Category: Dana's Tips
Posted by: Dana
5 tips to get your steps in…
Dana Yarn, Registered Dietitian & Certified Personal Trainer

When I was younger I always used to think that walking was for "old people" or those who were beginners, but now that I have researched the damaging effects of sitting all day I think walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

1.Did you know in order to be classified as “active” in your daily lifestyle (not including exercise) you should be walking 10,000+ steps per day? The average working American thinks that they are active (because we work and over schedule our lives) but when they actually measured their activity with a device they were classified as sedentary. The bottom line is we do not move enough. Here are the general guidelines for activity measured in steps.

<5000 steps/day = sedentary
5000-7499 steps/day = somewhat active
7500-9999 steps/day = somewhat active
10,000-12,500 steps/day = active
>12,500 steps/day = highly active

2.Set a daily goal of how many steps you want to get in and buy an activity monitor to accurately measure your steps. The Fitbit is a great device that not only accurately measures steps but will effortlessly download to your computer so you can see the trend of your daily activity over time.

3.Make small lifestyle changes throughout the day. The most common things you can do include parking your car far away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or going for walks after dinner instead of watching television. Sometimes even those things above will not get your daily activity to the “active level”. Other ideas include taking a work meeting with a colleague(s) outside for a walk around your building and use a voice recorder app on your phone to take notes instead of sitting and taking notes. Avoid going out to eat and sitting in a restaurant for your lunch break, instead bring your lunch to work and eat at your desk and use your lunch hour to go for a walk outside or if it is too cold or hot walk outside go to a local mall or store instead.

4.Go crazy when you clean at home. I noticed I was personally stacking items on the stairs so I would not have to make multiple trips, then I made it a rule to never leave things on the stairs and my daily steps started to multiple. Cleaning sessions can be done with the intention of getting a mild workout in, this way you have purpose and the session will probably be done more quickly.

5. Sign up for an event with a friend or local group from work, church or a social run/walk club, they are typically free and a great social outlet! A local 5k or 10k is a great starting option, when choosing an event. If you have registered for an event it gives you a deeper feeling of commitment and accountability to get in shape for it. You are less likely to skip workouts and walking/running sessions because you want to feel your best on “race day.”

Get out there and get those steps in!
Category: Dana's Tips
Posted by: Dana
When people think about food they often think about how it taste, looks, smells and feels in their mouth. Typically we do not consider what the food actually does to our bodies. When you have a child with autism or a related disorder it is important to realize that food is something more then just the pleasure of eating. What your child consumes will have a major impact on their brain and body function. It is your role as a parent to know exactly how food effects and impacts your child’s body.

Nutritional Considerations in relation to Autism

Brain Function. The calories, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids found in food are a necessity to your child’s brain development. If your child is lacking in any of the above nutrients their neurotransmitter production will be effected and visual and cognitive processing will be compromised. If your child is consuming too much sugar, artificial sweeteners or additives the brain function will be negatively affected and behavior a learning problems may develop.

Detoxification. Exposure to neurotoxins can do damage to your child’s brain and nervous system which in turn can cause them to have a lower IQ, learning disabilities, compulsive behavior, aggression, motor dysfunction, developmental delays to name a few. By consuming nutrients like zinc, magnesium, selenium, beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E and choline help the body naturally get rid of harmful toxins like mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PCB’s, pesticides and solvents.

Digestive Health. The amino acid Glutamine requires a constant supply of vitamins and minerals to maintain the health of the digestive tract. If your child is deficient in any nutrients it can impact the cellular growth of he gastrointestinal tract. This hinders the body from absorbing nutrients form foods which negatively impact the brain and the body. Sources of glutamine include: cabbage, beets, beef, chicken, fish, beans and dairy products.

Immune Function. Poor nutrition puts your child at risk for developing allergies, acute and chronic illnesses, respiratory infections, and ear infections. Our immune system relies on vitamin C, vitamin A, Vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, selenium, zinc, and flavonoids to function at its best level. By ensuring your child consumes these nutrients they will not further complicate their disorder.

Anemia. Dietary deficiencies in iron, vitamin B6, copper, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin C and vitamin E can cause anemia. Anemia can lead to irritability, headaches, and loss of appetite, lethargy, hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and poor performance in school.

The first step to your child’s healthy diet

There are advanced nutrition plans out there for Autism and a common mistake for a lot of families is they start out with these complicated therapies rather then starting with the basics. Think of nutrition as a building block, each step builds upon the other, start with identifying and resolving the basic nutrition issues and then build upon those.
Eliminate Food Synthetic Food Additives

Food has changed so much in the past 40 years. Today, children typically consume highly processed, low nutrient, chemically preserved meals and snacks. Studies correlate the increase in chemicals, excess sugar, trans fat, preservatives in our food to the increase of developmental and neurological disorders in our children. The first step is to transition your child into a diet that consist of whole foods, and eliminate artificial ingredients.

There are 24 different types of synthetic food additives found in the foods we eat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to approve the additive and deem it “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). This means it is proven to be safe for the general population and does not promote any health hazards such as cancer. Unfortunately in all of the mainstream foods we consume additives and chemicals in every bite and no one truly knows the effects that these chemicals have on our health. More importantly the medical community does not know the short and long term effects that these chemicals have on a child’s developing brain and nervous system. The particular concerns for Autism are artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners.

Limit Exposure to Pesticides

The best way to limit your child’s exposure to pesticides is to buy organic or all natural foods whenever possible. These foods are grown, handled and processed without the use of artificial pesticides, artificial fertilizers, sewage sludge, artificial additives, hormones or antibiotics. They do not contain genetically modified ingredients. Animal research has shown pesticides can affect a developing fetus and normal brain development, resulting in hyperactivity, and learning and developmental disabilities. You cannot completely control the amount of pesticides your child is exposed to; you are capable of lowering their exposure by purchasing certified organic or all natural foods whenever possible.

Limit Refined Sugar

Sucrose, also known as white sugar or table sugar has been the sugar of choice to sweeten food and drinks. In the past decade, high fructose corn syrup has begun to replace sucrose in many processed foods in the United States. High fructose corn syrup is much sweeter than sugar and some health professionals relate it’s consumption to increasing your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and excess weight gain.
In most children consuming excess sugar is related to behavioral problems. It is a simple carbohydrate that is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and blood sugar rises followed by a rapid fall in blood sugar. Children are sensitive to this response and their bodies overact with a biochemical response that can lead to negative behavioral symptoms. Symptoms include nervousness, fatigue, confusion, anxiety, depression, and irritability. In conclusion sugar sets into motion a biochemical response in a child’s body that can lead to behavioral problems.

Eliminate Trans Fat

Trans fat is a product of hydrogenation, which is the process where hydrogen is added to a liquid vegetable oil creating a more dense fat. Partially hydrogenated fats (trans fat) have replaced natural solid fats and natural liquid oils in our foods because it’s cheaper to use then the real thing and they prolong the shelf life and flavor stability of foods.

There are several reasons we should stay away from trans fats. They raise our bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease our good cholesterol (HDL) levels therefore increasing our risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer, 0 grams are recommended daily. For a child with autism there is a negative impact on the liver, specifically affecting the enzyme delta 6 desaturase, which is a critical process of converting omega 3 and 6 fatty acids found in foods into active forms. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are critical for brain development, brain function, and vision processing. Research has shown that children with autism, or related disorders already have low levels of delta 6 desaturase, when they consume trans fat, it makes their situations worse.

Increase Omega-3 fatty acids

Essential fatty acids (EFA) are necessary fats that our bodies can’t make and must be obtained through diet. There are 2 groups of EFA’s, omega-3 and omega-6. The American diet provides too many omega-6 and too little omega-3. The deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet has been linked to autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and anxiety.

Research shows incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into children’s diets improve poor learning and behavioral problems. Omega 3- fatty acids can be found in fish, flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. Supplements can also be incorporated, seek advice from your doctor regarding proper dosage.

Category: Dana's Tips
Posted by: Dana
When I initially became interested in nutrition and fitness it was through running and triathlon. Then in college I became fascinated with physique competition, including bodybuilding, fitness and figure competitions. I competed years ago and it was my first and last show to date.

I approached the entire competition with a militant attitude (which is common among some competitors). I remember endless hours of cardio, plain and boring low carb and fat food, and my social life went down the drain. It was my junior year in college and the show was in the middle of July (prime time for some serious parties and typical college lifestyle). We rode our beach cruisers to the bars and clubs, life was great. During my competition prep I can remember everyone else drinking mojitos and chowing down on bar food on the 4th of July, but not me, I was 2 weeks out from my show! I had a protein shake in my bike basket and my muscles were so flat from carb depleting that I did not have the energy to ride my bike past 7pm. I bailed on my friends early and listened to fireworks in bed.

Looking back I made some serious sacrafices to my overall quality of life. Sure I looked great in a bikini, but the aftermath of the competition was devastating, I gained over 20 pounds in a couple of weeks, my kidneys hurt from depleting water, I was bloated every time I ate and if I would have known back then what adrenal fatigue was I am sure I was in it.

There is a right way to compete in physique competitions and my above experience was not the right way. If this is something that you are interested in doing hire a trainer and nutrition coach who have references and the diet and exercise routine should not be daunting. Save your thyroid and adrenal glands from metabolic damage and have a health professional guide you every step of the way.

The moral of that story is to be successful at weight management and have a optimal functioning metabolism we need to have a balanced lifestyle. Enjoying the company of family and friends, eating healthy food that still taste good, and staying active daily without an obsessive mindset is the key to achieving long term results.

If you are bored with your current fitness routine it is time to make some changes.

Get outside, life is too short to be stuck on a stationary cardio machine every day, breathe fresh air and absorb your surroundings. Sure you may not be able to do this every day but try to do it more then you already do.

Try something new, go to a dance class, rent a kayak (in a few months, I do realize it's January, haha), go for a hike in park that has some beautiful scenery, take a new group fitness class at your health club, or hire a trainer, join a boot camp or ask a friend to be your workout buddy.

Don't go for quantity, go for quality. If you strive to be "moving" daily, ie. parking far away, walking your dog, getting up and out from behind your desk, playing active games with your kids, taking the stairs vs. the elevator, etc. you really only need to exercise with intention for 30-45 minutes per day. Buy a pedometer or a activity monitor "ftibit" and strive to walk 10,000 steps per day in addition to some weight training and yoga/Pilates. The pedometers or activity monitors will make you will think twice about leaving laundry on your stairs, multiple trips will help you get those steps in.

If you are bored with your nutrition, it is time to shake it up!

Look up different recipes that are NOT low fat or laced with harmful sugar substitute chemicals. Some great resources for recipes that I personally use daily include: or or

Stay up on the latest. Read healthy blogs, books, etc. Every night I read myself to sleep with a nutrition book (reading beats the heck out of reality TV and it does not suppress natural melatonin production making it hard to fall asleep). If you understand the reason why you should avoid certain foods and limit grains and sugars you will most likely stick to it more. A few of my favorite books include:

Wheat Belly, Ultrametabolism, Cracking the Metabolic Code, Primal Diet, etc.

If cooking is overwhelming to you and your schedule consider investing in a personal chef. I know you probably are thinking that personal chef services are only for the extremely wealthy, but the price of chef services is actually quite reasonable, especially if you compare it to the amount of money you spend eating out. A chef will take care of the shopping, menu planning and preparation. I have hired chef's for clients and it has made a world of difference in their overall health. Just make sure you get a Chef who specializes in grain, gluten, and modified to low sugar/carbohydrate preparation, interview several and ask for references. Be firm with your lifestyle and how you want things to be prepared, limit grains, sugars, and processed additives and flours.

Make it a year full of exciting exercise and nutrition!

In Health,