Protein-Packed Cottage Cheese Makes a Comeback

Retro it may be, but there’s no need to mess with a classic. My fridge is never without cottage cheese. Some may consider it a throwback to the dieter’s plate at best or the curds and whey that frightened many away at worst. To the haters I say this: cottage cheese is a delicious, lean protein and a versatile low-fat dairy option. Today there are many brands that put flavor first, capable of knocking the canned pineapple ring right off your grandmother’s dieting block. It’s time for cottage cheese to have its due.

Nutritionally, cottage cheese is your friend. One cup has 28 grams of lean protein, more than twice as much as the same amount of plain yogurt. Calorically they’re about the same; cottage cheese has 160 to yogurt’s 150. It also has less sugar: 3 grams compared to yogurt’s 10. Oh, and don’t be fooled into thinking that cottage cheese is only a mealtime pursuit. It, and other casein-based dairy, can also help you catch your ZZZs. Our curdled queen is not without her drawbacks, however: Cottage cheese has a lot of sodium —about twice as much as yogurt — meaning it might not be right for every diet.


Cottage cheese has more chew than yogurt, which I think makes it feel less like a slurp and more like a meal. On its own, cottage cheese is sublime. But it cannot be beat with cinnamon and sugar or sprinkled with garlic salt. It also adds creaminess and protein when tossed with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and black olives, or just about any other combination of salad vegetables. While it is delicious with any sweet, acidic fruit (peaches and pineapples, we’re talking to you!), it is ethereal scooped into the center of half a cantaloupe — a simple dish far more than the sum of its parts.

Big cottage cheese has taken note of yogurt’s portability and flavors, and the market is starting to update this long-lost cousin. If you were forced to eat cottage cheese as a child, know that its flavor, texture and self-identity have come a long way. Small, regional brands like Cowgirl Creamery, Traders Point, Nancy’s, Kalona SuperNatural and Muuna offer delicious, well-crafted and often organic options that taste great. Single-serving cottage cheese containers are not new, but they are looking for more mass appeal in grab ‘n go snacking. Hood offers single-serving containers in flavors like honey and pear or cucumber and dill. Good Culture’s brand offers single cups flavored with kalamata olive or blueberry acai chia.


In the kitchen, yogurt’s flavor is either sweetened or sour, limiting its play with other foods. But cottage cheese’s wild-by-mild properties make it a cooking ninja, able to play the role of a number of other more high-fat foods. Use it instead of mayonnaise in tuna or egg salad. Try it atop a bagel in place of a cream cheese schmear. Cottage cheese can happily take the place of ricotta, too, drained or as-is, stuffed into pasta, centered into omelets, or stirred into pancakes. Use less butter and sour cream on your baked potato and replace it with — you guessed it — cottage cheese to add some moisture and creaminess. Even cheesecake is a welcome home, as cottage cheese can take the place of the cream cheese in the mix.

No matter how you scoop it, cottage cheese makes a tasty, nutritious mark.

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10 Doctor-Approved Tips for a Great Night’s Sleep [Infographic]

In celebration of Sleep Awareness Week (April 23–29), MyFitnessPal and Thrive Global collaborated to bring you this science-backed sleep advice.

It’s not the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll that’s going to kill you, Keith Richards is proof of that. Surprisingly, the factor which is going to affect the longevity and quality of your life the most is sleep. That’s right, that thing you try to catch up on. The thing you typically sacrifice first when you have a project that needs to get done. Those precious minutes you decide to keep your eyes open are the same thing that keeps them shut forever. Think I’m being melodramatic?

A new study by Maiken Nedergaard and her colleagues at the University of Rochester  illustrates that sleep relaxes the channels in our brain which help ‘wash out’ unwanted waste and proteins. Just as the lymphatic system clears out metabolic waste products from the rest of the body, this system transports waste-laden cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). In the study, it showed channels moving the CSF grew 60% in size while mice slept allowing neurotoxins to be moved out of the brain more quickly and with more efficiency than with less sleep. Here’s why this matters: Many neurological diseases from Alzheimer’s to stroke and dementia are associated with sleep disturbances. The study suggests a lack of sleep plays a role by allowing the byproducts to build up and cause brain damage.

Aside from just feeling better after a good night’s sleep there’s an added bonus: Sleep has been shown to help you shed fat (especially that pudge around the belly), fight off heart disease, maintain a clear mind and optimize every function of your body. Sleep is essential for everyone from the elite athlete to the corporate warrior.

Dr. Emily Kiberd is one of the top chiropractors in midtown Manhattan and founder of the Urban Wellness Clinic. Visit its site for more healthy-sleep tips.


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Don’t Like to Exercise? Here Are 6 Ways to Motivate

First, I was blown away by your reader comments on the last Better Than Ever post. Thank you for taking the time to read, share your stories and provide tips to help other MFPers! Second, because of your comments, I decided to take this month to provide thought starters for those of you who expressed losing a bit of steam when it comes to starting a workout program or staying on top of your current plan.

Fact: I used to despise working out.

There were points when I literally dreaded exercise; times when I had not only fallen off the wagon, but it backed up and rolled over me.

Regardless of the cause: a new relationship, new job, injury, life — the list goes on. It can be hard to get in the groove.

Initiating a workout regime is pretty daunting. If you’ve never gotten into a routine to begin with, or have fallen off, you know exercise can be awkward, annoying and seemingly unapproachable. It can also be a little embarrassing: How did I let myself get so out of shape … again? Are people judging me?

We’ve all been there. You walk into the gym, and it can be intimidating because everyone looks like they know what the heck they are doing. But, remind yourself: At one point that jacked guy on the rowing machine also didn’t even know where the water fountain was. He had to figure it out and you can, too.

For context, I now exercise religiously — 5–6 times a week — and I actually enjoy it.


True, I still don’t wake up most days daydreaming about the elliptical machine, but I do dream about that feeling after the workout.

My advice to you is: Instead of putting energy into dreaming up excuses, think about what you love about exercising, and use that for confidence and motivation when your will is running low.


Here are six go-to motivators (aka why I workout):


Rally a friend (or two) to be your accountabilibuddy and get started. There have been times when I’ve only made it to a workout because I didn’t want to let my friend down. I have two separate groups of Under Armour teammates (that’s UA speak for “coworkers”) who I work out with for support and fun. There’s nothing like taking on a physical challenge to bring you closer together.

I also have some of my funniest life moments because of shared workout experiences, like the time my friend Georgette walked out halfway through a megaformer class, and we found her at a subterranean bar next door drinking tequila (still in gym clothes)!


There’s nothing more motivating than seeing progress and accomplishing your goals. It’s gratifying to improve and be able to do more over time. Whether it’s sliding the pin in the weight machine to the heavier weight, bumping up the incline on the treadmill or adding an extra lap around the block after dinner. It’s exciting to see (and feel) your body taking on more. Start by writing down your exercise goals and create realistic milestones to accomplish them.


If you’ve ever gained or lost weight, you know that getting dressed in the morning can be a struggle (I’ve had sizes 6–16 in my closet at the same time before … sigh). The other day a coworker stopped by my desk and asked me what I was training for because he saw me going pretty hard in the gym. I responded with “I just want to continue to fit into my clothes.” We both laughed out loud, but it’s true! I love food, I love cooking, I love eating — and with all of that comes calories, which is OK as long as I’m strategic. Personally, if I don’t stay on track with my meal logging on MyFitnessPal or I start skipping workouts, I notice the difference pretty fast — my body just rebels against my wardrobe. Quickly.



Studies show that the post-workout high is a real thing. You feel better. You’ll be proud you took the time to invest in yourself. A single workout can help clear your head so you can face whatever is causing stress with a better outlook. I often walk away from a sweat session with my focus reset and a forward-looking perspective.

If I miss a workout, my drive dips, and I’m in a general funk. There have been countless occasions when I’ve laid in bed at night and regretted not finding time for a workout. On the other hand, I have never regretted working out.

In need of some moves? These stress busting stretches are great for a beginner, can increase your flexibility, ease soreness and get you ready to get back in the game (with no equipment required).


Recognize what motivates you and incorporate it into your reward for hitting an exercise goal. You could treat yourself by trying a new recipe on MFP (I usually make extra and save it for lunch later in the week.) Or reward yourself with a splurge: there have been occasions when  thinking about that post-workout burger has fueled me through the workout. A rest day can also be a necessary reward to incorporate into your routine. You’ve got to create time for self-care.


If you’ve overcome an illness, injury or anything that prevented you from working out, you know what it feels like to be unable to push yourself physically — it’s frustrating and can be depressing. But that experience can also give you a greater appreciation for your health and strength. Considering there were years when I spent more days on crutches than my feet (due to knee injuries), I often think about how grateful I am to even have the option to exercise and that’s enough to get me moving.

I know I’m not in the best shape of my life (shoutout to my 17 year-old self), but I’m putting in the effort to improve. And you know what? I feel better than ever about the progress I’ve made and what my body can accomplish. It’s a phenomenal feeling.

So while you might not enjoy working out right now, hopefully these six motivators will help get you on track.

Are you struggling to find a workout routine you can enjoy? Do you genuinely enjoy working out (which is awesome!)? How do you motivate yourself to exercise? What’s your “happy” workout place? Share your tips below! I (along with the rest of the MFP community) look forward to hearing from you!

Better Than Ever

We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: Everything from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!


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A Flexible Lifestyle: The Power of Stretching

Ever since I was 8 years old, I understood the importance of stretching. As a dancer, athlete and performer, I can say without a doubt that stretching plays one of the biggest roles in my success. In ballet class, we’d spend the entire time active stretching at the barre. We would stretch before and after every class. After so many years, I became hard-wired to “active/dynamic stretch” to prep for dancing, then stretch after dancing to recover and get rid of toxins and lactic acid build up. It was ingrained and automatic, and one of the best healthy habits that I’ve held onto.

Stretching is not just sitting in a position and holding it there until you want to cry. It starts with observing what’s tight or achy, then researching various ways to lengthen and stretch the muscles in different ways. Lastly, and most importantly, there’s breathing.


Learning how to breathe before, during and coming out of a stretch is what people neglect the most. Use your breath to increase the intensity of your stretches. Move into your stretch on an exhale. Every time you inhale, hold the stretch. On each exhale, try to go further into the stretch, without forcing or tightening your muscles. Basically, sometimes there’s a point in a stretch where your body reflexes out of it, focus on breathing out and through that to retrain your muscles to tolerate more flexibility. The appropriate time to be in a stretch is actually two minutes!  


Being limber helps your body have more range of motion so that you can assume new and different positions without the risk of tearing or straining something. My boyfriend is a professional skateboarder and has no prior knowledge of stretching and how it can help prevent injuries. So I’ve taught him to loosen areas where he’s been really tight — and he had no idea! It was really cool to coach him through loosening his hips and to see how much it has helped him.


As a professional dancer, we don’t have guided warmups before auditions, rehearsals or even live performances. Our bodies have to be 100% ready when we step on stage. There’s a lot of prep before a performance so we can do our ultimate best each time without getting injured.


I love coming home after a long eight-hour rehearsal and stretch out the day. I’ll just plop down on the floor with a foam roller and some lacrosse balls and close my eyes. I’m not that talented at meditating, so I use stretching to help me calm my mind. I’ll find my breath and wring out any residual stress. It’s like a mental cleanse before hopping into bed then starting a new day.


Stretching isn’t just for those who are really active. It helps everyone. Even on a 9–5 workday when you don’t leave your desk once and you’re too tired to go to the gym, you go home and stretch! Stretch while reading or while watching TV. After sitting in that chair all day your back needs to be lengthened, your shoulders and chest opened from hunching over, your hips loosened and wrists unlocked. You will feel like a new human, trust me.

Shop Dani Vitale’s favorite Under Armour gear.

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