How Important Are Calories?

As my clients know, I do not advocate a calorie counting style of eating even during a weight loss program.  While it's good to have some general knowledge of calories & caloric value, there is so much more that encompasses health, wellness, and weight loss. 

Another point here is that caloric labels can be misleading or filled with false numbers.  The Opinion Pages of The New York Times featured this informative video which demonstrates how mislead we might be when eating out either at a restaurant or purchasing any packaged foods. While restaurants or food manufacturers might be required to list the calories, are they accurate?  This video shows the real math that goes into food labeling – eye opening!

If this video is accurate, then those of us that are eating out on a frequent basis might be consuming an extra 500 calories per day.  This is yet one more reason to cook whole fresh ingredients at home — this way we know exactly what's going into our bodies.  Again, nutrition is so much more than a calorie count but there is certainly something to be said about eating more than we need on a daily basis.

In Health,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

Gluten-Free Cheesecake Recipe for Valentines Day and Beyond

Valentine's Day is around the corner and sweet treats will be plenty!  Instead of gifting sugar laden chocolates to your loved ones (you care about their health, don't you?), how about making them a mouthwatering dessert sans sugar?  

My friend Kate Horney over at Beyondfit Physiques shared with me this absolutely amazing gluten-free cheesecake recipe that I've posted below.  I gave this recipe a whirl over the Christmas holidays and let me just say, it was a huge hit with the entire family!  

Important: when serving recipes like this it is recommended that you leave out the part about it being gluten-free and sugar-free.  Why?  Because you can not tell that this is the healthier version!  While this recipe is excellent on its own, the most incredible part is the fact that it tastes like the real authentic cheesecake that many of us have grown to love.

I used full fat cream cheese for this recipe to help enhance the flavor and digestion.  Low fat dairy products are difficult to digest. Fear not the fat!  This is a treat and should be treated as such.

The BeyondFit Physiques team has a boat load of other delicious recipes on their blog and a superior fat loss program for moms called, Beyond Baby.  Check them out, you will not be disappointed!  Now without further adieu, the fabulous cheesecake recipe:

Vanilla Macadmia Nut Cheesecake



1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, ground fine
1/2 cup pecans, ground fine
2 Tablespoons almond flour
3 Tablespoons organic pasture butter, melted
4 Tabelspoons stevia (e.g. NuNaturals Stevia for Baking)


6 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
3 organic eggs
3 vanilla beans
1 cup stevia


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While heating, fill a cake pan halfway with hot water and place on bottom oven rack.  In a large bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients and press into bottom of a spring-form pan, set aside.  Scrape the inside of the vanilla beans out with a sharp knife.  Place scrapings on a small glass plate, set aside.

Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese, stevia and vanilla beans until well blended.  With the mixer on low, add the eggs to the cream cheese mixture one at a time until well blended.  Pour mixture over crust.

Place cheesecake in the middle rack of the oven, directly about the pan filled with hot water (NOTE: doing this prevents the top of the cheesecake from cracking during the baking process).  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes depending on your oven.  The center should be set and the top lightly browned.

Allow cheesecake to completely cool (overnight is best) before removing from the spring form pan.  Once cooled, take a knife and run it around the edge of the spring form pan to help release and loosen the cheesecake.  Enjoy!  Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen (the later is what we did).

Thank you again Kate for this scrumptious treat!  Let us know what you think and post your comments below!  Happy Valentine's Day!

In Health,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

Dancing for Health with Tony Dovolani of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars

"Dancing is one of the most wonderful things you've ever experienced. It boosts your energy. It boosts your immune system because it actually puts more oxygen in your red blood cells" said Tony Dovolani of ABC's Dancing with the Stars at the January 16th, 2013 Health and Wellness Event at The Dance with Me Studio in Stamford, CT. 

It was a great pleasure to be involved in this joint-benefit event where I was on hand to speak with participants about health from a nutritional standpoint.  My focus at this event was to educate on food sensitivities and how they can contribute to a variety of health issues including:

Chronic Diarhea, Heartburn/GERD, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Joint Pain, Muscle Pain, Weight Imbalances, Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Sinusitis, Insomnia, Skin Eruptions, and Autism/ADD.

Through blood work and/or the food elimination diet (alone or in combination with a detoxification program), one can better understand what foods might be problematic.  This is a very individualized approach because what may be healthful to one person could be poison to the next!

The event at Dance with Me Studios in Stamford also addressed the importance of exercise in the form of dance.  Tony captivated the audience with his compelling speech which reminded us that dancing can help lift our mood, improve our blood flow and correct our posture.  Watching the all-star dance instructors 'shake their bodies' on the dance floor was a real life example of the power of dance.  Here's a short clip from Tony:

Put on your dance shoes and give it a try!  If you're local, I highly recommend lessons at Dance with Me Stamford.  This combined with a healthy diet will get you feeling and looking your best in no time!

In Health,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

The Miracle Mindset – A Night with Gabrielle Bernstein at FTC (January 2, 2013)

Who is Gabrielle Bernstein?  My friends asked this question a few weeks back after sending out an email invitation asking them to join me for an author talk and book signing event.  Funny, after the event, one even admitted that she thought we were going to see a nutritionist speak. This preconceived notion all shifted when Gabrielle Bernstein, otherwise referred to as "Gabby," entered the Fairfield Theatre company (FTC) stage last night. 

Gabrielle is a speaker, author and a role model to many women all over the world.  Her life experiences as a theater student, event promoter and public relations professional have brought her to a place of deep, very deep abundance and gratitude.  Her journey was not easy from drug and alcohol abuse to relationship heartache to financial worry to even caffeine addiction.  Her formal training is deeply rooted in A Course In Miracles but she has also recently found a strong connection to Kundalini Yoga.  Today she blogs, talks, writes and leads meditations inspiring others to create what she calls the, "Miracle Mindset."

The "Miracle Mindset" includes shifting our thoughts to ones of gratitude.  Someone with this mindset will:

  • Say and think in the face of tragedy, "there has to be a better way"
  • Turn inward for solutions
  • Be in a state of flow
  • Practice forgiveness and uses the "F" word like it's a full time job
  • Live in a state of faith

Her latest book, "May Cause Miracles" just launched and last night she shared her deepest desire.  This desire is to reach those that feel called to serve at a deeper level.  This book is a 40 day program that involves daily inspiration and practices.  She knows deep within her that our radical shifts can not only shift our own world but also the world around us. 

"I have the infinite capacity to create everything I desire" ~ Gabrielle Bernstein

You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with nutrition and my health?  In her book, she has an entire chapter dedicated to the body.  She feels like this section of the book is a very important one and fills our "container" in a way that we may have never imagined or thought about previously.  In order to thrive in society and our everyday lives, we must fuel our body with nutrients that will allow us to be able to be our very best.  She and I both agree, that our optimal self will not 'show up' unless the self-care is there.  By shifting the mindset, it is much easier to get to a healthy place.  In fact every corner of our life will flow and work together….I like to see this as a domino effect except in this case, the dominoes stand up tall instead of falling down.

My favorite part of the evening was the facilitated meditations.  Gabby modernizes her meditations with upbeat music and positive talk.  Her opening meditation focused on conflict resolution and the deep pain being still held from the Newtown shooting incident.  In closing she played a powerful version of the Beatles song, "Let It Be" in order to release all that we were willing to let go of.  Here is a description of the inner conflict meditation directly from Gabby.  She recommends this daily:

The night was magical in many ways.  Her down-to-earth approach resonated with the audience as attendees lined up during the Q & A session to share their own life struggles, successes and wide-eyed ah-has.  Gabby lit up the room with her smile and get-down-to business approach to spiritual practices.  She reminded us that we all have within us the ability to heal, love and live to our highest potential. 

A big thank you to Catch A Healthy Habit Cafe for hosting Gabrielle Bernstein last evening!  Here's a powerful clip that Glen, the owner of the cafe, took to close out the night:

I found a great deal online where you can purchase her book and get some freebie gifts.  I'm jumping on the deal and think you should too!  Join me for the 40-day journey to fill up our containers with love, gratitude and forgiveness!  Click here to purchase your book and join me and others on this wonderful journey called YOU!

In Health & Complete Happiness,




Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

13 Ways to Transform Your Body Composition & Health in 2013

A New Year is ahead of you!  2013 will be exactly what YOU make of it.  If you're in search of lasting change, claim these 13 tips – breathe them in and own them like you mean it. 

#1 Cherish Relaxation

Turn off all electronics by 10pm and turn into by bed by 10:30pm to recharge your batteries.  Sleep is one of the most restorative things that you can do for your health.  With a good night's sleep the renewed energy will allow you to accomplish more, your body will feel more alive and your cravings and moods will be improved.  Find ways to relax such as epsom salt baths, long strolls in your favorite part of town, engaging in a novel, or sipping hot tea while listening to the sounds of your favorite artists.  By moving into less stress for 2013, you will calm down your adrenals, lower cortisol levels and in turn help to reduce any unwanted belly fat.

#2 Get Your Greens

Continue to keep your veggie intake in check and add in a greens powder like Design's For Health's Paleo Greens or Metagenics' Phytoganix (my two personal favorites) .  Adding at least one scoop per day will fill your body up with antioxidants to fight off any free radicals.  Every cell will radiate and give thanks to the good nutrition that you are feeding it.  A good quality greens product is important as you want to ensure that there are absolutely no heavy metals or pesticides.  While I fully support homemade juices with fresh greens, sometimes time restraints and budget can put your well intentioned goal in the backseat.  A greens powder is relatively inexpensive for what you are getting (very high nutrient content) and extremely easy to mix in your post workout smoothie or just simply with a glass of water. 

It's that age old approach that works every time – Keep It Simple Stupid or K.I.S.S.

#3 Affirm Your Self:

Lift yourself up with positive self-talk.  Throw out any trash talk and invest in the glass is half full approach.  "I love and approve of myself" is one of the best overall affirmations to live by.  Once you've mastered this, move on to "I am worthy of the best that love and life have to offer."  Write one affirmation on a post-it note and plaster it throughout your life (the bathroom mirror, the car dashboard, your daily planner, etc).  Once you've tackled the fundamental statements, work with affirmations that address diet, fitness and loving your body.

If you know "tapping" or the Emotional Freedom Techniques, start tapping through your affirmations.  If you want quick relief and want to truly own positive affirmations, sign yourself up for some Psych-K sessions.  As your beliefs change, your life will change.  Believe me, I speak from personal experience!

"Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny."

~ Mohandas, Karamchand Gandhi

#4 Get Out of Your Own Way

Excuses begone!  If you've made excuses in the past (we all have) for getting to the gym or cooking up a fresh meal, know that these excuses are only preventing you from the body and life of your dreams.  If you hear yourself making up an excuse that limits you from being your best self, change the excuse into a positive action item.  For instance, instead of saying "I'm too tired to go to the gym, " say something like, "Although I am exhausted, I am still going to the gym because it will energize me."

#5 Go Grainless

There is no doubt about it, removing grains from your diet WILL improve your body composition.  This is not an easy task especially if you are a daily bread consumer.  Start slow and ease your way into a grain-free diet.  Gather up support and resources to make this possible.  Remember that going grain-free does not give you permission to eat just meat.  A balanced diet is the key to living a healthy life and there are plenty of other food choices besides grains that will keep you full, satiated and happy. 

Stay tuned. You'll be hearing much more on this blog about gluten-free and grain-free living in 2013 and beyond.

#6 Lift Heavy

Say goodbye to hour long cardio workouts.  This is so 1980s!  Save time and improve health by picking up heavy weights.  Find a good trainer to show you proper form.  If you're afraid of bulking up, realize that your diet has much more to do with this than the added weight. 

#7 Create Room

Clutter is going to slow you down.  Clutter can be found in stack of papers, in your closet full of clothes, within your kitchen cabinets or even throughout your mind.  Discover where your clutter resides itself and start to sort through the cobwebs.  Donate items to the library, Goodwill, or even to friends.

In the New Year, let it all go -
the old judgements and fears,
the repeat worries and frustrations,
the outdated labels and false limits.
Step forward into the white space
of a new day, a new destiny that
you craft for yourself.
Live into a grand, authentic vision
of who you can become.
Live into your highest self.

~ Brendon Burchard – Live. Love. Matter.

#8 Detoxify All Of You

I recommend a detox program at least once a year.  The toxins in our environment today did not exist 30 years ago.  They are dragging us down in many ways but mostly, hurting our health.  The only way to say 'enough is enough' with all of these chemicals that are crowding our bodies is to take charge by taking part in a medically sound detoxification program

A juice cleanse can be great but a detoxification program that includes a spectrum of nutrients that are specifically designed for the liver, gallbladder and other organs will get your system functioning optimally.  Something as simple as a 14-day, 21-day or 28-day program can produce increased energy, healthier skin, a reduction in inflammation and body fat, and clarity of thought.  My clients have had remarkable results with things like tennitus, acid reflux and joint pain all going away!

# 9 Mix it Up in The Kitchen

Goodbye plain Jane and hello flavorful fun!  If you're stuck in a boring meal routine, it's time to start incorporating spices or new flavorings to make your cuisine experiences more eventful.  In order to lose the pounds for good, you must enjoy what you are eating….otherwise, you are bound to fail.  With my clients, we share recipes and find great new ways to make eating healthy a divine experience!

#10 Quality Over Calories

While calories can be a helpful guideline, they are not the end all be all in today's nutrition world.  I'd rather see my clients eating excess calories with good whole food nutrients than limiting caloric load with artificial sweeteners, "diet" foods, and low fat bland products. 

I'll get you off the calorie roller coaster and into a place of pure contentment after each and every meal and snack.  It's call hormonal based eating and THIS is what rules your body composition and health, NOT calories.

#11 Cherish All Winks

Years ago I read a book called, Winks from God.  This quick read made a major impact in my life and the lesson learned is something I constantly fall back to.  By appreciating the little things, you will keep getting more and more wonderful beauty showered into your life.

Keep a notebook and record everything that lights you up!  It could be the sunset, a call from a friend, the close of a business deal, a meal that satiates you 100%…. you name it, put it down, and be thankful.  The more we give thanks, the more the universe says, "YES, She/He wants more of this"

#12 Shake It Up

Buy a high quality non-allergenic protein shake mix and store this in your kitchen.  It's great for post-workout, a morning breakfast or a mid-day healthy snack.  While it's not considered "whole food", it is full of good nutrition (if you buy one of high quality) and a great addition to anyone's dietary routine. 

When I first meet with clients, the first thing I typically notice is not enough water intake and a starch heavy breakfast.  A shake can help out in both of these areas.  If one adds about 4-8 ounces of water to a morning shake, the dehydrated body will soak up that pure liquid.  And the high protein content of the shake powder can transform any body to one that is a lean, fit machine.  So for 2013, shake it up!

#13 Make Each Day of 2013 Memorable

If you look back at 2012, can you say that every day counted?  If so, GREAT!  If not, 2013 is THE year to make it happen.  Do something big or small every day that makes that day special.  Perhaps it's a giant hug that you give your kids or a new recipe that you can add to your repertoire.  Maybe it's a workout that pumps you up to a new level or a random act of kindness to a complete stranger.  Whatever it is, make it count and when you reach December 31, 2013 you can say to yourself, "This year was the best one yet!"

In Health,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

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