kids will love the color and probably won’t be able to taste the subtle flavor difference.

2. Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn

3. Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chop Pumpkin Muffins

Pre-packaged (good for schools and Halloween which is creeping up):

1. Fruit Leather (made with REAL fruit – not fruit juice and no added sugar)

2. Dark Chocolate Gogi Berries

3. Pure Dark Chocolate – small, pre-packaged

Join the conversation! Let’s start sharing great recipes and healthier “desserts” here!


Exercises for the Mummy Tummy!

STOP the Crunches!!  Many mamas feel the need to jump back into a routine post baby.  Always ask your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise program, especially if you have had a caesarean section. It is important to make sure your tummy muscles have healed before you do any vigorous abdominal exercises, such as abdominal crunches.


Many mamas we work with complain about their abs being “flabby” after the baby, so the FITgals always check for an abdominal separation, called diastasis recti, before starting a postnatal routine.  Most doctors do not check for this condition, but we recommend you asking them to check during your 6-week postpartum check-up (or ask your midwife, physical therapist, or certified postnatal trainer).  Read more about the symptoms and how to self diagnose  this condition. 



GENTLE TUMMY.  Begin toning your tummy by performing this exercise to strengthen the deepest muscle layer (transversus abdominus). You can perform this exercise lying down, sitting, standing, or on your hands and knees.

– Keep your lower back flat.

– Breathe out and draw your belly button back towards your spine. Your lower back shouldn’t flex or move.

– Hold this position and breathe lightly. Count to 10.

– Relax and repeat up to 10 times per set.

– Do 10 sets, as many times per day as you can.

LOWER TUMMY. The lower abdominal muscles are located below your belly button. To work these muscles gently, guidelines include; Make sure your abdominal muscles have healed. Until the gap is closed, only perform the ‘gentle tummy exercise’ option above.

– Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor.

– Contract your abdominal muscles.

– Slowly slide your feet away from you, aiming to straighten both legs. The idea is to straighten the legs without arching your lower back.  As your lower abdominal muscles get stronger, you’ll be able to slide your feet further and further away.

– If your back starts to arch, stop and slide your feet back towards your bottom.

– Aim for 10 repetitions per set. Perform around three sets per session.

KEGEL EXERCISES.  The pelvic floor muscles are tightly slung between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone, and support the bowel, bladder, uterus (womb) and vagina. To exercise them, you must first direct your attention to these muscles. To help you identify these muscles, they are the ones that you tighten to stop urinating. These exercises can be performed lying down, sitting or standing.

– Try to relax your abdominal muscles. Don’t bear down or hold your breath. 

– Gradually squeeze and increase the tension until you have contracted the muscles as hard as you can. 

– Release gently and slowly. Then perform the exercises, which include:

– Squeeze slowly and hold for between five and 10 seconds. Release slowly. Repeat 10 times.

– Perform quick, short and hard squeezes. Repeat 10 times.

– Squeeze, then clear your throat or cough lightly. Repeat three times.  Aim for five or six sets each day.

I know these exercises seem simple but they are VERY VERY IMPORTANT to fixing the “mummy tummy!”  Work at your own pace and don’t feel pressure to start a routine that you are not ready for!



“Fed-Up” Follow-up and the Low-Fat FAD

I finally had the chance to watch “Fed-Up” this weekend and I recommend that all of our FIT readers make the time to see it. It was a very eye-opening documentary about the perils of having too much sugar in your diet, the addictive quality of sugar (the brain response to sugar is the same as to cocaine or heroin!) and the effect sugar is having on children’s waistlines and overall health.

Please refer to the excellent fact sheet on the movies’ website here, but there are a few key points that I wanted to highlight for you (that were mentioned in the documentary).

1. All sugar is sugar. Some sugars have more antioxidants and are therefore “better” choices for overall health reasons, but your body breaks the sugars down in the same way. Here is a list of some of the possible code words for “sugar” which may appear on a label.

  • Agave
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Beet Sugar
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cane Crystals (or, even better, “cane juice crystals”)
  • Cane Sugar
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Palm Sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose

2. Artificial Sweeteners may be making you even fatter! There is a very complex and scientific explanation for how the body converts sugar (or glucose) to fat, but basically, it works like this: You eat more sugar than your body needs for energy (ex: eat an ice cream sundae and go sit on the couch for the next 3 hours), and then that excess sugar gets converted to triglycerides that are stored in the fatty tissues of the body. Sugars in excess = Extra fat. So artificial sweeteners seem like the solution, right? NO! According to the article “Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t the Answer to Obesity: Here’s Why” in Time Magazine, Dr. Eran Elinav from the Weitzmann Institute of Science in Israel found “that the sugar stand-ins actually contribute to changes in the way the body breaks down glucose. How? Fake sugars aren’t digested and therefore pass directly to the intestines, impacting the millions of invisible bacteria that live in our gut. And when he and his colleagues gave seven people who didn’t normally use artificial sweeteners the sugar substitutes for seven days, about half of the people showed higher blood glucose levels after just four days.” Higher blood glucose levels AKA Sugars in excess = Fat! (This is of course the very simple explanation).

This explains why the Low-Fat fad that gained popularity in the 90’s may have contributed to the obesity epidemic. All those low-fat substitutes at the grocery store added sugar to make the food taste good (or added artificial sweeteners for the same reason). Take low-fat peanut butter for example – not only are the calories the same as regular peanut butter, but the sugar content is way higher.

It is time to be an educated consumer. READ LABELS (if you must eat something packaged). Look at the sugar content – the number will astound you! In March, The World Health Organization dropped its sugar intake recommendation from 10 percent of your daily calorie intake to 5 percent. For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), that works out to about 6 teaspoons — or 25 grams — of sugar per day. Just to put this all in perspective, the Chocolate Chip Clif Bar has 22 grams of sugar. 22 grams! So 1 clif bar and you are basically done with your sugar consumption for the day. If that doesn’t make you think twice about eating those protein bars, I don’t know what will…

Go see “Fed-Up”!….seriously…stop reading this and go watch it!