Janet Brancato is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Masters degree in Nutrition from New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY. She did her undergraduate studies and received a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition from Montclair State University, NJ.
She is experienced in the field of Nutrition for over 20 years, teaching groups, and counseling individuals on diet modifications and lifestyle changes to promote health. She is experienced with kids, teens, and adults. Her specialty is weight management but she also works with various medical challenges.
The past 15 years she has worked at a local hospital in NJ as an outpatient dietitian and community health speaker.
Janet decided to expand her scope of practice and created Nutopia, LLC a virtual private practice about 5 years ago. She can meet with clients using telehealth technology from the comfort of their home or office.
The motto for her business is “Simplified & Personalized” taking the information and breaking it down into manageable goals and giving clients a personal experience. She motivates and supports clients in between visits.
Janet is also a food blogger, you can check it out on her website www.mynutopia.com.
Follow her on social media:
Facebook – @Nutopia, LLC
Twitter/IG – @janetmsrd
Mathea Ford: [00:00:27] Hi there! It’s Mathea. Welcome back to the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast featuring nutrition experts who are leading the way using food starts today right now with our special guest Janet Brancato. Janet, it’s great to have you on the show today.
Janet Brancato: [00:00:43] Hi Mathea! So glad to be back!
Mathea Ford: [00:00:45] Yes! So, this is our monthly News Edition where we kind of talk about current events and what’s coming up in the next month. And I’m excited to have you on the show and talk through our topics today because I think these are things that are just in general good to remember but also very specific to the holiday season. So, we’ve just finished Thanksgiving. What did you do for Thanksgiving?
Janet Brancato: [00:01:12] So, Thanksgiving. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I usually go to my mom’s house she has a full house of people on my husband’s side and also my brother’s family and everybody brings dishes. So everybody helps out. She does the main event which is the turkey and we all help with the sides so and I love to do the roasted vegetables because that’s something that I really love. So, I bring that. Yeah! It was amazing! We had a great day of family and good food.
Mathea Ford: [00:01:43] Yeah! So, I love roasted vegetables because you really… I just love that flavor that the roasting in the pan gives them. You know it’s not the in water or steamed but it’s got a depth to the flavor I guess is the right way to say that. So that sounds awesome.
Janet Brancato: [00:02:02] Yes! I like to roast up butternut squash, cauliflower, broccoli. You can really you know you use that sheet pan and some spices that you love, a little drizzle of olive oil and like you said it takes on a nice crisp flavor, brings out the sweetness of those vegetables and everybody loves them even the kids. So, it’s always a win win.
Mathea Ford: [00:02:22] So, for my Thanksgiving we had prime rib because it’s my birthday the week after Thanksgiving so that’s my favorite meal. And we have my nephew and my mom and my dad and my husband’s mom and dad and we had a great meal and just so you know you’re right it’s so nice to be together and we actually had pecan pie which the good thing is is that it’s not my favorite. So, instead of an eighth of a pie I just really took like a 16th of a slice. So and then a little bit of ice cream. I love having that wonderful meal to sit around. We all put our phones away and just have a good discussion and talk about what a wonderful year we’ve had because regardless of what has happened you know we’re here together as a family. We’re having a wonderful year.
Janet Brancato: [00:03:14] Yes, I agree. It’s always a special time. And like you said just to reflect on the things that you’re thankful for and family is up there at the top. So I totally agree.
Mathea Ford: [00:03:24] Into some of our topics, this year Starbucks has come out with some very good probably the same ones they have every year espresso beverages different types of high kind of seasonal products. And I wanted to talk through because I think you can easily forget how many calories are in a liquid drink because it’s so easy to just get the drink and drink it and not realize how much is in it. And so I wanted to talk through some of their seasonal drinks maybe talk through the calories in a grande with like a 2 percent milk and then compare to the calories in a different size or with some different changes. So, a couple drinks I wanted to talk about was the eggnog latte because that was really surprising to me. The eggnog latte for a grande which is a 16 ounce with 2 percent milk has 470 calories, 20 grams of fat and 57 grams of carb.
Janet Brancato: [00:04:27] Wow! That’s a lot!
Mathea Ford: [00:04:29] That’s like how many teaspoons of sugar?
Janet Brancato: [00:04:31] You know the carbs there – 57 carbs. I mean you know you’re up there with you know definitely carbs are up there you’re getting at least what we say you know..
Mathea Ford: [00:04:44] I think you said like 14.
Janet Brancato: [00:04:45] Yeah! You mean that did not tell me the specific sugars there but they’re telling you the carb. But definitely, yeah, you look at it like five carbs. You know if you’re going by the you know each carb serving so a little weight like you said it’s a liquid. So, usually you’re eating something along with it. You know you’re having a nice warm beverage but a lot of times you’re eating something with it. So, it’s generally a lot of times people are not just having that alone and maybe they’re having another little sweet component with it. So, it can really kind of add up. And like you said a lot of it has to do with the size. You know that grande is 16 ounces but they do you can bring it down to a tall or even a short which the tall is 12 ounces and the short is 8 ounces. So, you’ll stumble over.
Mathea Ford: [00:05:37] So, the short cuts it in half. Basically 8 ounces. Obviously 16 to 8 but you still get that flavor like you said that you want but it’s not as high in calories and carbs. It’s only 230 calories.
Janet Brancato: [00:05:52] Exactly! Yes. So that would really bring everything down just by changing the size.
Mathea Ford: [00:05:58] Yeah. And switching to nonfat milk so you’re getting a little bit less fat too.
Janet Brancato: [00:06:03] You’re getting less calories, less saturated fat. Some of these can be high in the saturated fats as well. The caramel brulee latte I was looking at was 40% saturated fat, 8 grams there. So and that’s the type of fat that can raise our lipids so we know we don’t want to overdo the frequency of that. If you switch it to a nonfat milk then you bring in everything down then bring that 0 down to we bring in that fat component down to zero. So that will really help.
Mathea Ford: [00:06:33] So in a caramel brulee latte with grande with 2% milk is 370 calories, 6 grams of fat and 66 grams a carb but you’re right it’s not all bad carb but it’s just a lot at once especially if you’re drinking it. So, if you put in a grande with nonfat milk and you go down to a tall which is a 12 ounce it’s 250 calories, no fat and 51 grams of carb. So that cut out a whole serving carb just by bringing it down to the tall size. It’s still a lot. So, I think you know the important thing to realize is frequency like you should not go to Starbucks to get a caramel brew a latte every day. There’s also which I already told you this is my favorite but a peppermint white chocolate mocha. I don’t even know if I want to talk about it because then I’ll have to realize how much…
Janet Brancato: [00:07:34] Even just the names and descriptions can definitely make you want to go there.
Mathea Ford: [00:07:38] Oh yeah! Absolutely!
Janet Brancato: [00:07:40] These drinks you have to look at like a dessert. That’s how I usually look at them. You know if you really want to have a dessert and you’re in the mood for it again and get it. Definitely! But maybe like you said have less you know or maybe make substitutes there so that you know it’s not as decadent. You still enjoying the flavor but I generally look at these drinks as the dessert.
Mathea Ford: [00:08:04] Yeah. So, a peppermint white chocolate mocha is 430 calories at a 16 ounce grande, 10 grams of fat and 71 grams of carb. Let me see. So, if I bring that down to just an 8 ounce with nonfat milk and it comes to try to see. Oh! It’s not even available in an 8 ounce. Well, maybe it’s maybe it is. No. Oh yes it is. Okay, peppermint white chocolate mocha has 190 calories, two and a half grams of fat and 36 grams of carb. So, that’s definitely an improvement. And you would get your little bit of flavor that you were looking for.
Janet Brancato: [00:08:44] Bringing down the size, bringing it to a nonfat milk or they have dairy free options you could get a soy milk and a coconut milk. So, they do have dairy free options. You can ask for no whipped cream. Some of them do come with whipped cream but you can ask for a no whip and you can ask for less syrup. They will do less pumps. Just tell them to go light on the pump for less syrup and they will also that will cut back on the sugar, a lot sugar is coming from the syrups.
Mathea Ford: [00:09:16] I think they also have some sugar free syrups.
Janet Brancato: [00:09:18] Yes! They do have that too. You can ask for a sugar free syrup and that will have splendid in it.
Mathea Ford: [00:09:24] Okay. So I think those are good ideas for your favorite drinks if you’re paying attention because there’s lots of ways to get extra calories during the holiday season. And so why not try to manage that as well as possible. But I don’t want you to give up if you really love Starbucks and you really want a Starbucks drink. I don’t want you to not take it. I want you to pay attention.
Janet Brancato: [00:09:48] Again, yes. A lot of it is just awareness. Just building awareness and having a plan. You can have it. You can enjoy it. A lot of these flavors are only around in the holiday season. So, again you know enjoy but like we said maybe it’s the frequency. Maybe not you know so often. Make it something special.
Mathea Ford: [00:10:10] So, speaking a little bit about portion control I know we just got done with Thanksgiving but we will have lots of opportunities to have similar foods like the green bean casserole, the candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, turkey, ham all those types of things. Pumpkin pie. Let’s talk about a little bit I read this Consumer Reports article about how an average calories that Americans take in is 3,000 to 4,500 calories at a Thanksgiving meal. And that’s really I think just because we can easily take two or three servings of a food without even thinking.
Janet Brancato: [00:10:50] Exactly! Yeah. The foods are a little richer and the portions tend to be a little larger. Everybody’s getting those either large portions at your first plate or you going back for seconds or thirds like you mentioned. So, that’s where it could really add up.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:03] Even a little bit extra calories on Thanksgiving or a holiday thing is not bad. It’s because as long as you go back to kind of eating your normal healthy diet the next day. Let’s talk about what are some normal portion sizes and how many calories those might have and how we might even be able to identify that when people are eating like mashed potatoes?
Janet Brancato: [00:11:27] A cup serving about 237 calories. So, if you think of a measuring cup as a visual that could be you know like a typical serving size although a lot of times we say a serving is half a cup which is like a handful or an ice cream scoop amount. So, a lot of times for those carbs we tell people for advice using half a cup as a serving but here in the article they’re mentioning a cup as a serving size. So, that makes sense for a holiday.
Mathea Ford: [00:11:59] Yeah! And they’re saying the 237 calories is talking about making it with whole milk butter and salt and really you can use nonfat milk. You can use you know 2% milk and replacing some of that butter with low sodium chicken broth. You need the broth and the milk to make it mash and stick together but you can change a few of those ingredients and make it a little healthier mashed potatoes.
Janet Brancato: [00:12:27] Yeah! That’s great! That’s excellent! And I know some people even for a lower carb option do cauliflower mash or they do half cauliflower, half potato and bring the carbs down a bit. But either way even just by lightening up using like you said a non-fat, low fat milk and then the broth is going to give it nice flavor, a little you know use the low sodium but it will give it a savory kind of flavor. I think it would be a nice addition.
Mathea Ford: [00:12:57] Yeah! So, green bean casserole. Did you have green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.
Janet Brancato: [00:13:01] I did! Yes, the tradition.
Mathea Ford: [00:13:03] I love that stuff.
Janet Brancato: [00:13:05] I do too.
Mathea Ford: [00:13:05] Yes! It mentions a third of a cup which is smaller than a half a cup. Its a serving is still the 227 calories because you use the cream of mushroom soup and the French fried onions. A regular half a cup of green beans I think is about 20 calories if you don’t put all the other stuff in it. So, you may consider doing that just a small serving or you may consider not dressing them up so much and just doing plain green beans.
Janet Brancato: [00:13:33] Yeah! I mean a lot of times even at Christmas I just like a little drizzle of olive oil, some garlic and some sliced almonds on it or just a little squeeze of lemon and it gives it a nice flavor. You’re tasting those green beans where I feel like sometimes it gets lost in that casserole you know but I think if you lighten it up a little bit you know it gives nice color, festive and it’s really delicious. Green beans are very versatile you could even roast them I’ve roasted green beans and it’s a little crisper. So, they’re pretty you know versatile but you can definitely lighten it up a bit. Same thing when you’re making that if you want to make the green bean casserole use like maybe like a low fat milk or non-fat milk. I think they have a lighter version of the mushroom soup too. You can look for it and maybe add a little less of those fried onions just maybe just at the top instead of throwing them in.
Mathea Ford: [00:14:28] You know what kind of surprised me is the the turkey or the main you know what you’re thinking about when you’re thinking about the meal, Turkey about the size of a deck of cards which is about 3 – three and a half ounce portion is just with the meat white meat with the skin is just about 175 calories and dark meat has about 200 calories and that’s almost the lowest calorie thing on the plate.
Janet Brancato: [00:14:57] Yes! That’s the protein and that’s the item that’s really going to fill you up so you can opt for a little more turkey and then go lighter on the other options you know and will really fill you up if you’re getting for that. Even just that 3 ounces you’re getting a good 27 grams of protein there. Trying to get at least 15 to 30 grams at a meal will fill you up and satiate you so you’re definitely in that zone of getting that you need just in a 3 ounce portion which is like the palm of your hand or the deck of cards.
Mathea Ford: [00:15:31] Yeah! And then there’s some other things people like like stuffing and sweet potatoes. Same thing just a half a cup serving, you might look at the box and see what the serving size says it is and just pay attention to kind of how much you’re taking. It is about the size of an ice cream scoop. Most people don’t use an ice cream scoop unless they’re in a commercial kitchen. So, use the lower sodium broth. Think about like you mentioned. So, if you’re even if you’re using a box stuffing you could chop up some cauliflower pretty small and maybe even some other veggies like carrots or celery and add it in so that gives more volume but the calories from all the breading and stuff in the stuffing is less because you’re getting more of those vegetables which are higher fiber, lower carbohydrate in your meal. I love that idea. I’m going do that at Christmas.
Janet Brancato: [00:16:27] You could put mushrooms in it and they also really fill you up. They give you that savory umami type of flavor that flavor that it’s like a meaty texture to dishes so you could add mushrooms to the stuffing like you said you could add any vegetables that you love that your family loves. You could really roll them in there.
Mathea Ford: [00:16:52] Yeah! And you Just heat up your stuffing and then heat up the veggies chop them up and heat them up and then mix them together. And that sounds really good. So… Let’s talk a little bit about holiday weight gain because I know that’s something that people are concerned about a lot this time of year. I found this Time Magazine article that talked about it’s from December of 2016 but it mentioned that people even though they think they gain about five pounds they gain about one pound, one to one and a half pounds over that November to January timeframe they just don’t tend to lose it. So, then it comes back and just stays on your body that next year you add another pound next year you know just people don’t tend to lose that. So, did you have any thoughts about kind of helping people manage their holiday weight gain or how to approach it?
Janet Brancato: [00:17:44] I always tell clients if you could even maintain your weight over the holidays, it’s not always a good time to be losing weight because obviously you want to be part of the festivities. You want to enjoy the you know all the holiday options and that type of thing. But even if you can coast through with your weight that will be a great goal you know. And again I think it starts with like you said being mindful, being aware maybe how much you’re eating or how often you’re frequenting like a Starbucks or something like that. Or am I exercising? You know. What am I doing to try to like keep my lifestyle going? The holidays shouldn’t throw off your lifestyle completely. I mean obviously it’s going to be a little bit more than what you’re used to. But I think if you kind of tune in and have a plan ahead of time you know. Watching portions a little bit more, making sure we’re not skipping meals because a lot of times what people do is they might skip meals, don’t have breakfast, saving up all their calories for that one meal. They’re so hungry by the time the meal comes that it’s hard to watch those portions they tend to overeat. So, I say try to treat it like a typical day. Have your breakfast, have a lunch. Maybe you need a little snack before you go. by Being a little bit full, you’ll be a little bit more apt to hold back on those extra portions or extra plates and that kind of thing. You know keep your exercise going. Even if it’s not the full amount of time. You usually do a half hour and you can’t do it, if you do 15 minutes. That’s grea!. You know just try to build in some activity into your day.
Mathea Ford: [00:19:27] Well, if you have Amazon Prime you may not realize this but on Amazon Prime they have videos that are exercise videos. So, even if you can’t make it to the gym if the weather’s too bad whatever or you just don’t feel like going to the gym you can pop on one of those videos either on your computer or a lot of smart TV have Amazon Prime you can connect. And what I love about exercises, it helps reduce stress. And if you have you know if you’re affected by the less daylight or you have more stress at this time of year, you know a lot of times we miss family members that may have passed or other things that have happened and exercise teaches your body to deal with stress, teaches your body to raise your heart rate and lower your heart rate quickly using those Amazon Prime videos or other videos if you have a you know a video on a DVD or something like that. YouTube is free and there’s plenty of exercise videos on there that you can find different topics about but I just love that exercise is good for that reason. I don’t think about exercise necessarily. Like you said it doesn’t help you. You’re going to try to maintain your weight but not being stressed when you’re going to that family meal or going to out for that party. If you’re not feeling stressed you’re not going to be as likely to overeat.
Janet Brancato: [00:20:51] Yeah! Exactly right. Stress. Exercise definitely counters the stress. And like you said this could be a very stressful time of year. I know too that a lot of people get less sleep this time of year which that’s another factor that can affect our eating, our weight you know because when we have less sleep those hormones or stress hormones tend to go up and sometimes we have more cravings. So, I know it’s a tough time of year but trying to keep up with your good sleep habits is another key component to overall obviously good health but also helping with the stress relief and the holiday weight gain.
Mathea Ford: [00:21:33] Yeah! And Just another thought about what you’re eating. Try to pair like if you have say you’re you brought home from Thanksgiving or a holiday party a special dish that you really like. You brought home mom’s banana bread that you really love and you’re going to eat it over the next three or four days, just make sure that when you pair that which may be a higher sodium, higher carb, higher fat item you pair it with something that’s kind of the opposite so you have a slice of banana bread with some salad mix or like a lighter sandwich. So, you’re not eating your full regular meal plus the dessert that you brought but you’re more making that part of the total plan.
Janet Brancato: [00:22:18] Yes! Maybe even with a protein which might fill you up and satiate you a little bit more. Putting a little peanut butter maybe on that bread you know or either something on the side that this way if you can get that little flavor from the baked good but then you’re also pairing that with a protein that will be filling you up so you’re not up to fill maybe more slices.
Mathea Ford: [00:22:44] Yeah! And I also think drinking water. So, this year in about June or July I gave up Diet Coke and I love Diet Coke and I miss it a little bit but I drink pretty much plain water all the time and I do find that the more water I drink the less kind of hungry I feel in between meals. I just grab water I drink it. And so you may want to add some water, even more water to your daily meals. If you’re used to drinking sodas try to drink you know a little more water so that you’re staying hydrated and you’re not.. It helps you not feel as hungry.
Janet Brancato: [00:23:27] Yeah! And I find that water actually energizes me. Like I can feel a little sleepy middle of the day and I drink you know a cup of water or maybe half of my bottle and somehow like my brain wakes up I feel more energized. Yeah! So, when you have that midday slump try to go for drinking more water. Really try to make sure we’re well hydrated.
Mathea Ford: [00:23:51] Yeah! And I really wanted to end this news edition talking about mindfulness because in addition to stress and all the available food I think being mindful can help lead you into a good place for the coming year and instead of thinking about diet, you’re thinking about different ways that your food feeds your body and feeds your soul. Some of the mindfulness tips I found this on the Health Harvard blog from 2015 but they mentioned some tips for eating more mindfully. Their first tip was to reflect and it was kind of like taking a minute before you start shoveling the food into your mouth to think about what are you getting ready to eat. And being a little bit maybe grateful for that food that’s in front of you. Grateful that you’re there with your family and why you’re there.
Janet Brancato: [00:24:50] I love that. I think that’s so important. Like you said just reflecting and you know taking that time like you said for the gratitude and just that like you said you have that food in front of you. It’s such an awesome thing you know. And just slowing down, I think that so much of our lives are rush rush rush and even the meals become rushed. We’re not even tasting them, we’re not even savoring them, we’re not enjoying them. So, we feel like we need more because we don’t feel satisfied. So, I think like you said even just stopping from moment before you put that fork, the first forkful. And again how do you feel it? Do you feel ready to eat? Maybe take a breath for 5 to 10 seconds and before you put that bite in and really just start to slow down. Eat it nice and slow and savor it.
Mathea Ford: [00:25:45] Yeah! They also mentioned sitting down instead of standing. So, instead of grabbing a plate of food and standing around eating kind of without thinking about it. Sitting down, focusing, not having the TV on, not having your phone there and something else that I have my kids do is they have a tendency to grab the bag of chips and take it to their room and I’m always like “serve yourself a portion in a bowl. Put the chip bag away and you can eat that. And then instead of just mindlessly putting the food in your mouth.”
Janet Brancato: [00:26:19] Yeah! And that’s an excellent tip. And you know your hand is a good tool for a portion size. Just take a handful. If you have a bag or a box you know I mean obviously if you don’t want to stick your hand and you want to just serve it out but you could pour it into your hand, your hand is a great serving tool. You know you take it wherever you go. It could be a great you know portion size or you could read the label if you really want to see what a portion is you could lift that bag or box over and say “oh! It says you know five crackers” or you know whatever it is. You fill those out. But like you said in a little napkin or a small plate or something like that.
Mathea Ford: [00:26:54] They mention chewing 30 times. I have an aunt who did this and I think her stomach loved her for it. I know it’s hard to chew two or three times if you’re not even thinking about it. So, just chew your food a little more before you swallow. It gives your body a chance to start those hormones and stuff that then tell your brain when you’re full and allow you to kind of stop.
Janet Brancato: [00:27:20] Yes! And I think too you take less air which could definitely cause gases and GI upset some people have stomach aches or feel bloated after meals and if they’re eating very fast or chewing very quickly they might get more gases you know as well. So, I think like you said slowing down, chewing more helps you to really enjoy those bites. It’s better for your digestion and you’ll get those full sensations. You’ll get that full feeling.
Mathea Ford: [00:27:50] And putting down your utensil between bites. So, we have a tendency to eat, stick in our mouth and go grab the next thing before we’re even then chewing. And when you chew 10 or 20 or 30 times that will help you to put your utensil down to that by fully get the full flavor out of it and swallow. And feel like we said fill full quicker because your body has that time to adjust to what you’re actually feeding instead of being behind. When you eat really fast your body doesn’t have time to tell you hey “I’m getting full!” So.
Janet Brancato: [00:28:26] Yeah. And also when you put that fork down that’s a good time to maybe take a glass of… Take a sip of your water, make a drink of your water. That could even help with the process, enjoy the conversation with your family, if you’re with other people you know. So, really making it more of an experience rather than a rushed activity.
Mathea Ford: [00:28:47] Yeah! And maybe even using a smaller plate. Taking smaller portions and because the thing about mindful eating that’s always reminds me is those first couple bites are really good and I really feel the flavor and I enjoy that flavor. But after four after four, five, six bites it doesn’t give me that same amount of satisfaction. Eating slower, eating a smaller portion and really enjoying and savoring that portion you thought might find that you really don’t get the satisfaction out of eating the whole amount that you used to eat because you got the satisfaction from enjoying it and eating it a little slower.
Janet Brancato: [00:29:29] Yeah! That’s great! Definitely! That’s that’s another key.
Mathea Ford: [00:29:32] Any other thoughts on mindfulness?
Janet Brancato: [00:29:34] Yeah! And then when you feel like you’re getting full that’s when you stop you know. I know they say resigned from the clean plate club. A lot of feel like we have to clean our plates or eat everything that’s on the plate but if you are full, your body is kind of telling you to stop and you can always wrap it up. You could always have a full lunch the next day or another meal. Don’t feel like you’re going to throw it out. So, tune into your body with mindfulness is that you’re tuned in. You’re in the moment and you’re checking with your body. Your body’s telling you. So, really try to listen to it until it gets easier as you keep doing it. Maybe it sounds a little strange but as you practice it it does get easier and your body feels better.
Mathea Ford: [00:30:24] Remember kind of what the holiday weight gain and almost everything we talked about today. It’s really about portion control. Kind of it’s really it truly is it’s about thinking about what is a serving and enjoying that food and enjoying the company.
Janet Brancato: [00:30:41] Excellent! All good tips!
Mathea Ford: [00:30:43] So, Janet, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It was a pleasure to have you on the show. I know our listeners love listening to this News Edition every month. So, if listeners want to connect with you what’s the best way to do that?
Janet Brancato: [00:30:56] Okay, Mathea. Thank you so much for having me. They can find me at mynutopia.com. I have a virtual private practice. Also a food blog and meal plans and recipes.
Mathea Ford: [00:31:07] Great! Well guys this has been another great episode of the Nutrition Experts Podcast. The podcast is all about learning more so you can do more with nutrition in your life.