December 2015 | Dr. Stephen Gullo

Monthly Archives: December 2015

7 Healthier Snacks for 2016: Spice Up Your Rice Cakes

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7 Healthier Snacks for 2016: Spice Up Your Rice Cakes
If you’ve made the resolution to lose weight in 2016, consider the typical snacks you eat, not just your meals. Mindless snacking can add up to hundreds of extra calories per day. If you tend to overeat on the same snacks, find healthier replacements. Remember that thin begins in the supermarket. So skip the candy aisle and check out your store’s selection of healthier snacks, like rice cakes. Rice cakes have a well-deserved reputation for being a dieter’s best friend; most of them are about 50 calories or less, and they provide a satisfying crunch. But they also have a reputation for being bland. You can dress them up with pretty much any topping you choose, just remember that those toppings will add to the calorie count. Check out this list of healthy, diet-friendly toppings for your rice cake snacks. And remember to choose rice cakes made of brown rice, not white.

1. Cinnamon & Stevia
If you like cinnamon toast, try this healthier spin: top a rice cake with sprinkles of cinnamon and zero-calorie stevia.

2. Tahini
Tahini is made from sesame seeds, and it’s packed full of calcium to help encourage your weight loss; spread just 1 tbsp. on a rice cake for 89 calories, plus the calories in the rice cake.

3. Hummus
Select a low-fat hummus for a kick of protein and belly-trimming fiber.

4. Greek Yogurt
Choose plain, low-fat Greek yogurt and add your own berries if you want more flavor.

5. Reduced-Fat Nut Butter
Peanut butter is very high in fat; instead, try a brand like Better’n Peanut Butter for 85% less fat and 40% fewer calories.

6. Salsa
Salsa is a great way to get the cancer-fighting nutrients of tomatoes; just make sure you select a low-sodium brand.

7. Lentil Pate
This vegetarian pate is sure to turn heads at your next party; in the meantime, use it as a healthy, fiber-packed topping for your rice cakes.

Why Losing Your Car Keys Could Help You Lose Weight in the New Year

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Why Losing Your Car Keys Could Help You Lose Weight in the New Year
Are you planning your New Year’s resolutions? Every year countless people resolve to lose the weight they gained over the holidays, but a recent weight loss study suggests that successful weight loss isn’t just about your diet plans; it may also involve your car keys. When many dieters make their weight loss plans, they think of carb-to-protein ratios, calorie-counting, and tedious measuring. All those numbers can make your head spin like you’ve just read a confusing report on Virident FlashMAX M1400 performance. But there might be a simpler approach that can be effective in hitting your goals—and it doesn’t have to involve confusing technical analyses: just lose your car keys.

Researchers from the University of Illinois published a study in Preventative Medicine that found that if adults drive just one less mile per day, their body mass index (BMI) would decline by 0.21 kg/m2 in six years. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can cut out one mile per day and spend that time sitting on the couch. Rather, the weight loss observed in the study reflects increased physical activity to compensate for less driving time. So instead of driving, walk to the bus stop. When you’re planning out your diet with my weight loss strategies, remember to include daily physical activity. If you’re not a fan of the treadmill, don’t force yourself to do it because you’ll only slack off the next day. Instead, plan out activities that you find enjoyable. Walk your dog an extra mile, throw a Frisbee with your friends, or kick a soccer ball around. The point is to get moving. Every little bit counts.

Not So Fast: The Truth Behind Intermittent Fasting

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Not So Fast: The Truth Behind Intermittent Fasting

There’s a growing body of research suggesting that intermittent fasting may be preferable to traditional dieting for weight loss. Intermittent fasting requires skipping meals and cutting calorie counts a few days a week to achieve weight loss. While this method was initially treated with skepticism by the health community, it now is getting a second look. “We in the nutrition community always thought it was bad [to skip meals],” said Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietitian. “But based on my experience and these studies combined, I think it’s great,” said Tallmadge.

While there is a lot of credible science behind this idea, and fasting has proven health benefits (it’s been shown to extend life in animal models), it ignores a very obvious fact about human behavior. Fasting for many dieters creates a deprivation mindset. Human beings don’t want to feel deprived, especially when it comes to pleasurable activities such as eating. In fact, feelings of deprivation or a sense of “missing out” is the number #1 cause of failure for dieters. The whole idea of fasting for weight loss falls under a concept I’ve described as “great science but lousy psychology.” For many dieters, intermittent fasting may produce the opposite of the desired effect. Dieters already struggle with control issues, and this may only exacerbate matters for the majority. They need a program that meets their needs for volume (big portions for little calories) and satiety (sense of feeling full). Beyond meeting their nutritional needs, volume and satiety meet their psychological needs as well.


Fix Your Fave Holiday Recipes: 7 Great Holiday Dinner Ideas

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Fix Your Fave Holiday Recipes: 7 Great Holiday Dinner Ideas
If you’re hosting a holiday party or family get-together this year, you’re probably frantically scouring your cookbooks for holiday recipes that would please your relatives. Unfortunately, while many of the base ingredients for traditional holiday recipes are fairly diet-friendly (yams, green beans, etc.), they often get smothered in sugary or rich sauces. Trim the fat this holiday by using a few healthy food substitutions. Check out my list of lower-calorie, reduced-fat holiday recipe ideas to get you started. Then find ways to make your own fave holiday recipes healthier, like swapping out sugar in favor of stevia, chicken broth in favor of reduced-sodium broth, or even an entire ham in favor of a low-fat vegan substitute. Read on!

1. Caribbean Vegan Ham
Try using vegan ham, made from seitan, which is not gluten-free, for those of you with celiac disease but is cruelty-free.

2. Lighter Baked Ham
If seitan doesn’t appeal to you, make a healthier baked ham by following these tips for reducing the sugar and sodium.

3. Cornish Game Hens
Add this diabetic-friendly dish to your collection of healthier holiday recipes; just remember to remove the skin after cooking.

4. Roasted Chicken

Rely on herbs for a burst of flavor and instead of sugar, use zero-calorie stevia. Remember to trim all visible fat.

5. Scalloped Potatoes
Scalloped potatoes are usually a recipe for dieting disaster, but if you use a fake butter substitute and celeriac instead of potatoes you can make it more weight-loss friendly.

6. Sizzled Green Beans
Green beans are practically a prerequisite at holiday dinners, but instead of drowning them in butter, try seasoning them with herbs and lemon juice.

7. Cranberry-Apple Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is a delicious way to boost the nutritional profile of your holiday meal.

8 Scary Ingredients You Can Find on Nutrition Labels

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8 Scary Ingredients You Can Find on Nutrition Labels
When most people embark on a weight loss diet, they tend to fill up their shopping carts with fresh produce and other whole foods. Sometimes, they also reach for processed snacks labeled “diet” to help reduce their total caloric intake. While many snacks are certainly wholesome and diet-friendly, scan the nutrition labels before you head for the check-out. Even if the snack is low-cal, some of its ingredients may leave you feeling slightly nauseated. The consumption of certain ingredients, like L-cysteine, is also against some religious beliefs. Others are just downright gross (Cochineal extract anyone?). Check out 7 of the scariest ingredients you can find on so-called “diet” foods, below.

1. Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite
Found predominantly in processed meat products, sodium nitrite increases risk of breast, prostate, and stomach cancers.

2. Cochineal Extract
Made from dead bugs (seriously!), cochineal extract can, in some people, cause asthma or allergic reactions.

3. Hydrogenated Vegetable Oi
This is a trans fats which increases risk of heart disease.

Preservatives found in many processed foods like chips contain BHA and/or BHT which increases cancer risk and enlarges your liver.

5. L-cysteine
Used as “dough conditioner” and made from human hair, chicken feathers, cow horns, and petroleum byproducts, this ingredient might make your stomach turn to think about consuming it.

6. MSG
Monosodium glutamate, found in canned soups and other processed foods, may cause adverse reactions in some people. Plus, high amounts of sodium have never been helpful to anyone trying to lose weight.

7. Olestra
A synthetic fat that blocks vitamin absorption, Olestra can cause very severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Yikes!

8. Aspartame
This artificial sweetener found in diet products is so toxic it can cause gastrointestinal problems and neurological symptoms like hallucinations & seizures.

What is the South Beach Diet All About?

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What is the South Beach Diet All About?
There’s been a lot of hype over the years about The South Beach diet, but how much do you actually know about this diet? The South Beach Diet was designed by a cardiologist and originally intended to help prevent heart disease; however, these days it has evolved as a weight loss diet plan. The South Beach plan advocates the use of complex carbohydrates with a low Glycemic Index that will not spike blood sugar levels. This diet plan kicks off with a highly restrictive two-week introductory phase, followed by somewhat less restrictive maintenance plans.

During the first two weeks, dieters are not allowed to have any rice, corn, bread, potatoes, fruit, baked goods, pasta, or alcohol. This sounds an awful lot like the Atkins diet, but without all the bacon. Dieters are instructed to consume lean proteins, veggies, nonfat dairy, and sources of healthy fats like avocados. Following the initial two weeks, dieters are supposed to gradually introduce carbs back into their diets. The final phase of the plan is intended to be permanent. It is much like phase two, but allows for occasional dietary indulgences.

While it’s great that the South Beach Diet advocates eating lean proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables, it’s an extremely restrictive way to lose weight. It’s also gimmicky. “South Beach” might conjure images of poolside paradises, but dieters are more likely to lounge by the kitchen and stare at the breadbox. Instead of depriving yourself of certain food groups, make manageable, long-term changes like eating whole grain bread instead of white and fruit salad instead of ice cream.

Why Liquid Diets Don’t Make Sense

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Why Liquid Diets Don’t Make Sense
There are a vast array of liquid diets, from meal replacement diet shakes to IV drips and everything in between. The extreme liquid diets require a person to consume all of her calories via liquids, while others encourage the replacement of one to two solid meals a day with a drink. Overweight dieters desperate to lose weight often resort to quick “solutions” like these fad diets. Oprah Winfrey is rumored to have used a liquid diet, and Beyonce and 50 Cent famously used the Master Cleanse to shun food for weeks. This particular type of liquid diet is also a starvation diet because it provides very few calories.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with grabbing a fruit smoothie for breakfast. If you make it with low-fat, low-sugar ingredients, it’s pretty healthy. But resorting to an all-liquids or mostly all-liquids diet to lose pounds fast almost guarantees that you’ll regain the weight once the diet is over. Fad diets like these do not teach long-term healthy eating habits, and dieters who do not remember their past food histories will simply return to the same, unhealthy eating patterns. Instead, use long-term strategies for healthy weight loss. Try food substitutions and plan out your meals and snacks in advance.

7 Chicken Recipes Sure to Ruin Your Diet

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7 Chicken Recipes Sure to Ruin Your Diet
Yesterday, I told you about Jason Momoa’s boiled chicken diet, an extreme case of a deprivation diet that takes any possible flavor out of chicken. Today, I’m looking at the opposite end of the spectrum: chicken recipes that eliminate any nutritional value that this rich source of protein may have. Whether drenched in heavy sauces, fried beyond oblivion, or coated with more full-fat cheese than you can shake a stick at, there are a multitude of ways to ruin an otherwise perfectly healthy bird. When you develop your weight loss strategies and plan out your menu in advance, remember to consider food preparation methods, not just ingredients. The healthiest foods in the world can still clog your arteries when they’re stuffed with butter or fried beyond recognition. Below, check out 7 of the worst chicken recipes for your diet.

1. Chicken Alfredo

Common restaurant versions can carry well over 1,000 calories.

2. Melts
Melts are code for fattening mountains of cheese stuck between two slices of white bread.

3. Wings
Typically fried with tons of sodium. Make your own healthier version instead.

4. Quesadilla
Some versions can contain 55 g of fat!

5. Tacos
Don’t stick a couple shreds of chicken in a cheesy, saucy taco with a leaf or two of lettuce and try to call it healthy.

6. Deep Fried
It’s deep fried. Need I say more?

7. Chicken Pot Pie

The heavy gravy and buttery crust drastically increase the calorie count.

The Boiled Chicken Diet Got Jason Momoa Totally Ripped—And Should Be Avoided at All Costs

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The Boiled Chicken Diet Got Jason Momoa Totally Ripped—And Should Be Avoided at All Costs
Jason Momoa has developed a reputation as being a ripped tough guy type in Hollywood. Although he started out on “Stargate: Atlantis,” Momoa played an undefeated warrior on “Game of Thrones” and yet another warrior, Conan the Barbarian in the movie of the same name. Jason Momoa’s diet and exercise regime to transform him from a brawny surfer dude into a totally ripped, revenge-seeking warrior was also fairly barbaric. Like all bodybuilders, Jason Momoa relied on a high-protein diet to feed his muscles. The biggest sacrifice for him, however, was giving up his beloved Guinness for the sake of heading off a beer belly. The Hawaiian-born actor refused to deprive himself entirely; he simply switched to scotch.

According to Jason, all he ate for a couple of months to prep for the “Conan” role was peanut butter and chicken. “I had to eat boiled chicken breast every two hours. It’s like wet cardboard.”* Presumably, Jason’s trainer didn’t allow him to add any sauces or seasonings to the chicken. Assuming that Jason isn’t exaggerating about his highly restrictive diet, he would have eaten boiled chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with peanut butter for snacks throughout the day.

This extreme no-carb, high-protein diet would have forced Jason’s body to go into ketosis, a state in which the body burns fat for fuel. Sounds great for weight loss, but it’s actually pretty dangerous. It can cause kidney stones, gout, depression, constipation, and fatigue. Given that Jason’s goal was to bulk up for the movie, we’d have to assume that his physical trainer did allow him to eat some veggies and whole grains. Fatigue doesn’t really lend itself to weightlifting.

It’s doubtful that Jason would have been allowed to eat a whole lot of carbs; however, when the filming wrapped up, he flew to Italy and gorged himself on pasta and pizza. A cast member also remarked about how Jason was always talking about the food he was going to eat when the movie was finished.

When he isn’t training for a movie role, Jason Momoa has previously stated that he always keeps cottage cheese, fresh veggies, and roast beef in his fridge. His favorite meals include Japanese and Hawaiian dishes. Another good item to add to the mix would be healthy whole grains like quinoa, a very high-protein grain.

Ultimately, severe deprivation diets like what Jason Momoa did to get in shape for the Conan movie may work for movie stars. But they have their consequences. And as I’ve seen with client after client, depriving yourself completely of any satisfaction or pleasure with regards to food only increases the likelihood that you will binge on the very foods you’ve been avoiding.

Extreme Dieting: The 100 Calorie Diet

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Extreme Dieting: The 100 Calorie Diet
The 100 Calorie Diet was probably written to cater to the interests of accountants and other math fiends. This diet does not focus on what foods dieters should or should not be eating, but rather on how much of those foods a dieter may eat. In other words, the 100 Calorie Diet takes portion control to the extreme. Dieters are instructed to measure out very small meals in 100-calorie portions. If you’re a woman, eat 15 of them daily for a total of 1,500 calories. Men may eat 20 portions consisting of 100 calories each.

While it’s good that this plan strives to avoid food deprivation, it doesn’t do a very good job of staving off that end. Measuring out very specific portions 15 to 20 times a day is enough to drive anyone slightly batty. Overall, the 100 Calorie Diet fails to win my approval; however, it does do a few things right. It encourages dieters to plan out meals (in writing) in advance and to complete a questionnaire that is supposed to identify emotional eating problems and other overeating triggers. This diet plan also recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Exercise added with a smart dieting strategy based in behavioral nutrition will yield you the results you want.