Interview: Omega 3 and Omega 6, What You Need to Know

Marci Anderson - Saturday, October 13, 2012

I was recently asked to give an interview on essential fatty acids. I was actually thrilled to talk about this because getting enough essential fatty acids (omega-3) in your diet is essential to brain health, mental health, and satiety! Through the 90's dietary fat got a very bad rap. But slowly people seem to be coming around to the idea that fats are crucial to eating well. 

In fact, did you know that inadequate dietary fat is association with increased levels of anxiety and depression! Seriously.

If you are interested in learning more, check out my interview. You can read the transcript here or listen to the audio version here.

So what's your biggest obstacle to getting more omega-3s into your diet?


Orthorexia: Can healthy eating be a disease?!

Marci Anderson - Thursday, July 01, 2010

Yesterday, I received several emails with a link to this article on a condition called "Orthorexia."  Most people read the article and wondered if it was serious, wondered if it wasn't some sort of exaggeration or joke.  

And while I admit, reading about it online may seem strange or even ridiculous, it is a true disorder that affects both the physical and emotional health of a lot of people.  Just read my recent client spotlight. What began as "healthy eating" and exercising for her, quickly became orthorexia, which then became a much more severe eating disorder that required residential treatment and intensive outpatient care.  

Now of course I believe in healthy eating and exercise- my life is committed to supporting it in myself and others!  BUT, the distinction between healthy living and orthorexia are two important words: unhealthy obsession.  You can read more on the Orthorexia home page, written by Dr. Steven Bratman who coined the term and wrote the book "Health Food Junkies." 

<Ironically, I just loaned my copy to a client who has suffered mental, emotional, and physical distress FOR YEARS due to an unhealthy obsession with "healthy" eating and exercise.> My clients who suffer from orthorexia share a single characteristic- the obsession diminishes rather than enhances their quality of life.  Relationships suffer, social isolation ensues, they have often feel paralyzed, depression/anxiety is worse, sleep patterns are affected, etc.  

My philosophy is that moderation with food, exercise, and in life- is the key!  And I also believe that we are meant to find enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfillment from the food we eat.  Anything taken to an extreme is unhealthy.  If you have always been interested in "healthy" living and are curious as to whether or not you are taking a bit too far, the assessment below may be helpful to you.  This is taken from Dr. Bratman's book.

Dr. Bratman suggests that you may be orthorexic, or on your way there, if you:
o Spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.
o Plan your day’s menu more than 24 hour ahead of time.
o Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it.
o Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your food increases.
o Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.
o Base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
o Eat “correct” foods to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
o So limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
o Feel guilt or self-loathing when you eat “incorrect” foods.
o Derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”

Bratman suggests that if more than four of these descriptions applies to you, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your attitude toward what you eat. If they all apply, you’re in the grip of an obsession.

This seems to be a controversial topic.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Striving to live a balanced life in hectic Harvard Square,

Product Showcase: Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf

Marci Anderson - Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Since it's Heart Month, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight a whole grain food product I absolutely love.  A few months ago I found Kashi's 7 Whole Grain Pilaf in the hot cereal aisle.  It looked interesting so I bought it.  And to my delight, it is an absolutely scrumptious grain that cooks a lot like brown rice.  Warning, it does take 25 minutes so you may want to make it ahead of time.  Because it is plain, I recommend consulting Kashi's website for recipe ideas or get creative and spice it up on your own.

The first time I used the pilaf I tried the recipe on the side of the box for Mediterranean Pilaf. It's incredibly easy and makes for fantastic leftovers.  With my busy schedule I'm constantly looking for recipes that I can serve for dinner, then eat for lunch the next couple of days.  I cut this recipe in half and it was great.  You may want to add in a can of black beans for more protein.

Mediterranean Pilaf

2 packets Kashi® 7 Whole Grain Pilaf
1 cup pine nuts (to reduce fat content, use ½ cup pine nuts)
2 cloves organic garlic, minced
6 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 bunches fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1 organic red bell pepper, diced
1 organic yellow bell pepper, diced
fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook pilaf according to package instructions.
2. In a small skillet, dry toast the pine nuts over medium high heat, stirring continuously until they are golden brown and aromatic. Remove nuts from heat and set aside.
3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, chili flakes, salt, basil, pepper and set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked Kashi Pilaf, pine nuts, bell peppers and sauce mixture. Mix well and serve.  

And for any of my readers that don't like or think they don't have time to cook...

One of the most common questions I get when helping my nutrition clients plan meals is:
What frozen foods (if any) do you recommend?  

My response: a frozen Kashi meal isn't a bad option.  I like them because the base of the meal is whole grains and they are fairly balanced in terms of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  My suggestion is to serve with a side salad and a piece of fruit to round out your meal a bit. My personal favorite is the Black Bean Mango. It's awfully encouraging to read the ingredient list: whole grains, beans, water, veggies are the first 6 ingredients.  Cool.


February is American Heart Month

Marci Anderson - Saturday, February 06, 2010

Most of us associate February with Valentine's Day.  And we all know what that means- chocolate.  But February isn't just for celebrating love and candy.  The American Heart Association has deemed the month of February American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States yet it is one of the most preventable chronic diseases. The American Heart Association has a fun interactive quiz that will help you identify your risk for developing heart disease along with personalized recommendations to help you improve your heart health. 

One of the important components of a healthy heart is a healthy cholesterol profile.  The numbers below are for an ideal cholesterol profile:
*Total cholesterol <200
*LDL cholesterol (this is the bad stuff) <100
*HDL cholesterol  (this is the good stuff) > 60 

Aside from genetics, one of the only effective ways to increase your HDL or good cholesterol is through exercise.  And you can decrease your LDL or bad cholesterol quite dramatically through diet.

1.) Increase the amount of fruits and veggies you eat.
2.) Increase the amount of whole grains, beans, and legumes in your diet.
3.) Decrease the amount of animal products you consume especially high fat meats and dairy
4.) Avoid tobacco and keep alcohol intake to a single serving a day

Oats are a super-stellar food for helping to reduce unhealthy cholesterol.  It's high in soluble fiber, the gummy stuff that helps bind cholesterol circulating in your blood stream.  As a nutrition therapist in Cambridge, all of my clients are on the go and have a hard time fitting in a balanced breakfast.  Cooking up a batch of oatmeal and topping it with dried fruit and nuts it's a great way to start your day.  So, here's a simple way to add a tasty breakfast to your week that is both heart and budget friendly.

1.) Cook a batch of quick cooking oats according to package directions.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week but save time by cooking a bigger batch at once.
2.) If you want, use milk or orange juice to thin out your oatmeal and add a little flavor or creaminess.
3.) Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
4.) Top with walnuts or almonds and dried fruit
5.) Enjoy


Exercise & Depression

Marci Anderson - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If you tend to feel a bit blue during the winter months, you are not alone. Rates of depression increase during the winter, including people who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). In fact, recent findings suggest that the severity of eating disorder symptoms for bulimia peak in the Fall & Winter months.

While clinically significant depressive disorders need to be treated by a competent medical professional, a little exercise can go a long way to boosting mood, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep patterns.  While you may not be as committed as these gentleman are to exercise, I thought you'd appreciate the laugh. :) How's that for a little mood booster?

Here are a few facts you might not know:

1.) As you exercise your body's feel good chemicals called endorphins are produced.  This helps to increase your energy levels which over time increases your stamina.  

2.) Exercise is a positive distraction that illicits a relaxation response in your body to help lower feelings of stress and anxiety.

3.) As you exercise, more serotonin is available to your brain.  As a result you feel happier, more relaxed, and more confident in your ability to manage your life's stressors. This may also help reduce carbohydrate cravings, a symptom of SAD.

It's tempting to want to hibernate for the winter. But a small does of exercise (30 minutes) is all you need to reap the disease-fighting and mood enhancing benefits.  And you don't necessarily need a gym either! 

Here is my Top 10 list of simple strategies to moving more.  

1. Keep it simple. The only cost is a good pair of walking shoes. Walking the neighborhood or even walking the mall is something that is affordable and easy.

2. Many schools open their gyms up to the community for walking programs so check a local school.

3. Turn up the music and dance. A friend lost 19# by doing this for 60 minutes a day with her kids.

4. Take family night to another level with a game like Wii Fit.

5. Use a pedometer and make your own records for as many steps in a single day.

6. Get outside in any season: In the summer, go for walks, hike a new trail, go for a bike ride, kayak, canoe, swim. In the fall, do your own color tour - bring your camera and walk through the beautiful colors. In the winter, ski - downhill can be expensive but if you already have the equipment night skiing is cheaper, cross-country skiing is a great work out, go ice skating, slide down a hill in a toboggan - climbing up the hill is great exercise, go snow shoeing, have a snowball fight, build a snowman. In the spring, take a walk to see all the flowers and trees budding and waking up from their winter slumber.

7. Take work breaks: 30 min at lunch, 15 min in the morning and afternoon. Other people get a smoke break, right?

8. Commercial Break Competitions: Do some routines with hand held weights (or improvised wts from filled water bottles). March, climb stairs, do jumping jacks, push ups, etc.

9. Play like your kids and with your kids. Get down on the ground with them, do somersaults, climb, run, skip, jump, play tag, toss and chase a ball. Have Fun!

10. Join a club or team.

Identify your barriers to moving more and create a game plan. Start simple and specific and let me know how it goes. And always check with your Dr. before starting an exercise program.

Your neighborhood nutritionist in Cambridge,


Product Showcase: Frozen Edamame

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Since this month is Diabetes Awareness month, I wanted to showcase a produce that makes for great low-carbohydrate, high-protein snack.  Most of us tend to snack on high carb items like fruit, granola bars, and crackers.  These types of snacks can make it very hard for a person with diabetes to keep good control over their blood sugar.  But edamame is a tasty and often over-looked treat that is a great option for those keeping on an eye on their carbohydrate intake.  Plus it's down-right delicious, even kids love it.

Trader Joe's carries two types of edamame, shelled and still in the pod.  The shelled edamame is great for recipes and the edamame still in the pod is fun for snacking.  Whatever you choose, cook a few servings at once, toss with some salt, and keep it on hand for easy eating.  That way you don't have to boil a pot of water every time your snack tooth starts talking.

I recently made a fantastic salad (thanks to a recipe from my friend Kate) using the shelled Edamame from Trader Joes.  I served with pre-marinated tofu and whole wheat couscous from Trader Joes as well (boy, I sound like I'm selling something don't I?).  While the salad was marinating I sliced my tofu and whipped up my couscous in the microwave.  The whole ordeal took about 20 minutes.  Delicious!

Corn & Edamame-Sesame Salad

2 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. rice vinegar (or any vinegar works fine)
2 t. tamari or soy sauce

2 c. frozen, shelled edamame
1 c. fresh corn (1 or 2 ear, depending on the size) or partially frozen corn
2 T. toasted sesame seeds
Generous pinch of salt

Bring a a big pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk all the dressing ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl.

Boil the edamame for 3 minutes. Add the corn and boil for another 2 minutes. Drain into a colander and run under cold water until cool enough to touch. Add the edamame and corn to the dressing and toss to combine. Add the sesame seeds and toss again. Salt to taste. Cover and chill at least 15 minutes. Yum!

For a heartier salad add some sliced avocado.  Or wrap up in lettuce cups for an easy appetizer.  Also makes a great side to any Asian-inspired entree.  Enjoy.

Also, check outthis article for some more nutrition info about edamame.  I happen to love that it's a delicious legume packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. :)

November is Diabetes Awarenenss Month

Marci Anderson - Friday, November 06, 2009

This November, join the American Diabetes Association in a national movement to Stop Diabetes.
November is American Diabetes Month®—a time to shine a spotlight on a serious disease that leads to potentially life-threatening complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputation.

This year, we need to take a bolder, more audacious approach to American Diabetes Month. Consider that:
•24 million children and adults in the United States live with diabetes
•57 million Americans are at risk for type 2 diabetes
•1 out of every 3 children born today will face a future with diabetes if current trends continue
We ask you to join the American Diabetes Association in launching a national movement to Stop Diabetes – help us confront it, fight it, and most importantly, stop it.

Here's how you can become involved:
•Share. Inspire others to join the movement by sharing your personal story. Visit and join us on Facebook and Twitter to learn about all the exciting ways to be a part of the Stop Diabetes movement. Invite your family, friends, and co-workers to join this effort as well.
•Act. Whether you want to walk*, bike* or simply tell a friend, there will be many ways to help us build momentum for the Stop Diabetes movement.
•Learn. The American Diabetes Association has many resources throughout the country to help Stop Diabetes. If you, or a loved one, already have diabetes* or are at risk* for developing it, we can provide medical, lifestyle and motivational information to prevent this disease from taking control of your life and the lives of those around you.
•Give. Sign up with your local American Diabetes Association office to help raise money for diabetes research, federal and state advocacy and public education.

This month I'll be providing a few tips that you can use if you have diabetes or know someone who does.  Stay tuned!


Exercise & Osteoporosis Prevention

Marci Anderson - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Turns out that October 20th, 2009 is World Osteoporosis Day.  Additionally, the National Osteoporosis Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  They've developed several useful handouts:

25 Facts about Your Bones & Osteoporosis

25 Calcium Rich Foods

25 Ways to Improve Your Bone Health

25 Ways to Prevent Falls

While you might not be able to control some of the risk factors for developing osteoporosis (being female, Asian/Caucasian, and getting older) there are a handful of really important things you can do NOW to prevent osteoporosis. 

You may already know this but consistent exercise is one of the best things you can build healthy bones.  And the National Osteoporosis Foundation has a great article on their website.  Below is a basic run down of the types of exercises and their effectiveness in improving bone health.

Weight-bearing, High-Impact Exercises are best for building bones in people who do not have low bone mass, osteoporosis or are frail.

Some of these exercises include:
High-impact aerobics
Jumping Rope
Stair climbing

Weight-bearing, Low-Impact Exercises can also help to build bones and are safer for people who cannot do high-impact exercises.

Some of these exercises include:
Elliptical training machines
Low impact aerobics
Stair-step machines
Walking (treadmill/outside)

These exercises include activities where you move your body, a weight or some other resistance against gravity.

Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes
Lifting weights
Using elastic exercise bands
Using weight machines
Lifting your own body weight

These exercises can help you to improve balance, posture, and how well you move in every day activities. These exercises can also help to increase muscle strength and decrease the risk of falls and broken bones.

Some of these exercises include:
Balance exercises. Exercises that strengthen your legs and challenge your balance, such as Tai Chi, can decrease your risk of falls.

Posture exercises. Exercises that improve your posture and reduce rounded or “sloping” shoulders can help you decrease the risk of fractures, especially in the spine.

Functional exercises. Exercises that improve how well you move can help you in everyday activities and decrease your risk of falls and fractures. For example, if you have trouble getting up from a chair or climbing stairs, you should do these activities as exercises (try standing up and sitting down several times until you are tired).

Yoga and Pilates can also improve strength, balance and flexibility; however people with low bone density or osteoporosis should avoid certain positions to prevent fractures. These include forward-bending exercises. A physical therapist should be able to help you learn which exercises are safe and appropriate for you.

These exercises can be part of a well-rounded exercise program, but do not help to build bones. If you like these activities, try to add in others that work your bones

Some of these exercises include:
Bicycling/indoor cycling
Deep-water walking
Stretching and flexibility exercises
Water aerobics

So get your body movin' today, your bones will thank you for it!  You may want to check out an old posting I did on Vitamin D supplemenation.  Calcium and Vitamin D supplementation is essential for healthy bones.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Marci Anderson - Monday, October 12, 2009

Did you know that October marks the 25th year of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM)?  The purposes of this annual campaign is to increase awareness, raise funds for research, and promote prevention and early detection.

Please note that Friday, October 16th is National Mammography Day.  Take this as an opportunity to schedule a mammorgram or encourage a loved one to schedule a mammogram today.  You could be saving a life.

The BCAM website is filled with lots of information and tools for patients, information about the disease, and a listing of opportunities to help the cause.  While breast cancer is not totally preventable, it's important to remember that there are a few important things you can do to be as healthy as possible.

1.) Begin scheduling regular mammograms and screenings at the age of 40.
2.) Obtain a clinical breast exam annually.
3.) Perform monthly breast self-exams.  This goes for women in their 20's and beyond.
4.) Choose a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and foods naturally high in fiber (think whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes).
5.) Limit your alcohol intake to <1 drinks per day.
6.) Stop smoking if you are currently in the habit.
7.) Stay active! A brisk 30 minute walk on most days of the week does the trick.  But it can be a lot more fun to find something you enjoy: exercising with a friend, taking a dance class, walking your dog, etc.

Check out a blog post I wrote earlier about Holly Clegg and her fanastic cookbook "Eating Well Through Cancer."  Here's a recipe for Yam Biscuits she recommends for the day of chemotherapy.  This can be a great resource for anyone who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Everyone who is reading my blog is aware of how important it is to take care of your bodies as best you can.  All you can do is your very best, so try not to get overwhelmed and stressed.  It may be helpful to choose one thing you can do a bit better and focus on it...even if that means reaching out to your Mom, sister, or best friend.

Eating Gluten-Free on a Budget

Marci Anderson - Sunday, September 06, 2009

Many of you may know someone who has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  What was once considered an incredibly rare and often undiagnosed disease has gained more attention by clinicians, food manufacturers, and the media. 

The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet (harder than it sounds), so as a dietitian I've counseled clients with celiac disease.  Additionally, a close family member was recently diagnosed with the disease.  While I've never experiened what it's like to live with celiac disease, I do have a sense of how difficult it can be to follow a gluten-free diet.  Some of the frustrations include skipping out on foods you love (forever), finding gluten-free options while dining out, and the extra cost of buying special gluten-free products.

I recently came across a great article in the New York Times that addresses the last issue, the expense of eating gluten-free.  Here are the tips they offer:
1.) Avoid stocking up on special gluten-free products.  Try to base your diet on foods that are naturally gluten-free.
2.) Do your research.  It takes time and patience to find products that do not contain ingredients with gluten.
3.) Try making your own gluten-free products such as breads and cakes.
4.) Check out this great website: Gluten Free on a Shoestring
5.) Look for well-priced bulk items at chain stores.  Trader Joes carries a fantastic brown rice pasta and Wal-Mart stocks Alf's puffed brown rice cereal for $1/bag.
6.) Join a support group.  You'll get great cost-saving tips and vendors often come and provide samples.
7.) Itemize your tax return.  If your expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income it qualifies as a write off.  "You can deduct the excess cost of a gluten-free product over a comparable gluten-containing product."
 8.) If you have a flexible spending account at work, ask your plan's adminstrator if you can use it to buy gluten-free products.

Also, be sure to check out Shelley Case's website and consider buying her book "Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource." She is an RD with Celiac Disease and her book is the Bible for Celiac Disease.  You can also sign-up for her free newsletter, check out her blog, and listen to her podcasts.  Because food and food products are always changing, it's essential to stay current.