The Top 6 Secrets to Successful Weight Loss

Samantha Heller MS RD

At any one time more than 80 million Americans are on a “diet”.  With 72.3% of women and 64.1% of men overweight or obese it is clear “dieting” does not work.  Emerging research suggests that  people who have been overweight or obese for long periods of time are not only battling environmental and psychological influences but physiological ones as well.  So what can you do if you want to lose some weight?  Here are the top 6 essential steps you need to get started on a successful weight loss program.

1. Assess  your motivation:  Determine how motivated you are to do what it takes to adopt a new healthier lifestyle. On a scale from one to ten, one being “Fuggedaboutit” and ten being “YES 1000% motivated”, where does your motivation fall?  If it is below about 8 then perhaps this is not the best time for you to begin healthy lifestyle changes.

If you do not feel motivated, ask your self why?  What is getting in the way? A fear of deprivation, hunger, feeling overwhelmed, and stress can all contribute to a lack of motivation. Also not knowing how or where to begin can quash your good intentions.  Seeing a registered dietitian is a great way to start. She can help you create a healthy eating plan that works for you.  Go to and plug in your zip code to find an RD near you.   There are some decent online programs.  Weight Watchers is one that seems to have been helpful for  people.

2. Set realistic goals.  Once you decide you are truly motivated set some realistic goals.  You are not going to lose 10 pounds in 3 days. Focus on making doable, practical choices first. Take into account where you live and work and what is realistic in terms of your daily life, budget and food preferences.  For example: losing 1-2 pounds/week, eating breakfast or adding exercise to your daily routine.  Make a list of your goals.

3.  Create a very specific game plan.  Write a meal by meal menu and a shopping list to help you get organized.  Set  simple steps for yourself each day.  For example: instead of skipping breakfast have a 100% whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter; tonight, do not eat in front of the TV;  get up earlier and walk 15 minutes in the morning; eat whole grain cereal with unsweetened soy milk, strawberries & 1 tbls of walnuts for breakfast.

4. Be positive and patient.  Always give yourself a pat on the back for making healthy choices.  But do not berate yourself for falling off the wagon.  Look at the event as a learning experience and move forward.  Remember, weight loss takes time and behavior change is a process.  Be kind and patient with yourself.

5. Never starve yourself or follow a fad diet.  Adopting habits that you can keep forever is what will stick with you for the long haul.

6.  Keep a food diary.  Write down everything you eat & drink, even a few grapes or a guzzle of juice.  This will help you eat consciously and increase your awareness of how much and what you are choosing to eat.  Food diaries will help you see what your triggers are; for example, stress, boredom or eating at night, so you can then create strategies for managing them.

Finally, your goals should be about being healthy and feeling great not being skinny.   Seek support from friends, family and health professionals.  Find a partner with whom you can exercise, exchange recipes or share experiences.  Choosing healthy foods more often than not and adding regular physical activity to your day will help you reach and maintain a healthier weight.

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Spicy South Indian Cauliflower By Martha Rose Shulman

I love Martha’s recipes. I used this recipe for a segment on WFSB’s Better Connecticut and the anchors Scot Haney and Kara Sundlun loved it! Then Chef Greg O’Gorman and I served this up to my nutrition students and they loved it too. Cauliflower, along with its cousins broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage, contain powerful antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of breast and other cancers. The turmeric in the recipe contains a compound called curcumin, that research has shown has strong antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Serve this chile-laced stir-fry with brown rice, quinoa or other whole grains, and with flat Indian bread.

1 large cauliflower (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), broken into florets

2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, sliced and cut into thin slivers or minced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed

1 to 2 serrano chiles, to taste, seeded if desired and minced

1 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped cilantro 1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving.

Place the cauliflower in a steaming basket above one inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for one minute. Lift the lid and allow steam to escape for 15 seconds, then cover again and steam for five minutes or until the cauliflower is just tender. Remove from the heat and refresh with cold water.

Quarter the larger florets, and set the cauliflower aside. Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet or wok above medium heat. Add the ginger, cumin seeds and chiles, and stir-fry for one minute. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry for two to three minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ground coriander, cayenne, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for five minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is fragrant. Taste and adjust salt.Stir in the cilantro, stir for another 30 seconds and then serve, passing lime wedges for squeezing.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 Advance preparation: Although this is best served right away, my son and I enjoy the leftovers for a couple of days. I also have made it a few hours ahead of time and reheated it on top of the stove. In this case, wait and stir in the cilantro just before serving. From the New York Times: Recipes for Health

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Unusual pairings make for a delicious and healthy salad

I arrived home from a 14 hour day to find that my neighbor had left a container of this delicious salad on my door step (how lucky am I?).  Red cabbage and pistachios, an unusual but really tasty pairing.  Cabbage is particularly healthy as are its cruciferous cousins broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which are healthy phytochemicals. These compounds have powerful anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory actions.

Red Cabbage and Pistachios
by oneordinaryday

one small red cabbage
2 tablespoons salt*
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
ground black pepper
1- 1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios

Remove outer leaves of cabbage, rinse and dry cabbage. Cut cabbage in quarters through the stem end. Core each quarter and slice in 1/4 inch ribbons. Place cabbage in a large bowl and toss with salt, stirring to be sure all pieces are covered with salt. Place in a strainer over a bowl or the sink and let drain about 30 minutes. Meanwhile whisk together vinegar, sesame oil, canola oil, and a few grinds of black pepper. After 30 minutes take handfuls of the cabbage and squeeze out excess water then placing in a large clean bowl. Toss with dressing and top with pistachios. If not serving immediately, place pistachios in a container and toss in with cabbage just before serving.

*The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of salt but I would to use less.

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Vegan Herbed Potato Salad Samantha Heller MS RD

I use Vegenaise, a vegan mayonnaise, in this recipe. It has the rich, full bodied taste of real mayonnaise.  A big bunch of chopped fresh dill really takes this recipe over the top.  Roasting brings out a sweetness in the fingerling potatoes.  This is a great recipe for people with special dietary needs. It is dairy and gluten free and vegan.
2 pounds Yukon gold fingerling potatoes**
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar 
¾ cup Vegenaise*
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (more if you love parsley)
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (more if you love dill)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1 garlic clove, minced
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 425°F
Line a cookie pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease with canola oil
Cut fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise. And again in half if they are large. 
Lay potatoes in a single layer in the pan.  
Roast, tossing about half way through, for 20-25 minutes. Until cooked through.
Place potatoes in a large bowl; sprinkle with kosher salt & vinegar

While the potatoes are roasting combine Vegenaise with the onion, celery, dill, parsley.
Let potatoes cool a while and combine the Vegenaise mixture with the potatoes.  Add fresh pepper.  Cover tightly and chill 2 hours. or over night.  Adjust seasonings before serving.
*For a vegetarian version whisk together ½ cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt combined with ¼ cup of low fat sour cream instead of the Vegenaise.  For more about Vegenaise:
** You can use new potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes too. Quarter them. No need to  peel.
***Be creative. Add fresh herbs you have on hand, cucumbers, grated carrots, sliced radishes etc.  Experiment with different vinegars e.g. apple cider or red wine vinegar.
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The Long Goodbye by Samantha Heller MS RD

Today is the first Mother’s Day without my mom, but I am not overcome with grief.  I am sad that for the last several years I could not celebrate this holiday with her because of her dementia.  We tried to take her out a few times, my sisters and I, but as you know if you have a family member who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, taking them out to a restaurant or store can be a train wreck.  Poor mom. Her last years were miserable and I think that is what bothers me most.  I tried to make her experience as tolerable as I could but there are limits to what one can accomplish.  Caring for a loved one with dementia is a long and difficult goodbye.

Today (and most days) I remember the fun I had with Mom. I loved hanging out with her.  She was warm, insightful and  easy to be with. I wish I could show her our garden and ask her advice on what color to paint the family room.  I miss playing Scrabble with her and watching the dog show on TV together.  She loved animals.  A gift she passed on to me and my sisters.  And when something struck us funny, we could laugh for hours.

So today I celebrate Mom’s kindness, sense of humor, bright mind and beauty and the courage with which she faced life’s difficulties.  I honor all moms, with and without children, for there are many kinds of mothering.  And thank the Moms of the world for all they have given me in one way or another.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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Healthy and Delicious Easter and Passover Treats by Chef Greg O’Gorman and Samantha Heller

I was invited to appear on WFSB’s Better Connecticut and asked Chef Greg O’Gorman to help create a few healthy Easter and Passover treats.  We came up with the easy and tasty recipes below.   The fruit filled shredded wheat baskets are so pretty and delicious the kids won’t miss the traditional chocolate eggs and jelly beans. For a new sweet and tangy twist on carrot muffins Greg added Granny Smith apples.  The macaroons are made with almonds instead of coconut which saves on calories and saturated fat.  Whole wheat Matzo with almond butter makes for a great lunch or snack for Passover. Of course these are great recipes all year round! 

Chocolate Macaroons
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds (1 3/4 oz.)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (1 1/2 oz.)
2 large egg whites
2 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
2 tablespoons No Fat half-and-half

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Pulse almonds with cocoa and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very fine and powdery.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks, then add remaining 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar, a little at a time, beating until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Fold one third of almond mixture into whites with a rubber spatula, then fold in remaining almond mixture gently but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to pastry bag and pipe 24 (1 1/2-inch-wide) rounds (1/3 inch thick) about 1 inch apart onto baking sheet. Tap down any peaks with a finger dipped in cold water. Bake until macaroons are puffed and edges are slightly darker, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on baking sheet on a rack 20 minutes.

While macaroons bake, heat chocolate and half-and-half in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and chocolate is completely melted. Cool to room temperature.

Pipe a small mound (1 teaspoon) of chocolate filling onto flat sides of 12 macaroons, then top with remaining 12 macaroons to form sandwich cookies, pressing flat sides together gently. (You may have some filling left over.)

Carrot Muffins
Carrot muffins give your morning a healthy boost with fiber, beta carotene, and protein. You can make these regular size or mini-muffins.

1 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
½ Cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cups sugar
1/4 pound carrots
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 Large Egg
2 Egg Whites
1/2 cup corn oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 Granny Smith apple

Into a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and whisk in sugar. Coarsely shred enough carrots to measure 2 cups and chop pecans. Add shredded carrots and pecans to flour mixture with raisins and coconut and toss well.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla. Peel and core apple and coarsely shred. Stir shredded apple into egg mixture and add to flour mixture, stirring until batter is just combined well. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them three fourths full, and bake in middle of oven until puffed and a tester comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool muffins in cups on racks 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Muffins keep in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.

Shredded Wheat Baskets
½ box (about 7 ounces) Original Shredded Wheat
4 Ounces sugar
4 Ounces Smart Balance lite-melted
3 Ounces Dark chocolate-melted
24 Ounces fresh/frozen fruit –  try grapes, berries, cut up mango and apples

Crumble shredded wheat into a bowl add sugar and toss together.
Melt Smart balance and add to shredded wheat mixing well
Divide mixture into 12 muffin pans pressing into bottom and sides.
Place into preheated 350 degree oven for six minutes.

While baskets are baking carefully melt dark chocolate (microwave works fine).

After six minutes remove from oven and allow cooling for several minutes then drizzle chocolate over baskets and allow to cool completely.

Fill with favorite fruits or berries and serve.

Almond butter and honey on whole wheat Matzo
Whole wheat matzo
Almond butter (no sugar or salt added)
Fresh fruit e.g. bananas, strawberries

Spread a thin coating of almond butter on whole wheat matzo broken into pieces. Add a few slices of banana or strawberries. Drizzle with a little honey.

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7 Important Tips for Healthy Eyes


Samantha Heller MS RD


Jeepers, creepers where’d you get those peepers?

Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those eyes?

(Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer)

While the eyes may be the windows to one’s soul, if they are not cared for properly your view of the world may be cloudy, dark or even totally obscured.  Food, computers and makeup can all affect eye health.  Here are some tips to help keep your eyes healthy for the fore-see-able future and beyond.

1) Have periodic eye exams.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following if you do not have any risk factors for eye disease such as diabetes or a family history of eye disease:

Ages 3-19  Every one to two years

Ages 20-39  at least twice in this time frame

Ages 40-64  Every 2-4 years

Over 65 Every one to two years

If you do have risk factors see your eye care professional more frequently.

2)  Reducing the risk of macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease of the eye that is the leading cause of blindness for people aged 65 years and older and affects more than 10 million Americans. AMD is caused by a deterioration of the retina. Risk factors for AMD include older age, white race, and smoking.

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet.  The dry type of AMD is more common and is associated with small, yellow deposits (drusen) in the macula (the macula is a light sensitive spot in the center of the retina which is in the back of the eye).  Dry AMD causes the macula to lose its function. The most common symptom of dry AMD is blurred central vision that worsens slowly. If dry AMD affects only one eye, symptoms may not be noticeable. Wet AMD accounts for approximately 15% of all cases of the disease. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula start to leak fluid, causing the retina to become distorted. This type of AMD can be severe and rapid. A common symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear wavy, and central vision degrades rapidly.

The National Eye Institute reports that healthy eating may have a positive effect on eye health.   Many scientific studies have found a link between eating foods rich in carotenoids –  such as lutein and  zeaxanthin including green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, kale, and spinach — and a reduced risk of developing AMD and cataracts.  The AREDS study found that following a low glycemic diet, meaning whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits and lean protein, was associated with a reduced risk of AMD.

Healthy compounds such as vitamins E, C, A, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folic acid help keep eyes healthy. These vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are found in colorful fruits and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach, berries, peppers and oranges.

3)  Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection. ultraviolet rays from sunlight may contribute to cataracts, cornea damage and even macular degeneration.  Use photochromatic lenses if you do not want to have to change glasses every time you go in and outside.

4) We all spend far to much time staring at our computer screens.  It is a good idea to get a computer eye exam.  Prolonged use of a computer screen can result in what has become known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). The most common symptoms include headaches, focusing difficulties, burning eyes, tired eyes, general eyestrain, aching eyes, dry eyes, double vision, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and neck and shoulder pain.

Computer eyestrain is often caused by excessively bright light coming in from outside and excessively bright light inside. When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half that used in most offices.

Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades, or blinds. Using fewer light bulbs or florescent bulbs or use lower intensity bulbs can reduce glare caused by overhead lighting.

Place your monitor directly in front of you, not off to one side. Optimally, it should be about 20 to 28 inches away from you.

5)  Throw out your old makeup!  Replace mascara and eyeliner every 3 months and all other eye make up every 6 months.  If you develop an eye infection see your physician right away and discard any make up you have been using.  Don’t share eye makeup.

6)  Contact lenses.

Wash and dry your hands before handling lenses

Keep your contact lens case clean and replace it every 3-6 months

Do not use spit to lubricate you lenses

7) If you have diabetes keep your blood sugars in control.  High blood sugars can damage sensitive eye structures like the retina and the optic nerve.



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