Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Eating By the Book, Pt. 1: Introducing Your New Dietary Guidelines

As a person who spends the vast majority of her time making food, eating food, reading about food, talking about food, and thinking about food, (and at least 37.5 hours per week thinking about guidelines) you could say that the official unveiling of the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines is kind of a big deal to me. 

The final versions were released to the public in early January, and were lauded by most trustworthy sources for nutrition information as a balanced, evidence-based, and actionable approach to steering Americans to better eating habits (with a few small caveats). But what exactly are these guidelines? How are they made, what do they say, and who are they to tell you how to eat, anyway?

What are the Dietary Guidelines?

The federal government has been doling out dietary advice since at least the 1960s - but it wasn't until 1990 (#90sbabies, holler) it was mandated by law that every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) put their collective bureaucratic heads together and, after a long hard look at the most recent scientific data, make some recommendations about how to eat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (or DGAs for short) is a compilation of everything we currently know about nutrition - what to eat (and how much of it) in order to promote optimal health and well-being and prevent disease.

What are the main takeaways?

One of the biggest changes you'll see this year and in future iterations of the DGAs is that, in light of the fact that everyone has different needs and follows different patterns of eating, the new guidelines have officially done away with recommended servings of artificially categorized food groups. Rather, the guidelines focus on promoting certain foods to be eaten more or less, according to one's individual calorie needs. (If you're wondering how to get a good estimate of your own calorie needs, I recommend this online calculator).

Here's what the guidelines say we should be getting more of, and some personal commentary from yours truly:

Unlike stock photography lighting practices, it turns out not much has changed since the '90s in terms of what the U.S. government says we should be eating more of. 
  • All types of fruits and vegetables with all different colors of the rainbow. If it grows from the ground (and you can buy it in the produce section of a supermarket), eat more of it.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy, such as skim or 1% milk, yogurt (the less added sugar, the better), low-fat cheese, or vegan options such as almond milk that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals. 
    • Though I am not a vegan, I personally love unsweetened vanilla almond milk. It's only 30 calories per cup, has a light, clean taste, and is great for baking - or shamelessly chugging straight from the carton.
    • Plain, 0% Greek yogurt is also a staple in my daily diet. Most brands are around 130 calories per cup with upwards of 24g of high-quality protein. I dress mine up with sugar-free maple syrup, fresh fruit, and lots and lots of cinnamon.
  • High-protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, and soy products.
    • Tempeh, beans, nuts, and egg whites form the basis of my protein-rich foods as a vegetarian. Contrary to popular belief, you can easily meet your protein needs without the consumption of meat. Just this summer, as I was preparing for my first bodybuilding competition, I met my daily goal of 150+ grams of protein per day with these foods, Greek yogurt, and no more than 1.5 scoops of protein powder or protein bars per day.
  • Fiber-rich whole grain products, such as whole-grain pasta and breads.
    • Whole-grain products retain more of the grain's naturally occurring nutrients, including fiber, which most Americans needs to get more of. The guidelines recommend that at least half of your carb-rich foods, such as breads, rice, cereal, and pasta, come from sources with a whole grain label. 

Here are the foods the guidelines recommend limiting:

Salted caramel vodka cupcakes: for when you feel like throwing caution to the wind.
  • Added sugars - limit to 10% of your daily calories, or around 50 grams total per day.
    • Sugar, by itself, isn't evil - or toxic. It's naturally found in plenty of healthful foods, such as fruit, and even the occasional indulgent sweet treat can play a part in a balanced, healthy lifestyle. However, added sugars may contribute to weight gain because they add lots of extra, non-nourishing calories to food and also make that food much easier to overeat (after all, when's the last time you blacked out and overdid it on a bag of celery?). To keep added sugars in check take some sage advice from Nia Shanks: splurge on the sugary foods you truly love, and ditch the ones you can live without. Remember: it's perfectly okay to pass on the store-bought Safeway cake at your workplace's monthly birthday party, especially when you've got your eye on that delicious dark chocolate torte from the tapas place down the street this weekend instead.
    • In fact, the guidelines' 10% figure doesn't actually come from the absolute amount of sugar that's "bad" for you.  Instead, it's based on the idea that 50 grams (or 200 calories' worth) of sugar is the maximum amount you can fit into an average 2,000-calorie diet while still having enough room for all the other, more nutritious foods you need to meet get your fill of vitamins and minerals. Theoretically, if you need more than 2,000 calories to maintain a healthy weight (if you're, say, an endurance athlete or just a world-class fidgeter) you can probably fit a tad more sugar into your diet to fuel your daily activities with no health consequences. On this note, remember to match your fiber intake to your calorie consumption - at least 14 grams for every 1,000 calories.
      • Remember your estimated daily calorie needs from the calculator linked earlier? Take that number and divide it by ten. Then, divide again by four. The resulting number is a good rule of thumb for your daily sugar intake.
    • Extra sugars and calories can be hiding in foods that are branded as "healthy," such as canned fruits, granola bars, and sweetened yogurt. Try passing on the syrupy canned fruit cocktail, which adds empty calories, in favor of whole fruits or frozen fruit pieces.
  • Saturated fats - limit to 10% of your daily calories, or around 22 grams total per day.
    • The question of whether saturated fats (such as those found in butter and cream) cause more heart disease and death than unsaturated fats (found in plant and nut oils) is a subject rife with controversy in the world of nutrition science. Each time a study showing that saturated fats have no adverse health effects is published, several disgruntled scientists pop up to point out the study's flaws, and vice versa. In fact, the 2015-2020 DGAs dedicated an entire working group to looking at the studies on saturated fat in particular.
    • Like the 10% figure on sugar intake, the DGA's advice on saturated fat should be relative to your overall calorie intake - not one number that's the same for everyone. If you need more than 2,000 calories to fuel your body, you can stand to eat more than 22 grams per day.
      • To find your daily saturated fat intake, take your estimated calorie needs, divide by ten, and then again by 9. Shoot for around that number of saturated fat grams per day. 
    • We may not know for years about the true effect of saturated fat intake on health and longevity. For now, I'll choose to follow these guidelines, which echo the 2013 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines advising a limitation on saturated fats for optimal heart health. 
  • Sodium - limit to 2,300mg per day (the amount in one teaspoon of table salt)
    • This recommendation will be another one to watch in 2020. Similar to saturated fat, there is plenty of controversy currently stirring in the medical research field about just how much sodium is bad for you.  Though the overall weight of the evidence may shift over the coming years, it's probably your best bet to find small ways to reduce your daily sodium intake - such as buying low-sodium broths, soups, and sauces - and generally being aware of how much sodium is in the foods you most often eat. 
    • Salt is a great way to make vegetables and other more "boring" foods much more tasty. If it's between reducing your salt intake and not getting your veggies in, go with the veggies every time. But there are other ways to dress up your vegetables, too - using plenty of different spices and seasonings adds flavor to your plate without the extra salt. As someone who struggles to moderate her own salt intake, I've personally found that adding balsamic vinegar to my soups and baked veggies makes them delicious!
  • Alcohol - limit to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
    • The current evidence on alcohol suggests that it's better for your health to drink some, but much worse to drink too much. Distilled liquors, such as vodka and gin, may even carry the same health benefits as beer and wine, meaning there might be something about the alcohol itself, and not whatever's used to make it, that could lead to better health. Most researchers still aren't sure why this is, but when it comes to the occasional glass of wine (or - who am I kidding? - vodka Sugar-Free RedBull) I won't ask too many questions.
    • Remember that the definition of "one drink" depends on the type of alcohol you're drinking. A bottle (12oz) of beer, a glass (5oz, or about 2/3 full) of wine, and a 1.5oz shot of liquor all count as "one drink." 

What's New This Year?

The things I found most exciting about the new DGAs were their focus on following the scientific evidence on hot-button topics like artificial sweeteners, cholesterol, and caffeine.
  • Artificial sweeteners are a-okay. The new 2015-2020 DGAs finally gave more than lip service to an array of products that can have a real impact on healthy weight management for Americans. Decades of repeated studies on sweetener consumption have shown that consuming these low-calorie sweeteners in moderation poses no health threat, either short- or long-term. In fact, several large studies suggest that swapping out sugary drinks and snacks for those made with artificial sweeteners can help you lose weight and keep it off without giving up all the foods you love. 
  • Cholesterol is out of jail. For decades, the DGAs have recommended an upper-limit on cholesterol intake. However, all of the recent evidence shows that the cholesterol on your plate (from eggs, fatty meat and dairy) does not contribute to blood cholesterol. Rather, a host of more important factors are at play: physical activity, family health history, body weight, and saturated and trans fat intake chief among them. Current data suggest that most Americans eat all that much cholesterol anyway. So enjoy that egg sandwich (but remember - watch the sat fats).
  • Enjoy caffeinated beverages in smart moderation. Caffeine was another hot topic in this year's guidelines - in fact, the mere mention of "caffeine" shot up from 0 in 2010 to 205 in the 2015 edition. The guidelines restate the evidence on caffeine consumption, which shows that up to 400mg of caffeine per day has no ill effects. In fact, coffee - where Americans get approximately 80% of their caffeine buzz - may even impart some health benefits.
    • 400mg of caffeine can take many forms. It may come in any of these forms (all data from Caffeine Informer):
      • Three 8oz cups of brewed coffee
      • Five 1.5oz shots of espresso
      • Three-and-a-half medium-sized (12oz) cans of RedBull
      • Almost 6 (5.8) cans of PepsiMax
      • Nine-and-a-half 8oz cups of brewed black tea
      • 16 8oz cups of brewed green tea

Stray Points about the New Guidelines and Their Application

  • There's a reason these guidelines are required to be updated every five years. What we know, and what we think we know, in the field of nutrition is constantly changing. However, there are a few solid standbys, as seen in the list of "dos" from the latest guidelines, that haven't changed for many years and will be your best bet for finding healthful eating habits you can stick with for life. 
  • Nutrition science is complicated and messy. A recent article summed up this point quite eloquently: just because owning a dog is associated with eating egg rolls, this doesn't mean eating egg rolls causes canine ownership (or vice versa!) The ways in which we gather data about nutrition, such as asking someone to recall everything they ate for a week, doesn't always give us a perfectly accurate snapshot of true eating habits. It's important to take a critical eye whenever you read a study that claims a certain food is the silver bullet to any and all ailments. On the other hand, we've come a long way in studying the effects of food on the body, and the more well-designed studies that all point to the same idea pile up, the more confident we can be that we're getting closer and closer to the truth. 
  • Some things never change. The most important take-home points made in the 2015-2020 guidelines are simply echoes of general pillars of good nutrition that have been known and well-accepted for years. If you can find a way to meet your needs for fruits and vegetables, base your carbohydrates around less-refined, whole-grain sources, save your sugary splurges for the foods you truly love, and find ways to cut down on saturated fat (such as choosing lean meats and/or plants for your protein sources) you are well on your way to establishing a diet that will not only do your body good, but one that helps you be the happiest and most whole person you can be.
  • True nutritional health stands at the precipice of physical, social, and emotional well-being. I think Amber Rodgers of Go Kaleo says it best with the way she describes her "Food Foundation":

This diagram makes clear that even if you ate every morsel of every meal completely by the book based on the latest dietary guidelines (which, as explained above, can be based upon constantly-shifting science) it wouldn't be a one-way ticket to making you feel good about what you're eating - which is the only real way to create lasting, lifelong healthy eating habits. Establishing a balanced, loving relationship with food and finding ways to eat that support your values and lets you participate in shared culture(s) with others is just as important to creating an overall sense of physical, emotional and social health. Making sure each of these pillars is strong will help you make and keep a healthy diet not just now, but for life.

What major part of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines bummed me out, and why? And how does a typical day of eating for me stack up to the Guidelines? Stay tuned for the answers.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

FAI: A Beginner's Guide to Being Overly Hip

From now on, you can just call me Lady Gaga.

No, not because I'm a bottle blonde with a sometimes unorthodox fashion sense who at one point in my childhood owned an electric keyboard.  I recently learned that my kindredness with Ms. Germanotta goes much deeper than that - as deep as our hip joints, to be precise.  We both have a joint condition called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI or hip impingement, for short).

FAI occurs when the ball-and-socket hip joint is abnormally formed, usually during the fast-growing years of adolescence.  Ball-and socket joints normally fit together like a clenched fist into a curved palm (think paper-covers-rock style - which I think we can all agree is the outright lamest of the three paths to victory).  FAI occurs when either the "rock" develops into a funny, bumpy shape rather than round and smooth ("cam impingement") or the "paper" juts out too far over the rock ("pincer impingement" - like the awkward, clammy hand of your teenaged big brother who somehow always figured out a way to beat you at this supposedly chance-based game).

If you believe you may be suffering from rainbow-colored-socket syndrome, please hang up the phone and dial 911.

Typically, a thin layer of cartilage and fluid inhabits the small space between the head of the "rock," or the thigh bone (also lovingly referred to as the femur) and the "paper," or the round concave part of the pelvis (the acetabulum).  When the head of the femur fits snugly and correctly into the acetabulum, there is less friction within the hip joint than one-tenth of that felt while gliding on ice.  (Whether this analysis was done after two hours of family free skate or on a freshly Zamboni'd rink was not mentioned.)

The Signs and Symptoms of FAI: Is that a pulled muscle in your groin, or are you just happy to see your physical therapist?

FAI seems to be all the rage these days, with everyone from our favorite Poker-Face'd pop star to a handful of sports-legends-whose-names-I'll never-remember retrieving a diagnosis.  But for many years, FAI was commonly misdiagnosed as a muscular injury, due to the hard-to-describe and often-changing nature of the pain it brings.  Most patients report a deep, aching pain in their groin area that increases with long periods of physical activity or sitting, so this is usually described as classic FAI-related pain.  But because the pain comes from the very middle of the upper-hip area, and can affect any part of the hip joint in particular, the pain may also be more intense in the front and side (anterolateral region) of the hip.  Many patients describe this pain to their doctor by cupping their hand into a C-shape and placing it on the hip to indicate the range of pain, like this:

"My hips, or in this case the 'C-sign,' don't lie."

I personally have never felt any groin pain along this journey, making the several weeks in which I attempted to self-diagnose using my WebMD degree from Google University a complete failure.  What I did feel was a dull pain after sitting, while running or walking, when standing on one leg, when jumping on one leg (oh, Lord, did I feel it when jumping on one leg), and when raising my knee.  And the famed "C-shape" just so happens to be the exact sign I showed to my doctor, and then to my physical therapist after two straight months of dull aching punctuated by the occasional sharp shock of pain jutting from my hip bone and half-way down my thigh.  But they don't tell you this at Google University.  (This pain also made for two straight months of crabby complaining and tears of hypochondriasis mixed with frustration.  Thanks for putting up with me - you know who you are).

For some unlucky folks, mysterious lower-back pain on the side of the affected hip as well as sciatic pain may also occur, making the diagnosis even more confusing.

Further complicating the differential diagnosis for FAI is the fact that the results of an x-ray, if ordered by a concerned but stumped doctor, will be labeled "normal."  "Normal" is radiologist speak for "no scary cracks or crevasses in your bones that we know of," but it doesn't mean your joint is necessarily shaped the way it should be.  One possible clue: my x-ray results suggested "minor calcification of the femoral acetabular area," meaning that the grinding bone-on-bone action (I see you in the back, snickering) had already caused some disturbance to the joint.  If that motion continues, I can look forward to an early-onset case of arthritis and possibly a bionic hip later in life.  Well, that's a bummer.

Who gets FAI?

Here's what makes FAI a complete bugger of a diagnosis.  Anyone can have FAI - all it takes is to unwittingly develop some wonky-shaped hip bones.  But FAI only starts to hurt when the bones have come into contact with each other due to constant, full-range motion.  Once any pain is felt, that means a certain amount of damage to the hip joint has already occurred.

The condition is usually asymptomatic (and therefore benign) unless you are an active individual who loves to get outside and breathe the fresh air, break a glistening sweat or feel the stuff of life pumping through your veins - be it in running shoes, a kayak, baseball cleats, or hockey skates.  That's right.  The stuff that puts zest into your life, that you anxiously await the weekend for, that makes life an adventure worth taking and a game worth playing...  is also causing you considerable, restricting pain that may give you arthritis way before all your friends get it.  And maybe even a shiny new hip before you can afford that retirement hotrod.

Well, this wasn't my exact idea of a mid-life crisis purchase.

In other words, FAI is most likely to affect individuals who just really can't have that kind of negativity in their life - who will be stopped by physical pain from fulfilling their life-enhancing hobbies and passions.  The pain can be at worst unbearable and debilitating, and at best nagging and guilt-inducing because should I really be out here running in the sunshine/shredding some gnarly powder/swimming with dolphins right now because my hip hurts kinda bad.

Generally, the populations most affected by FAI are recreationally active women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, and young-to-middle-aged male athletes.  Women are more likely to suffer from pincer ("paper") impingement, while men are more likely to be diagnosed with cam ("rock") impingement.

But don't go running for the Cherry Garcia just yet.  It's going to be ok (it better be).

Some stone fruit-flavored ice cream to take your mind off all the horrible things I just told you.

What can be done about FAI?

If you've only been dealing with pain for a few months to a year, a conservative course of anti-inflammatory meds and a round of physical therapy can be successful in alleviating symptoms and getting you back to doing the things you love.  Remember, this line of treatment cannot cure  FAI, but can reduce and prevent the pain and damage associated with it.  Physical therapy for FAI typically involves the use of targeted stretching techniques and devices that will help alleviate pressure in the joint and restore space between the femur and the acetabulum.  Special exercise routines can also help strengthen certain muscles that will help stabilize and protect the hip joint in the future, preventing further pain and damage as you eventually return full-force to your favorite activities.

Clamshell exercise using a resistance band, a common therapeutic technique for FAI.  Also, what Mickey Avalon was secretly writing about when he wrote about doing the Jane Fonda.

If ibuprofen and physical therapy don't appear to alleviate the symptoms of FAI, surgery may be considered.  For these forsaken athletes and active individuals who want to live free of pain and prevent joint damage, surgery can physically remove the bone overgrowth that is causing the impingement, as well as stimulate cartilage repair if needed.

Surgeries can be of the arthroscopic or open variety, the latter of which is usually only used in complex cases of FAI.  In arthroscopic surgery, a small hole is made near the hip, and a videocamera is inserted.  The surgeon then uses tiny tools to remove the offending bone material, using the video feed as a guide.  This procedure typically takes 1-2 hours and can be done as an outpatient.  In an open hip surgery, a larger, 7-10" incision is made on the side of the leg, and the joint is purposefully dislocated in order to remove bone material and repair damaged tissue.  A couple screws are then used to reattach the femur to the acetabulum.  This type of surgery takes a few hours to complete, and an overnight stay is usually recommended.  For either type of surgery, recovery time includes 3-4 weeks on crutches, 2-3 months of rehabilitation and strengthening, and another 3 months getting activity back to pre-pain levels.  Most patients report a full return to hop-, skip- and jumping after the 6-month mark.

Given that I became a blubbering bag of nerves and saline when I saw the IV needle before the teenage rite of passage called getting my wisdom teeth pulled, it's safe to say that I will be doing everything in my power to treat my hip pain surgery-free.  Needles are not welcome for an extended stay in the temple that is my body.  Rather, lots of stretching, traction devices resembling new-age torture machines, and the rubbery stench of Thera-bands are in my near future.  A slow and patient return to full activity is in my long-term plan.  But while I can't see myself going into a surgery without tearing through two boxes of Puffs, a few brown paper bags, and maybe a bottle of Xanax, it's even less likely that I will allow my condition to keep me from doing the things I love forever, including running with abandon - not gingerly limping - through the rain.  I've crossed my fingers that it won't have to come to that decision.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cravings Rehab: Ice Cream Edition

"Guess what 'You have a sweet tooth' means?  It doesn't mean you like candy; it means you want some!"

That esoteric quote is taken from an episode of Kid History, a homemade video series crafted by several Utah-based brothers who, after recounting various stories from their childhood to their young sons and daughters, have their children retell the yarns while adding in their vivid imagination and often-times irrelevant babbling.  The adults then act out the distorted scenes to the sound of their kids' helium-pitched voices.

The result is hysterical - and, just as innocent wisdom from a five-year-old is wont to be, unwittingly wise beyond its years.  Think about this: we often think of someone with a "sweet tooth" as having a chronic disease of sorts - an irreversible condition, able to be temporarily quelled with frequent shocks to the pancreas but never curable.  The sufferer of this condition believes he or she must simply eat enough nutritionally devoid, sucrose-laden treats to maintain some sense of normality while attempting to balance this with dreadful hours of cardio or steamed kale benders to pay for his or her "sins."

Health communicators, educators and practitioners typically prefer to speak in terms of infections or illnesses instead of diseases or conditions because this way of framing health issues moves the focus away from the "badness" or "other-ness" of the person who is afflicted and toward the actual illness itself - most importantly, how it can be best managed, treated and/or cured.  Seeing health issues through this lens re-humanizes and de-stigmatizes the patient so that his or her best interest, rather than social forces that turn the patient into an "other," guide interactions and drive solutions.

In reality, having a sweet tooth is much less about having a chronic disease in which you like candy and more about a temporary infection - a time and situation in which you just really, really want some.  I propose that it's high time to destigmatize the sweet-toothed "others" in our lives and instead focus on a treatment plan that can curb the effects of the illness and help these persons lead sustainable, vibrant, healthful lives - no hours upon hours logged on the treadmill needed (unless you're just really into that).

Are you ready for my brilliant idea?

The answer is, d'uhhhh - healthful ice cream!  Instead of being laden with heavy dairies and added sugars, all of these "nice cream" recipes use only plants for the creamy, sweet base of the dessert.  The best part?  There's a recipe for just about every occasion of your sweet-toothed life.

When you need some simplicity in your life:
The basic banana nice-cream
Serves 1

1 banana, as ripe as possible

Simply slice the banana into coins, then place the banana slices into a bag or airtight container and freeze for around 3-4 hours; you want the bananas almost completely frozen, but not rock-hard.  If you'd like to freeze overnight, simply thaw for 30 minutes before making your nice cream.

Place into a food processor or blender and blend, blend, blend until creamy!

Forget about dirtying another dish and eat it right out of the container - and go ahead, lick the blade.  I dare you.

The low-down: 105 calories per serving, 24 net carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g protein

When you feel like shakin' your hips:
The Elvis nice cream
 Serves 1
Adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie's recipe here

1 banana, as ripe as possible.
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional: a few shakes of sea salt for a mouth-watering salty-sweet combo
Make your basic banana nice cream, then add to the blender or processor the peanut butter.  Blend until well-mixed.  Add in your chocolate chips and optional salt, you hound dog.

The lowdown: 269 calories per serving, 36 carbs, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein

When your insufferable aunt is coming to town:
The better-than-Midol salted peanut butter brownie banana nice cream
Serves 1

1 banana, as ripe as possible
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp Dutched cocoa powder
1 tbsp peanut butter chips
Sea salt, to taste

Repeat the steps from the Elvis nice cream above, but adding in the tbsp of cocoa powder.  Substitute chocolate chips for peanut butter chips.  Be guiltlessly liberal in your salt intake - just this once.

The low-down: 300 calories per serving, 38 net carbs, 5 g fiber, 9 g protein

When Girl Scout cookie season is over:
Popeye's favorite Thin Mint nice cream
Serves 1
Adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie's recipe here

1 banana, as ripe as possible, 
1 handful (~ one loose cup) fresh baby spinach
Couple drops mint extract
1 tbsp semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
Optional: green food coloring

By now, you're probably a whiz at making the basic banana nice cream.  Add in your spinach, mint extract and optional food coloring to the mix and blend until smooth and very green.  Add in your chips and feel your biceps bulging by the minute.

The low-down: 182 calories per serving, 33 net carbs, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein, and 55% of your daily Vitamin A requirement!

When you need some good old-fashioned holiday cheer:
Pumpkin pie nice cream
Serves 1

1 banana, as ripe as possible
1/4 cup puréed pumpkin (or sweet potato!)
1 tsp sugar or cup-for-cup sweetener, like Splenda granular
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Optional: 1 tbsp bittersweet chocolate chips, sprinkle of graham cracker dust

Start out with your basic banana nice cream.  Add to the processor the pumpkin, sugar and spice.  For an extra bit of autumnal indulgence, sprinkle some chocolate chips and crushed graham cracker.  Pray for the weather to get crisper, knowing full well that in three months you'll be sorry you ever could ever want such a thing.

The low-down (including chocolate chips and 1 tbsp graham cracker dust): 220 calories, 39 net carbs, 5 g fiber, 2 g protein, and 192% of your daily vitamin A requirement!

When you need a 10-minute tropical getaway and your UB40 disc is nowhere to be found:
Succulent mango nice cream
Serves 1
Adapted from Elaine Gordon's recipe here

1 cup frozen mango chunks (buying pre-cut mangoes makes this super-quick and convenient.  To make this dish only 19 net carbs and add 4 g protein, buy mango pulp instead)
1 tbsp Splenda or sweetener of choice - like light agave syrup
1 tbsp orange juice

By now, you know the drill.  Place the frozen chunks in your best processor along with the sweetener and OJ and blend to your little heart's desire.  

The low-down: 120 calories per serving, 28 net carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g protein, and 84% of your daily recommended Vitamin C!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Well-Cultured Living: Yogurt, Three Ways

Usually, I like to do things around here This American Life-style: each week, I pick a theme (or nutrient) and bring you a number of recipes or information on that theme.  But today's post is going the way of a spotlight episode, where I focus solely on one glorious foodstuff without which my mornings would be  all too bleak, my calcium intake dramatically lower, and my beneficial gut flora much less populated.

Yes, ladies and gents.  It is yogurt, this magical substance of which I speak.  I've been nursing this addiction for a good four years now.

There are reams of studies dedicated to understanding and quantifying the beneficial effect of yogurt consumption on the human body.  In the nutrition world, probiotics are without a doubt the new black, and everyone wants a piece of this.  Why, exactly?

1. It's easier than pie to digest (or a tall glass of milk, for that matter).  Yogurt is a godsend for those who have a hard time processing the sugars or the proteins found in milk.  For one, the live bacteria in yogurt work to break down lactose into its two more easily digested building blocks, glucose and galactose.  Those same bacteria also happen to break down casein, the main milk protein, making the proteins found in a big tub o' the good stuff easier to absorb for some people than those found in milk.

2. It cleanses the colon, sans spontaneous sprints to the water closet.  If lactobacteria are the super-star family of bacteria analogous to the Jackson 5, then acidophilus is definitely their Michael.  Together, these tiny organisms promote the population of healthy flora in the colon while sweeping it clean of potentially carcinogenic bile compounds.  As a bonus, yogurt is high in calcium, clocking in at around 30-40% of the recommended daily intake for adults.  And as it just so happens, consumption of calcium is negatively associated with colorectal cancer rates.  One study even found that ingesting 1,200 mg a day of the stuff lowered the risk of colon cancer by as much as 75%.

3. It optimizes nutrient absorption.  It's a good thing there's so much calcium and B-vitamins in yogurt, because the culturing process makes these nutrients much more bioavailable - or ready for absorption and use by your body.

4. It grants you immunity better than Jeff Probst.  Consumption of moderate amounts of yogurt every day has been associated with a higher level of interferons, disease-fighting proteins, as well as their infection-roundhousing counterpart, white blood cells.  This is great news for those who ride public transportation often, work with the young or elderly, or just like to exist in the outside world more generally.  Too bad fewer sick days means fewer excuses for an all-day Survivor marathon.

5. It keeps the fungus among us at bay.  This includes the yeast responsible for the eponymous vaginal infection as well as other fungi, like malassezia, which may cause inflamed, flaky and itchy skin in areas like the scalp.

6. It's a prime vegetarian protein source.  A one-cup serving of yogurt has around 1/5 of a person's daily protein needs all by itself.  Moreover, these proteins are more easily digested than most.

Just imagine the possibilities if you combined a cup of the good stuff with a couple spoons of nut butter!  ...Well, we're going to do just that.

To nourish:
Peanut Bogart
Serves 1

3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt (use Greek if you prefer for an extra protein boost)
2 tbsp nut butter of choice 
1/3 cup blueberries
1 tbsp or more of cinnamon
sweetener, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir until well mixed.  Enjoy with a steaming hot cup o' joe or some OJ.  Bonus: not only are cinnamon and yogurt a dynamic duo when it comes to fighting nefarious fungi, but cinnamon can also help stabilize the effect of yogurt's sugars on blood glucose levels alongside the healthful fats and fiber from the nut butter and blueberries.  It's a big bowl of WIN.

The low-down: 336 calories, 25 g net carbs, 7 g fiber, 18 g protein, 461 mg calcium (46% of daily requirement!)

To shine:
Nourishing Yogurt Hair Masque

If you thought yogurt's power-packed combo of proteins, probiotics and lactic acid was only good for putting into your mouth, you thought wrong.  After all, protein is what hair is made of (and a lot of other things too).  But as hair is continually exposed to the chemical agents in shampoo, hair dye and swimming pools, microscopic holes in the hair shaft can start to form.  Treating the hair with proteins from yogurt can help fill in these gaps, rendering the hair shaft stronger and more resilient (and as a bonus, it will also hold onto hair color longer!)

So many of the compounds we expose our hair to on a regular basis are alkaline (have a pH higher than 7) - and this is especially true in the summertime.  The ammonia in permanent hair color, the chorine in swimming pools, the salt in seawater or in your beachy waves-inducing salt spray, all possess a pH that hovers above the neutral zone.  However, the pH of hair (and skin) is naturally slightly acidic, so it only makes sense that repeated exposure to basic elements might send your hair's natural state out of whack.  The acidic components found in yogurt and lemons help restore the scalp's natural pH balance, helping to ease dry or flaky skin, as well as add shine and moisture restoration to limp, weary locks.  And what a better time to introduce this fix-all formula than the end of summer to help your hair bounce back from a season of sun, salt, and swimming?

Excuse me, is this where I audition for the Garnier commercial?  
1 cup plain yogurt:
           for a strengthening and revitalizing masque, use non-fat
           for shine, lustre and moisturization, use full-fat
           for a little bit of both, use low-fat
1 tbsp almond or coconut oil
1 tbsp color-enhancer
           for a brighter blonde with sunny highlights, use 1 tbsp lemon juice
           for a richer, velvetty brunette, use 2 tbsp cocoa powder + 2 tbsp honey (to make sure blondes don't have more pH-balancing fun, choose the least processed, lightest-colored cocoa powder you can find - cocoa becomes more basic as it is processed)
Saran-Wrap or an old-timey shower cap
A face rag or towel for drippage control
Time: the more, the better!

Select the ingredients recommended for your desired outcome and mix in a bowl.  Place a towel over your shoulders and carefully spread the good stuff around the front, sides and back of your hairline, working toward the ends of the hair.  Once all hair is well-saturated, twist into a bun on the top of the head and cover with Saran Wrap.  The wrap will not only protect from spills once your head heats up the yogurt into a liquidy state, but it will also trap that heat and optimize the masquing process.


...and after!
Leave on for as long as desired, or as long as you can.  Wash out with your regular shampoo once or twice, and let naturally dry.  Style as usual and enjoy your revitalized locks!

To glow:
Yogurt Lemon Cream Dream Facial

By this time, you're likely sitting alone, avoiding all human contact as the pungent odor of fresh yogurt wafts through your nose.  But speaking of your nose, I think your face is getting jealous of all that attention - so you may as well appease it with a face masque to complete your head-to-toe dairy-aisle makeover.  The proteins in the yogurt will plump up your mug, while its lactic acid helps slough off dead skin that can dullen your skin tone and texture.  And like hair, the natural pH of skin is slightly acidic.  The alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and vitamin C in the lemon juice restore your skin's natural pH while fighting hyperpigmentation - or the dark spots that arise from the dermatological woe trifecta of acne, aging and sun damage - and working to noticeably brighten skin tone and improve elasticity.  

2 tbsp plain yogurt - whichever type you used for your hair masque
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix both ingredients in a bowl and apply carefully to a dry, clean face.  For a one-two punch, apply the facial about 20 minutes before you intend on washing out the hair masque.  Use warm water and a gentle cleanser to rinse your face, and don't forget to finish with a liberal dose of face lotion and sunscreen, since AHA might make your skin more prone to sunburn for a while.

Question of the day: what is YOUR favorite way to eat yogurt?  I just had mine for lunch yesterday in a Green Monster smoothie: 1/2 cup yogurt, a cup of milk, one banana, a peeled kiwi, a handful of blueberries and about three cups of spinach - it tasted so decadent, I couldn't shake myself to realize how nutrient-packed it was!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fuel-up Fridays: Turning Manganese

After the past two Fuel-up Fridays focused on big, bad macronutrients fiber and protein, it may seem strange that today we're taking a closer look at a trace mineral - one that comes in such small quantities, in fact, that there's only about 15 mg of it in an entire human body.  But I believe that in the world of nutrition, there are no parts too small to devote at least devote a blog post to.

One immensely powerful piece of wisdom that anyone who has ever faced a life-changing illness in their lifetime can tell you is this: we tend to take the millions and billions of microscopic interactions that happen every day to make our bodies work the way they're supposed to for granted - until, of course, that one little thing stops working.  That one little factor that's supposed to control cell replication goes MIA, or that one little enzyme that's supposed to process certain foods we eat is suddenly kaput.  And while we can't control everything our bodies do (or don't do), we can appreciate the health we have today, and all of the millions of micro-level events that let us enjoy the life we live.  One way to appreciate those tiny but all-powerful functions is to learn more about them and to choose the fuel that will maximize the output of those tireless molecular workers.

If your only remaining thought is something like, "Why start with manganese?  There are so many incredible trace elements to explore in the big world out there!" then I concede that you have a point.  Confession time: manganese gets a default as my favorite micronutrient out there.  In my vivid dietary imagination, he's shaped like a tiny peanut, but he tastes like a chickpea and he's got a heart made out of nutty-tasting roasted tempeh.  Yeah, that little buddy is my kind of guy.

Awwww, isn't he the cutest?

All bizarre and somewhat anthropomorphic representations of elements aside, manganese plays an integral role in several of the body's vital chemical interactions.  

1. It helps put good things to use.  Many of the benefits of manganese have to do with its role as a coenzyme: as a chemical that works in tandem with an enzyme and which makes the enzyme's main goal - namely, of changing one compound into another - possible.  (See last week's post on proteins for a few examples of enzymatic activity).  Manganese specifically aids the enzymes needed for proper use of biotin, thiamin (vitamin B1), and vitamin C.  It also aids the metabolism of foods into energy, helps repair wounds and damaged tissues, and plays a vital role in the building of strong bones. 

2. It helps take out the trash.  In another reprise of its award-winning role as coenzyme, manganese supports the function of the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which zaps free radicals and prevents inflammation and cell damage caused by oxidation.  Because tissue damage and inflammation are primary suspects in the development of cancerous cells, the role of manganese in aiding antioxidative activity against these cellular demons cannot be understated.  

3. It helps shuttle other vital minerals to where they're needed.  Proper absorption and transport of minerals is necessary for healthy skin, bones and cartilage so you can shine from the inside out.

4. It promotes (glucose) tolerance.  Though more research is needed on this subject, it is widely agreed that manganese helps the body process sugar in a way that keeps levels of blood glucose - and the fat storage, emotional roller-coaster, and energy swings that come with it - under control.

5.  It's a systems administrator.  Due to its role in the building of nervous tissue, the effects of manganese are seen in the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.  Similarly, because manganese plays a part in the development of sex hormones, it helps keep a smooth-running reproductive system, aids fertility, and may even alleviate PMS symptoms in women.  

Though manganese may be small, you definitely don't want to live without it around to help a brother/enzyme out.  And while it's fortunately pretty easy to get enough manganese simply by eating whole grains, legumes, leafy greens and fruits, the typical American diet high in white and "wheat" carbs and low in anything the color green may contribute to a suboptimal level of even this trace nutrient.  As always, here are a few recipes that pack a manganese punch (and taste pretty damn good, too!).  There's even a mouth-watering, flourless and vegan dessert to try.

Overnight Peanut Butter Brownie Oats
Serves 1
Adapted from Kath's recipe here

1/3 cup raw old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup milk (I use Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk - 40 calories and 1 net carb/cup with a hint of sweet vanilla!)
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt (can use Greek yogurt if you like)
2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or chunky - your preference!)
1 tbsp cocoa powder - if you really wanna go for the brownie flavor, use Dutch cocoa processed with alkali
Some sweetener, to taste

The night before (or at least 3 hours before) you plan to sow your wild oats, combine the oats, milk and yogurt in a jar or other airtight container.  (If your peanut butter consumption rate is anywhere near mine, this is a great use for an old washed PB jar!)  Simply seal and stick in the fridge.  When it's time to reap what you've sown (sorry), mix in the peanut butter and the cocoa powder and enjoy!  Try substituting the cocoa powder for a tsp or two of cinnamon for a snickerdoodle twist.

The low-down: 350 calories per serving, 19 g net carbs, 7 g fiber, 14 g protein, 3.4 mg manganese (171% of daily requirement)

Nutty Hummus Sandwich
Serves 1
Invented by Adam LaMotte

2 pieces lite bread
2 tbsp hummus
1 oz (about 3 tbsp) Spanish red-skinned peanuts

Toast both pieces of bread.  Then, spread one tbsp of hummus on each piece.  On one piece of hummus-toast, sprinkle the peanuts, ensuring that they cover the area uniformly.  Slap on the other side and enjoy!  For a spicy twist on my old favorite, throw in a couple of wasabi peas.  As my good friend Mr. Gump would say, "you never know what you're gonna get!"

The low-down: 330 calories per sandwich, 21 g net carbs, 8 g fiber, 16 g protein, 1.5 mg manganese (75% of daily requirement)

Maple-Roasted Tempeh Encrusted in Pistachios
Serves 2
Adapted from Vegangela's recipe here

1 8oz package tempeh
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly oil it.  Cut the tempeh into two equal pieces, set them on the foil, and lightly sprinkle salt and pepper.  

In a bowl, stir maple syrup, curry powder and mustard together.  Spoon half of the mixture over the tempeh, and then sprinkle with the pistachios.  Spoon the remaining mixture over the nuts.  

Let bake for 15 minutes.

The low-down: 510 calories per serving, 36 g net carbs, 16 g fiber, 29 g protein (!!!), 3.9 mg manganese (195% of daily requirement!)

Deep-Dish Cinnamon Roll Pie
Serves 8
Adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie's recipes here and here

For the pie:

1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed 
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp almond, coconut or canola oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 cups sweetener (Splenda granular works great)
2 tbsp cinnamon

For the vegan cream cheese frosting:

1/4 cup silken tofu
4 tbsp vegan cream cheese
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp non-dairy milk
sweetener to taste

Preheat your oven to 350˚F.  Blend all pie ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  If you didn't really spring for the big bucks on a processor like me, you may need to intermittently scrape down the sides of the bowl while blending.  Pour into a lightly oiled 9" pan or pie tin.  

Bake for 35 minutes.  While pie is baking, blend all frosting ingredients in your re-washed food processor until very smooth.  

Once the pie is done, transfer the frosting into a microwave-safe bowl and zap for about 30 seconds.  Slather the whole hell outta the thing in warm drippy goodness.  Enjoy free of guilt.

The low-down: 216 calories per slice, 22 g net carbs, 7 g fiber, 7 g protein, 1.9 mg manganese (95% of daily requirement)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Changing Gears: Transition to a Fall Wardrobe with Pieces You Already Own

The sun is still beating oppressively down the sidewalk on my street every late afternoon, the cravings for chilled-to-the-bone guava-infused kombucha remain at their height, and my maxi dress and dark-wash cutoffs are still on maximum rotation in my wardrobe.  But by the look of the check-out aisle at my local Stop and Shop, you'd think it was already time to find "392 pieces that'll make you fall for fall."  At least this perpetual case of fashion time-warp is better than the Christmas craft ideas that have been creeping up on Pinterest since mid-July.

Truth is, the twilight of freedom, recreation and rejuvenation that is the end of summer has long known one cure and one cure only: new clothes.  In my childhood, as I inevitably sunk into a yearly sullen depression as the Alaskan midnight sunlight began to wane and the fireweed blooms crept slowly to the tops of the stalk, my mother administered the one antidote that was sure to work: we would go shopping for new school clothes today, she informed me.  But I wouldn't be able to wear any of those shiny new garments until the first day of school.

Within minutes, you bet I had my calendar marked for labor day.

Strangely, for a season which plays such an elegantly aging foil to the juvenile playfulness of spring and the nubile sensuality of summer, in the fashion world autumn is the epitome of newness.  Collections of rich jewel tones and cool neutrals, spicy pumpkins and ravishing cranberries; the perennial arrival of scarves and knits and riding boots; the refreshing notion of wearing layer upon layer of crisp denim.  Prim hemlines.  Authoritative blazers.    Fuzzy-wuzzy lush cashmere blanket-sweaters.

As a first-year grad student next month, I'm one of the lucky few of my recently graduated friends who has the chance to continue the tradition of a new wardrobe to match my fresh set of pencils and virgin pink pearl eraser.  However, I'm not so lucky to be living without the anxiety-inducing threat of thousands of dollars of student debt, so it's not just the cashmere that's out of question according to my budget this year.

Luckily, using a few timeless pieces in combination with still-hot trends from this summer, anyone can create a look that eases into fall as gently as a crisp golden leaf floating down to a still blue lake - without breaking the bank.  Here's how.

Straw hat, chambray blouse: GAP
Yellow beaded tank: Target
Geode pendant necklace: American Eagle
Coral round-toe flats: Old Navy
Striped skirt: Brass Plum
1. Simmer down spicy summer tones with cool blues.  To keep you warm as the thermometer starts to dip while simultaneously cooling down your color palate, try adding a classic chambray button-up over your favorite bright-colored tank, or experiment with Oxford-worthy back-to-school stripes in combination with a pop of citrus hues.  Don't be afraid to keep some of your favorite summer finds, like a beach hat or southwestern print, in rotation during the warmer parts of fall.

An accent of golden jewelry rings in the warm metallic tones of autumn, but an unexpected twist of turquoise and citrus keeps you looking fresh.

Blue lace shift dress, chunky jewelry: H&M
Black satin-y ruched blazer: Charlotte Russe
Leopard-print flats: Target
Nail polish: NYC In a New York Minute in 232 Lincoln Center
2. When things get shifty, don't be afraid take a walk on the wild side.  The shift silhouette, reminiscent of '20s flapper girls and '60s mod mistresses, has made a huge comeback this year, likely thanks to the popularity of sartorially rich dramas Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men.  And just like these shows, the shift dress has staying power that is sure to last all through the upcoming season.  Whereas before we have embraced this versatile style to indulge in the breezy, relaxed fits of summer weather, however, it's time to embrace the crisp contours that fall is known for.  Throw on a snazzy ruched blazer to add shape and intrigue in contrast to the shift's traditionally straight silhouette - or use a cinched belt if you really wanna throw a curveball - and accessorize with bold, chunky statement jewelry or animal print kicks to make a home run.  Top it off with one of this season's most sought-after nail tones, a deliciously deep and velvety espresso.

A bold jewelry set, wake-'em-up nails and fierce footwear: it's a wild combination.

3. Tone it down with brown.  Hot pinks and flirtatious florals were all the rage for summer 2012, but there's no need to give up on your new skinnies just yet - the floral trend has staying power and Pantone has named "Pink Flambé" 17-1463 as one of their top hues for this fall.  To make a smooth transition to cooler temps and rich scenery, use classic neutral pieces like a brown belt for floral bottoms to match camel-toned kicks.  The trick is to keep the pop of bubblegum pink as an accent that will make your earth tones anything but boring.  Adding a dark midnight hue to earth-toned articles will also bring your flowers down-to-earth.

Floral pants, neutral ring set: H&M
Navy v-neck tee, brown belt: American Eagle
Pink and white pearl necklace: Forever 21
Brown loafers: Old Navy
Nail polish: NYC Long Wearing Enamel in 111 Fuschia Shock Creme

Though Beck is seldom wrong about anything, I highly refute
his assertion that beige is the color of resignation.  At least not when combined with a daring dash of blazing pink!

Black leggings: Target
Breezy tangerine blouse: boutique
Earrings, scarf, orange ring: gift
Green polka-dot wedges: Payless
Nail color: NYC In a New York Minute in 221 Spring Street
4. Get lost in the Tropics with an Amelia-worthy scarf.  Light, flowy, resort-inspired tops are a perennial summer favorite.  But you don't have to tearfully shove your favorite warm-weather blouse into the musty depths of your closet just to prove to people you know what month it is.  Adding a middle-weight scarf will add functional warmth as well as sophistication to your look.  Rather than trounce around in autumn rain in your worn-thin gladiator sandals, trade them for some prim pumps in a cute color that will catch eyes and add a spring to your equinoctial step.  Layer the whole thing over simple leggings that will balance out the volume on top while shielding your legs from cool night winds.  Paradise is what you make of it, baby.

And just your luck, tangerine is the official "color of the year" according to the all-knowing gods of color at Pantone, so if you've got some favorite Vitamin C-rich pieces from seasons past, keep them alive straight into clementine season!
5. Add a timeless touch to your of-the-moment piece.  Stud-spangled and military-inspired pieces were all over the runways this season, and their versatility and eye-catching textures will ensure that they play a big role in fall 2012.  One surefire way to transition a look from a hot summer trend to a timeless fall favorite is to mix in a few pieces that harken back to history.  For instance, if those hot-right-now T-strap booties have gathered just a tad bit of grime from the proprietary grass/mud/patchouli mixture at your hometown summer concert series, swap 'em for some sensible yet stylish flats that infuse your edgy attire with a more classic, work-ready feel.  These and other vintage-inspired pieces like a chain necklace, a wide Bake-lite bangle or two, and dark hose to match the longer, darker nights ahead, will give you a look that's made to last.  To polish off your sartorial time machine, paint your nails an ever-chic nude or deep velvety red hue and swipe on some cat-eyed liquid eyeliner.
Studded navy dress: H&M
Chain locket necklace, red plastic bangle: gift
Leopard-print flats: Target
Nail colors: Confetti Long-Wearing Color in 043 Heartthrob and
NYC In a New York Minute Color in 228 Chelsea

6. Take your look to the woods.  Fall is prime huntin' season in many parts of the country, but if you're like most Americans after a summer of vacations, staycations and daycations, you've probably got little monetary means left to go on a successful hunt for new wardrobe elements.  With natural earth tones and some warm tights and booties, however, you can easily soup up a favorite summer dress.  The trick is to keep eyes away from dead-giveaways like breezy eyelets by squeezing the trigger on an earthy cardigan and ornithological accessories, like a blinged-out owl ring or a feathery necklace.  And while a real hunting trip often entails an uncomfortable amount of boredom, waiting and shivering, you can keep your fashion quest interesting by mixing the feminine appeal of a dress with a pair of functionally fierce boots.  To keep you warm from head to toe, add a pop of bright colored tights inspired by the great outdoors - like an ocean blue or woodsy green - and tie it all together with the talons painted to match.

Black eyelet sundress: American Eagle
Brown booties, leopard-print cardigan: H&M
Bejeweled owl ring: Forever 21
Nail color: NYC Long-Lasting Color in 140 Empire State Blue
Woodsy footwear can take you from the beach to the forest in five seconds flat - and they'll keep you warm, to boot!

7. Rock out with your frock out.  You didn't think I'd write an article on updating summer pieces for cooler weather without addressing the ubiquitous maxi dress, did you?  While it may not seem so at first, the length and natural feel of the maxi-dress can actually serve to make it into a summer-fall crossover piece extraordinaire.  But while overdosing on so much boho that kombucha streams from your pores is acceptable in warm, carefree summer, the goal when autumn arrives is to shoot for a look that is equal parts Sid Vicious and Jerry Garcia.   Layering a pleather bomber jacket over a maxi adds warmth and coverage to the bare-skin summer look; combine this with a few nostalgic rock-'n'-roll jewelry pieces and your favorite Ray-Bans (or their respective knock-offs) and you're set.  Rather than try to hide your maxi's tell-tale bright summer color scheme, utilize it to keep you feeling perky even when the temperature drops and the sun threatens hibernation.  To do this, add a few matching accent pieces like bright, light footwear or fun rainbow hand jewelry.  Tie the whole look together with a cool neutral nail tone that is just enough "rock" to pull the whole look out of a summer daze for good.
Tribal print maxi dress, coral espadrilles, brown bomber jacket: Target
Sharktooth necklace: Payless
Blue and coral bangle set, large hoop earrings: H&M
Nail color: Sally Hansen Hard as Nail Xtreme Wear in 4860-61 Grey Area
8. Star in your own spaghetti western.  If summer is all about nautical themes, breezy lightweight knits and Mediterranean hues, fall is the time to shine for everything Western and equine.  If your boatneck sailor tee makes you feel as though you're lazing on the French riviera, why throw such a good thing to the bottom of your drawers for re-emergence 9 months later?  Instead, dare to mix prints and marry your Euro-stripes with a flirtatious and flowery voluminous skirt and some wild western classic pieces (after all, if all of those straightshootin' outlaw cowboys never gave a second thought for the rules, why should we?)  For brisk morning trots to school or work, layer a distressed denim jacket and trade in your summery Sperries for hardy cowgirl boots.  To lasso the look together, take cues from your floral piece and incorporate fun, bright accessories that liven up your neutral and denim elements.  

Floral skirt: J.C. Penney
Striped boatneck tee, ankle boots, canary crossstrap bag: H&M
Distressed denim jacket: GAP
Nail color: Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear in 4860-27 Mellow Yellow

This post is dedicated to Helen Gurley Brown, 1922-2012.  Foxy trail-blazer of fashion, pioneering sexual revolutionary and fierce feminist icon.  You will be missed.