Monika Nowak, Nutrition Coach (Pn1)

My name is Monika Nowak, founder of Power Nutrition LLC, Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer, and food blogger.

My goal is to help you develop healthy eating habits so that you can feel great, enjoy your life, love the way you look, and most importantly, stay that way for the rest of your life.

I can help you transform your body, health and life by improving your food choices, discovering your true goals, keeping you motivated and guiding you through fitness and diet fads so that you can finally see long term results.

No magic pills, no special diets, no gimmicks.
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When was the last time you checked the nutritional (back) label of the item you were purchasing? Like many of us, chances are you only read the front and make your decision based on the marketing claims created by food manufacturers whose main goal is to sell as much of this food as possible. 
This... see more week I want to test your knowledge in a form of a little food trivia.
I went to Trader Joe's and picked pairs of packaged items from similar food categories and compared them based on their nutritional value (calories, carbs, fats, sugar, protein).  
Based only on the front of the package, do you know which item is more nutritious and therefore a better buy?
Write your answers as you go down the list and then check if your choices was the more nutritious ones (answers in the end of the post). 
Post your score under my Facebook page or e-mail it to me. Let's see who gets the most answers right. I got to say, some of them are pretty tricky and may really surprise you.
Good luck!
1. RX bar VS Cliff bar.
 2. Omega Trek Mix VS Go Raw Trek Mix. 
3. Organic Cold Brew Mocha Nut Latte VS Vanilla Almond Spiced Chai. 
4. Chocolate Chip Dunkers VS Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies. 
5. Breaded Cod Fillets VS Panko breaded Tilapia Fillets.  
6. Fish Sticks VS Fish Nuggets. 
7. Organic Corn Flakes VS Shredded Wheats. 
8. Gluten Free Battered Halibut VS Regular Battered Halibut.
9. Spanakopita VS Greek Spanakopita. 
 10. Potato Fries VS Garlic Potatoes w/parmesan sauce.  
11. Fage 2% VS Organic Non-fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt  
Ok, so here the answers: 
1. RX bar
2. Go Raw Mix
3. Mocha Nut Latte 
4. Dunkers 
5. Cod
6. Fish sticks 
7. Shredded Wheats
8. Gluten-free Halibut
9. Spanakopita
10. Fries
11. Fage 2%
Are you surprised with the answers? Have questions or comments? 
Share them with me on my Facebook page or via e-mail - I would love to hear from you. 
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No matter which boat you are in right now: trying to improve your health and/or  body composition, or trying to maintain it, this quick guide can be very helpful.
The one thing you can absolutely control at any point in time is your own behavior. Every time you eat or drink something you make... see more a conscious decision to do so.  
I'm not saying it's easy to resist temptations and urges but with the right practice assertiveness can become as effortless as eating that second (or third) donut.  
 So here's a list of potential high-risk situations and how to make them work for you: 
1. Getting ice cream with your family.  
Order kids size ice cream in a cup. No cone. Fresh fruit toppings instead of the sprinkles. 
2. Going to a BBQ at a friend's house who always serves tons of alcohol, and non-nutritious foods. 
Alcohol: ahead of time decide how many drinks you are going to have and stick to it. Have a tall glass of water between each drink. 
Food: have something to eat before you leave so you are not hungry when you arrive, and bring your own healthy dish to share with everybody. 
3. Going out to eat.  
Look up the menu online and decide what you will order before you go. Don't accept the restaurant menu, it will only tempt you to change your mind. 
Also, if you are worried that your portion may be too big, share it with your friend/spouse, or ask a waiter for a to go box when you order your meal, so that you can pack up half to take home before you even start eating. 
I have clients who plan their lunches based on the leftovers from the times they eat out. 
4. You are at a party and the cake is calling your name. 
Take a few bites, and if that still doesn't satisfy you and you want to keep eating more (you know you will regret that later), quickly sprinkle some salt or pepper over it to ruin the taste or grab a chewing gum and stick it in your mouth. Chewing gum or carrying a breath freshener also works when somebody brings sweets to the office that are hard to resist. 
5. You are going away for a special celebratory weekend with your spouse. 
You both love food and good wine, however remember why you are going away. It's about celebrating your love to one another and relaxing together, not about food. 
6. Home alone with nothing to do. 
Get out of the kitchen or any other room you would be tempted to hang out in and eat (for me that's my family room). Go to your bedroom and read. Take a bath. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Pick one relaxing and distracting activity that will leave you refreshed and happy rather than too full and regretful. If watching TV is a way you destress - make sure your hands stay busy while you watch - pet your dog, roll quarters, knit or do puzzles. 
7. You come home from work hungry and snack (on chips, pretzels, popcorn, cheese, etc.) a lot while cooking, then you are not hungry for dinner (but you still finish your plate).  
I do this fairly often myself.
Most people get hit with hunger around 3pm - if that's you, have a protein-oriented snack with vegetables/fruit such as greek yogurt w/berries, 1/2 protein bar, protein shake, a couple of hard boiled eggs, turkey roll ups, etc.
If that doesn't do the trick and you are still hungry when you get home and feel like snacking while cooking always keep sliced up vegetables in the fridge that you can dip in hummus or eat raw. 
8. You get stressed out and you find yourself grazing through the fridge or opening another bottle of wine (or both). 
STOP acronym is a quick way to remember the steps to calm down when you are feeling stressed out and out of control. 
STOP. 
TAKE A BREATH or two. 
OBSERVE your feeling and your thoughts. 
PROCEED with intention, choosing what you will say or do next. 
Be mindful about this. You have full power over your thoughts, and know that your own thoughts affect your emotions, not the other way round.
Control your thoughts and you will be able to control the behavior that is driven by your emotions. 
This process takes time and practice, practice, practice. Give it a try next time you are caught off guard. 
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it.
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Before you dive into the list, I want to clarify one thing: when I talk about lean people, I'm not referring to the 1% of the population that can eat like a garbage truck and stay lean thanks to superior genes or superpowers.  I'm talking about all of the people who stay lean and fit... see more as a result of consciously making healthy choices on daily basis. So here we go! 
7 habits of lean people: 
1. They move daily.  
People who are in a great shape and maintain a healthy body composition make movement part of their daily routine. From walking with friends during the week, hiking in the weekends, bike riding, gardening, yoga, stretching, running errands, they find ways to stay busy everyday, not just when they are at the gym. They never spend their whole vacations lying on the beach and sipping on pina coladas. They are snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, scuba diving, you name it. They are also usually the first ones in line to book excursions. 
2. They rarely snack.  
Most lean people don't snack. They usually stick to 3 to 4 well rounded meals a day (protein, fats, carbs) . It allows them to have a satisfying meal that keeps them full for hours and keeps their blood sugar leveled. Eating more frequently doesn't burn more calories or provide any extra metabolic benefit. Research shows that the more frequently people eat, the higher their total calorie intake tends to be. 
3. They eat protein with every meal.  
I'm pretty sure I don't need to say this but protein consumption has a direct correlation to body composition. You cannot build or maintain lean mass without consuming adequate protein. Additionally protein is very satiating, so you don't need to eat a ton of it to feel full. It doesn't matter whether it's coming from animal or plant sources, just make sure you get a good variety. Meat, poultry, fish, game, shellfish, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, tofu, protein supplements are all high sources of protein. If you are vegan or vegetarian, majority of your protein will be coming from sprouted breads, sprouted beans, legumes, vegetables, and plant-based protein supplements. 
4. They prioritize sleep and manage their stress levels. 
Lean people know the value of a good night sleep and taking days off when necessary. Getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep plays a crucial role in one's health. They also actively engage in stress reducing activities such as meditating, praying, yoga, exercising, reading, listening to music, walking outside, working on your hobby. Oh, and they also take naps! 
5. They drink mostly calorie-free liquids.  
Besides an occasional glass of wine or beer, healthy people stick to calorie-free drinks such as water, seltzer, unsweetened teas and black coffee.
A lot of my clients when they first come to see me don't even realize how much calories they are consuming in liquid form (sometimes it's is as much as 50%). Coffee with cream and sugar at home, latte from Starbucks after a workout, ice tea with lunch, another cup of coffee in the afternoon, frozen margarita with dinner - those calories quickly add up without providing you with neither satiety nor nutrition. 
6. They eat vegetables (and fruit) everyday.    
They sincerely look forward to having their veggies and make an effort to incorporate them into every meal. They often experiment with different cooking and prep methods. They often start their own gardens to grow organic produce. 
7. They only eat when hungry. 
This is a major habit lean people have in common - they never eat when they are not hungry. Lean people often eat less, not more, in stressful situations. They don't reach for food to feel better or out of boredom. They use food as fuel, not a comforter. 
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it. 
If you are looking for a gym in the area - Train 2 Xcel is a place to be. Fun, supportive, results and client-driven. You will be part of the family.
Don't take my word for it, check out their amazing reviews on google (type train2xcel) or on their Facebook page. 
If you want to find out how I work - read my client's testimonies and check out my reviews on Facebook find out more about what I do. 
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Ahhhhhhhhh those Prime Day deals!! 
What unnecessary item did you buy yesterday? I had a hammock added to my cart before my dear husband snapped me out of the trans.
I love shopping on Amazon. Each week I get multiple deliveries (not very environmentally friendly, I know). Books, supplements, gifts, protein... see more bars, kitchen stuff, dog food, you name it I probably get it. Often I will place an order and then realize I forgot something so I go back the same day to buy even more stuff. 
All of those purchases are small by themselves ($10-$30), however I recently realized that I'm spending a lot more on Amazon that I'm planning for.  
Individually my purchases don't seem like a lot of money, but when I add them up in the end of the month, the number is quite striking. 
If I had known that's how much I was really spending, I may have been making my choices a little bit differently, i.e. buying less stuff! 
This latest eye-opener made me think about how this behavior can relate to developing unhealthy eating & drinking  habits that can lead to deterioration of health and/or weight gain overtime. 
How small, daily behaviors and food decisions can quickly add up to more than we realize? 
In perfect world where sleep, hormones, age, gender, genetics don't play a role, in order to gain a pound of body fat, one must consume a surplus of 3500 calories a week. That's 500 calories a day.  
You may think that's a lot of calories but let me break it down for you. 
Monday: you have potato chips with lunch (+250 calories for dressing)  and 2 glasses of wine (+250 calories) 
Tuesday: you stop by Starbucks and get a Frapuccino (+500)
Wednesday: you have a blueberry muffin with your coffee (+200), salad for lunch with creamy dressing (+150) and a light beer with dinner (+150)
Thursday: someday brought birthday cake (+300) and you had a bottle of sweet ice tea (+200)
Friday: you went out for dinner, maybe had some alcohol & dessert (easy +500)
Saturday: brunch with your friends (easy +500)
Sunday: pizza night with your kids (easy +500) 
Of course, if this would be true on daily basis, we would be putting on an additional 50 lbs per year which is unlikely (as most people exercise which negates some of the impacts of food), however, we all definitely have weeks where we may be doing this more often (think vacations, holidays, etc.). This may create a surplus of a moderate 5 lbs a year. That's 50 lbs in 10 years! 
As you can see these small daily additions can be putting you in surplus without even realizing it. 
The good news is that just as these small weight-gaining behaviors add up, same goes for small weight-losing behaviors. 
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it.  
Weight loss is not easy, but together we can definitely do it. 
 If you want to find out how I work - read my client's testimonies and check out my reviews on Facebook find out more about what I do. 
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It all starts with the all mighty apple cider vinegar - raw, organic, unpasteurized, unfiltered and unheated kind (like Bragg's). Raw vinegar contains the “mother of vinegar”, i.e. strands of proteins, enzymes and bacteria that give the product a murky appearance. Most people believe that... see more the "mother" is responsible for most of its health benefits, so buy it raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized. 
Wide variety of research has proved numerous health benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar such as: 
supporting immune system function; having antimicrobial and antibacterial properties;
improving insulin sensitivity and helping with blood sugar response after meals;
helping control weight and even aid in weight loss;
promoting healthy digestion and pH balance;
soothing irritated skin, dry throats; relieving muscle pain from exercise,
and many many more - for more reading see links below under 'resources'. 
Additionally, apple cider vinegar can be used as a fantastic natural food preservative, inhibiting bacteria growth and preventing food from spoiling. 
All you need to make this "fire" water is basically two ingredients: apple cider vinegar and water. The rest is entirely up to you.
 I made these three varieties today:
Basic guidelines: 
Use 1-2 TBS of apple cider vinegar for every 8 oz of water. Then add your spices and fruit to your liking. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving to allow sufficient merging of flavors.  
or
Use 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water for stronger solution - "fire" shots! Worse case if you make it too strong you can dilute with water later. 
NOTE: Because of high acidity of this drink (especially the fire shots) I highly recommend drinking it through a straw (to avoid future holes in your enamel). 
Pretty simple, right? You can drink this multiple times during the day.
This "fire" water is: 
refreshing
full of flavor with a bit of a kick to it - it will taste like vinegar so don't expect it tasting like lemonade - it is a health drink after all 
virtually calorie free
energizing
nourishing
wonderfully moving (for your intestines) 
ENJOY!!!!
Resources: 
http://www.webmd.com/vi…
http://bragg.com/produc… 
http://health.usnews.co…
http://authoritynutriti…
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Many of my clients travel on regular basis so eating while being on the road is definitely a hot topic of our consultations. 
During my latest travel to Poland I took an opportunity to take some pictures at the JFK airport of things to eat and decided to write this quick guide to help you navigate... see more the options. 
Unfortunately I was flying from terminal 7 and the options were quite disappointing. I'm used to flying from other terminals where my go to place is CIBO EXPRESS (terminals 2, 5, 8).  They offer a ton of options from organic, gluten-free, kosher and more. You can grab hard-boiled eggs, organic yogurts, cheese wrapped in prosciutto, fresh fruit, gourmet salads and sandwiches. It's pricy but worth considering. 
Anyway, back to my miserable terminal 7. 
My options were: two regular bars, wine bar (where they only served cheese, cold cuts and pizza), Aunt Annie's, McDonald's, Box Chef and a couple of other small places. 
I considered getting this Wall Street Grilled Chicken Salad or the Gluten Free Tuna wrap (decent option if you don't like vegetables).  
I dismissed the bars as food there is usually super heavy and I wanted something light as I had a long, overnight flight ahead of me.  
So, lo and behold, of all places I picked McDonald's. 
I told myself it would be an interesting experiment for me. It's good to step outside of your comfort zone once in a while...
Of course, the obsessive person that I am, I went online and looked up the salad's ingredients. Once I saw that the grilled chicken is 100% chicken breast and antibiotic-free it was a go. 
This quite small Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad and water cost a whooping $10.15.  
Definitely not cheap considering that I could have ordered 4 cheeseburgers and a soda for the same amount. Still wonder why we have a problem with obesity in this country? 
Back to the point... 
The nutrition info (without the dressing) was as following: 
350 calories, 27 g carbs, 12 g fat, 38g protein. 
So far so good. 
I skipped the dressing and the tortilla chips. 
I liked the beans and corn, and I was pleasantly surprised that the salad included baby kale and baby spinach, not just plain lettuce. The chicken  was awful though. It was covered with some sort of sweet glaze and although it was supposed to be grilled chicken breast there was some sort of brown skin on it.... Very, very odd. Also there is no way that there was 38 g of protein in that salad. Maybe 20g at best. 
I regretted not getting that boxed salad with grilled chicken and balsamic. 
After I ate my sad dinner, I was walking around and taking pictures of some other things you could buy. 
These are my favorite chips. Gluten free, non-gmo and made locally in Deep River, CT. I love all of their flavors. If it was a shorter and a day flight I would have definitely bought some. 
These are my second favorite pretzels. I usually buy them at Costco for the house. They have only a few ingredients, they are non-GMO with no artificial stuff in them. I like that they stock them at the airports now. 
There were quite a few snack/protein bar options (although I brought my own Garden of Life Protein Bar). 
As per a sweet treat this brand has caught my attention:  
It's rare to see sprouted products (other than bread and beans) and I've never seen a sweet snack that has sprouted nuts in it. 
This had 2 tsp of sugar and 9 g of fat per serving so not too bad for a dessert. I will get it next time! 
Just to wrap up the article here's a quick summary of my thoughts and tips. 
7 tips on eating at the airport: 
1. Drink & buy plenty of water for the airport and the flight. 
2. If you can, bring your own sandwich and healthy snacks. I promise they will not take it from you through security. 
2. If you decide to eat at the airport, stick to light foods such as salads with protein, soups, hard boiled eggs, yogurt. 
3. Avoid anything fried. 
4. Avoid candy. 
5. If you're going to drink, go for wine or vodka. Beer can be very bloating and that's the last thing you want when flying. 
6. Skip foods high in sugar alcohols which can cause bloating which again is very inconvenient on the plane. 
7. Take digestive enzymes that will help you with proper digestion of the foods you eat and may help ease stomach issues.
Hope you enjoyed this article! 
Do you have your own favorite places to eat at the airport?
Please share them with me and my followers by emailing me or leaving a comment on Facebook. 
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As I was thinking about writing this article, I was walking around various stores and supermarkets on empty stomach for about 2.5 hours.... 
I should have known better but hey, I thought it wouldn't take me so long to do what I was supposed to do, so I didn't come prepared. 
Lesson no.1 always... see more come prepared. 
Long story short, anything in sight that had TONS of sugar looked super tempting.
I also thought about stopping at Starbucks, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Bagel Man and a dozen of other places...about a hundred times...
When I was at CVS I almost bought multiple bags of M&M's (which I don't even like).... I had no idea they had so many flavors! 
Have you ever experienced anything like this? 
Experiencing temptation and trying to fight your way through it?
I'm sure you have. 
Today, I want to teach how to deal with temptations and urges and show you exactly how my own thought processing allowed me to come home without buying anything but Kombucha tea. 
Here are 3 steps in dealing with urges: 
1. Thought stopping & reframing - when you experience a cue, switch off the associated thought. No ambiguity, no maybes, no debates. Work on absolute and rigid responses to cues, that leave no room for doubt. 
How I did it? 
Whenever I had the urge (which was pretty much in every store I visited) to buy something from the junk food category I tried re-framing the situation. 
I actually replaced
CANDY (cue) = DELICIOUS (associated thought) 
with
CANDY  = MAKES ME FEEL LIKE CRAP 
or 
CANDY  = I DON'T EVEN LIKE THESE 
or 
CANDY = SUGAR CRUSH (I.E. NOT A HAPPY MONIKA)
2. Conditioning cues with negative associations - undercut the rewards value of food, and cool down the stimulus. 
How I did it? 
When I wanted to stop by Starbucks or Chipotle to get something for lunch I reminded myself that they use tons of fats, artificial ingredients and preservatives in their foods and that's not exactly what I like to put inside my body. 
3. Talking down the urge - "eating this food will satisfy me only for a bit", "eating this will make me feel bad and keep me trapped", "I will be happier if I don't eat this". 
How I did it? 
If I was still struggling with being tempted I told myself that I felt that hungry because I was also really thirsty. As soon as this hit me I bought myself a cold Kombucha Tea at Trader Joe's and everything started to make sense again. I no longer felt the urgency to eat right now and was able to come home and make myself healthy and satisfying lunch. 
I don't know if you've experienced this in your life but overeating, with its power to take us hostage, can be deeply demoralizing.
But when you gain the upper hand, by practicing the steps described above, the opposite effect can also occur.
The satisfaction of breaking the cycle that leads to the pursuit of unhealthy food can be reinforcing and it's own right.  
You will gain a new sense of competence and pride.  
Practice these 3 helpful steps and hopefully you will less tempted each time around. 
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me. 
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People are creatures of habit. Our lives are filled with daily rituals that are set into motion as soon as we wake up.
Habits such as waking up at a certain time, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, taking medicine, making coffee, eating breakfast, going to the gym are all strongly engrained into... see more our brains.
They make our lives really efficient because they are performed on auto-pilot leaving our brain time & energy to solve more complicated tasks at hand such as dealing with a screaming baby. 
You realize how powerful habits are once you pull into your driveway from work without even remembering the actual drive. 
We all have both good and bad habits. That's just our nature. 
Today, I want to discuss, how you can start reversing some of your bad habits related to eating and drinking. 
 
Before I tell you how to do it there are three absolutely necessary conditions for any successful habit reversal: 
1. You need to be READY to make a change. 
2. You need to be WILLING to make a change. 
2. You need to be ABLE to make the change. 
 
One of the worst habits, and hardest to break is the FOOD/DRINK = REWARD habit loop. 
 
If we think rewarding food is a friend, we are likely to pursue it.
If we think it's an enemy, you will turn from it with distance.
 
Changing habits requires making a critical perceptual shift which behavioral psychologists call counterconditioning. 
Our perception of the food stimulus directly influences our behavior in response to it. 
 
So if our perception now is: 
ICE CREAM = YUM, DELICIOUS, FUN
we need to be able to make a shift in our brains and start creating a new loop that looks more like this: 
 
ICE CREAM = YUCKY, TOO MUCH SUGAR & FAT >> MAKES ME PUT ON WEIGHT, KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT 
 
The goal is to extinguish the learned associations that encourage us to pursue a reward in the form of sugar, fat, and salt, and instead to develop a new associations that turn us away from them. 
 
So how can we put this knowledge into practice? 
 
6 steps to reversing bad habits: 

Awareness - you first need to be aware of your bad habit, and have a conscious knowledge of all the triggers that are causing you to want to engage in a particular behavior. 


Develop competing behaviors - to resist the pull of the behavior, you need to develop and learn alternative responses that are incompatible with it. To compete successfully with old habits, this new competing behavior needs to be planned before you encounter a cue and needs to be as rewarding as your previous behavior. 


Think competing thoughts - you need to start formulating thoughts that compete with, and serve to quiet, the old ones. Instead of telling ourselves how good this donut is going to taste, we can start telling ourselves how yucky it is instead. Re-framing the situation is of utmost importance. 


Find the right kind of support - your support system cannot work against you, endorsing the type of behavior you are trying to reverse. Especially in the beginning of the habit reversal process, stay away from anybody who can cause you to relapse. Don't worry it's only temporary, till you get comfortable with your new habits and no longer feel urges for the bad one. 


Learn emotionally - you need to learning how to evaluate a familiar stimulus in a new way, developing negative associations. This goes back to developing that critical perceptual shift in your mind. 


Practice practice practice! 

 
Do you need help with getting rid of some of your worst habits?
 
Shoot me an e-mail I would love to help. 
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One of the easiest ways to put on weight is to eat too much dietary fat, regardless whether it's the healthy or the unhealthy kind. 
Fat is very calorie dense which means that gram by gram it has over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. 
Most people don't even realize that they... see more are overeating on fat as the calories add up from multiple unsuspecting sources spread throughout the day such as handful of nuts here and there, avocado toast, popcorn, creamer in the coffee(s), fruit dipped in peanut butter and drizzles of olive oil.  
Today I wanted to show you exactly how a serving of fat looks like so you can have a better idea on how to pick your fats in order to achieve your body composition goals. 
For reference purposes, on average my clients (who are trying to lose weight) consume between 50 to 70 g of dietary fat a day so keep that in mind when going through the photos.  
Some other sources that I didn't have pictures for:
Whole Milk - 1/2 cup, 73 calories, 4 g fat 
Half & half cream - 1 tablespoon, 19 calories, 1.7 g fat
Heavy whipping cream - 1 tablespoon, 52 calories, 5.2 g fat
Butter - 1 tablespoon, 102 calories, 11.5 g fat 
Chocolate chip cookie (subway) - 220 calories, 10 g fat
Anybody surprised with some of the numbers? Have I forgotten a source you wished you saw here? 
Let me know your thoughts!
Leave a comment on Facebook or shoot me an e-mail. 
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When was the last time you checked the nutritional (back) label of the item you were purchasing? Like many of us, chances are you only read the front and make your decision based on the marketing claims created by food manufacturers whose main goal is to sell as much of this food as possible. 
This... see more week I want to test your knowledge in a form of a little food trivia.
I went to Trader Joe's and picked pairs of packaged items from similar food categories and compared them based on their nutritional value (calories, carbs, fats, sugar, protein).  
Based only on the front of the package, do you know which item is more nutritious and therefore a better buy?
Write your answers as you go down the list and then check if your choices was the more nutritious ones (answers in the end of the post). 
Post your score under my Facebook page or e-mail it to me. Let's see who gets the most answers right. I got to say, some of them are pretty tricky and may really surprise you.
Good luck!
1. RX bar VS Cliff bar.
 2. Omega Trek Mix VS Go Raw Trek Mix. 
3. Organic Cold Brew Mocha Nut Latte VS Vanilla Almond Spiced Chai. 
4. Chocolate Chip Dunkers VS Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies. 
5. Breaded Cod Fillets VS Panko breaded Tilapia Fillets.  
6. Fish Sticks VS Fish Nuggets. 
7. Organic Corn Flakes VS Shredded Wheats. 
8. Gluten Free Battered Halibut VS Regular Battered Halibut.
9. Spanakopita VS Greek Spanakopita. 
 10. Potato Fries VS Garlic Potatoes w/parmesan sauce.  
11. Fage 2% VS Organic Non-fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt  
Ok, so here the answers: 
1. RX bar
2. Go Raw Mix
3. Mocha Nut Latte 
4. Dunkers 
5. Cod
6. Fish sticks 
7. Shredded Wheats
8. Gluten-free Halibut
9. Spanakopita
10. Fries
11. Fage 2%
Are you surprised with the answers? Have questions or comments? 
Share them with me on my Facebook page or via e-mail - I would love to hear from you. 
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No matter which boat you are in right now: trying to improve your health and/or  body composition, or trying to maintain it, this quick guide can be very helpful.
The one thing you can absolutely control at any point in time is your own behavior. Every time you eat or drink something you make... see more a conscious decision to do so.  
I'm not saying it's easy to resist temptations and urges but with the right practice assertiveness can become as effortless as eating that second (or third) donut.  
 So here's a list of potential high-risk situations and how to make them work for you: 
1. Getting ice cream with your family.  
Order kids size ice cream in a cup. No cone. Fresh fruit toppings instead of the sprinkles. 
2. Going to a BBQ at a friend's house who always serves tons of alcohol, and non-nutritious foods. 
Alcohol: ahead of time decide how many drinks you are going to have and stick to it. Have a tall glass of water between each drink. 
Food: have something to eat before you leave so you are not hungry when you arrive, and bring your own healthy dish to share with everybody. 
3. Going out to eat.  
Look up the menu online and decide what you will order before you go. Don't accept the restaurant menu, it will only tempt you to change your mind. 
Also, if you are worried that your portion may be too big, share it with your friend/spouse, or ask a waiter for a to go box when you order your meal, so that you can pack up half to take home before you even start eating. 
I have clients who plan their lunches based on the leftovers from the times they eat out. 
4. You are at a party and the cake is calling your name. 
Take a few bites, and if that still doesn't satisfy you and you want to keep eating more (you know you will regret that later), quickly sprinkle some salt or pepper over it to ruin the taste or grab a chewing gum and stick it in your mouth. Chewing gum or carrying a breath freshener also works when somebody brings sweets to the office that are hard to resist. 
5. You are going away for a special celebratory weekend with your spouse. 
You both love food and good wine, however remember why you are going away. It's about celebrating your love to one another and relaxing together, not about food. 
6. Home alone with nothing to do. 
Get out of the kitchen or any other room you would be tempted to hang out in and eat (for me that's my family room). Go to your bedroom and read. Take a bath. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Pick one relaxing and distracting activity that will leave you refreshed and happy rather than too full and regretful. If watching TV is a way you destress - make sure your hands stay busy while you watch - pet your dog, roll quarters, knit or do puzzles. 
7. You come home from work hungry and snack (on chips, pretzels, popcorn, cheese, etc.) a lot while cooking, then you are not hungry for dinner (but you still finish your plate).  
I do this fairly often myself.
Most people get hit with hunger around 3pm - if that's you, have a protein-oriented snack with vegetables/fruit such as greek yogurt w/berries, 1/2 protein bar, protein shake, a couple of hard boiled eggs, turkey roll ups, etc.
If that doesn't do the trick and you are still hungry when you get home and feel like snacking while cooking always keep sliced up vegetables in the fridge that you can dip in hummus or eat raw. 
8. You get stressed out and you find yourself grazing through the fridge or opening another bottle of wine (or both). 
STOP acronym is a quick way to remember the steps to calm down when you are feeling stressed out and out of control. 
STOP. 
TAKE A BREATH or two. 
OBSERVE your feeling and your thoughts. 
PROCEED with intention, choosing what you will say or do next. 
Be mindful about this. You have full power over your thoughts, and know that your own thoughts affect your emotions, not the other way round.
Control your thoughts and you will be able to control the behavior that is driven by your emotions. 
This process takes time and practice, practice, practice. Give it a try next time you are caught off guard. 
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it.
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Before you dive into the list, I want to clarify one thing: when I talk about lean people, I'm not referring to the 1% of the population that can eat like a garbage truck and stay lean thanks to superior genes or superpowers.  I'm talking about all of the people who stay lean and fit... see more as a result of consciously making healthy choices on daily basis. So here we go! 
7 habits of lean people: 
1. They move daily.  
People who are in a great shape and maintain a healthy body composition make movement part of their daily routine. From walking with friends during the week, hiking in the weekends, bike riding, gardening, yoga, stretching, running errands, they find ways to stay busy everyday, not just when they are at the gym. They never spend their whole vacations lying on the beach and sipping on pina coladas. They are snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, scuba diving, you name it. They are also usually the first ones in line to book excursions. 
2. They rarely snack.  
Most lean people don't snack. They usually stick to 3 to 4 well rounded meals a day (protein, fats, carbs) . It allows them to have a satisfying meal that keeps them full for hours and keeps their blood sugar leveled. Eating more frequently doesn't burn more calories or provide any extra metabolic benefit. Research shows that the more frequently people eat, the higher their total calorie intake tends to be. 
3. They eat protein with every meal.  
I'm pretty sure I don't need to say this but protein consumption has a direct correlation to body composition. You cannot build or maintain lean mass without consuming adequate protein. Additionally protein is very satiating, so you don't need to eat a ton of it to feel full. It doesn't matter whether it's coming from animal or plant sources, just make sure you get a good variety. Meat, poultry, fish, game, shellfish, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, tofu, protein supplements are all high sources of protein. If you are vegan or vegetarian, majority of your protein will be coming from sprouted breads, sprouted beans, legumes, vegetables, and plant-based protein supplements. 
4. They prioritize sleep and manage their stress levels. 
Lean people know the value of a good night sleep and taking days off when necessary. Getting at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep plays a crucial role in one's health. They also actively engage in stress reducing activities such as meditating, praying, yoga, exercising, reading, listening to music, walking outside, working on your hobby. Oh, and they also take naps! 
5. They drink mostly calorie-free liquids.  
Besides an occasional glass of wine or beer, healthy people stick to calorie-free drinks such as water, seltzer, unsweetened teas and black coffee.
A lot of my clients when they first come to see me don't even realize how much calories they are consuming in liquid form (sometimes it's is as much as 50%). Coffee with cream and sugar at home, latte from Starbucks after a workout, ice tea with lunch, another cup of coffee in the afternoon, frozen margarita with dinner - those calories quickly add up without providing you with neither satiety nor nutrition. 
6. They eat vegetables (and fruit) everyday.    
They sincerely look forward to having their veggies and make an effort to incorporate them into every meal. They often experiment with different cooking and prep methods. They often start their own gardens to grow organic produce. 
7. They only eat when hungry. 
This is a major habit lean people have in common - they never eat when they are not hungry. Lean people often eat less, not more, in stressful situations. They don't reach for food to feel better or out of boredom. They use food as fuel, not a comforter. 
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it. 
If you are looking for a gym in the area - Train 2 Xcel is a place to be. Fun, supportive, results and client-driven. You will be part of the family.
Don't take my word for it, check out their amazing reviews on google (type train2xcel) or on their Facebook page. 
If you want to find out how I work - read my client's testimonies and check out my reviews on Facebook find out more about what I do. 
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Ahhhhhhhhh those Prime Day deals!! 
What unnecessary item did you buy yesterday? I had a hammock added to my cart before my dear husband snapped me out of the trans.
I love shopping on Amazon. Each week I get multiple deliveries (not very environmentally friendly, I know). Books, supplements, gifts, protein... see more bars, kitchen stuff, dog food, you name it I probably get it. Often I will place an order and then realize I forgot something so I go back the same day to buy even more stuff. 
All of those purchases are small by themselves ($10-$30), however I recently realized that I'm spending a lot more on Amazon that I'm planning for.  
Individually my purchases don't seem like a lot of money, but when I add them up in the end of the month, the number is quite striking. 
If I had known that's how much I was really spending, I may have been making my choices a little bit differently, i.e. buying less stuff! 
This latest eye-opener made me think about how this behavior can relate to developing unhealthy eating & drinking  habits that can lead to deterioration of health and/or weight gain overtime. 
How small, daily behaviors and food decisions can quickly add up to more than we realize? 
In perfect world where sleep, hormones, age, gender, genetics don't play a role, in order to gain a pound of body fat, one must consume a surplus of 3500 calories a week. That's 500 calories a day.  
You may think that's a lot of calories but let me break it down for you. 
Monday: you have potato chips with lunch (+250 calories for dressing)  and 2 glasses of wine (+250 calories) 
Tuesday: you stop by Starbucks and get a Frapuccino (+500)
Wednesday: you have a blueberry muffin with your coffee (+200), salad for lunch with creamy dressing (+150) and a light beer with dinner (+150)
Thursday: someday brought birthday cake (+300) and you had a bottle of sweet ice tea (+200)
Friday: you went out for dinner, maybe had some alcohol & dessert (easy +500)
Saturday: brunch with your friends (easy +500)
Sunday: pizza night with your kids (easy +500) 
Of course, if this would be true on daily basis, we would be putting on an additional 50 lbs per year which is unlikely (as most people exercise which negates some of the impacts of food), however, we all definitely have weeks where we may be doing this more often (think vacations, holidays, etc.). This may create a surplus of a moderate 5 lbs a year. That's 50 lbs in 10 years! 
As you can see these small daily additions can be putting you in surplus without even realizing it. 
The good news is that just as these small weight-gaining behaviors add up, same goes for small weight-losing behaviors. 
If you are trying to improve your diet and/or lose weight, give me a shout - let's look at your daily habits and see where we can create a deficit so you can start living a healthier life and learning how to maintain it.  
Weight loss is not easy, but together we can definitely do it. 
 If you want to find out how I work - read my client's testimonies and check out my reviews on Facebook find out more about what I do. 
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It all starts with the all mighty apple cider vinegar - raw, organic, unpasteurized, unfiltered and unheated kind (like Bragg's). Raw vinegar contains the “mother of vinegar”, i.e. strands of proteins, enzymes and bacteria that give the product a murky appearance. Most people believe that... see more the "mother" is responsible for most of its health benefits, so buy it raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized. 
Wide variety of research has proved numerous health benefits of consuming apple cider vinegar such as: 
supporting immune system function; having antimicrobial and antibacterial properties;
improving insulin sensitivity and helping with blood sugar response after meals;
helping control weight and even aid in weight loss;
promoting healthy digestion and pH balance;
soothing irritated skin, dry throats; relieving muscle pain from exercise,
and many many more - for more reading see links below under 'resources'. 
Additionally, apple cider vinegar can be used as a fantastic natural food preservative, inhibiting bacteria growth and preventing food from spoiling. 
All you need to make this "fire" water is basically two ingredients: apple cider vinegar and water. The rest is entirely up to you.
 I made these three varieties today:
Basic guidelines: 
Use 1-2 TBS of apple cider vinegar for every 8 oz of water. Then add your spices and fruit to your liking. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving to allow sufficient merging of flavors.  
or
Use 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water for stronger solution - "fire" shots! Worse case if you make it too strong you can dilute with water later. 
NOTE: Because of high acidity of this drink (especially the fire shots) I highly recommend drinking it through a straw (to avoid future holes in your enamel). 
Pretty simple, right? You can drink this multiple times during the day.
This "fire" water is: 
refreshing
full of flavor with a bit of a kick to it - it will taste like vinegar so don't expect it tasting like lemonade - it is a health drink after all 
virtually calorie free
energizing
nourishing
wonderfully moving (for your intestines) 
ENJOY!!!!
Resources: 
http://www.webmd.com/vi…
http://bragg.com/produc… 
http://health.usnews.co…
http://authoritynutriti…
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Many of my clients travel on regular basis so eating while being on the road is definitely a hot topic of our consultations. 
During my latest travel to Poland I took an opportunity to take some pictures at the JFK airport of things to eat and decided to write this quick guide to help you navigate... see more the options. 
Unfortunately I was flying from terminal 7 and the options were quite disappointing. I'm used to flying from other terminals where my go to place is CIBO EXPRESS (terminals 2, 5, 8).  They offer a ton of options from organic, gluten-free, kosher and more. You can grab hard-boiled eggs, organic yogurts, cheese wrapped in prosciutto, fresh fruit, gourmet salads and sandwiches. It's pricy but worth considering. 
Anyway, back to my miserable terminal 7. 
My options were: two regular bars, wine bar (where they only served cheese, cold cuts and pizza), Aunt Annie's, McDonald's, Box Chef and a couple of other small places. 
I considered getting this Wall Street Grilled Chicken Salad or the Gluten Free Tuna wrap (decent option if you don't like vegetables).  
I dismissed the bars as food there is usually super heavy and I wanted something light as I had a long, overnight flight ahead of me.  
So, lo and behold, of all places I picked McDonald's. 
I told myself it would be an interesting experiment for me. It's good to step outside of your comfort zone once in a while...
Of course, the obsessive person that I am, I went online and looked up the salad's ingredients. Once I saw that the grilled chicken is 100% chicken breast and antibiotic-free it was a go. 
This quite small Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad and water cost a whooping $10.15.  
Definitely not cheap considering that I could have ordered 4 cheeseburgers and a soda for the same amount. Still wonder why we have a problem with obesity in this country? 
Back to the point... 
The nutrition info (without the dressing) was as following: 
350 calories, 27 g carbs, 12 g fat, 38g protein. 
So far so good. 
I skipped the dressing and the tortilla chips. 
I liked the beans and corn, and I was pleasantly surprised that the salad included baby kale and baby spinach, not just plain lettuce. The chicken  was awful though. It was covered with some sort of sweet glaze and although it was supposed to be grilled chicken breast there was some sort of brown skin on it.... Very, very odd. Also there is no way that there was 38 g of protein in that salad. Maybe 20g at best. 
I regretted not getting that boxed salad with grilled chicken and balsamic. 
After I ate my sad dinner, I was walking around and taking pictures of some other things you could buy. 
These are my favorite chips. Gluten free, non-gmo and made locally in Deep River, CT. I love all of their flavors. If it was a shorter and a day flight I would have definitely bought some. 
These are my second favorite pretzels. I usually buy them at Costco for the house. They have only a few ingredients, they are non-GMO with no artificial stuff in them. I like that they stock them at the airports now. 
There were quite a few snack/protein bar options (although I brought my own Garden of Life Protein Bar). 
As per a sweet treat this brand has caught my attention:  
It's rare to see sprouted products (other than bread and beans) and I've never seen a sweet snack that has sprouted nuts in it. 
This had 2 tsp of sugar and 9 g of fat per serving so not too bad for a dessert. I will get it next time! 
Just to wrap up the article here's a quick summary of my thoughts and tips. 
7 tips on eating at the airport: 
1. Drink & buy plenty of water for the airport and the flight. 
2. If you can, bring your own sandwich and healthy snacks. I promise they will not take it from you through security. 
2. If you decide to eat at the airport, stick to light foods such as salads with protein, soups, hard boiled eggs, yogurt. 
3. Avoid anything fried. 
4. Avoid candy. 
5. If you're going to drink, go for wine or vodka. Beer can be very bloating and that's the last thing you want when flying. 
6. Skip foods high in sugar alcohols which can cause bloating which again is very inconvenient on the plane. 
7. Take digestive enzymes that will help you with proper digestion of the foods you eat and may help ease stomach issues.
Hope you enjoyed this article! 
Do you have your own favorite places to eat at the airport?
Please share them with me and my followers by emailing me or leaving a comment on Facebook. 
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As I was thinking about writing this article, I was walking around various stores and supermarkets on empty stomach for about 2.5 hours.... 
I should have known better but hey, I thought it wouldn't take me so long to do what I was supposed to do, so I didn't come prepared. 
Lesson no.1 always... see more come prepared. 
Long story short, anything in sight that had TONS of sugar looked super tempting.
I also thought about stopping at Starbucks, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Bagel Man and a dozen of other places...about a hundred times...
When I was at CVS I almost bought multiple bags of M&M's (which I don't even like).... I had no idea they had so many flavors! 
Have you ever experienced anything like this? 
Experiencing temptation and trying to fight your way through it?
I'm sure you have. 
Today, I want to teach how to deal with temptations and urges and show you exactly how my own thought processing allowed me to come home without buying anything but Kombucha tea. 
Here are 3 steps in dealing with urges: 
1. Thought stopping & reframing - when you experience a cue, switch off the associated thought. No ambiguity, no maybes, no debates. Work on absolute and rigid responses to cues, that leave no room for doubt. 
How I did it? 
Whenever I had the urge (which was pretty much in every store I visited) to buy something from the junk food category I tried re-framing the situation. 
I actually replaced
CANDY (cue) = DELICIOUS (associated thought) 
with
CANDY  = MAKES ME FEEL LIKE CRAP 
or 
CANDY  = I DON'T EVEN LIKE THESE 
or 
CANDY = SUGAR CRUSH (I.E. NOT A HAPPY MONIKA)
2. Conditioning cues with negative associations - undercut the rewards value of food, and cool down the stimulus. 
How I did it? 
When I wanted to stop by Starbucks or Chipotle to get something for lunch I reminded myself that they use tons of fats, artificial ingredients and preservatives in their foods and that's not exactly what I like to put inside my body. 
3. Talking down the urge - "eating this food will satisfy me only for a bit", "eating this will make me feel bad and keep me trapped", "I will be happier if I don't eat this". 
How I did it? 
If I was still struggling with being tempted I told myself that I felt that hungry because I was also really thirsty. As soon as this hit me I bought myself a cold Kombucha Tea at Trader Joe's and everything started to make sense again. I no longer felt the urgency to eat right now and was able to come home and make myself healthy and satisfying lunch. 
I don't know if you've experienced this in your life but overeating, with its power to take us hostage, can be deeply demoralizing.
But when you gain the upper hand, by practicing the steps described above, the opposite effect can also occur.
The satisfaction of breaking the cycle that leads to the pursuit of unhealthy food can be reinforcing and it's own right.  
You will gain a new sense of competence and pride.  
Practice these 3 helpful steps and hopefully you will less tempted each time around. 
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me. 
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People are creatures of habit. Our lives are filled with daily rituals that are set into motion as soon as we wake up.
Habits such as waking up at a certain time, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, taking medicine, making coffee, eating breakfast, going to the gym are all strongly engrained into... see more our brains.
They make our lives really efficient because they are performed on auto-pilot leaving our brain time & energy to solve more complicated tasks at hand such as dealing with a screaming baby. 
You realize how powerful habits are once you pull into your driveway from work without even remembering the actual drive. 
We all have both good and bad habits. That's just our nature. 
Today, I want to discuss, how you can start reversing some of your bad habits related to eating and drinking. 
 
Before I tell you how to do it there are three absolutely necessary conditions for any successful habit reversal: 
1. You need to be READY to make a change. 
2. You need to be WILLING to make a change. 
2. You need to be ABLE to make the change. 
 
One of the worst habits, and hardest to break is the FOOD/DRINK = REWARD habit loop. 
 
If we think rewarding food is a friend, we are likely to pursue it.
If we think it's an enemy, you will turn from it with distance.
 
Changing habits requires making a critical perceptual shift which behavioral psychologists call counterconditioning. 
Our perception of the food stimulus directly influences our behavior in response to it. 
 
So if our perception now is: 
ICE CREAM = YUM, DELICIOUS, FUN
we need to be able to make a shift in our brains and start creating a new loop that looks more like this: 
 
ICE CREAM = YUCKY, TOO MUCH SUGAR & FAT >> MAKES ME PUT ON WEIGHT, KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT 
 
The goal is to extinguish the learned associations that encourage us to pursue a reward in the form of sugar, fat, and salt, and instead to develop a new associations that turn us away from them. 
 
So how can we put this knowledge into practice? 
 
6 steps to reversing bad habits: 

Awareness - you first need to be aware of your bad habit, and have a conscious knowledge of all the triggers that are causing you to want to engage in a particular behavior. 


Develop competing behaviors - to resist the pull of the behavior, you need to develop and learn alternative responses that are incompatible with it. To compete successfully with old habits, this new competing behavior needs to be planned before you encounter a cue and needs to be as rewarding as your previous behavior. 


Think competing thoughts - you need to start formulating thoughts that compete with, and serve to quiet, the old ones. Instead of telling ourselves how good this donut is going to taste, we can start telling ourselves how yucky it is instead. Re-framing the situation is of utmost importance. 


Find the right kind of support - your support system cannot work against you, endorsing the type of behavior you are trying to reverse. Especially in the beginning of the habit reversal process, stay away from anybody who can cause you to relapse. Don't worry it's only temporary, till you get comfortable with your new habits and no longer feel urges for the bad one. 


Learn emotionally - you need to learning how to evaluate a familiar stimulus in a new way, developing negative associations. This goes back to developing that critical perceptual shift in your mind. 


Practice practice practice! 

 
Do you need help with getting rid of some of your worst habits?
 
Shoot me an e-mail I would love to help. 
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One of the easiest ways to put on weight is to eat too much dietary fat, regardless whether it's the healthy or the unhealthy kind. 
Fat is very calorie dense which means that gram by gram it has over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. 
Most people don't even realize that they... see more are overeating on fat as the calories add up from multiple unsuspecting sources spread throughout the day such as handful of nuts here and there, avocado toast, popcorn, creamer in the coffee(s), fruit dipped in peanut butter and drizzles of olive oil.  
Today I wanted to show you exactly how a serving of fat looks like so you can have a better idea on how to pick your fats in order to achieve your body composition goals. 
For reference purposes, on average my clients (who are trying to lose weight) consume between 50 to 70 g of dietary fat a day so keep that in mind when going through the photos.  
Some other sources that I didn't have pictures for:
Whole Milk - 1/2 cup, 73 calories, 4 g fat 
Half & half cream - 1 tablespoon, 19 calories, 1.7 g fat
Heavy whipping cream - 1 tablespoon, 52 calories, 5.2 g fat
Butter - 1 tablespoon, 102 calories, 11.5 g fat 
Chocolate chip cookie (subway) - 220 calories, 10 g fat
Anybody surprised with some of the numbers? Have I forgotten a source you wished you saw here? 
Let me know your thoughts!
Leave a comment on Facebook or shoot me an e-mail. 
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Power Nutrition LLC
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Monika Nowak, Nutrition Coach (Pn1)
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