Park Slope

Experts Beth Lipton And Aynsley Kirshenbaum Bust Nutrition Myths In Talk At Slope Wellness

Shrimp salad with hearts of palm
Shrimp salad with hearts of palm. (Prepared by Beth Lipton)

Food writer, editor, natural-foods chef, health coach, and currently the food director at Health magazine, Beth Lipton teams up with Aynsley Kirshenbaum, nutritionist and fitness professional, for a discussion tonight, Tuesday, November 10, titled Nutrition Myths: Busted! at Slope Wellness, 816 8th Avenue, between 8th and 9th Streets.

Add on the fact that they’re both parents (default children’s food experts) and you basically have a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 punch when it comes to expertise on these subjects.

Lipton is the author of both You Made That Dessert? and the recently released Short Stack Volume 16: Peaches. Kirshenbaum is working both one-on-one and in groups to help clients feel good in their bodies by helping them implement sustainable changes.

Suffice it to say that the Lipton and Kirshenbaum can provide both practical and intangible advice when it comes to a range of subjects. In this case, they will address the myriad of books, theories, fads, and diet approaches that often provide conflicting information which can make even the most grounded person run screaming from the diet/nutrition bookshelf.

With the holiday season coming, we spoke with Lipton and Kirshenbaum to ask them — not only about food myths — but how to eat healthy and happy during the holidays.

And do they sneak a treat every once in awhile? Well, you can find it out below.

Food Writer and Editor Beth Lipton
Food Writer and Editor Beth Lipton. (Courtesy of Beth Lipton)

PSS: Of all the nutrition myths out there, what would you say is the biggest one?

Beth Lipton: There are so many! But probably the biggest one is that there’s one “right” way to eat for optimal health.

There’s a ton of dogma out there, endless books and articles that are so convincing, telling you that you have to be vegan, or Paleo, or drink tons of green juice, or whatever. But the reality is, we’re all individuals. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa.

It’s great to read the different theories to educate yourself, but when it comes to your own diet, the only way to know what makes you feel your best and perform at your top level is to try different things and see what works.

Keep your mind open and try not to label yourself. Once you identify with a certain group, you may feel guilt or shame if it turns out that what’s best for you strays from that set of rules. If you call yourself Paleo, for example, but you feel best when you incorporate a bit of grain into your diet, suddenly you’re “failing,” even though you’re just doing what works for your body.

Aynsley Kirshenbaum, Nutritionist and Fitness Professional
Aynsley Kirshenbaum, Nutritionist and Fitness Professional. (Courtesy of Aynsley Kirshenbaum)

For those who have kids, it can be so hard to make sure that everything that goes into their mouth is healthy. Sometimes we put together these super healthy homemade meals and then they eat Cheerios all day. Any advice to soothe us?

Aynsley Kirshenbaum: First of all, I think it’s really important to remember that, for little kids, you’re looking at their nutritional intake over the week, not day. So if they are getting a balanced diet each week, you shouldn’t worry.

I’m a big proponent of offering kids everything you’re eating and letting them decide what and how much they’ll eat. This is actually a great practice for parents, too: if you’re eating something you wouldn’t want your kid to have, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it, either.

We’re going through a really picky time in my house with my almost 4 year old and I’m really trying to avoid getting into power struggles with her. Someone always loses a power struggle and I think it’s terrible to bring stress to the table.

When I cook dinner, I make sure there’s at least something she’ll like; right now it’s roasted sweet potatoes shaped like french fries. Then I offer her everything her dad and I are eating and let her decide what she wants. Some nights she only eats sweet potatoes.

But to the question of Cheerios all day, I do think snacking has gotten out of control. There’s no need to have food on constant access, especially highly processed snacks.

I think parents and caregivers can go a long way to helping kids understand their own body’s cues if meals and snacks have a schedule. The kid can absolutely set that schedule: my daughter is always hungry at 3pm, so that’s snack time. But if she’s hungry again at 5:30 and dinner will be ready at 6, I do ask her to wait. And if she absolutely can not wait, I offer veggies.

Snacks also don’t have to be Cheerios, or crackers, pretzels, goldfish, etc. Offer fruit, nuts, veggies and dip, yogurt, beans, seaweed, etc., as snacks once in a while.

The holidays are coming up, which means office parties, family events, holiday parties with friends, etc. Someone once told me that healthy people eat before a party and barely touch anything at these events. But is that any fun? What’s the best way to approach food during holidays when you’re not in a position to prepare it for yourself?

BL: You definitely don’t want to be the person who doesn’t get to eat anything at parties — that’s no fun. The key is balance. Definitely have something to eat before you go to a party so you’re not starving when you get there. Beyond that, just pay attention to what you’re eating.

Try not to absently grab something from every tray going by. Really decide what you’re going to have, and enjoy it. That doesn’t mean you have to just nibble on the crudite–though it’s a great idea to fill a small plate with vegetables so you always have something handy to munch on.

If there’s an indulgent item that you love (for me it’s pigs in blankets, and those little spinach-feta pastries, I can’t resist them!), by all means, have it. Just don’t have the whole tray. Have one or two, and take a moment to experience it. Chew slowly and savor it. Talk about how delicious it is. Really enjoy it, no guilt.

I think the mistake we often make is being too extreme. Either we think we can’t have anything at a party, or we say, “It’s a party, I’m going to eat everything!” And then you feel terrible the next day, physically and mentally.

The key is balance. Make the choice to have a few things you really love, and say no to the ones you can take or leave. Fill in with lots of vegetables and drink plenty of water. Then you get both–you get to have some really delicious food at the party, and you get to feel strong and energetic the next day.

Peaches by Beth Lipton
Peaches by Beth Lipton. (Courtesy of Beth Lipton)

How about traveling during this time a year? So many folks have those days that are spent in airport terminals, planes, on a car trip, etc. Those days seem impossible to eat healthy because nutritious foods can be inaccessible. What are your tricks?

AK: My travel trick is to prepare. I always joke about being such a Jewish mother when I arrive at the train station with a food bag as big as my suitcase, but it’s truly the only way for me to stay sane. Not eating well makes me cranky, which is just a terrible component to add to travel.

I always bring a bag of baby carrots, a few hard boiled eggs, apple slices, cheese sticks and sliced bell pepper because I know my kid and I will happily eat all of those things. Then I buy a salad for me and yogurt for my daughter at the train station or airport. I build in time to scout out healthy options if I’m traveling an unfamiliar route.

On road trips, there really are a lot more better choices out there. Most fast food places offer at least a few veggie-rich options and even the rural gas stations have bags of mixed nuts. I think the real issue is choosing the healthier foods when there’s just SO MUCH tempting junk foods in front of you. And travel does give people the feeling of being off and on vacation, so there’s an element of wanting to give yourself permission to dive into the Big Mac and fries.

Just keep in mind how you want to feel while you’re traveling and what will help you get there.

It’s human to splurge — and not eat perfectly. But you two are experts on this. Do you ever splurge? Come on, you have to give us just a little dirt…

AK: Of course I splurge! I carry chocolate with me in my purse at all times, you never know when you might need some and have trouble finding it. I really adhere to the 80/20 rule: 80% of my diet is nutrient-dense, real food and 20% fun stuff.

The fun stuff for me is dark chocolate, really delicious bread (I’ve been gluten-free for about 2 years but have found some incredible GF options) and some awesome ice cream once in a while.

BL: Absolutely, 100% yes! To me, eating “perfectly,” if there is such a thing, means having balance, and balance means you get treats. The minute you try to severely restrict yourself from having foods you love, food becomes the enemy, which is really destructive.

Food is not the enemy. Food is fuel, nourishment, sharing, pleasure. Like Aynsley, I love dark chocolate. Saying I can’t have it is a nonstarter. I have some every day. In general, I don’t eat much dairy or wheat, but if I go to a great restaurant, I have exactly what I want. I don’t do it every day, of course–it’s a splurge.

But we live in New York, what a waste to not enjoy all the amazing food we have around us.

Nutrition Myths: Busted! With Beth Lipton and Aynsley Kirshenbaum
When: Tuesday, November 10, 6:30pm
Where: Slope Wellness, 816 8th Avenue, between 8th and 9th Streets
Admission: $10. Tickets are available here.

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