Virtual Grocery Store for Weight Loss with Dan Fenyvesi

Today I went to the Virtual Grocery Store class given by our nutritionist and creator of weight loss program, A Lighter You.  The class is like a trip through the grocery store.  Dan made it easy for us to know exactly what to buy by giving us the brands that are the healthiest, lowest in calorie content and taste the best.  He also advised us on what we should be eating the most of and what to avoid.

Here are some of Dan’s most important tips!

  • Eat a variety of veggies by buying them fresh, dehydrated and frozen.
  • A step below fresh, dehydrated and frozen are canned vegetables.  However some veggies that are especially good canned are tomatoes, hearts of palm and roasted red peppers.
  • Fermented vegetables like pickles and kimchi are a great way to get a dose of veggies and probiotics. The higher quality fermented foods are put in water with salt which creates the vinegar that ferments it.  The lower quality are vegetables just put in vinegar which is not considered fermented.
  • Eat sea vegetables which have lots of minerals like magnesium and calcium.
  • Frozen food: brands Amy’s and Kashi are the best options while Healthy Choice is an okay option. Make sure the serving size says one.
  • Frozen pizza: instead of buying frozen pizza, the best solution is to try to make it on your own.  However if you need some frozen pizza options, the Roasted Veggie pizza by brand 365 of Whole Foods is the best that Dan has found.  It’s vegan and very low in calories, but you can add your own cheese or meat. The other frozen pizzas are very high in calories.
  • Frozen breakfasts: Dan recommends Garden Lite’s Spinach Soufflé, Wegmans Golden Sweet Potato Pancakes and Van’s Lite Waffles.
  • Frozen desserts: Artic Zero ice cream is the best at only 150 calories.  Otherwise frozen fruit bars are good, the brand Soy Delicious, frozen fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese is the healthiest option and Greek non fat frozen yogurt (various brands) are also a good choice.
  • Condiments and dips: Salsa is a great low-calorie option.  Hummus, guacamole, olive tapenade and yogurt are also good options, but watch your portions.
  • Pasta and pizza sauces: Buy higher end brands because they use fresher tomatoes and less sugar and oil. Dan’s favorite is Bio Nature Organic Strained Tomatoes.
  • Make your own condiments with good quality vinegar (recommends the Alessi brand) with mustard and a little olive oil.
  • Dressings: Best brands are Boathouse Farms and 365 Organics.
  • Soups: Boxed soups taste fresher than canned. Pacific is a good boxed brand.
  • Cereal: Dan doesn’t recommend eating cereal because it’s heavily processed and are empty calories, but if you must, he recommends Nature’s Path, Kashi Go Lean and Grape Nuts.  As far as oatmeal, look for the ones that look like pebbles (they are the whole grain,) soak them overnight and they will cook in 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Snacks: Dan recommends getting your own popcorn popper because fresh popcorn taste way better than microwaved.  As far as microwaved popcorn, he says the Paul Newman brand is the best.
  • Sweeteners: Anything sweet tends to stimulate the appetite, but if you must use a sweetener, Stevia is the most natural.  Agave is controversial and Dan doesn’t recommend it.
  • Drinks: For low-calorie drinks, Dan recommends Blue Sky Free, Kombucha and Diet Hansens.

Another way for you to bring the Ranch home!

Ayurvedic Tips for This Winter Season

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A little note from our Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, Carla Levy, on how to stay healthy and vibrant during the winter months!

Dear Friends,

Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, is the original holistic healing system that has been practiced  for 5000 years.  It focuses on healing at all levels including body, mind, and spirit.  This occurs by achieving personal balance utilizing the 5 elements air, water, fire, earth, and ether (space).  These elements are divided into 3 doshas  that combine together within the body: they are vata, pitta, and kapha.  Vata consists of air and ether, pitta of fire and a small amount of water, and kapha of earth and water.  Each dosha can be found in varying amounts in each of us and can also be seen within the seasons of the year.  Our goal in Ayurveda is to have balance within ourselves and nature around us which includes the season we are in.

Winter is the kapha time of year because it is cold, heavy, and moist like earth and water.  It is important during this season to consume foods that are warming and easily digestible.  Stews, oatmeal, and root vegetables  are good examples of foods to eat in the winter.  Warm drinks are very beneficial including, ginger tea, cinnamon tea, clove tea, and warm milk with ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.  It is a great time of year to slow down a bit, go to bed early, and participate in quiet cozy activities.  If you  practice yoga, make sure to incorporate back bends into your practice in order to open up your chest because congestion is a common symptom of this season.  This time of year tends to breed depression so make sure you break out bright and vibrant colors to help uplift and enliven your spirit.  It is a good time to avoid mucus forming foods such as ice cream and cheese, as well as cold drinks.  In Ayurveda, the medicated jam called chavanprash will help during this time of year because it is high in vitamin c , full of warming spices and it increases the immune system.  Sitopaladi, an herbal mixture, is  very effective for breaking up mucus. I hope that you have a happy and balanced winter season.

Stay warm,


Ayurveda at the Ranch with Carla Levy

Recently, I was lucky enough to have a session with our Ayurvedic specialist, Carla Levy, who is at the Ranch one week a month.  In case you don’t know, Ayurveda is one of the oldest healing systems in the world, and the term actually means “science of life.”  It differs from Western medicine, focusing more on prevention and healing the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms.  It is a holistic approach that involves all aspects of life (mind, body and spirit) in order to keep a natural balance that’s true to your individual self.  According to Ayurveda, we are all born with our own individual balance called our Pakruti, and we also have our Vikruti.  Vakruti is always out of balance.  If you are balanced you are in your Prakruti.

Our Pakruti is made up of the combination of three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  Each dosha is made up of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water and space.  One or two of the doshas may be dominate in your Prakruti, or rarely one possesses equal parts of all three.  Each person is different.

Carla determined that my Pakruti is mainly Vata-Pitta.  Physically, I’m more Vata, but my personality is more Pitta.  My constitution is definitely out of balance though.  Because I get cold easily (especially my hands and feet at night) she recommended I eat warm foods for dinner like soups or stews, not salads and raw veggies.  I found this really interesting because I normally eat fresh veggies and salads for dinner, which I thought was good for me. But because my Vata is out of balance (Vikruti) and Vata is cold, I need warm foods to balance me.  She also suggested I stay away from spicy foods because I was born with a lot of Pitta, which is already hot.  Spices can aggravate Pitta.

Also, because I have trouble falling asleep sometimes or can’t get into a deep sleep, she told me to try drinking warm milk before I go to bed.  Since I don’t drink milk, she said almond milk would be fine and to also add nutmeg or cinnamon, and it worked!  Lastly, after a physical examination, she contended that I’m not fully absorbing my nutrients. I thought this was strange, since I make an effort to eat a ton of veggies and fruit.  Carla then asked me how I normally ate my meals.  Well, I’m embarrassed to say that most of my morning meals are eaten in front of the computer, working, or while I’m driving, and my dinners are spent in front of the t.v.  She said that could be the reason I’m not getting the full benefits of the nutrients that I’m ingesting because it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat is equally important.  This makes perfect sense, because when you’re distracted while you’re eating, that leads to not chewing food properly– which leads to digestive problems.  You also take in whatever else you are doing with your food.

All in all, this was such an insightful consultation, and you can tell that Carla is so passionate about Ayurveda.  For me, it’s a whole new way of looking at health, and the idea that our health is as unique as our personalities and genetic makeup really resonates with me.  If you would like to set up a time to meet with Carla down at the Ranch, you can reach her at  She also has an Ayurvedic practice in San Diego as well and can be contacted through the same email.

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

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This subject often conjures up many different answers and often confusion in our culture.  We’re told that we need more and more protein, yet many of us are eating too much of it.  Our Director of Nutrition, Yvonne Nienstadt gives us key points on how much protein we actually need and the best way to get it in your diet.

  • How much protein we need is based on our body weight and composition.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 10%-12% of your total daily calories.  If you work out on a regular basis or do heavy weight lifting you may need more.
  • The National Research Council recommends 0.42 grams of protein per pound of body weight while the institute of Medicines Food and Nutrition Board recommends 0.36 grams per pound.
  • Protein is made up of 22 amino acids.  14 are the non-essential acids which are essential for pregnant women, children and athletes.  The other eight are called the essential amino acids which cannot be made in the body and are necessary for health.
  • Nails and hair that won’t grow and wounds that won’t heal are signs of protein deficiency.
  • Symptoms of protein excess are gouty arthritis, kidney stones and renal impairment.  Eating over 90 grams of protein a day from a high animal protein diet causes the kidneys to work harder and can cause kidney dysfunction.
  • You can get the bulk of your protein from plants just like our closest primal cousins, chimpanzees, whose “total animal food consumption amounts to no more than 1-2% of total calories.”  Our teeth are built mostly for grinding plant matter.  Our stomachs have mild acidity and a very long digestive tract, not ideal for eating a lot of animal protein.

Contrary to most of the information out there regarding protein, you can get plenty of protein from plants and veggies, which should be the bulk of your meals, surrounding a small amount of whatever animal-based protein you like.  This will ensure you’re getting the right amount of protein without going overboard.

For more information regarding protein, you can attend Yvonne’s seminar at the Ranch, Protein: How Much Is Enough?

How to Get a Flat Tummy

It sounds like a tall order, right?  So many of us have been trying for years to lose weight, flatten our bellies, etc, etc.  Much easier said than done and in some ways it seems like a mystery.  Why, even after eating right and working out, does it seem almost impossible to lose weight in that area?  Well, a former instructor from the Ranch, Nancy Parker, who now has her own wellness practice, shed some light on why that might be and for once, it made sense!  In her seminar at the Ranch, Flatten your Belly…Finally!-Maximizing Digestive Health through Lifestyle Change, Nancy gave us the secrets on how to attain that fleeting flat stomach.

Essentially there are three factors that affect weight loss overall, but especially in the belly region; what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat.  What this all boils down to is the health of your digestive system.

What you eat:  What I found most interesting about Nancy’s talk was how many of us have food intolerances that we are not aware of.  She described her own experience as someone who was allergic to gluten, dairy and soy about 10 years ago, but didn’t know it.  She had sudden weight gain plus digestive issues, and her doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Through the elimination diet she discovered her food intolerances, thus losing the weight and the digestive issues.  So what you eat makes a huge difference in whether you can lose weight and if you have any sort of food intolerances that you’re not aware of, that can cause you to gain weight.  How do you find out which foods are right for your body?  You can either take the MRT test or use the elimination diet.

When you eat:  If you eat more calories later in the day, that has been shown to increase weight gain.  Our digestion is strongest during the middle of the day which is why lunch should be the biggest meal and dinner the lightest.

How much you eat:  Portion still plays a huge roll in weight gain and weight loss.  Eat until you’re semi-full and see how you feel after a couple of minutes.  It usually takes us about 20 minutes for fullness to kick in, so eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly.  This will help you not to overeat as well.

Here are a couple of action steps you can take to facilitate the process:

  • Identify and decrease stress
  • Slow down for meals
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Stay hydrated
  • Move your body
  • Every so often fast (check with your doctor first)
  • Try the elimination diet

By the way, Nancy also gave us a piece of advice that made my day.  Crunches will not give you a tight stomach.  She explained that you have to activate the inner muscles through Pilates, posture work and breathing that elongates your spine and body.  So I found that to be good news!

So as you can see, it’s not just doing one thing or the other, it’s making sure that all of your systems are working together at maximum potential to weed out the toxins and help you absorb the nutrients you need.  For more information about Nancy Parker and her wellness program, you can visit her site at