Good eats, good life

“People here are very nutrition-savvy,” Jacqui Justice, director of nutrition at NY Health & Wellness Westchester in Harrison, says of WAG country. “They come to me when they have other things that are not working.”

And after a complete blood workup and food sensitivity tests, Justice comes up with a customized plan to improve their nutrition and health.

But even those who are healthy can do with a nutrition refresher.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is the calorie mindset,” she says at her office, over green juices from Lilli Pilli Health Bar in White Plains. Forget the numbers game: Get rid of the scale, Justice says, and pay attention instead to how your clothes fit. “More important than calories is the quality of the food you eat and your hormonal response to it.”

A sweet like a brownie will trigger fat-storing hormones while lean protein spurs fat burning. Justice begins her day with water to cleanse the inside just as you wash the outside.

“Water fills me up and jump-starts me in the morning,” she says. “One of the biggest issues is that people don’t drink enough water.”

You need a half-ounce per pound of body weight, more if you’re obese, highly active or caffeine loving. (One cup of a caffeinated beverage requires 1½ cups of water to counteract dehydration.)

“Eight glasses a day is a good start,” says Justice, who recommends room temperature, filtered water from a glass or glass bottle. Feel free to substitute broth, herbal and decaffeinated green teas, green drinks and mineral water for some of your hydration.

Another concern:  “People skip breakfast and don’t have enough lean, clean protein.” Justice recommends eggs; egg whites; protein shakes; healthy smoothies, which unlike juices use all of the fiber of the fruit and/or vegetable; and, perhaps, grilled salmon left over from the previous night’s dinner to put your day on a firm footing.

But it won’t stay that way if you wait too long between meals. “By the time you eat, you’ll be starving.”

Healthy options for when you get the munchies include hard-boiled eggs, roast turkey off the bone and unsalted nuts.

Though nuts get a bad rap, because they contain fat, Justice says it’s healthy fat, making them a good snack and even sweet treat. One of the latest trends in nutrition is sprouting raw almonds: Soak them overnight in sea salt, then drain them. Place the nuts on a lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and cinnamon and roast them at 200 degrees for about four hours.

“Sprout nuts are healthier and more flavorful,” Justice says.

Other snack options include pistachios, which have the least amount of calories among nuts; pumpkin seeds, which are full of zinc; and, yes, dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa). Justice likes to cut up a piece of chocolate and add pistachios, cinnamon, dried cherries and orange, lemon or lime zest for a healthy snack that satisfies the sweet tooth.

She’s not one for depriving the body of its nutritional pleasures. That’s just self-defeating, she says. But do it sensibly.

So have a starchy vegetable to go with your lean protein and green veggies at dinner — a sweet potato, squash or beans. On the popular gluten-free diet? Stick to your whole grains — quinoa, amaranth, teff and millet.

“The big key to eating gluten-free is just eliminate the gluten,” she says. “A lot of gluten-free products are high in fat and sugar.”

Dining out? Have some protein and an apple before you leave the house. At the restaurant or party, eat something before having a drink.

After dinner, try to allow 10 to 12 hours before your next meal. Snacking all night is a Justice no-no. And if you eat before bed, she adds, you won’t metabolize your food properly and your sleep will be restless.

“What people really want is more energy,” Justice says. “If you don’t have energy, how are you going to do all you want to do? You’re eating right to keep your blood sugar stable and have more energy.”

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