Can You Eat Your Way to a Younger You?

Author of the book Younger Next Week says you can turn back the clock in just 7 days.

Looking for the fountain of youth? According to nutritionist Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, you can eat your way to becoming more vibrant and energized, and look and feel younger. Healthy Eats spoke with Zied, the author of the book  Younger Next Week, who discussed how you can turn back the clock in just seven days.

Healthy Eats: As a dietitian who has counseled clients about weight loss and healthy eating, what prompted you to write your book Younger Next Week: Your Ultimate Rx to Reverse the Clock, Boost Energy and Look and Feel Younger in 7 Days?

Elisa Zied: Younger Next Week is an outgrowth of my experience as an overweight teen, always trying to fit into a tight pair of jeans and to reach that so-called "ideal" weight; as a woman who finally achieved a healthier weight and lifestyle that I’ve maintained well into my 40s; and as a registered dietitian nutritionist who has worked with women for more than a decade — and who continues to educate, inform and (hopefully) inspire women to make sound, science-based and realistic changes in their eating, fitness and lifestyle habits. The book emerged from the "post-traumatic 40 disorder" my friends and I started to suffer from because of the stress caused by things like health challenges, work challenges, relationship problems, caring for children or older parents. As a result, many of us looked and felt depleted emotionally and physically. I wrote Younger Next Week to empower women to give themselves permission to care for and nurture themselves by eating and sleeping better, fitting in fitness, [and] finding positive ways to cope with and manage stress. That, in turn, helps them look and feel their absolute best no matter what their age.

HE: Elisa, you are gorgeous with vibrant skin and look not even close to your age! What is your secret?

EZ: Very kind of you to say! But we all know genes have a lot to do with appearance. I also know, however, that one of the things I have prioritized for years and years is getting enough sleep — even if that means less time out with friends. I also prioritize staying as active as possible every day — not just doing formal exercise, but simply moving more and sitting less. Becoming a regular exerciser has not only helped me better manage stress, but it has boosted my immune system tremendously — and that has made our cold New York City winters much more bearable, since I’m seldom sidelined with illness (knock on wood). Of course, I also try to drink a lot of water and eat plenty of produce, and I don’t drink alcohol.

HE: Many women spend lots of money on beauty-enhancing products. How can choosing the right food make you look and feel younger?

EZ: I like makeup and beauty creams as much as the next woman, but I know nourishing yourself from the inside out can do a lot more to help your skin, especially on your face, and your entire body look and feel better. Fueling yourself throughout the day with a well-balanced dietary pattern that’s calorie-appropriate (it provides just enough — but not too much — to meet your energy needs) and that includes nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, starchy carbs (including whole grains), lean protein foods, low-fat dairy foods and healthy fats creates a wonderful foundation to help you fuel your brain, have physical and mental energy, and nourish your skin and all body cells. It also helps you build an arsenal to protect your body against the ravages of sunlight, pollution, secondhand smoke and other cell-damaging substances that can put you on a faster track to aging.

HE: In your book, you outline a 7-Day Vitality Plan to help look and feel younger and help shed unwanted pounds. Can you explain the theory behind your plan and why it works?

EZ: Using the science-based Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a starting point, I designed two seven-day meal plans, one that’s mix-and-match, based on my Vital Foods list. The meal plans are designed to promote slow and steady weight loss of no more than one to two pounds weekly, though women can use the plan and increase their intake to maintain a healthy weight. The plan includes foods from each food group and uses an additive rather than a "don’t eat this" approach to eating — after all, this is easier to stay on for life, isn’t it? The plan also includes realistic recommendations for fitness, sleep, laughing and connecting — key lifestyle components for those who want to achieve true vitality. The plan works because it’s a holistic lifestyle solution rather than a restrictive quick fix — and because it’s grounded in science to help you get and stay healthy by feeding yourself nutritious foods most of the time and by living an active, balanced lifestyle. The book is loaded with practical tips and peppered with Stressipes — remedies for the negative effects stress has on food, fitness and lifestyle behaviors — to help women flip some of their less-than-healthy coping habits into more positive ones.

HE: Many folks avoid carbs, but in your book you say that healthy carbs (like potatoes and cereal) can help boost vitality. How is this possible?

EZ: It may surprise some to learn that those who have a higher carbohydrate intake tend to have lower body weights and a lower risk of overweight and obesity than those who eat less carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains (like whole-grain cereal, popcorn, brown or wild rice) provide the brain, the red blood cells and the entire central nervous system and muscles with glucose, the key fuel they rely on. Carbohydrate-rich foods also help your body create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep, so skimping on them can adversely affect your mood. Without enough carbohydrate — most experts, and current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommend about half of total calorie intake — the body will break down muscle to create much-needed glucose. Because we want to preserve, if not build, additional lean muscle as we age, it’s essential to incorporate enough carbohydrate in the diet and allow protein in the diet and in the body to be used for its many vital functions rather than as a glucose source.

HE:  In your book, you mention that “you can drink your way to a younger you.” How can this be done?

EZ: Staying adequately hydrated is key. Water carries oxygen and nutrients to muscles and helps eliminate wastes from the body. It also helps skin look and feel moist and supple, moisturizes all body cells, reduces fluid retention and supports healthy digestion to help us look and feel our best. Staying hydrated can also prevent us from symptoms that can occur if we don’t drink enough, such as moodiness, a lowered ability to concentrate, and headaches. Although water is my favorite beverage to recommend, having small amounts of coffee or tea, 100-percent-fruit juices and low-fat or nonfat milk can also provide beneficial substances and key vitality-promoting nutrients.

HE: What are three snacks that can help you feel younger?

EZ: Three of my favorite feel-younger snacks pack in protein and produce to fill you up and keep blood sugar steady to keep you energized. And they’re fun to eat!

  1. One cup whole-grain, ready-to-eat cereal (like shredded wheat) topped with 1 sliced banana and 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  2. Five whole-grain crackers (like Triscuits) topped with 1 ounce cheddar cheese, paired with a small sliced apple
  3. One cup low-fat or nonfat yogurt blended in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of nuts (like pistachios, cashews, almonds and/or walnuts) and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries

Shrimp and Broccoli Bowl
Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
12 ounces large peeled and deveined shrimp
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt-free Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1/2 tablespoon for sauteing vegetables
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded, de-ribbed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Plan ahead: 2 cups frozen brown rice, cooked according to package directions (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, garlic, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Heat the 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Remove the shrimp from the skillet to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and saute 2 minutes. Then add the red peppers and saute for 1 minute. Pour in the water, cover and steam for 2 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green. Season the vegetables with lemon juice and black pepper. Return the shrimp to the skillet and stir.

Serve the shrimp and broccoli over brown rice, if desired.

Vital Stats (per serving):  231 calories, 5.4 g fat, < 1 g saturated fat, 107 mg cholesterol, 503 mg sodium, 30 g carbohydrate, 3.5 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 16 g protein

One serving counts as: 1 starchy carb, 1 non-starchy vegetable, 3 proteins

Recipe courtesy Robyn Webb

Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, is the author of four books and an advisor for Parents magazine. She is a speaker, spokesperson, and freelance writer who has blogged for several websites including Today.com, Parents.com, and USNews.com. She is also a current spokesperson for Starkist and Barilla. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, Zied lives in New York City with her husband and two sons. Visit her at http://www.elisazied.com.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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