EXCLUSIVE: Joy Bauer Shares Her Best Nutrition Tips and Tricks

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've turned on the Today show or perused the New York Times Best Sellers list in the last few years, you probably know who Joy Bauer is. Bauer, a registered dietitian with a master's in nutrition from New York University is the author of Food Cures and Joy's LIFE Diet. She also hosts Today's popular weekly series called the “Joy Fit Club,” which celebrates determined people who have lost and kept off 100 pounds or more through diet and exercise alone.

Now she has a new book coming out on Dec. 29: Your Inner Skinny (Your Inner Skinny was previously published as Joy’s LIFE Diet.

I recently got the opportunity to connect with Joy, and she offered to answer some questions from you--and our readers.

Stepfanie: How do you maintain your own fit physique when you have such a busy schedule?

Joy Bauer: I’m a huge multi-tasker! And being that exercise is a top priority for me, I find ways to combine my workout with other things on my to-do list. Most days of the week, I hop on the treadmill for at least an hour, and I read new nutrition research articles or take conference calls while I walk (I’m also capable of Blackberry’ing through an entire workout!) . I’ll squeeze in an exercise session whenever I can—in the afternoons if I’m at the Today show studio in the early morning, or right after the kids leave for school if I’m not on air that day. If the weather is nice and I have the extra time, I take my workout outdoors to enjoy some fresh air. Aside from my daily walk, I make sure to do 20 minutes of strength training three times each week.

Stepfanie: Do you have any tips for people whose weight-loss efforts are thrown off course by travel?

Joy Bauer: As I always tell my road warrior clients, it’s not where you eat, it’s what you eat. Thankfully, you can find low-cal, healthy meals around the country, across the ocean, in the airport…just about anywhere your travels take you—you just have to learn how to make smart choices from menus. Some diet-friendly standbys you can find at most restaurants include: egg white omelet or oatmeal with fruit for breakfast; whole wheat turkey sandwich (hold the mayo and cheese) or bowl of minestrone or lentil soup for lunch; and grilled/roasted/broiled fish, chicken, or lean beef with veggies and a plain baked potato for dinner. I also advise frequent flyers to pre-plan and pack some portable, low-cal emergency snacks.

Stepfanie: What sets Your Inner Skinny apart from other books?

Joy Bauer: Unlike some of the more extreme weight loss plans out there, Your Inner Skinny is an incredibly practical diet plan. It’s completely doable AND it delivers remarkable results. My number one goal was to create an effective plan that people with busy lives could easily adopt and make a permanent part of their lifestyle. My book includes tons of simple meal ideas that require very little time and only the most basic of cooking skills (scrumptious meals like chicken parmesan, turkey sausage with peppers and onions, mini meatloaves, omelets, burgers and more!). I also include delicious, low-calorie options that can be ordered at any restaurant, for people who dine out regularly.

The exercise portion is also 100% realistic; it’s as simple as walking for 30-60 minutes per day (plus some simple stretches and light strength training added in at later steps). You don’t need special equipment, loads of cash, or a gym membership, and you don’t need to be extremely fit.

Stepfanie: What is the No. 1 bad habit people have when it comes to negative eating patterns?

Joy Bauer: Soooo many people struggle with overeating late at night. It’s a time of day when we’re primed to make unhealthy choices; we finally have time to unwind from a long, structured, stressful day, and we turn to food as a form of comfort or a way to let loose. And when we talk about comfort foods, we’re talking about unhealthy, high-cal junk like cookies, candy, chips, and ice cream, typically in large portions. My advice is to pre-plan one small, portion-controlled PM snack (no more than 150 calories), then shut off the lights and close the kitchen for good!

Another nutrition no-no is drinking your calories, in the form of soda, fruit drinks, smoothies, and sugary coffee concoctions. Most drinks are pure refined sugar, which spikes your blood sugar and leaves you feeling irritable, moody, and sluggish. Plus, liquid calories don’t fill you up the same way solid food does. Skip the sugary stuff and drink plain ol’ water, naturally flavored seltzer, coffee, or tea instead (these are the preferred beverages in my Your Inner Skinny plan).

Stepfanie: Can you give an example of an easy swap people can make at snack time to help them boost their nutrition?

Joy Bauer: Instead of chips, chocolate, cookies, or candy, grab one of the following smart, energy-boosting snacks. Each provides the perfect combo of high quality carbs and protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied ‘til you next meal rolls around. And, because they’re all less than 150 calories, they won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts.
  • 6 ounces nonfat yogurt with 2 tablespoons chopped nuts
  • One apple spread with 2 teaspoons peanut butter
  • ½ cup cottage cheese topped with 3/4 cup fresh berries (or half banana)
  • 1 ounce reduced-fat cheese + 1 mini whole wheat pita (or rice cake)
  • 1 orange + 15 pistachio nuts

Stepfanie: Is a typical multivitamin enough for most people? Do seniors need anything extra from a multivitamin?

Joy Bauer: When it comes to healthy adults, I personally feel that a multivitamin is important for filling any nutritional gaps in your diet. In fact, I take a daily multi myself. Try to find a brand with at least 800 IUs of Vitamin D, and all men--and women who are no longer menstruating--should look for brands formulated without any iron.

Beyond a multi, depending on their diet, some women may benefit from a calcium supplement with added Vitamin D. And, because we are now aware of the many wondrous health benefits of omega-3 fats, if you don’t regularly eat fish, you should consider taking a fish oil supplement (speak with your doctor first). For seniors, my supplement recommendations are condition-specific. So it's impossible for me to advise this population at large, without knowing individuals’ personal health histories. Sorry!

Stepfanie: Which do you recommend for cooking and baking: butter or margarine? Why?

Joy Bauer: This is a tough one! Here’s why; butter is higher in saturated fat than margarine, and when eaten in excess, saturated fats increase “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease. The problem with margarine– specifically stick margarine—is that most brands contain partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of trans fat. Like saturated fats, trans fats increase “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, plus they lower the “healthy” (HDL) cholesterol. Double whammy!

With that in mind, your best bet is a soft-tub margarine spread that contains 0 grams trans fat and does not include any “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list. These spreads act a little differently than butter when you bake with them, so you may have to tweak your recipe a bit if you make this swap. On the other hand, if baked goods are an infrequent splurge, and you think the butter is critical to the taste or texture of the recipe—or the amount of butter per serving is minimal—then I personally think it’s okay to use a little butter once and awhile. Another tip: search for dessert recipes that use heart-healthy canola oil instead of margarine or butter as their fat source.

Stepfanie: Do you have any tips to get teenagers to eat more vegetables (and a better diet in general)?

Joy Bauer: Here’s a trick I use in my house: I put out a bowl of vegetables (sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, micro-steamed green beans, anything goes) on the kitchen table before dinner, when my kids are hungry and willing to eat just about anything. They never fail to polish off the entire bowl…honestly! I’ve shared this tip with friends and clients with teens and they see the same positive results.

Also, when you’re trying to “sell” your kids on veggies, speak their own language. In other words, figure out what interests your kids most and then work it to your advantage. If your daughter is a fashionista, explain to her that the vitamins in colorful produce help make her skin radiant and her hair thick and shiny. If your son is an athlete, describe how the nutrients in veggies keep his body energized and make him stronger and faster on the soccer field.

Finally, get creative with your presentation. Rather than serving plain raw or steamed veggies, try pairing them with a tasty dip, dressing, sauce, or seasoning blend.

Stepfanie: What is your favorite healthy snack?

Joy Bauer: I’m a self-diagnosed nut-aholic! I especially love almonds and pistachios. I like developing my own seasoning blends to jazz up plain almonds (you know, like the flavored kinds you can buy in cans in the grocery store)—my favorites are dark cocoa, chipotle, and cinnamon sugar. I also love to munch on pistachio nuts. I buy them unshelled, because the shells slow me down a bit as I snack.

Stepfanie: Do you have any tips on quelling a sweet tooth with nutritious food?

Joy Bauer: Frozen purple grapes, a fabulous cup of flavored tea, a mug of low-fat hot cocoa….or my favorite sweet treat, a simple recipe I call Vanilla-Pumpkin Pudding. I combine a 6-ounce container of non-fat vanilla pudding with 1/2 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin puree and a good dash of cinnamon—it’s pure indulgence for under 150 calories!

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Joy!

Are you a fan of Joy Bauer? What do you think about her slim-down tips?