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Originally appeared in the October 20, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer

We live in a grab-and-go world. And while I always encourage clients to eat real and wholesome foods, I also understand that time is not always in our favor. It’s no wonder why the nutrition bar industry is booming.

But not all nutrition bars are healthy. Some bars might as well be candy with the amount of added sugar they contain. With so many brands and flavor varieties marketed, it’s hard to know what to look for when making a quick and nutritionally sound decision.

Here are the four criteria I used to determine my top healthy picks:

  • Look at the ingredients first: Can you pronounce all of them?
  • Is the sugar content higher than protein?
  • Does the bar contain more than 10 grams of protein?
  • Does the bar contain at least 5 grams of fiber?

Below are five protein bars that pass the test.

Primal Kitchen’s Dark Chocolate Almond Bar

Calories: 230
Fat: 15g
Carbs: 14g
Fiber: 6g
Sugar: 3g
Protein: 15g

This bar has most food allergies covered: Gluten free, grain free, egg free, dairy free and soy free. All of its ingredients are whole food-based — no sugar alcohols here! The bar contains as much protein as two eggs, making this bar a healthy choice for a quick meal replacement.

RXbar’s Chocolate Chip

Calories: 210
Fat: 9g
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 5g
Sugar: 13g
Protein: 12g

This bar contains eight wholesome ingredients; automatically making it an RD-approved choice. The protein comes solely from egg whites. And while this specific flavor contains more sugar than protein, the sugar is coming from a natural source — dates —unlike most brands which contain added sugar.

Square Organic’s Chocolate Sea Salt Crisp

Calories: 220
Fat: 12g
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 9g
Protein: 10g

If you’re craving a bar that actually tastes like decadent dark chocolate unlike the chalky flavors of other protein bars, look no further than the Square Organics line. The protein source is organic sprouted plants and the fat source is from RD-approved cashew butter. Bonus: You won’t find refined sugars in any of their bars.

Pegan Thin’s Sweet Sunflower Butter

Calories 187
Fat: 11g
Carbs: 26g
Fiber: 24g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 20g

Made for vegan and paleo lifestyles, Pegan Thin bars offer an impressive 20 grams of protein, which comes from certified organic watermelon seeds. And don’t be alarmed by the fiber content; it comes from organic prebiotic digestive-resistant tapioca fiber. It’s important to note that this bar contains the least amount of sugar compared to all the bars on my RD-approved list.

Oatmega’s Chocolate Peanut Butter

Calories 200
Fat: 7g
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 7g
Sugar: 5g
Protein: 14g

I love the taste of this bar — it’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  The bar’s main protein sources are grass fed whey protein and almonds – all RD-approved. Responsibly caught fish oil provides a dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. And the low sugar content comes from a natural source: monk fruit extract. Hint: You can find these bars at local Snap Kitchen locations.

Don’t see your favorite nutrition bar in this article?  That doesn’t mean it isn’t RD-approved! Ask yourself the four questions above to see if it passes the test.

Try to be mindful of the frequency you are consuming nutrition bars and consider what whole-based foods you are consequently substituting them with. Ideally, aim to limit your intake to no more than three bars per week so you aren’t missing the opportunity to consume natural sources of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.

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Originally appeared in the September 18, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer

To provide you with the timely, credible, in-depth resources you need to eat healthy, get fit, raise a family and be a smart health consumer, we have a panel of experts from around the Philadelphia region, who include these regular contributors.

Health Care Experts

Sarah Levin Allen, PhD, CBIS, is assistant professor of psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the executive director of neuropsychology at the Brain Behavior Bridge. She also directs the Neuro-Behavioral Intervention and Prevention (n-BIP) initiative at PCOM. Allen is a licensed neuropsychologist, a certified brain injury specialist, and a New Jersey certified school psychologist. She specializes in making brain-based research accessible and usable to families and schools. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and two young children, who are a constant source of inspiration.

David Becker, MD, is a board-certified cardiologist with Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology in Flourtown, Pa. He has been in practice for 25 years. In 1993, after extensive research, he launched Healthy Change of Heart, an innovative 10-week program designed to reverse heart disease and improve quality of life through diet, exercise, and stress management. Since then, thousands of patients have participated in the program, achieving significant results in improving cardiac wellness.

Peter Bidey, DO, is medical director of family medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He also is clinical instructor of family medicine, precepting fourth-year medical students and rotating interns at PCOM’s City Ave. Community Health Care Center. He received his B.S. in biology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and his DO from PCOM. He is board certified in family practice and osteopathic manipulative treatment from the American College of Osteopathic Physicians.

Stacey C. Cahn, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychology at Rowan University, where she specializes in eating disorders and coordinates their Eating Disorder Treatment Program.

Brian Cammarota, ATC, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a certified athletic trainer, licensed physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and corrective exercise specialist. He currently works as a physical therapist and athletic trainer, focusing on Sports Medicine injuries with Good Shepard Penn Partners at Penn Therapy and Fitness in Radnor, Pa. He is also a partner with Symetrix Sports Performance where he specializes in injury prevention. His experience includes 12 years with the Philadelphia Phillies where he was the Rehabilitation and Minor League Athletic Training Coordinator. He presents frequently on sports medicine, movement dysfunction, and throwing injuries.

Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian, chef and wellness advocate. She has been the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies since 2009 and has worked with the Philadelphia Flyers for more than two seasons. Previously, she owned Healthy Bites to Go, a locally sourced cafe and meal delivery service for eight years. She also teaches an applied nutrition class at the Drexel School of Medicine and previously taught nutrition at West Chester University and The Restaurant School. Her first book, Whole Cooking and Nutrition is available now.

Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD,  is a clinical professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology at the University of California at Davis. He was previously a professor of pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson University.  He has a particular interest in food and environmental allergies and bone immunology.

Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, PhD, is lead psychologist at the Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She is a licensed clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania and New York with expertise in cognitive-behavioral therapy for children, adolescents, and young adults. She specializes in the evaluation and treatment of anxiety disorders, particularly selective mutism, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias. A recipient of a National Science Foundation Fellowship award, she is a frequent lecturer and guest speaker and has published widely in scientific journals and books.

Magee DeFelice, MD, is division chief of allergy and immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and director of the allergy and immunology fellowship program at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. She is board certified in allergy and immunology and in pediatrics. She is a member of the Primary Immune Deficiency Diseases Committee and the Core Curriculum, Education & Residency Review Subcommittee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Her academic interests include immune dysfunction, food allergy, stinging insect allergy, and anaphylaxis.

Rachel DeHaven, an exercise physiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has worked in obesity treatment as a physical activity specialist within the Healthy Weight Program for the past five years. As a clinician in outpatient weight management she works with children ranging from 2-18 years of age where she performs exercise testing, prescriptions and goal setting in individual sessions as well as group sessions. She is also the community outreach coordinator within the Healthy Weight Program, where she helps develop partnerships with local nonprofits relating to childhood wellness in the Philadelphia community.

Elise Deming, RDN, LDN, is a registered retail dietitian-nutritionist in New Jersey.

Gary A. Emmett, MD, FAAP, has been a primary care pediatrician in Philadelphia since 1979. He is currently a professor of pediatrics at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Previously, he was an attending pediatrician at Nemours Pediatrics and director of hospital pediatrics at Jefferson University Hospital. He has been president of the Philadelphia Pediatric Society and is on the board of Pennsylvania Asthma Partnership and many professional organizations. His many writings include a textbook for the hospital well-baby nursery, called Field Guide to the Normal Newborn. He is married to Marianne Ruby, a gynecologist, and has four adult children, and several grandchildren.

Joel H. Fish, PhD, is the director of The Center For Sport Psychology in Philadelphia and a nationally recognized expert for his work with athletes of all ages and skills levels. He has been a sport psychology consultant for the Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia 76ers, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Philadelphia Charge. He has spoken nationwide on sport psychology at over 200 universities and is a popular presenter at a variety of athletic functions. He is also the author of 101 Ways to Be A Terrific Sports Parent.

John Goldthorp, ACE-CPT, RRCA, is a certified running coach, certified personal trainer and founder of Fix Your Run, a specialized coaching business that helps runners become faster and less prone to injury. He holds many other certifications including Functional Movement Screen, Neurokinetic Therapy, and Precision Nutrition. He currently works with clients at Optimal Sport Health Club in Washington Square, and leads weekly group speed training sessions at PhillySurgeRunning.com.

Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT, is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer. She trains her clients at The Sporting Club at The Bellevue. She is also a fitness contributor for local publications such as Philly Current; her site is ashleyblakefitness.com.

Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, MD, is the chief of pediatric emergency services at Bryn Mawr Hospital, and is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Previously, she served as the director of the pediatric emergency department at Temple University Children’s Medical Center and as a member of the pediatric emergency medicine faculty at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. She has authored chapters in pediatric emergency medicine textbooks and is a regular speaker at emergency medicine conferences. She has three children.

Kerri Link Heckert, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She provides medical nutrition therapy for children and adolescents with malnutrition and eating disorders. She is also a yoga instructor (RYT-200), an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist, and a certified personal trainer.

Rima Himelstein, MD, is a Crozer-Keystone Health System pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist. She is one of the founders of Crozer-Keystone’s “Tots to Teens” program, which focuses on gynecologic health for teen and preteen girls. She also operates a school-based health center within the Chester Upland School District in Chester and has been involved with Crozer-Keystone’s award-winning Wellness Center program, which oversees a range of youth development programs within the district.

Jessica Glass Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D, is an Associate Professor and Director of the MS program in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). She is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, and maintains certifications as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and School Psychologist nationally (NCSP) and in New Jersey. She also works with school districts to improve systems through the reform of school and district-wide academic and behavioral policies and practices. She has two children.

Anita Kulick is president & CEO of Educating Communities for Parenting and a founding member of the Pennsylvania Parenting Coalition. She has worked in the field of education and parenting for over 40 years. She is an IFP certified parenting facilitator and a certified trauma-competent family professional. She also has Certificate from the Drexel University Goodwin College of Professional Studies in Positive Psychology. Follow her personal blog here.

Brian Maher, BS, CSCS, is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a Philadelphia-based studio offering one-on-one personal training, physical therapy, and nutrition counseling. He says his is the only personal training studio or gym in Philadelphia that requires its personal trainers to possess a college degree in an exercise-related field.

Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP, is the owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy in North Wales and Hatfield, Pa. She is a  physical therapist who has spent her career in outpatient orthopedics. She has worked with athletes of all abilities, including golfers on the PGA and LPGA Tours. She has lectured all over the country and wrote the Orthopedic Physical Therapy textbook, which is widely used in physical therapy programs.

Paul A. Offit, MD, is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information (Columbia University Press, June 2018).

Megan Robinson, MS, RD, CDE, LDN, a registered dietitian at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has more than 20 years of experience in nutrition care for adolescents and children, specializing in diabetes, heart health, and sports nutrition. She has worked as a nutrition expert with Disney Type 1 Diabetes Every Day Magic website and has published articles in peer-reviewed journals on topics such as double diabetes and managing Type 1 Diabetes and hyperlipidemia. She currently serves on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library workgroup and is a reviewer for the Diabetes Care and Education and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Dietetic Practice groups.

Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA, is the vice president for programs and research for Prevent Child Abuse America, and is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. She managed public and non-profit child welfare programs in Tennessee, Texas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and was the Mercer County, NJ Director of Human Services for nine years. She drew on her experiences as a sex educator working with child abuse prevention to write The Sex-Wise Parent: The Parent’s Guide Protecting Your Child, Strengthening Your Family, and Talking to Kids about Sex, Abuse, and Bullying, (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012).

Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC, is a physical therapist and athletic trainer who has worked with athletes at all levels including the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS, WPS, MLL, ATP, and WTA.  His clinical practice is at Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute. He is also an assistant athletic trainer for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team, and was a member of its medical staff for the 2010 World Cup.

Theresa Shank, RD, LDN, is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and the founder of Philly Dietitian. She provides nutritional counseling to individuals with varying needs such as weight loss, disease prevention and management, sports nutrition, women’s health, child/adolescent weight management and food allergies and intolerance.

Emiliano Tatar, MD, is a pediatrician at Einstein in Roxborough. After a stint at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, he worked at practices in Northwest and Northeast Philly. He lives with his wife and two young children in suburban Philadelphia.

Daniel Taylor, DO, is an associate professor at Drexel University College of Medicine and director of community pediatrics and child advocacy at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. He founded the web-based Children’s Advocacy Project known as Cap4Kids, which has been replicated in 12 communities across the country, and is the administrator of the Philadelphia site.

Jeanette Trella, PharmD, BCPPS, is the managing director at The Poison Control Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She is an adjunct assistant professor at Wilkes University and serves as a preceptor for the Philadelphia-Area Collaboration of Toxicologists (PACT). She is an active participant on the hospital’s Adverse Drug Reaction, Drug Utilization Evaluation, Formulary Review, and Therapeutic Standards Committees and is a member of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT), American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), and the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group (PPAG). She is a reviewer for American Journal of Health System Pharmacists, Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the Journal of Clinical Toxicology.

Also contributing are her colleagues at the Poison Control Center: Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, Medical Director, Dr. Fred Henretig, Associate Medical Director, and Blair Thornley, PharmD, CSPI, a Specialist in Poison Information.

Thomas Trojian, MD, CAQSM, FACSM, is a professor and chief of the division of sports medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine, where he also directs the sports medicine fellowship. He is board certified in sports medicine and family medicine, with a special interest in injury prevention (especially anterior cruciate ligament injuries), sports ultrasound use in the guided treatment of injuries, and concussion prevention. He is the lead physician for Drexel Athletics. He sees patients at Drexel Medicine locations in Manayunk and University City.

Douglas Tynan, PhD, is director of integrated health care for the American Psychological Association in Washington D.C. and professor of pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College. He is a licensed psychologist in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and past president of the American Academy of Health Psychology. He served on the Committee for the Evaluation of Head Start 2003-2007. He is the co-editor of Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology, and one of the co-authors of the recent APA book, “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy.”

Evan J. Weiner, MD, is the director of the department of emergency medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. He trains future emergency medicine professionals as assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Temple University School of Medicine. He is an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, American Academy of Emergency Medicine and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Robyn Weisman, BS, ACE-CPT, is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist with over eight years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She provides in-home, private and semi-private fitness and lifestyle coaching services in the Philadelphia area. Visit resultsbyrw.com for more information.

Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD, is the scientific director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention. She is a board-certified pediatrician, a doctorally trained engineer and a public health researcher who investigates the interface of child and adolescent health, injury, engineering and behavioral science. She is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and is director of the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS), and a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates site. She also is an Associate Editor of Injury Prevention, and has served on multiple U.S. and international committees and advisory panels. Among evidence-based websites that highlight her work: teendriversource.org, chop.edu/carseat and AfterTheInjury.org.

Health Policy Experts

Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH,  founder and editor of Health Cents blog, is a professor of law at the Kline School of Law and professor of health management and policy at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. He is the author of Mother of Invention: How the Government Created ‘Free-Market’ Health Care, which explores the government programs that created our health care system, and of Health Care Regulation in America: Complexity, Confrontation and Compromise, a comprehensive overview of the government’s oversight of health care, both published by Oxford University Press.

Andy Carter has been president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania since 2012, representing more than 240 acute and specialty care hospitals and health systems across the state providing care for 12.7 million Pennsylvanians. He works with a 25-member board of directors and a team of 75 staff to lead the advocacy, policy planning, communications, and member service initiatives of one of the nation’s largest statewide health care advocacy organizations.

Anthony V. Coletta, MD, MBA, is executive vice president and president of Facilitated Health Networks at Independence Blue Cross. He leads the development of Independence’s strategic relationships with physicians and health systems, innovative provider contracts, and sophisticated informatics and predictive analytics capabilities to drive improvements in health care quality and costs for Independence’s members. Previously, he served as the CEO of Tandigm Health, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Holy Redeemer Health System in Huntingdon Valley, and was an attending general surgeon for more than two decades at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Robert B. Doherty is senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy for the American College of Physicians (ACP), the largest physician specialty society and second largest medical organization in the United States. He has more than 33 years of health policy experience and is an accomplished presenter at health conferences. He has authored several papers for the Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP’s flagship peer-reviewed journal.

David Grande, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine, a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and an associate program director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, all at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a founding board member of Healthy Philadelphia, focused on improving quality of care in the health care safety net. He is a member of the Advisory Committee on Public Health Law for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Tine Hansen-Turton is president and CEO of Woods Services Leadership. She has more than 20 years of experience in health and human services senior management, executive leadership and consulting. She serves as the founding executive administrator for the Convenient Care Association (CCA), the national trade association.  She also teaches public and social innovations, leading nonprofits, health policy and the social innovations lab at University of Pennsylvania Fels Institute of Government and School of Nursing.

Drew Harris, DPM, MPH, is program director for the master of science in health policy program at the Jefferson College of Population Health. He is the founding chair of the New Jersey Public Health Institute and currently serves on the executive board of the American Public Health Association. He is also a former radio talk show host for HouseCalls, a program focusing on health care and public health.

Antoinette Kraus is director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, the state’s largest statewide health coalition and a leader in providing education on health care reform and the implementation..

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Originally appeared in the December 19, 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer

Editor’s Note: Philadelphia is a foodie’s paradise, with more great restaurants and fun bars than we can count. But for those watching their weight, dining out in Philly can feel overwhelming. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to ruin your healthy eating goals to enjoy our city’s booming restaurant scene.

Theresa Shank, RD LDN has provided Philly.com readers with information on healthy meal selections at popular bars and restaurants. (Yes, dietitians eat out, too!) Consider Shank your personal menu navigation guide to these four new Philly restaurants.

Harp & Crown

If you raided your grandparents’ basement and added in a hefty dose of modernity (plus a private bowling alley), you’d find yourself at this wistful, bi-level spot on 15th and Sansom Streets.

Harp & Crown’s menu is extensive, with offerings ranging from small plates to wood=oven pizzas and shareable entrées. If I had to choose among the seven sections of the menu, I’d recommend ordering two options from “Small Plates,” one dish from “Plates,” and another from either the “Salad” or “Vegetable” sections per two people. Skip the “Charcuterie and Cheese” and “Pizza” sections since these dishes are the most calorie-dense on the menu.

For the “Small Plates,” the Spanish Octopus, prepared with preserved fennel, olive, and guajillo sauce, is absolutely one of the best octopus dishes I’ve tasted in the city. I did not try the Lamb Meatballs — I opted for the Big Eye Tuna Crudo instead — but lamb is a lean protein, so if seafood isn’t your thing, go with this pick, paired with date relish, green yogurt, and mint.

Next up, “Plates.” I recommend the Hanger Steak — yes, dietitians eat red meat too. You’ll definitely want to round out your meal with a vegetable or a salad,  so a must try is the Cauliflower. This plate might sound plain on paper, but the flavor from the Meyer lemon mixed with a perfect hint of saltiness from the parmigiano had me wanting to order seconds. As for the salads, all three options, Shaved, Faro, and Red Beet, are RD-approved.


At Third and Church Streets, this welcoming BYOB features a seafood-forward, ever-changing menu.

You’ll want to order either a salad or a vegetable appetizer to start. Of the three vegetable-based starters, I recommend trying the Roasted Cauliflower, prepared with harissa and muscat raisins, or the Pear and Endive Salad topped with anise, pomegranate and sunflower.

All the entrees at Wister seemed light in ingredients, so you can’t really go wrong in the dietary department when dining here. The Ora King Salmon was perfectly portioned and complemented by fiber-rich lentils and delicious roasted heirloom carrots that tasted like sweet potatoes. If you have a heavier appetite, try the Chicken for Two, which surprisingly is enough to feed two people (given the price of $55) paired with seasonal roasted vegetables.

Ora King Salmon ($29) with heirloom carrot, lentil, and carrot reduction, at Wister, 26 N. Third St. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff)

Dark wooden tables greet you in this refined yet comfortable spot on the west side of Rittenhouse Square.

Upon ordering, our waiter suggested that my friend and I choose one dish from every section of the menu (there are five) and share them. We did not follow his recommendation and instead decided to order two spaghetti dishes and one vegetable side, which was the perfect amount of food, especially if you indulge in their complimentary Stromboli (guilty).  The Roasted Beet Salad tossed with shaved autumn vegetables, market greens, ricotta, and beet vinaigrette was the perfect amount of food before our pasta dishes to come.

When eating pasta, try to go with lighter complements to balance out the heaviness of the carbs (each pasta dish is 6 ounces). This means you’ll want to skip the Short Rib and Bone Marrow Agnolotti or Duck and Fois Gras Ravioli. Instead, opt for Black Farfalle, served in a seafood ragout with pancetta and herbed bread crumbs or their classic Spaghetti dish.

Signature spaghetti at Scarpetta, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff)

At 19th and Arch Streets, James provides a casual bar concept with sleek, friendly interiors and even friendlier bartenders.

I tend to encourage clients to skip appetizers unless they are vegetable- or seafood-based. Good thing James offers both in the Jumbo Lump Crab Cocktail. This appetizer is layered, starting with sliced cucumber and tomatoes and topped with a mixture of refreshing jumbo lump crab, avocados, and grapefruit. All the ingredients are fresh, giving this appetizer an A+ in my book.

If you’re not a lover of meat, try the Seitan Risotto. I knowrisotto is generally heavy, but this meal is perfectly portioned (absolutely delicious too) so you can leave the table satisfied without the guilt.  If starchy carbs are off limits for you, try the Braised Halibut served with olive oil-poached shrimp, peas, morels, and artichokes.

Dessert, well, that’s on you to decide.

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Originally appeared in the June 21, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer

In recent years, the consumption of cow’s milk has declined rapidly as milk from soy, almond, coconut and other dairy alternatives has become increasingly popular. This shift away from traditional dairy is likely due to upticks in veganism, lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or other personal preferences.

But each type of milk alternative has its advantages and disadvantages. Before dumping your carton of cow’s milk down the drain, it’s important to first understand the health benefits of each alternative so you can decide which type will meet your nutritional needs.

Here’s a closer look into the most popular milk alternatives:

Soy Milk

Soy milk is most commonly produced through soaking, crushing, cooking and straining soybeans. Soy naturally contains B12, potassium and vitamin A and has the same amount of protein as an 8-ounce glass of milk.

Pros: Unlike other dairy alternatives, soy contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a nutritious dairy replacement for anyone in the vegetarian and vegan community who may be lacking adequate intake of plant-based protein. The average store bought brand of soy milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium and vitamin D, again making it comparable to dairy’s nutrient profile.  Unlike dairy, a glass of soy milk is naturally cholesterol free and contains Omega 3 fatty acids plus fiber.  Because of soy milk’s sweet, yet nutty flavor, it can be easily substituted into smoothies or baking recipes in place of dairy.

Cons: Soy is one of the top common food allergens so this milk alternative is not suitable for those with a soy allergy. Almost 94 percent of soybeans in the United States are genetically modified so you’ll want to make sure that when buying this alternative, you purchase an organic NON-GMO brand. Keep in mind that there are sweetened and unsweetened options of soy milk. Choose unsweetened or you’re basically negating the health benefits of making the switch in the first place.

Nutrition Facts (unsweetened):Serving Size 1 cup, Calories 80 kcal, Fat 4 grams, Protein 7 grams.

Almond Milk

To make this alternative, producers grind almonds then mix in water, vitamins, stabilizers and sometimes sweetener.

Pros:  Almond milk is a low-calorie alternative that is naturally cholesterol and lactose free. While traditional milk and other alternatives need to be fortified with vitamins, almond milk is naturally full of nutrients such as vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and fiber. Because almonds contain vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids, its consumption is linked to reducing the risk of heart disease.

Cons: Regular milk has naturally occurring sugars while almond milk has added sugars so you’ll want to make sure you purchase the unsweetened option. Though whole almonds are a beneficial source of protein, almond milk is not; providing only 1 gram of protein per 8 ounce glass. A lot of almond milk brands use Carrageenan, a thickening agent derived from red seaweed, which has been linked to ulcers, inflammation, and other gastrointestinal problems. Look for brands with no emulsifiers, or those that use sunflower lecithin and gums instead.

Nutrition Facts (unsweetened): Serving Size 1 cup, Calories: 40 kcal, Fat: 3 grams, Protein: 1 gram.

Coconut Milk

This alternative is made from fresh grated and pressed coconut meat, which helps give it a natural, creamy thickness.

Pros: Coconut milk contains healthy fats such as lauric acid, which is absorbed easily and can be used by the body for energy. Coconut milk naturally contains high amounts of immune-boosting vitamin C and E, antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. Studies have shown that the consumption of coconut milk can help aid in lowering cholesterol and improve blood pressure levels. Coconut milk is naturally sweet, so always opt for the unsweetened variety.

Cons: One glass serves up almost 20 percent of your recommended daily value of saturated fat. Like almond milk, this alternative does not contain protein, averaging a mere gram per serving compared to 8 grams found in dairy.

Nutrition Facts (unsweetened): Serving Size 1 cup, Calories: 45 kcal, Fat: 4.5 grams, Protein: 0 grams

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Originally appeared in the January 4, 2018 Philadelphia Magazine

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m obsessed with frozen food. I know, I know, frozen green beans aren’t quite as pretty as a fresh avocados. But man, when you’re busy (like, you know, every adult in America), it sure is nice to be able to pull some fail-safe dinners straight from the freezer.

That said, not all frozen food is create equal. There are frozen cheesy potato skins — and then there are frozen Brussels sprouts. To help you sort through the good from the not-so-good, we asked Philadelphia’s nutritionists and healthy-eating gurus to tell us what their favorite picks are from the Trader Joe’s freezer aisle. Here’s what they had to say.

Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

“I really dig the Chili Lime Chicken Burgers for a quick addition of protein (one patty contains 19 grams of protein) to any salad, sandwich or wrap when in a rush. The total fat is only 6 grams (2 grams of saturated fat!) and the sodium is acceptable coming in at 310mg per patty. One would think a frozen burger is flavorless but not this option. It’s made up of more than just chicken; it’s got onions, bell peppers, garlic, cilantro, salt, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. I top this burger with avocado and salsa to add even more flavor!” — Registered dietitian Theresa Shank of Philly Dietitian

Riced Cauliflower

“My favorite freezer aisle item is the cauliflower rice. I put it in stir-fries, of course, and in my scrambled eggs as well, but these days I find myself using it most often in smoothies. The riced cauliflower is not only a great fiber and vitamin C (especially important in the winter months, to fight those colds) boost, it also brings a creamy texture. For those who want to skip the banana, this is a way to cut down on the carbohydrates in the smoothie, while still getting the creaminess. Add some berries, and you won’t be able to detect the mild flavor, I promise!” — Registered dietitian Amy von Sydow Green 

Unsweetened Organic Açaí Purée Packets

“They give me the base to make my favorite breakfast or snack: açai bowls! And they’re great for smoothies on the go.” — Ivy Eliff of OnPoint Nutrition

Frozen Brown Rice

“Their frozen brown rice heats up in three minutes for a healthy carb with your meal!” — Registered dietitians Liz Smith and Melissa Bailey of Two Hungry Work Wives

Organic Superfood Pilaf

“For a quick side dish option, I like TJ’s Organic Superfood Pilaf. The Organic Superfood Pilaf has a mixture of RD-approved starches (quinoa and sweet potatoes) with kale and carrots, which in my opinion compliments any meal!” — Registered dietitian Theresa Shank of Philly Dietitian

Organic Frozen Pizza

“I absolutely love that I can get a frozen organic pizza from Trader Joes! It’s one of the only places that has a variety of organic pizza options including pesto pizza that come with tomatoes and broccoli, spinach/ricotta pizza, and there’s a Sicilian option that comes topped with peppers. Not the absolute best source of overall nutrition, but when compared to other frozen pizzas, its organic, made with wheat flower, higher in fiber, and has a pretty high protein content especially in comparison to other brands that have meat.” — Allyson Gregg of OnPoint Nutrition

Fire Roasted Peppers and Onion

“I love scrambling egg whites with the Fire Roasted Peppers and Onion blend in the mornings, or I add it to sauces for an extra serving of vegetables.” — Registered dietitian Theresa Shank of Philly Dietitian

Raw Seafood Blend

“The frozen raw seafood blend (mixture of squid, scallops, and shrimp) is a great price and another nice option for quick cooking lean protein to have on hand. And no creepy ingredients here!” — Registered dietitian Emily Pierce of OnPoint Nutrition

Very Cherry Berry Blend

“My favorite food from the freezer aisle is the mixed berries with cherries. I find that I can use these to make healthy desserts and smoothies, if I’m trying to avoid eating a less healthy dessert.” — Registered dietitian Sheena Pradhan of Nutritious Balance

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Originally appeared in the December 14, 2017 Philadelphia Magazine

There are some foods you can almost always find in my kitchen: whole wheat tortillas, eggs, apples. But what do the pros keep on hand for those last-minute meals? What are the things they’re constantly reaching for in their kitchens? We asked some nutritionists to to share their top gotta-have-it healthy foods. Here’s what they had to say.


Photograph by iStock/photominus

“I do ALWAYS keep a variety of nuts on hand. I tend to have some with every meal. They give my dishes a nutrition boost and also add delicious crunch. I use them to top my morning yogurt or oatmeal (adding some well-needed protein) and I sprinkle them on salads and soups instead of croutons or crackers. I’ll have a handful for a quick and satisfying snack. I’ll put some nuts on that cheese and charcuterie board for my holiday party and I’ll top my pretty party citrus salad with walnuts and chopped pistachios.” — Registered dietitian Amy von Sydow Green


Photograph by iStock/ra3rn

“They used to be frowned upon because of their cholesterol content, but more research is showing that eggs are actually one of the most nutritious foods available.  Packed with protein, B vitamins, zinc and selenium — they are easy to whip up for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We both eat them at least once per week and they have become our protein for quick dinners when we are on-the-go.” — Registered dietitians Liz Smith and Melissa Bailey of Two Hungry Work Wives

Garbanzo Beans

“I always keep Whole Foods 365 Garbanzo beans handy.  If I’m short on time (which I usually am) these are a quick protein option to add to any cold or hot dish with zero prep time! Garbanzo beans are a great source of fiber as well, helping to keep me full until my next meal or snack.” — Britney Kennedy, founder of OnPoint Nutrition

Raw Cocoa Powder

“I always have raw cocoa powder at home. I love chocolate and can turn any healthy dessert into a chocolate dessert with raw cocoa powder without adding calories, sugar, and fat from a chocolate bar or other type of chocolate snack. I sometimes will just chop up a banana and sprinkle it with raw cocoa powder or microwave some frozen berries and top with raw cocoa powder for a simple, healthy, and decadent dessert. Trader Joe’s makes a 100% raw cocoa powder, as does Hershey’s.” — Registered dietitian Sheena Pradhan of Nutritious Balance

Almond Butter

Photograph by iStock/cheche22

“I do not discriminate against any nut butters (I am obsessed with all of them) but almond butter definitely takes the cake in terms of omega-3s (aside from walnut butter, which can be hard to find). I like to keep this on hand because it is a perfect compliment to any breakfast (think sprouted grain bread or smoothies) but also as a spread on your favorite fruit for a quick snack.” — Registered dietitian Theresa Shank of Philly Dietitian

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Originally appeared in the December 8, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer

The holidays are upon us. Yes, you made it through Thanksgiving but you still have three more weeks filled with cookies and desserts at office parties, holiday happy hours and family gatherings.

As a dietitian, I understand that these next few weeks may not be an ideal time for weight loss but that doesn’t mean you should abandon all the healthy habits you’ve developed throughout the year. Instead, focus your efforts on weight maintenance. Follow these RD-approved holiday party strategies to help you make it through this fun time of year and still feel great in 2018.


Never go to a party hungry! People often skip breakfast or lunch to prepare for a big dinner but that’s a guaranteed way to throw your mind and metabolism off track.

An hour before the party, eat a light, pre-party snack (100-200 calories max) so you don’t arrive at the party too hungry and most importantly aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. As little as two ounces of alcohol on an empty stomach lowers your blood sugars (low blood sugars = increased hunger).

RD approved pre-party snacks:

Two small handfuls of nuts
Greek yogurt
Rice cake with peanut butter
String cheese
Veggies and hummus
12 olives
Cocktail Hour

Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails can derail your healthy eating habits quickly. Try to avoid dips, fried finger foods, and cheese and charcuterie boards. Calorically, these appetizers can quickly add up to a full meal by the time you sit down to dinner. Instead, stick to either vegetable or seafood-based appetizers.

And when it comes to weight management, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies. Keep alcohol intake low, especially if you have multiple holiday gatherings in one week. I recommend a two-drink limit for women and a three-drink limit for men per event to help keep calories (and a hangover) in check. Keep these alcohol consumption tips in mind:

The cocktail swap: A gin and tonic sounds harmless but switch to seltzer and you’ll save hundreds of calories and over four teaspoons of sugar.

Avoid: Signature drinks are calorie bombs! Pomegranate Moscow Mules, Candy Cane Martinis, even Cosmopolitans are a no-go. Why? You can safely assume these drinks have too much sugar in them from added juices or syrups. Enjoy eggnog? One serving has almost 400 calories.

Choose: Forget the bells and whistles and stick to simple drinks like a glass of wine or champagne. Vodka, tequila and bourbon can be a safe choice when served on the rocks or with seltzer.


Commit yourself to the “one plate” rule. That means no second servings. You’ll want to eat your vegetables first, and if given the option, choose a fish or chicken entree over a beef option, which has 75 more calories per ounce than lean proteins. Try to pass or limit starches such as pastas, rice or potatoes, especially if you are going to indulge in dessert.


Dessert is the toughest temptation of the evening so choose your indulgences wisely. If you are going to eat dessert then make sure it’s worth it and limit yourself to one option, not five. If you can, pick a dessert without a crust, which automatically doubles the amount of fat and calories in a dessert.

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Originally appeared in the November 29, 2017 Philadelphia Magazine

If we could all pack leftover pizza and Pop-Tarts for lunch every day, we’d probably complain about packing lunches a whole lot less. But since that wouldn’t be exactly, well, “healthy,” we reached out to Philadelphia-area nutritionists to find out what they pack for lunch. Spoiler alert: lean proteins and vegetables are pretty popular. But if your packed lunches need a little inspiration, look no further than the healthy, nutritionist-approved options below.

Salmon Salad

Photograph courtesy Theresa Shank.

What’s in it: Salad topped with five ounces of salmon, avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers

Why it’s great: “I usually make lunch my largest meal of the day since I could be working with clients until 8 p.m. in the evening. I look to put together a lunch combo that consists mostly of veggies (a bed of arugula or kale topped with at least three different cooked or raw vegetables), a good source of protein (five ounces of chicken, tuna, turkey or salmon) and a serving of healthy fat (avocado, nuts, seeds or hummus). For a kick of flavor I’ll use either primal kitchen salad dressing or hot sauce. This combo helps stabilize my blood sugars so I’m not feeling sluggish after lunch and crashing before my late afternoon snack.” – Theresa Shank, registered dietitian of Philly Dietitian

Vegan Sweet Potato Quinoa Crock Pot Chili

Photograph courtesy Katelan Glutz.

What’s in it: Sweet potato, red onion, bell pepper, garlic, black beans, tomato paste, vegetable broth, quinoa, hot sauce, spices

Why it’s great: Nutritionist Katelan Glutz of OnPoint Nutrition can whip up a crock pot on the weekend, then divide it into lunch servings for the week. You know what that means? No rushing to make a lunch five minutes before you’re headed out door! And as a vegan, this chili allows her to get in some plant-based protein with the quinoa, along with lots of veggies.

Chicken with Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Photograph courtesy Angela Luciani.

What’s in it: Baked chicken with sautéed Brussels sprouts and butternut squash

Why it’s great: “This meal was quick and took less than 20 minutes to make! The protein in my meal aids in repairing and rebuilding muscle, especially after tough morning workouts. I added the butternut squash for color and as a source of carbs in addition to the Brussels sprouts for fiber to help keep me feeling full. The other items are snacks that I eat throughout the day that incorporate a combo of protein and carbs for the same idea.” – Angela Luciani, registered dietitian of Rittenhouse Women’s Wellness Center

Sesame Soy Ginger Cooked Cabbage with Edamame and Quinoa

Photograph courtesy Kelly Strogen.

What’s in it: Cooked cabbage, onions, and Swiss chard with edamame and quinoa, flavored with Trader Joe’s sesame soy ginger vinaigrette and sesame oil.

Why it’s great: “I’m pretty sure I have never bought lunch at work since it is so much cheaper and healthier to make my own. My go-to is a lunch bowl consisting of a grain (usually half a cup of cooked quinoa, farro, or barley) plus three ounces of protein (chicken, tuna, turkey, or edamame/beans), several cups of veggies (cooked and/or raw), and usually some slices of avocado. I mix up variety by adding different flavoring agents (plain Greek yogurt and salsa, tzatziki sauce, a good balsamic vinegar, or a low-sugar stir fry sauce, etc.). I make several of these bowls on a Sunday afternoon so that I can just grab them throughout the week.” – Kelly Strogen, registered dietitian of Wayne Nutrition

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Photography courtesy Brittany Kennedy.

What’s in it: Chickpeas, garlic, cucumber, Roma tomatoes, feta cheese, red onion, parsley, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper, and chicken sautéed in canola oil

Why it’s great: “For lunch I try to make sure I hit my three major macronutrients within each meal—some kind of protein, some kind of carbohydrate, some sort of fat—and an adequate kind of vegetables. I’m a lover of all things chicken. I usually try to not make a salad out of it, but I try to get vegetables with it. I’ll mix the chicken with tomatoes, cucumbers, vegetables, chickpeas, and then I’ll usually season it with olive oil, a little bit of oregano and parsley, and then some feta cheese.” — Brittany Kennedy, nutritionist and founder of OnPoint Nutrition

Chicken, Green Beans, and Quinoa

Photograph courtesy Sheena Pradhan.

What’s in it: Rosemary-garlic chicken, string beans, and quinoa

Why it’s great: “I run two companies and often am away from my apartment all day, so I like to take both a lunch and dinner meal with me. Today I only have an apple for a snack, but on an ideal day, I would also have a source of protein (trail mix, nuts, peanut butter, etc.). My lunch and dinner meals are leftovers from the meal prep delivery company that I run, Bodybuilder Kitchen. The meals consist of rosemary-garlic chicken, string beans, and quinoa.” – Sheena Pradhan, registered dietitian-nutritionist of Nutritious Balance

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Originally appeared in the September 25, 2017 Jewish Exponent

Ah, the sounds of Yom Kippur.

The silence of deep prayer and meditation during services.

The shuffle of feet as people sit and stand intermittently as they reflect and atone for the past year.

And the rumbling of empty stomachs as people head into the core hours of fasting for the holiday.

Fasting for Yom Kippur is meaningful, but it is certainly not easy. If you ever woke up the next morning and instinctively poured yourself a bowl of cereal without a second thought, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

But there are ways to prepare for the fast that will keep you energized and healthy for the seemingly never-ending 25 hours.

Though Yom Kippur is still a week away, it’s not too early to begin preparing your body for the fast.

One important tip from Alex Pollak, founder and CEO of ParaDocs Worldwide Inc., an events medical services company: If you need it, ask for help.

“People have underlying conditions that are sometimes exacerbated by fasting,” he noted. “Ask your rabbi for a heter to eat if you need medication or have issues.”

Don’t be afraid to sit, even if everyone else is standing, he added.

“If you feel weak, sit,” he said, “especially if you’re sitting for a while then suddenly stand, your blood pressure could drop and you could pass out. If you feel weak and lightheaded, you could lay down and put your feet up because it redistributes the blood.”

Start skipping those morning coffee runs — no matter how much that may pain you — and begin cutting down on caffeine at least a week before, advised Dr. Tzvi Dwolatzky in an article on myjewishlearning.com. This will help the headache you may get when you suddenly withdraw from caffeine.

Also start to take it easy with salty foods and artificial sweeteners and keep away from alcohol because it stimulates the loss of body water, he noted.

Leading up to the fast, drink liquids but don’t overdo it. Make like a camel in the desert and drink plenty of water, but you don’t have to feel like a water balloon — drinking too much can wash out essential salts from your body, the article said.

Pollak also noted you need electrolytes to really hydrate you before the fast, and also rehydrate you afterward.

Known as the Philly Dietitian, Theresa Shank, a registered dietitian and owner of Philly Dietitian LLC,  echoed the importance of drinking plenty of water.

“Drink a lot of water the day before to insure adequate hydration for the next day’s fast,” she advised.

For good measure, she recommends drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces.

Theresa Shank, Philly Dietitian | Photo provided

“For example, if a person weighs 160 pounds, then their recommended water intake would be 80 fluid ounces,” she said. “I recommend that this liquid apply to water instead of caffeinated liquids, which tend to naturally dehydrate the body.”

Though Shank is not Jewish, she has a few recommendations for pre-Yom Kippur meals. And she recommends not skipping meals the day before.

“A person will want to consume nutrient-dense meals and snacks that include protein, fiber and carbohydrates to help keep them full, but most importantly to provide longer lasting energy that their body will need to use as fuel during the fast,” she noted.

The day before the fast, you might also want to skip the gym.

“It is recommended not to exercise the day before because it can decrease a person’s energy stores — which the body will need to use as fuel for the fast — and also increase a person’s chance for dehydration during Yom Kippur,” she explained.

Avoid drinks like juice, alcohol or those with caffeine because it can induce dehydration. She also advised limiting or avoiding the consumption of high-sodium foods such as canned goods or packaged items that may lead to an increased sensation of thirst.

Instead, Shank has a few recommendations of what to eat the day before: whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, legumes and lean protein sources such as chicken and fish.

The day before, eat fruits and vegetables that have higher water content, such as peaches, watermelon, cucumbers, cauliflower, peppers, spinach, carrots and peas.

However, she noted, not everyone should fast. As any list of what to do to prepare for Yom Kippur will tell you, check with your physician to make sure that you are able to fast. If you take medications, be careful that you don’t need to take it on a full stomach.

“Many chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or arthritis, do not usually prevent you from fasting, as long as your condition is stable,” Dwolatzky noted. “This is usually the case for pregnant and nursing mothers as well. Clearly an acute illness accompanied by fever, vomiting or diarrhea will prevent you from fasting. Before going any further, you should check with your doctor whether your health allows you to fast.”

Shank does not recommend that children under 12 fast for the holiday. And seniors may have difficulties as well.

“Fasting can be difficult, especially for seniors who have medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, two conditions that are affected by a person’s nutritional intake,” she said. “I recommend that individuals with these conditions or other medical necessities speak with their physician before participating in the fast.”

To prepare, Shank created a sample day of a protein-, fiber- and carbohydrate-rich diet to consume before Yom Kippur:

Breakfast: eggs, whole grain toast with peanut butter and a serving of fruit, or a bagel with lox and fruit

Snack: Grapes and cheese

Lunch: Chicken, vegetables and quinoa or brown rice

Snack: Hummus with baby carrots, whole-grain pita chips and a serving of fruit

Dinner: Whole-grain pasta or potatoes served with fish and a starchy vegetable such as carrots, peas or corn

Wishing you an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur!

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Originally appeared in the August 16, 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer

Alcohol and weight loss don’t usually mix as seamlessly as vodka and club soda but that doesn’t mean socializing and losing weight have to be worlds apart.

Health professionals like myself can rattle off tons of reasons why drinking too muchalcohol can impede weight loss but I’m sure you don’t want to listen to that speech with only a few weeks left of summer. So instead, I’ll share my favorite strategy to help you strike the perfect healthy balance whether you’re at Center City Sips, a backyard barbecue or down the shore. All you have to do is ask yourself these questions:

How much of a socialite are you?
One night out is fine, even two isn’t a problem, but if you’re out more nights than you’re home, you’ve got a problem.

Whether you have client dinners, book club (aka drink wine and eat cheese night) or a date, you must make room for grocery shopping, sleep or exercise. Failing at these weekly routines makes losing weight harder than it needs to be.

Choose one of these routines — grocery shopping, sleep or exercise — and make it a priority on the week you have a packed calendar. If you know you’ll be out Sunday night, have Instacart deliver groceries so you’ll have healthy food on hand to start your week. Going on a date? Suggest meeting just for drinks and schedule it earlier in the evening so chances are you’ll be home in time for a decent night’s sleep. If you usually go to the gym in the evening but have an event after work, wake up early to get a short workout in instead of skipping it completely. For every 15 minutes of intense cardio, allow yourself one drink — but reasonably limit yourself to four.

How complicated is your drink?
Strawberry mojitos, margaritas and sangria aren’t waistline friendly. The more ingredients in a cocktail (i.e. simple syrup, triple sec, house made bitters etc.), the more calories. Plus, the additional sugar intake in these cocktails can make you hungrier. When imbibing on these drinks, your blood sugar skyrockets higher than it would from beer, wine, or a shot of liquor mixed with club soda.

So when it comes to cocktails, remember that the simpler the drink, the better. Choose something straight up and simple like wine (rose, sauvignon blanc and champagne is lighter in calories compared to a heavier red), clear liquor (over dark) or light beer.

Do you sip and snack?
What many people fail to understand is alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat. Since alcohol is a toxin, your body can’t store those calories for later, in the way it does with calories from food. When you drink, your metabolic system must stop what it’s doing (burning off calories from your last meal) to get rid of the booze you’re ingesting. Basically, whatever you recently ate gets stored as fat until your drinks are metabolized. That’s why what you eat before and after happy hour is important.

Start your morning off with a combination of protein and fat (eggs with avocado or a protein shake with flaxseed and unsweetened almond milk), keep lunch lighter with protein and veggies and then be sure to have a mid-afternoon snack that includes protein, fiber and a healthy fat (Greek yogurt with berries or an apple and almond butter). This snack will help stabilize blood sugars without slowing down your metabolism pre-drinks. Post happy hour, avoid fried foods and refined carbohydrates.

Have a plan in place before you take you first sip. Research the menu at where you plan to imbibe ahead of time to scout out healthier options. My go-to snack picks for when I’m drinking are vegetable or seafood based options such as veggie and hummus platters or shrimp cocktail.

For those who drink moderately during the week, the above recommendations should help you establish a more balanced social life while still keeping you on track towards your weight loss goals.

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