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.

21 Dec 2011

Artificial Colors Where You Least Expect Them

Not long ago my 18 month old (at the time) daughter and I were at a play date. In the middle of my first trimester, I was feeling as bad as I imagined I could possibly feel, so when the treats and desserts (not for me, but for my baby) began parading in front of her, every ounce of energy I could muster was used resisting. After a while, I succumbed. Luckily my daughter refused all the desserts (God bless her): the wheat-based cookies (gluten), the three-layer cake iced with artificial colors (can you believe that this would be offered to a one-year old?), but ultimately, even she couldn’t pass up the strawberry-flavored yogurt-drink. It was a well-known brand that’s heavily marketed to children (and of course, parents) as a ‘health drink’. I quickly looked over the ingredients and didn’t notice any red flags, so she drank a little less than half the bottle before losing interest. Within an hour, my daughters’ whole demeanor changed. Suddenly, the articulate child could not speak clearly, but instead, slurred her words. When my husband came home from work, the first words out of his mouth were, “What’s wrong with Olivia?” She was writhing around on the floor like an animal making incomprehensible sounds. I even caught a minute or two on video. My daughter has ingested sugar, she has had dairy, and yogurt is one of her preferred foods (most often plain yogurt), so I knew there was something in that product that I missed when glancing over the ingredients.
The next day, while Andrea Donsky, http://www.naturallysavvy.com/ co-founder and close friend, and I drove to an appointment, she checked out the ingredients on her smart phone while I drove. Somehow I missed it the day before, but there it was – artificial colors.
Olivia’s behavior was back to normal within an hour or two, but the change that occurred made a real impression on my husband and I. It happened again recently while on vacation when she ingested strawberry ice cream.  

Many parents have observed similar behavioral changes in their children following the ingestion of sugar, various artificial additives (including food dyes), gluten, dairy products, and even fruit. The most frightening part of this story is that the child Olivia was playing with ingests this particular ‘health drink’ daily (her caregivers are convinced that it’s good for her). I wonder how many children are exposed to behavior-altering substances in their food (even in so-called healthy food) on a regular – even daily – basis, ingredients that may impact their learning or behavior that parents are unaware of.
Watch for a future blog for an explanation of a rotation diet that you can use to identify whether or not specific foods or ingredients are affecting your child’s (or even your own) behavior. In the meantime, read all labels carefully and avoid any questionable ingredients.

3 Dec 2011

Unjunk Your Junk Food - Book Release Announcement

At long last, our labour of love, Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks, is available for purchase.

Unjunk Your Junk Food is a fun, handy supermarket guide to the yummiest junk food made with natural ingredients. The book compares conventional junk foods (such as Doritos and M&Ms) with similar-tasting, healthier alternatives... so you can have your cake and eat it too. It includes a handy pull-out chart listing the most dangerous ingredients to watch out for when grocery shopping, and all throughout the book you'll find useful tips for improving your diet and health - whether you eat junk food or not.

The release date is December 27, 2011 (unfortunately not in time for Christmas). Win a copy at:

Retailers will sell it for between $18 to $20, but on-line prices are ridiculously low. The best price I've found so far is at Barnes & Noble - only $12.10 (USD)!!

Looks like http://www.amazon.com/ just dropped their on-line price to match Barnes & Noble's.

If you're in Canada, here's a link to Chapters.ca: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Unjunk-Your-Junk-Food-Healthy-Donsky-Boyer-Tsakos/9781451616569-item.html.

Although I've been practicing nutrition professionally for 15 years, I didn't know the information that I learned from researching for this book. It changed the way my family eats and the way we're raising our daughter (in fact, before the book very little junk food was ever found in our home. Now we eat more, but we're aware of and comfortable with every ingredient in the products).

Join the edible (r)evolution!

2 Dec 2011

Decent Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread DOES Exist

After years of spending good money on tasteless loaves of gluten-free bread that ultimately ended up as compost, I finally found one that I - that WE - love. Glutino's Genius Multigrain Sandwich bread is absolutely delicious and looks, tastes, and behaves like 'normal' bread slices. It happened to be on sale for 50 percent off at the health food store, so I took my chances and purchased two loaves. The next day I went back for two more, and now that I've found a $1.00 off coupon on Glutino's website http://www.glutino.com/genius-landing/, we'll be going back for more (yes, it's that good).

Olivia ate her first grilled cheese sandwich this week (made with organic goat cheese) and loved it! Many attempts had been previously made, all unsuccessful because of bread that was too thick, too crumbly, or just too yucky.

The best thing about this bread is that it's made with decent ingredients, not a lot of the junk you find in other gluten-free products. This opens the door to a whole new world of foods for Olivia - sandwiches!

GF foods are becoming a huge part of the food industry world-wide, so it's just a matter of time before dozens of amazing products are available. Already there is such a difference from what was available 15 years ago...

Sept. 27, 2011

A huge turn-around since my last entry... The past few weeks have been insanely busy with book editing. My big plans to work out daily and stay on top of my weight and energy levels have tanked faster than my figure. I had to put Liv in full-time day care for a week to pound through the edits and by the time we got home at 7pm, I had an hour of stamina left for dinner and then it was straight to bed at 8. Every day that week I sympathized with full-time moms who sacrifice exercise - looking after themselves in general - to make sure everyone gets to where they need to be on time. That same week the nausea and fatigue really kicked in, but since then fatigue has been my biggest nemesis, one that I have zero energy to fight. Going to the gym has been a battle. I’ll get there – almost every day, in fact, but often break out into a sweat the moment I sit on a weight machine. In my woman’s gym the temperature isn’t as low as it is in a co-ed gym, so it’s easy for my preggy-body to overheat. It’s much worse during fitness classes. I’ve resorted to attending the low-impact classes, in which I’m frequently the youngest participant, and am worked to exhaustion by activities that barely raised my heart rate two months ago. The worst part, though, is that I feel so beaten up afterwards, it’s even more difficult to function in the afternoon. Consequently, my body is already unrecognizable to my clothes. My rear side has new padding, there are signs that my thighs will soon be rubbing together, and my upper arms are starting to resemble sausages. Sadly, I’m too tired to care. These days, all my efforts are going into finding someone to look after my very energetic daughter in the afternoon, when ALL I want to do is sleep. In fact, I would be perfectly happy never getting out of bed, not for any reason, until the end of this trimester. Only three weeks to go. God help me.

September 2, 2011

Last night some food urges kicked in. They weren’t exactly cravings, but for a couple of weeks now I’ve found that I’ve been feeling full quickly an am hungry more often. Only a couple of hours after a very nice dinner of grilled trout, steamed baby potatoes, and a huge spinach salad (with the works – avocado, diced veggies...) I couldn’t think about anything else but having a huge bowl of cereal (I bought a box of Nature’s Path Acai cereal yesterday. Haven’t had that since my first pregnancy. Here we go...). Finally, at 11:30 pm (really?) I succumbed and had a half-cup of organic plain yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of cereal. That wasn’t enough, so I chased it with half a slice of sunflower-seed bread topped with some almond butter. Could’ve been worse, but it was these little extras that had me blowing up like a blow fish the first time around. I’m convinced that eating so late was a huge error in judgment. By 3 a.m. I was starving and counting the hours before my husband would get up to make me eggs for breakfast (yes, he actually does ;).      
This morning I was looking forward to a relaxing yoga class, but our instructor surprised us with Yoga Boot Camp instead. It was one of the toughest fitness classes I’ve ever done. We had the option to use 1lb, 2lb or 3lb weights – so while thinking to myself “how lame,” I picked up the 3lb’ers. Mistake. You have NO idea how heavy a petty 3 lb weight (in each hand) can feel until you’ve held an unnatural yoga pose for 60 seconds. By the end, I was done. Spent. Even bought a chocolate bar on the way out. The important thing is that I got through it, challenged myself, and had fun.
I’m about 6 weeks now – that’s when the serious nausea kicked in the first time I was pregnant. I am a little concerned about one thing. A huge perk of my first pregnancy was that I didn’t have a single headache or migraine (which I’m prone to) for 9 whole months. This week I’ve already had two mild migraine headaches (probably weather and exercise related). My mother had horrible migraines while pregnant with my younger sister, so I’ll be keeping an eye on this one (patterns, etc.).

August 25, 2011

And so it begins. Earlier today my husband commented on my baby bump. We were in beautiful Minneapolis over the weekend for a family gathering. It was our three year anniversary, so we left Olivia at home and enjoyed a romantic weekend at the W Foshay. Anyway, that’s when the bump first made its appearance (or at least, that’s when I noticed it). I thought I was just bloated from all the food. Today I noticed that my behind looks like it belongs on someone else’s body (a comment I often made to myself when I was pregnant with Olivia). I saw some cellulite on my legs that I swear wasn’t there a week ago. Oy veh.
I exercised several times a week during my first pregnancy (albeit, in the first trimester, just getting out of bed was an achievement). The gym in our building was adequate, but I was only putting in a maximum half an hour at a time. Now I’m exercising for at least 45 minutes a day in a proper gym, attending classes and spending  more time on cardio equipment, so it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a difference in:
·         My energy levels (especially during the first trimester)
·         My appetite (will I crave fruit and bread as much?)
·         My sleep (I had insomnia throughout my entire pregnancy)
·         Restless leg syndrome (worst thing ever)
·         Cellulite and back fat (how gross).
Hitting the gym five days a week after we stopped breast feeding, I was back to my pre-preg body in no time, but it was a battle getting my arms back in shape and getting rid of the back fat. I love how they look now and hope to keep them looking this way all winter.
Everything seems to be on sale right now so I stopped at a couple of clothing stores today to pick up some long tanks and t’s. As my belly (and chest) grew, my long t-shirts and dresses seemed to get shorter and shorter. Now I know to buy them super-long (like, way past my butt). Being pregnant I become hyper-careful about spending money and though I spent an average of only $6 per item (that will probably get worn until they’re faded), the maternal guilt (that $6 could have gone towards a gluten-free meal for the kids) is already going strong.