The Wellness Tips One NYC Nutritionist Wants You To Know
We’re continuing our Well Kept: Inside and Out series with a Q&A sesh with Lauren Antonucci, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in NYC. We went to see Lauren at her practice Nutrition Energy and have all sorts of helpful hints and suggestions to help reach your health and wellness goals this year. We learned so much, and it turns out curating your outfit isn’t so different from meal planning!
Spoiler: She’s totally cool if you aren’t the kind of person who goes to 6 am spin and actually suggests you don’t sign up if you hate mornings as much as me. My wellness prayers have been answered (!!!). She is, however, empowering us with the tools and knowledge to reach realistic goals and make 2018 amazing.
What are your suggestions on maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout the year by setting realistic, attainable goals?
Lauren: I’m so glad you asked about realistic, attainable goals! The key is making sure goals are realistic. So instead of saying I’m going to cut calories or I’m going to exercise, set specific times when you’re going to work out. Sign up for 6 am spin on Mondays with a friend and really carve out the time. And you might need to keep backing into that goal. If you don’t meet it and make it to spin class, step back and keep adding layers to your goal until it works. Really ask yourself “What has worked and what hasn’t?”. Maybe it’s signing up for a class with a friend or just texting a friend saying you’re going to class! Know yourself and what’s worked in the past in terms of reaching your goals and set goals that are proven and realistic for you.
What are your suggestions for staying well from the inside out besides eating healthfully—foods for your gut, probiotics, vitamins, etc.? And what does healthy eating really mean?
Lauren: Staying well and feeling good are so important. And it really starts with the gut. Many problems start here, and women especially have trouble for reasons that include their diet, but could also be because they carry their stress in their guts, or they can’t digest the “healthy” foods they’re eating. It’s also important to remember there’s no one thing that is the key to gut health! For example, Kombucha has become insanely popular, but it’s not going to solve all your digestive problems. Think about it in terms of fashion—is there one piece that instantly makes you fashionable? No, it’s the way you style it with other pieces that makes you fashionable. It’s the same thing with food. The way you put your foods together in a way that covers all your bases—carbs, fruits, veggies, protein—is the key to maintaining a healthy diet and gut.
Hmm, healthy eating. Is that in the dictionary? We checked—it’s not! Healthy doesn’t mean skinny, first of all. Healthy goals can include inward and outward goals. For example, feeling like you’re eating healthfully could mean you want to feel confident and strong—and I don’t mean weight lifting. You can feel strong and energized by making healthy choices.
How should people deal with setbacks without letting them ruin their efforts?
Lauren: Reframing how you define success is really the key here. And two words: NO GUILT. When you have slip ups or setbacks, just remember everyone does. My clients tell me they’ve eaten an entire pint of ice cream or too many nachos or a cookie like I’ve never done the same thing. But the truth is you can’t feel guilty, you have to look at your plan scientifically and figure out what you need to change so it doesn’t happen again. Identifying the problem and changing something very specific about your plan so it doesn’t happen again is the most important thing you can do. If your vice is late night snacking, figure out what snacks you can feel good about eating, or stop buying or buy less of whatever you’ll be tempted to overeat!
What are the most common questions you get from patients including the most taboo questions?
Lauren: There are a couple questions I get often. The first is why am I gaining weight now that I’m exercising? The answer is when we exercise more, we are hungry to match that increased expenditure of energy. So it’s all about exercising to make ourselves feel good and eating well before and after to fuel that exercise and then eating healthfully the rest of our day to reach our wellness goals. The second is why am I gassy and bloated all the time? You shouldn’t be suffering all the time. If you’re feeling bad often, you really need to delve into these problems because it could be these really healthy foods that are giving us these problems. Remember—Kombucha is not the one-off solution to gut health! Look at your diet holistically like you do your fashion choices.
How do you approach meal planning and what are your recommendations for those of us trying to start?
Lauren: If you can sit down on Sunday and make all your lunches and dinners for the week, that’s amazing. But don’t feel guilty if you can’t make that happen. I don’t! But it is essential to have some degree of planning for the week. Just spend 10 to 15 minutes thinking through your calendar and see what you’ll need. Go day by day. If you have a late night Monday, and know you’ll need a quick dinner without a lot of prep, shop for that. If you have an event Tuesday and don’t need dinner, take that into account. And if on Wednesday you have early spin and will have time to make a great meal, plan for that too.
I suggest going group by group—just like you would for your clothes for a trip! Think about what you need for each food category and how you’ll consume it. For example, for fruit, look for two kinds. The ones you’ll be enjoying at home for breakfast like berries and then get a more portable fruit for when you’re on the go—apples, oranges, etc. Then go through vegetables and so forth. Figure out what you need for the week and then take advantage of the tools around you to get your groceries, like Instacart.
Ultimately, remember that you’re trying to be your own best self, and, like I tell my kids, anyone can post anything online! So just because someone’s posting about their awesome meal prep doesn’t make their meal planning any better or efficient than yours. Do what works for you and make it happen for you!
Where do you look for healthy recipes? And what foods should people always have on hand?
Lauren: It’s so easy to find recipes now thanks to the internet! I would say start with ingredients. I like lentils and they’re a great source of protein, so I might search for lentil recipes. And then, I don’t always pick the super, super “healthy” recipes that are all low fat, non fat, etc. For example, if I’m making a soup for 7 or 8 people, I’m okay with using a half cup of cream in a recipe if it will be filling and full of protein.
There are definitely certain things I think people should always have on hand—especially for young, busy women! To start, beans (canned is totally fine!) are always good to have on hand. I even love Amy’s vegetarian refried beans since they don’t have the lard that makes most refried beans so unhealthy. You should also have frozen and fresh veggies on hand, eggs, tofu, smoked salmon, and cottage cheese.
Think portable, healthy foods! It’s especially important to have enough protein. One great source of protein and something to always have on hand is wheat germ—you can throw it on a salad, in cottage cheese, or really in anything for a nice nutty taste. So many fit and active women only have half the protein they need on a daily basis and it makes such a big difference in reaching your health and wellness goals!
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to stock up on refried beans, wheat germ, and make 2018 wellness my b*tch. If you want more tips and inside tips from Lauren, follow her on Instagram at @nutritionenergy.
For even more wellness inspiration, shop our favorite wellness picks in the collection below!