Archive of ‘NUTRITION’ category

BYOL – Bring Your Own Lunch!


I don’t know if there is a single tip I can stress more than bringing your own lunch to work with you. So often, we are pressured by our work buds to make lunch choices that we normally wouldn’t if we were dining alone. Or maybe it is the urge to get out of the office just to revel in the fresh air. I notice that just the thought of lunchtime possibilities throughout the morning hustle can be more exciting than a trip to Disney. This is simply due to our desire to escape the workplace, and truly has little to do with the meal itself. Boy, is this going to come as a blow….pull it together….make your lunch in advance, and bring it with you!!! Eat it outside, at Starbucks with a hot tea, or in your car for all I care. Just don’t waste your day’s worth of calories and fat during a lunchtime bender.

Call me crazy but a loaded pizza on a Wednesday at noon would not be happening if I was thinking sanely and had a lunch calling my name in the fridge. Then, what happens when we get home? We rejoice in the fact that the workday is over and we eat something else decadent? So commonly, this is the truth. I understand that lunch for so many is a wonderful time in the day that we detach from our duties and enjoy some deliciousness. But the fact of the matter is, we are at work. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my calories and bad choices while I’m at work. I would rather go wild at home with loved ones. After a long day of work, I’m tired and I don’t necessarily want to make good decisions all the time. So I know that if I fueled up on nutritious food at breakfast and lunch, I have room to rejoice at the end of the day. I can indulge in my favorite dessert of the week, whatever that may be – all things in moderation. Evenings are usually filled with our families and maybe even a dinner out, so I want to relax and enjoy that time. Of course, I have to add a disclaimer: Weeknight dinners are not meant for rich, decadent, fatty overloads and binge eating….but there is a bit more leeway if we have calories to spare.

  very large salad bowl II with lemon 120 x 180 cm oil/c 2008

Lunchtime tips:

  1. Go meatless. By going meatless at lunchtime, we can significantly reduce our saturated fat intake, carbon footprint, total calories, all while filling up on fresh plant-based food. This is a great tip to keep lunch affordable as well….but where will I get my protein? Simple. Add beans, nuts, and seeds and you will have plenty of protein for that meal. The best part about this tip is that you can literally eat as much as you want without feeling guilty.
  2. Prepare your weekday lunches on Sunday. Large salads (and I mean large- no wimpy salads that will leave me ready to gnaw off my arm in an hour and a half) are great to get through lunchtime. Chop all of your veggies on Sunday and portion out at least 3 of your salads for the week. They will be ready to grab and go as you roll out of bed for the next three days. Wednesday night is a good time to reevaluate your veggies. Your lettuce may look like it has seen better days, so you might want to sub a different vegetable. Now, prep the next two days. Load your salad up with anything and everything you can imagine. You can choose celery, carrots, olives, hearts of palm, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, raw peppers, jalapenos, avocado, banana peppers, goat cheese, feta cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, beans, nuts, seeds, and so many more. I love to make my own dressings. I will post some of my faves in the near future.
  3. Soup it up! Pile as many veggies and beans as you can think of in a pot and simply add veggie broth or water and a few veggie bouillon cubes (Make sure they are MSG-or monosodium glutamate free) and bring to a boil. You will not believe how simple it is to make veggie soups- and they are pretty hard to mess up. It is one of my go-to’s. I will make a large batch of soup on Sunday and freeze half for later lunches weeks down the road. So after that busy weekend or a weekend getaway I simply defrost the soup overnight and have plenty of soup for the week. This is a really great tip to load up on veggie goodness while eating a filling dish and still enjoying some comfort food at work.
  4.  Change it up. My previous tips have focused on preparing one basic meal in the beginning of the week and then eating that same meal for five days. I don’t mind this, because I know that most are more likely to BYOL if it is waiting in the fridge the morning of. Many weeks I am able to eat the same thing five days in a row, but not every week. When you need to switch it up, use those ingredients that you prepared on Sunday and transform them into something a little bit different and more interesting. For example, throw those already chopped veggies in a tortilla to make a delicious veggie wrap Wednesday night. Sick of meatless meals? Make a soft taco with roasted chicken breast and use the salad as the topper. Add tuna or grilled chicken to your salad. Just make sure that at least 50% of your lunch comes from plant sources. Be Creative! If you’re sick of the soup, maybe purée it and add a dollop of Greek yogurt to change it up. Delish!

It’s about experimentation. Try new things. Never had watercress? Give it a shot! Enjoy the meals that you prepare so that you look forward to eating them. But always, always BYOL!



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Behold, the Power of the Grapefruit


Grapefruit 2

Don’t miss out on this luscious fruit that is freshly available now! This nutrient-packed treasure is in season from November through June, with the best tasting varieties available mid-December through April. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t start my morning with one of these babies.

During the winter, we tend to drink much less water. We also eat less fruit, presumably preserving our taste buds for summer. Wintertime allows us to load up on heavy foods (or as we like to say, “warming foods,” because that naturally sounds better). This leads to dehydrated, bloated bellies, and a lack of fundamental nutrients. Well, I am proud to proclaim that this special fruit can change all of our winter misconceptions.

Grown in Florida and Texas predominantly, the grapefruit is a perfect addition to any meal or snack. It is actually an excellent fruit for weight loss. It can accelerate your body’s ability to burn fat and assist in the breakdown of protein during digestion. Studies have linked this fruit with greater weight loss, lower waist circumference, and better insulin utilization. It is a metabolism-boosting splendor. Because of its rich fiber content, it allows us to feel fuller longer. Grapefruit also helps dispel excess water and waste in our system due to its low sodium and high potassium content, and even prevents kidney stones.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty – Citrus Limonoids – compounds found in grapefruit. These are phytonutrients that research has shown to prevent a multitude of cancers. They decrease the proliferation (multiplying and spreading) of already present cancer cells.  We also know that this phytonutrient is even more powerful when paired with green tea (that’s for another blog). Preliminary research is suggesting that limonoids help to decrease cholesterol by allowing the liver to produce less Apolipoprotein B, a componenet of LDL (lousy) cholesterol.

Pink and Red grapefruit have lycopene, a splendid phytonutrient that we usually associate with tomato sauce. It is a carotenoid that gives fruit and vegetables their red color. Watermelons are another example. Lycopene has been linked with the prevention of both cancer and heart disease. Unlike beta-carotene (think carrots), this carotenoid does not convert to Vitamin A in our bodies. It has a role of its own, for which researchers are feverishly attempting to pin down.  Unfortunately, this antioxidant is not found in the white variety of grapefruit. Eh, you win some, you lose some.

As with all citrus fruit, grapefruit is a phenomenal source of Vitamin C. One large grapefruit provides over 200% of our daily value. Vitamin C is an important component of iron absorption. Few know that its role in skin and tissue repair is vital…think sailors plagued with scurvy when Vitamin C was absent. Of course it is also a strong ally when embarking into the nasty flu season. It is a powerful immune boosting anti-oxidant, that helps destroy all of the vicious free radicals we pick up on a daily basis. An important thing to remember with this vitamin is that it is water soluble. This means that it is not stored in our fat cells, and is flushed out each day. Therefore we must regularly ingest it in order to keep our Vitamin C levels high.

Of course with all good things, there is always a caveat. I know this whole grapefruit thing sounds too good to be true, and unfortunately for some, it is. Grapefruits are metabolism manipulators and for this reason, it is advised that we do not eat them if we are taking certain drugs. Grapefruit and its juice contain a compound called furanocoumarin, which inhibits the liver from properly breaking down certain medications- thus leading to toxic blood levels. Some of these drugs include, cholesterol lowering medications, some blood pressure medications, some cancer drugs, some antibiotics, and others. Bottom line: if you are taking a prescription drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist before indulging in the grapefruit.

With that being said, this winter-busting fruit is incomparable because of its benefits. Enjoy alone, in a salad, or drizzled with a little honey all season long!

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“Oh, and Please Hold the Veggies”- (HTV)


My husband is an avid hold the veggies (HTV) enthusiast. He is a self proclaimed veggie hater that refuses to dabble in anything other than what he has already established as delicious. Now, as you can imagine, this presents a conflict of interest. I, a self proclaimed veggie enthusiast, cannot understand where this bright man’s thought process comes from. On many occasions he has eaten a select few vegetables that I have prepared, and liked them. However, he has yet to make peace with the spinach leaf. So after six years, I have decided to take my victories where I can get them. After all, he was playing the McDonald’s Monopoly game when we first met, and now has not visited a fast-food restaurant like that in years. Sigh, how far we’ve come….

I must admit that my husband, Adam, is absolutely brilliant. He’s a medical student that excels each day in all of his endeavors. He is a technical genius, and to him I credit for this website. He is a talented drummer that can jump into any song, even if he has never played it before. He is loving, kind, and usually puts up with my shenanigans with a smile. However, he is yet to excel in the cooking department while steering clear of all known kitchen appliances. That is where I come in. Although he sees the benefits in vegetables, he simply cannot bring himself to eat them. So now when I hear him say, “hold the vegetables,” I slyly think, “Alright, I’ll HIDE the vegetables (HTV)! That’s right, I sneakily add a dash of health to his seemingly vitamin-free meals – and I am proud of it. After all, I want him around for a long time.

I will let you in on my strategies, although they vary with each recipe. Take for instance, a classic New Orleans gumbo. To pay homage to our recent New Orleans trip, I wanted to bring that NOLA flavor back home – and what better way than with the iconic Gumbo. I have listed the recipe under the Recipes tab. You may also click here to view it. For those of you unfamiliar with gumbo, it is a spicy Cajun dish thinner than stew but thicker than a soup. It is traditionally made with andouille sausage and some form of protein, such as shrimp, chicken, and crawfish.

To transform this rich dish into a nutritious meal, I doubled the vegetables, cut in half the fatty meat, and then did a really sneaky thing by adding (well-disguised, of course) spinach- or as I like to call it, Adam’s nemesis. This is a simple way to double the disease-fighting phytochemicals, while maintaining flavor and deliciousness. I know, I know… It’s never a good thing to fool your loved one- but when you care about your loved one more than anything else in this world, I believe it’s a worthy cause. Besides, I’m onto his little ploy to sneak ice cream in the middle of the day!

Now if you’re questioning whether or not my transformed HTV Gumbo went over well, let me tell you – Adam loved it! He raved about it for days! Thus, once again proving I have struck a vegtastic gold mine here. I am looking forward to sharing this and many other HTV recipes and stories with you. I am happy to answer all of your questions (that is, if I live to tell now that my secret is out), so please feel free to email me or comment below.

Happy eating! (wink!)

Bryee Shepard, MS, RD

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The Anti-Resolution Solution


It is that time of year again when we are all bombarded with quick-fix solutions to help us achieve health and turn our lives around, prompt! It’s the time that headline news consists of belly busters and boot camp strategies, local gyms meet their yearly quota on new members, and as a nation we discuss our least favorable qualities and decide that we will make a change this year! Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Time Magazine recently released statistics stating that only 8% of people stick to their resolutions. I don’t know about you, but that is enough for me to throw the whole New Year Resolution initiative out the window! I intentionally did not post this on January 1st for this very reason.

Yes, I do believe that we all need a motivating factor to pump us up and get the motivation juices flowing, but let’s be real. Coming off of a holiday season filled with indulgences that we dream of only once a year, it is nearly impossible to slap ourselves back into submission once the clock hits 12. We need to work our way into this health thing gradually. We must make our peace with the eggnog, the latkes, the gingersnaps, and those amazing little hors d’oeuvres that appear only during the holidays. Saying “sayonara” and “see you next year” takes some time. So my proposal to you is, be easy on yourself. Don’t become a statistic. Wait until you are prepared.

We are more likely to fail when we force deprivation before we are intellectually ready. Now, I am not condoning carrying on this wild fiesta for months! Commit to yourself that you will make a minor change in a reasonable time period. A simple and small step will make a difference in your 2014 waistline.

This allows you to ease into the New Year on a positive note, without forcing you to jump into your fatigues and go whole-hog on your Nintendo Wii or to drop a car payment at Whole Foods. At this point, we are priming the pump for a sustainable year of good health. I have listed some good examples of small changes below to start on Monday, January 6th (because all anti-climactic things tend to start on a Monday):


  1. Walk for 20 minutes 3 times per week. This is about establishing a routine. It doesn’t matter if you put your sneakers on and wander at a snail’s pace for the first few weeks (or few months-really!). What matters is the fact that you’re slowly creating a new routine for yourself. It is human nature to strive for more, so I promise you won’t be slugging along for too long.
  2. Say goodbye to remaining holiday sweets. Alright, so I know I said that saying sayonara to the holidays need not occur overnight- but this is how it starts. Rid yourself of any holiday scented naughty sweets. We have the rest of the year to be naughty, so let’s raise the bar a bit.
  3. Bring back the veggies! Hey, remember what a sweet potato looked like before we adulterated it with marshmallows and granola? It is actually a wondrous jewel trapped in its own casing, all edible. What about spinach before the cream and cheese?  Let’s get back to basics in the New Year and remember to eat our veggies in their naked state (well, maybe with a little olive oil and garlic).


Enjoy this lovely January weekend, and let’s ease into 2014 together!

Bryee Shepard, MS, RD

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‘Tis the Season for Cocktails and Hangovers


A window into my life: This past month has gone down in the record books for my husband and me. There has simply been an excess in celebratory events….and booze! If we back up to November, there was Thanksgiving (on the 27th) and my birthday (November 30th), both must-have wine holidays. We got married on Saturday, December 14th and let me tell you, that entire joyous weekend was flowing with cocktails. From Cosmos and Mojitos, to beer, bourbon and brandy, everyone certainly enjoyed the spirits. Tuesday after wedding day, we hopped a plane to New Orleans, to take part in one of our country’s richest culinary hot spots…and needless to say I did not skip the libations. By Christmas, I could not see, nor smell one more cocktail or glass of wine…but bring on New Year’s!

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I certainly do not hit the sauce on a regular basis. I often go weeks without the smallest sip of an adult beverage. I am a Registered Dietitian, for goodness sake! I know better. I will explain to you the process that our body goes through in order to metabolize the alcohol that we so happily guzzle, but first let me preface this with the fact that I never deprive myself of anything if the moment is worthy.

The Metabolic Pathway of Ethanol:

(or in other words, what happens to our body as we hit the hooch)

As we drink alcohol, our body’s first response is to quickly rid this toxic substance from our system. A series of enzymatic reactions occur to breakdown one alcohol molecule. With each reaction the molecule becomes less and less toxic, and eventually will result in carbon dioxide and water. Harmless enough, right? Wrong! In this process of enzymatic breakdown a scary carcinogen, known as acetaldehyde, is created. This terrifying molecule wrecks havoc on the organs that it comes in contact with (our poor livers, our pancreas, and even our brain). Fortunately, acetaldehyde does not remain in this nasty state for long, as it is quickly broken down. Depending on the individual’s size and genetics, alcohol will be metabolized at different rates and damaging effects will vary. Regular consumption of alcohol puts us at risk for liver disease, pancreatitis, the death of presumably important brain cells, cancer and other maladies. Not to mention, the risk for making poor decisions while under the influence, and I am not just talking about drunk-dialing. Alcohol is loaded with calories and is an easy culprit of weight gain. Therefore, I only support the consumption of alcohol when responsibly ingested, in moderation, and NEVER when you are going to be getting behind the wheel. As far as the benefits of alcohol, such as Resveratrol found in red wine, and what we should do to help our bodies bounce back from the effects of alcohol…that is for another post.

What I can offer, however, are some simple guidelines to follow to avoid the dreaded hangover:


  1. Know your limit! Sounds over simplified, but this is probably the most important rule of thumb. Have you ever had a hangover after just one glass of wine or one cocktail? Pretty unlikely. So control yourself! Sheesh!
  2. Electrolyte infused beverages, preferably coconut water. Electrolytes help to keep the water that we drink in our cells, rather than passing straight through us. This keeps us hydrated, thus staving off the ugly headache.
  3. Water, water, and more water! If coconut water is nowhere to be found, water is perfect. Think one glass of water after every alcoholic beverage you drink. I know, it definitely takes the fun out of those beer funnels that the guys were doing in college, but it will keep the room from spinning for the next 24-48 hours.

Final Tip: As you now know, the idea of damaging precious cells with every sip of shine is certainly a turn off. Therefore, I like to both order and create cocktails with antioxidant rich fruit blended in to offset the nasty effects. These include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mango. Although there is no scientific research supporting my theory that these good fruits will lessen the damage, it certainly can’t hurt. Antioxidants in general are wonder workers that eradicate evil doers in our bodies. So when it comes to fruit and veg, the more the merrier!

Happy New Year! Cheers!

Bryee Shepard, M.S., R.D.


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