4 Strategies for Enjoying, Not Overindulging, on Thanksgiving

Countless times we find ourselves off track from our healthy lifestyle, especially around the holidays. Tempted by so much delicious food, it can be especially hard to maintain or even introduce healthier eating and exercise habits.

To put things into perspective, a Thanksgiving meal on average will contain about 2,500 – 3,000 calories, not including the countless appetizers or snacks you had beforehand. That is about double the average of what we should be intaking in one day! Thankfully, you can still enjoy the Thanksgiving feast by following these simple tips on how to navigate the big meal.

  • Limit the carbs

This does not mean eliminate them. The key is not to have all of them in one meal and only indulging in one carb side such as macaroni and cheese, stuffing, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. Don’t deprive yourself, just be responsible.

  • Choose more vegetables

Be creative, you can make your vegetables more festive. Look for new recipes and try something different. It’s fun to experiment with food. By enjoying more vegetable dishes on your plate, you won’t miss the carbs as much. Butternut squash, and cauliflower, riced or smashed, are excellent options to replace the carbs.

  • Remember it does not have to be a one-day event

Leftovers taste even better. You can always eat one of the carb side dishes with each meal over the next 3 days after Thanksgiving. Then you’ll get a chance to taste everything without over indulging.

  • Activity is important

Eat earlier in the day, then you’ll have more time to burn off the calories. After you finish the meal, don’t just sit around. Help clean up the kitchen and go for a walk. This is another time you can be creative by planning some social activities that will get everyone involved and moving. Make it fun.

Enjoy yourself this Thanksgiving and do it in a way that you can feel great about yourself and your health.

Healthy and Affordable Shopping

Grocery shopping can seem overwhelming especially as you are getting used to eating and preparing foods in a new way. It can be especially difficult on a budget. My belief is that investing in healthy food is investing in your health. I recently shared some tips with my patients at our R-Health Cherry Hill Healthy Shopping on a Budget event. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice.

First let’s broadly define “healthy” as there are many controversies.  However, let’s focus on key elements of agreement.  They are: eating whole unprocessed foods, especially fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, avoiding empty carbohydrates such as those in sweets and refined flours, avoiding additives including chemicals and added sugar and salt, avoiding pesticides, antibiotics and hormones and getting adequate amounts of healthy fat, protein, and fiber.

Reading labels is empowering! It takes extra time at first, but once you know the products that are right for you, shopping will get faster again.  Not all food labels are helpful in making decisions.  For example, “natural” does not have a clear definition that is regulated by the FDA.  Companies can label their food natural and it still contain high fructose corn syrup for example. Also, beware of Heart-healthy statements as well as they can have plenty of refined carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar and trigger inflammation.  A few things to think about food labels in general.

  • Ingredient list: QUICK HINT – look for names you can pronounce and foods you have in your own kitchen.
  • MANY OF THE BEST CHOICES WILL NOT HAVE A LABEL – Think the produce section!
  • Calories: Not all calories are created equal – don’t worry so much about the calorie count, when you are able to get rid of processed foods usually you can trust your body to tell you when you have had enough.
    • Your body processes a Twinkie much differently and with different metabolic effects than a handful of nuts even though they have the same amount of calories.
  • Check the portion size. (Sodium content can be misleading when that tiny can of soup has 2.5 servings!)
  • Watch for fats
    • Buy healthy fats – nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc. and avoid trans fats
    • Foods can be labeled as having 0 gm of fat or trans fats if they have ½ gram or less.
  • Fiber is good for your body, especially for healthy gut bacteria
  • Watch for additives especially sugar and salts
    • New guidelines now ensure labels now contain “added sugars”
    • Try to avoid concentrated natural sugar in high quantities too (e.g. fruit juice or dried fruit)
    • Work on sticking to the recommended limits of no more than 6 tsp of added sugar for women and children and 9 tsp for men per day
    • For salts, much of the sodium and added sugar comes from salts and sugar added to processed foods. This helps the food industry to make the food more addictive. Read labels carefully and cook home-made meals whenever possible.
    • Look for chemical additives or artificial flavors/colors. You might be surprised when you first start reading labels to find how much more is in your can of beans, tomato sauce, or yogurt than you thought.

Saving money on anything usually requires planning ahead.  Look at circulars for sales and make a meal plan for the week.  Look online and in magazines for great ideas for your palate and budget.  Try searching “clean eating on a budget.”  On our grocery trip we toured Aldi.  Not only does this grocery store offer healthy natural (their Simply Nature labels are verified by a third party) and organic options, but surveys show Aldi’s prices on average contain 20% more savings than larger retail stores.  Remember to bring a quarter and your own shopping bags.

Other cost saving tips:  If you have the time, avoid pre-cut servings.  Stock up on nonperishable and frozen items when on sale, and shop frequently for perishable items so they don’t spoil before you can use them.  Try looking above and below eye level, compare store brands, and of course not shopping while hungry are other cost saving tips.

Also know when to invest in organic produce and when to save on conventionally grown produce. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2017 list below are products to look for.

  • DIRTY DOZENFruits and Vegetables with the most pesticides (Shop organic when possible for these!)
    • Strawberries
    • Apples
    • Peaches
    • Pears
    • Spinach
    • Tomatoes
    • Celery
    • Potatoes
    • Sweet bell peppers
  • CLEAN 15Fruits and Vegetables with the least pesticides (Okay to buy conventionally grown produce for these!)
    • Pineapples
    • Mangoes
    • Papayas
    • Honeydew Melon
    • Kiwi
    • Cauliflower
    • Eggplant
    • Sweet Corn
    • Cabbage
    • Avocadoes

Hopefully this is a good start for your next grocery store trip.  Please feel free to reach out to your R-Health doctor for more information and if you have specific medical conditions for your doctor to get you on the best health and nutrition plan.

Healthy Grilling, Healthy Livin’

Welcome back, Grilling Season! We’ve missed you. Whether you’ve been hiking, biking, or any of our suggested activities last week, we’re sure you’re excited to take a quick break and pick up a spatula. This time of year is abundant for cookouts and barbecues, but we want to make sure when you step behind that grill, you do so with healthy intentions.

Healthy grilling is not only fun, but it’s in the best interest of the people consuming. Heart healthy foods, whether grilling or ordering, should always be in the forefront of minds. Today we will talk about a few tips for healthy grilling, and a few foods which are key to keeping the heart healthy and blood pressure normal.

When it comes to normal blood pressure, the key is to find foods balanced in sodium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Healthline discussed the top foods for lowering hypertension and we’ll discuss the following:

  1. Leafy Greens – Rich in potassium and helps your kidneys get rid of excess sodium, lowering your blood pressure (BP)
    • g. Romaine lettuce, arugula, kale, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard
    • Frozen vegetables.
  1. Garlic and Herbs – These are not only great for the grill, but they can lower BP by widening the arteries, courtesy of the nitric oxide increase they provide to the body
    • Herbs and spices also help cut back on sodium intake, if necessary
  1. Salmon, mackerel, etc. – Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids which can lower BP, but also a great source of lean protein.
    • Fish are also a great source of vitamin D and can reduce inflammation
  1. Seeds – High in potassium, magnesium, and other minerals great for lowering BP
    • Seeds go great in salads as a side dish to whatever you are grilling
    • g. Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, or squash
  1. Dark chocolate – studies show that it’s been associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and it also pairs well with many other hypertension reducing foods (i.e. yogurt, berries, bananas, oatmeal)

Although it’s understood you won’t be rushing to put all these foods on the grill, it’s important to know some key methods so grilling is not only enjoyable, but healthy for everyone who will consume. The American Heart Association shared the best tips for healthy grilling and we’ll discuss below:

  • Pick the perfect protein – Fish, skinless chicken breast, and lean ground poultry are all healthier choices with immense benefit for the body.
  • Rightsize your portions – a healthy portion of meat is about 3 ounces and should be no more than 6 ounces.
  • Add color – Almost every fruit and vegetable can be grilled. Using healthy oil like olive oil (good for hypertension) helps prevents sticking but also aids in bringing out the delicious flavors.
  • Choose healthier sides – Instead of traditional baked beans, cole slaw, macaroni, learn how to grill veggies and make your own custom fruit/green salads, etc.
  • Grill fruits for dessert – As we mentioned, almost everything can be grilled. The natural sugars of the fruits will caramelize with high heat giving them more flavor and extra sweetness. Apples, pears, pineapples, and peaches are great for grilling.
  • Keep it clean – scrubbing down the grill after each use will prevent burning, smoking, and bitter flavors during the next use.

Grilling is always a fun event shared among family and friends over a great meal. You can make great, healthy meals without sacrificing flavors, and it works in everyone’s best interest. If you’d like to learn more about heart healthy foods for grilling or otherwise, please talk to your R-Health doctor; and while you’re at it you can even invite them to your next barbecue!

Change Your Diet, Change Your Life

Last week we discussed the importance of breakfast. Although many view it as the most important meal, we must all remember that it is in fact, one meal. Achieving optimal nutrition begins with a healthy diet. Diet has become somewhat of a taboo word because the general perception is that one must cut out countless foods while eating less, in an attempt to reach his or her health and/or body goals. However, we’re here to tell you otherwise. Today we’ll explain a few ways to improve your healthy eating habits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a simple process focused on improving eating habits; the three R’s: Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce. Beginning with reflect, the CDC urges you to keep track of your current habits. These may include the following:

  • Eating too fast
  • Always eating dessert
  • Skipping meals
  • Mid-day/Late night sweets

Reflection on common triggers to eat while not hungry are especially important to note. These triggers may include the following:

  • Eating before/after a stressful work meeting
  • Feeling bored/tired with hopes of a food pick-me-up
  • Opening up the refrigerator/cabinet and seeing a favorite snack

Once you’ve reflected on your habits, the toughest part is over. It is much harder to discover and accept your bad eating patterns, than replacing and reinforcing new ones. However, offers a few ways to make the latter much easier. Of the many healthy eating habits they recommend, there are a few standouts:

  • Don’t give anything up
    • Eat many foods you enjoy, just in small quantities. Dissatisfaction leads to overeating
  • Eat the rainbow
    • Eating a diverse array of vegetables fills you up, especially the above ground non-starchy vegetables, all without increasing the number of calories
  • Dump calorie counting
    • Don’t worry too much about the number of calories so much as where the food comes from. Aim for healthy, nutrient rich foods low in processed carbohydrates (e.g. lean protein and seafood)
  • Drink water!

When you’re finally done reflecting, replacing, and onto reinforcing, it’s important to remember that developing any new habit takes time. Never get too down or feel guilty if you slip up, we all do! And if you’re ever feeling lost, don’t forget about the secret fourth R, R-Health!

Set up an appointment with your R-Health doctor to help you determine the best diet/nutrition lifestyle for you. A good diet is one of the keys to good health!

Follow this post and others to help you along your journey to healthy living.


As we venture closer to the spring, we find ourselves in March, which celebrates National Nutrition Month. There’s no better way to kick off this month than having March’s first official week as, National School Breakfast Week. Two of the main components of nutrition are diet and exercise, and today we’ll focus on the former. When it comes to your diet, one of the most important meals is the first one of the day – breakfast – and not just for kids in school, breakfast is important for everyone. Making a concerted effort to eat a healthy breakfast is a great nutrition practice, providing long term benefits to keep your body healthy.

Research shows how important it is to put the time and effort into eating a morning meal. Not only does it help get you moving and may power you through a tough morning, but it may provide a mental edge and even help maintain a healthier weight.

While many people unfortunately skip out on breakfast, Today’s Dietician (TD) reminds us that our bodies love breakfast, even if we mentally don’t think we need it. TD provided a few long-term benefits that come with consuming a healthy breakfast:

  1. Lowers risk of heart disease and stroke
  2. Boosts energy and metabolism
  3. Assists with weight loss
  4. Contributes to a healthier diet
  5. Helps with brain development and memory retention
  6. Leads to a happier mood

Authority Nutrition also provided the 12 best breakfast foods, including some of the following:

  • Eggs
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Chia Seeds
  • Oatmeal

As long as your choices have healthy doses of vitamins and proteins, you’re good to go. It’s true what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So for the rest of the year, but especially this week, make sure you get to work or school with a stomach full from eating a healthy breakfast.

Meal Prep Tips for Quick and Healthy Eating

Most of us want to eat healthfully. But, after a long day of work and errands even the mere thought of going into the kitchen can be exhausting. Sure you could grab some take-out but this quickly turns into an expensive habit. Plus, most restaurant food is laden with extra salt, sugar and oil. So is it possible to not compromise your health, waistline and wallet without losing your sanity?

Yes! Try incorporating some or all of these simple meal prep tips into your routine to save time, money and keep your health on track.

  1. Plan out your week

Take a few minutes to plan meals for the upcoming week. Decide what you will make and then compile a grocery list so you will have all the ingredients you need. This is a great time to note if you want to double a recipe so you have leftovers for the next day, another great time saver!

  1. Prepare fruits, veggies and whole grains

On Sunday, chop up a rainbow fruits and veggies to not only make healthy snack options accessible but to also have ingredients prepped and ready for cooking.

  1. Don’t fear frozen

Fresh is best but flash freezing retains the majority of the nutrients in frozen fruits and veggies. Throw frozen fruit in the blender for a grab and go breakfast.  In the evening, toss fresh and/or frozen veggies into a pan to make a quick stir-fry for dinner. Do use caution with steam bags – microwaving plastic with your food is risky. Simply transfer the frozen produce to a plate or bowl and then cook.

  1. Make full meals ahead of time

This may not be a feasible option for all but if you do have the time on Sunday, cooking 2-3 re-heatable meals ahead of time will definitely make week night dinner time a breeze. Sides, salads (without the dressing) and other snacks are a great here too.

  1. Have a back up

Life happens. So having a few super quick, go-to meals is a great way to proactively get yourself out of a dinner-time jam that, let’s be honest, is bound to happen. Double a recipe ahead of time that you can freeze and easily reheat when you need it. Freeze soup or sauces to have on hand. Keep your pantry stocked with some quality canned foods that don’t have added salt or sugar. And if you resort to take-out don’t beat yourself up about it. Just be mindful with your choices.

Dr. Steve Horvitz is R-Health’s Medical Director and one of the physician’s part of the NJ SHBP / SEHBP program