My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

22 Apr 2011

Really Good Pet Food – if you can open the can!

At six years young, our cat Lola Granola, is a 5 pound toothless and highly allergic perma-kitty. Because of her we switched to all-natural household cleaners years before we had a baby and searched high and low for food that she isn’t allergic to. As a result, she eats very expensive, organic or at least human-grade cat food (which we jokingly call designer pet food). One of her (and consequently, our) favorite products is Mideast Feast by Weruva. Lola speedily gobbles up the costly stew and rewards us with hugs and pleas for more. Only problem is, the darn cans are near impossible to open. The pull-tab is really tight, and the ring breaks off if you pull it too hard.
I wrote the company and was very pleased to read their warm response. Stacie from Weruva wrote, “I too sometimes have difficulty opening the cans, and we are discussing other options with our factory. The issue we have found is that sourcing other cans proves to be a bit more costly, and the cans we use now are BPA free! We want what is best for our customers, as well as the health of the animals we are feeding... so, we will continue to source! I guess for now, keep eating your spinach ;-) haha!”
LOL, I wrote back that we certainly appreciate the use of BPA-free cans, so if that's the best option, then it's a good one. Weruva’s loyal customers (including us) will continue to buy their products no matter what.
Your cat or dog will drool in anticipation for flavors such as Paw Lickin’ Chicken, Peking Ducken, On the Cat Wok, Asian Fusion, Mack and Jack, and a whole line of meals for dogs (it just doesn’t feel right to call it dog food) made with Kobe beef and Kurobuta pork.
Check out more about Weruva’s “safety first” approach at www.weruva.com.  

Delicious GF Chocolate Chip Cookies... from a mix?

While I prefer to bake cookies from scratch, I haven’t yet mastered gluten-free baking. Not wanting to deprive Olivia (or myself) from the occasional cookie treat, I set out to find a cookie mix made with natural ingredients that actually tastes good; so when I discovered Cherrybrook Kitchen’s Gluten Free Dreams Chocolate Chip Cookie mix, I jumped for joy (I really did. Ask my husband!).
Made with rice flour, brown sugar, non-dairy chocolate chips and very few other natural and safe ingredients that I’m totally comfortable with, you just add butter (the package says margarine, but yuck!), water, vanilla, and the mix. I add extra real chocolate chips (and plenty of them) to create a big gooey mess of deliciousness.
Olivia loves the cookies (which she calls “cookoos”) – or at least the broken off bits of cookies that she can manage (I eat the rest). A box makes a couple dozen one-inch cookies which I freeze in zip-lock bags.
I think I'll have one right now.  

12 Apr 2011

Overindulging During Pregnancy

I gained exactly thirty pounds during my pregnancy, eight of which were put on during the last three weeks (the baby was overdue). My appetite was huge from the second month onwards, and I didn’t hold back on bread and boxed cereal. Most of the urges to eat occurred in the middle of the night. It wasn’t unusual for my husband to find me snacking on hummous and crackers at 4:30 am while watching cheesy reality shows. Thankfully I didn’t succumb to the temptation of chocolate croissants, cookies, or other sweets, despite the steady stream of bad advice from my friends, and most surprisingly, my colleagues (nutritionists and other health care practitioners) who insisted that “this is the time to eat whatever you want”. I was eating for two, after all. It really bothered me that my trusted pals were so insistent. “You’ll lose it afterwards. You know how to,” they said. Having worked with obese women who gained their weight while pregnant and couldn’t lose it afterwards, it was truly disturbing that my own colleagues were so casually providing this negligent advice. 
When you’re pregnant, it’s pretty hard to guess what your body will look like after the baby is born. I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, so while I enjoyed the occasional pecan tart or other treat, bread and cereal were temptation enough for me (and not entirely guilt-free either). Keep in mind that weight gained during the first trimester is “mommy weight” (rather than baby weight) that will probably stay with you afterwards.
Please, pregnant women everywhere, I implore you, do NOT use your pregnancy as an opportunity to eat at will. In fact, this is the most important time of your entire life to eat as optimally as you can. There is a new life growing inside of you, a life that requires not just calories, but vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats. And you need nutrients too, especially fiber to prevent the constipation that so many pregnant women suffer from.
Pregnant women don’t need encouragement to eat. Eating is easy. Eating healthy, on the other hand, can be tough when you’re dealing with cravings.
As for those eager to dish out bad advice, you aren’t the ones who will have to deal with the post-pregnancy repercussions (not to mention the risk of gestational diabetes), so please stop!
It should go without saying, but dieting is certainly not recommended during pregnancy.

Combating Pregnancy Cravings? Good Luck with That One

To the many pregnant women I counselled over the years, please accept my apologies for presuming that my advice could help you control your cravings. As a nutritionist, I believed there were certain principles that applied to pregnant women to prevent cravings. Frequently I hear from colleagues (and have said myself) that a healthy, balanced body will not crave any unhealthy foods, even during pregnancy. As is the case at any stage of life, cravings are an indication of imbalance or deficiency, right? So being the know-it-all that I am and having what I thought was a healthy, balanced body, upon discovering that I was pregnant, I purchased a fabulous new juicer and planned out my menus for the first trimester.

This is what I learned:  When you’re pregnant, your body wants what it wants. Pregnancy cravings are much more than a hankering for something sweet. My cravings were so powerful I was absolutely helpless against them. Thankfully in my case, it was fruit I hungered after during the first trimester, and I mean, lots of it. A pineapple a day, a pint of blueberries, a snack of four apples... Then it was bread and cereal, and in the third trimester, while there were no cravings, my appetite was huge (and corresponded with the mad growth going on inside my belly).
In my head, I wanted to eat vegetables and drink fresh-pressed juices, but my body wouldn’t have it. The brand new juicer was banished to the back of the closet. The very sight of it turned (and often emptied) my stomach. I tried to eat vegetables – every day, in fact, but minutes later, I was looking for the closest receptacle to vomit in.

One of my nutrition students ate at McDonald’s every single day of her first trimester. She obviously knew better and fought it, at least for a little while, but like I said, the body wants what it wants.
I found it especially amusing when a male colleague gave me his two cents about how to control my cravings. His advice began with, “It’s simple.” Sorry guys, you’ll just never understand the power of pregnancy cravings. They are a force to be reckoned with.
Whether it’s salty or sweet, starchy or meat, no one really knows what causes food cravings during pregnancy. Ladies, do your best to muster up some self control, try not to be too hard on yourself, and don’t feel guilty when the experts tell you that you’re doing something wrong. Eat as well as you can despite the urges, and as soon as your body allows, return to the best diet you could possibly eat during this critical time.