5 Tech Strategies for Successful Weight Loss

Sample view of Nutrihand, my client online food tracker

If you just ate too many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, consider using some tech strategies to help. With some time ahead of us before the next holiday, it’s a great time to start tracking your diet and physical activity. Tracking your food intake allows you to avoid denial about your calorie consumption. And, it keeps you honest with yourself on a daily basis.

If weight loss is your goal, then the only way you will reach that goal is to somehow eat fewer calories than your body needs. Or, use more energy than you consume through food. To lose one pound of fat per week, you must go into a 3500 calorie deficit per week. By doing so either with less food, more exercise, or a combination of less food and more exercise you will see the scale change! Crossing your fingers and “hoping” the weight comes off is a rather common occurrence. But being systematic with your focus can mean the difference between hoping and happening.

Some of my favorite for weight loss tools

Use the Internet for nutrition information

If you “must” dine out often, you need to be aware of the nutrients and calories you are eating away from home. While a full service restaurant is not required by law to provide the calorie content of its meals, franchises with 20 or more locations are. This is very helpful to anyone who frequents Panera to P.F. Chang’s. Check the nutrition information prior to dining at franchises to make better choices.

Online food documentation

Nutrihand is one of the online food tracking platforms I now offer my clients. Clients log in their food intake and day-to-day, we can both see if goals are met. Goals may revolve around calories, but also other specific nutrients. Carbohydrate, fat, protein, calcium, potassium, sodium, and fiber can all be assessed. There are similar programs on the Internet to serve a similar purpose. It’s worth your while to experiment with a format that works for you.

Using smartphones for food related decisions

At this point, there are so many great smartphone apps on the market. And, more become available daily. These apps allow for tracking food and calories on the spot. Others track your physical activity like a pedometer. We can even find apps to help us make better nutritional decisions at the grocery store. With the smartphone camera, you can even take photos of foods to share with your favorite dietitian for further discussion.

A Pedometer

While basic pedometers are not exactly high-tech, they can be effective for assessing baseline physical activity. The more expensive pedometers allow for downloading of collected data (steps, aerobic steps, calories, distance) to your computer. This allows your data to be documented, graphed, and saved on your computer. Then it’s available for review or sharing with your dietitian.

BodyMedia Armband

This is the ultimate assessment tool for determining how many calories you require for weight management. Worn on the left upper arm, it measures your calorie burn in a 24-hour period. It seems very accurate and after the collected data is downloaded, you are able to look at your energy expenditure in sections of the day. This allows you to evaluate the activities and movements which are most effective at burning calories. Knowing this information will help you lose weight. Furthermore, sleep quality is assessed. Current research suggests sleep quality is correlated to weight management.

With the help of these self-monitoring tools, your behavior and diet will be consistent and effective enough to help you reach your weight goals.

Do you have any special weight loss tech tools you would care to share?

 

The Pressure (Cooker) is On!

I was a child in the 50s. Mothers back then frequently cooked with a “scary” piece of equipment called the pressure cooker. I remember being afraid of the loud sounds it made. I distinctly feared that the rattling piece of metal sitting atop the lid would fly off. When my mother gave me her pressure cooker after I myself became a mom, it sat in my cabinet and was never used. It was just way too intimidating to me with three small children to feed. After all, I was also concerned for their “safety”!

Fast forward to now. Like most people, I am very busy. I still work and I will always want to be eating healthier foods. Pressure cookers made today are much different than in the past.

Modern pressure cookers

The newer pressure cookers seem to be the perfect solution to preparing healthy food in limited time. They are equipped with a variety of settings, such as browning, sautéing, and warming, along with both low and high pressure settings, making it easy to prepare a complete gourmet meal in no time. For instance, rather than going through the hassle of soaking lentils overnight, with a pressure cooker you can cook with them immediately.

What’s more, modern pressure cookers have safety features to help prevent kitchen accidents. There are many other benefits to using a pressure cooker. Aside from saving time, using a pressure cooker limits nutrient losses. Because all the recipe components are in one pot and the liquid is part of the main dish, all nutrients are retained. Additionally, preparing a meal with a pressure cooker saves money. Tough and more economical cuts of meat can be used very successfully in the pressure cooker because the high pressure will tenderize the meat. Two of my favorite pressure cooker recipes can be found on this website.

So, if time is tight and healthy eating is a priority, consider lessening your personal pressure by increasing the pressure for cooking.

Do you have any favorite foods you enjoy making in your pressure cooker?

Grapes For People, Not Pups!

 

Mollie, my sweet 10-year old Golden Retriever

Grapes are a healthy, easy snack for adults and a favorite finger food of toddlers. They are a rich source of cancer fighting phytochemicals, such as resveratrol, ellagic acid, and quercetin. In addition to these anti-oxidents, one-half cup of grapes have about one gram of fiber, and only 60 calories.  As a dietitian, I am eager to recommend such a fruit to my patients.  However, as a dog owner, I wish to share a story and a word of caution about how dangerous this fruit can be for our four-legged dog friends.

My story

Recently, my family gathered together for a Sunday dinner. My beautiful one-year old granddaughter was “eating” grapes, but really just sucking the juice out of them and throwing the rest to the floor. Our family dog, Mollie, came over to help “clean up”  the scattered food on the floor.

My family did not know grapes are poisonous to dogs.  As I saw what was happening, I yelled out a warning that “Dogs can’t eat grapes!”  My family, aghast, was thinking perhaps I was mistaken or overreacting. They proceeded to verify the dangers of grapes for dogs online. They went online, but I immediately called the animal hospital. After very little discussion, the vet’s office decided it was best to bring our dog Mollie in. Vomited was induced. Ultimately, we found that Mollie hadn’t actually consumed any grapes, but had she, she might have suffered kidney damage or death. The harm from eating grapes to a dog comes within a short time-span. Those grapes can hurt the kidneys in as little as six hours, unless the necessary precautions are taken.

Lesson learned

Pay attention to what is on the floor when your pets are with you, especially if there are young children around!  And, be aware that the Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also sounds an alarm for the following foods which are toxic to dogs: raisins, chocolate, avocados, onions, garlic, coffee, tea leaves, Macadamia nuts, raw yeast dough, salt, alcohol, and artificially sweetened foods. Our pets are counting on us to keep them safe, so I hope my sharing this experience will help keep other pets safe as well.

For more information on preventing pet poisoning click here.

Does anyone else have a story to share about keeping their 4-legged friend safe from poisonous substances?

Fabulous Flaxseed: Easily Add to Your Diet

add flaxseed to your diet

Whole flaxseed

It’s relatively easy to add flaxseed to your diet in order to reap some significant health benefits. Flax seed is a rich plant based source of omega-3 fatty acids, making for a nice dietary alternative to fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are protective against heart disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Americans typically do not eat enough of these healthful essential omega-3 fatty acids so, understanding how to add flaxseed to your diet can help improve your diet.

Flaxseed and fiber

Flaxseed is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids in reducing blood cholesterol and insoluble fiber prevents constipation. The anti-cancer benefits of flaxseed are due to plant estrogens called lignans. Flaxseed contains more lignans than any other known plant material.

 Easy ways to add flaxseed to your diet

  • a topping for salad
  • a thickening ingredient for soups
  • a topping for cottage cheese
  • adding to yogurt
  • adding to condiments such as mustard or mayo when making sandwiches
  • using as part of a baked product recipe or pancake mixture*
  • adding to hot and cold cereal

Purchasing and storage

Flaxseed can be purchased as a whole seed, or a milled or ground meal. Whole flaxseed, such as pictured above, is shelf stable for up to a year, but needs to be ground up to derive the health benefits. If the product is purchased already ground or milled, once the package is opened it should be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition information

One tablespoon of flaxseed has 45 calories, 2 grams of fiber, a little protein, and a large amount of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is definitely food worth chewing on. Here’s a great recipe to use up that garden zucchini and get your flaxseed eaten:

Add flaxseed to your diet with this easy muffin recipe

*Chocolate Zucchini Muffins~ Recipe makes 24 muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup ground or milled flaxseed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ground flaxseed in a bowl. Cream the margarine, oil and sugar in another bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and the applesauce. Then, add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and lightly mix. Lastly, add the grated zucchini.

Use paper baking cups to line muffin pan or generously oil or use baking spray on muffin pans. Fill tin or paper cups half way. Bake about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Remove, cool and enjoy.

Nutrition information 

Calories-175             Fiber- 1 gram               Potassium-85 mg

Sodium-250 mg        Fat-6 grams                Carbohydrate-26 grams

Do you have a favorite recipe or way you add flaxseed to your diet?

For more detailed information on flaxseed, visit this site. 

“Beat the Clock” Healthy Eating Strategies

healthy eating strategies and how to plan for them.

“Beat the clock” healthy eating strategies.

Are you constantly feeling like you’re up against the clock when it comes to getting a meal on the table? Healthy eating strategies must be planned, as healthy meals do not magically appear on the dinner table. You most likely have been in the situation where you had no food to pull a meal together, and that became the excuse to dine out or order in. Poor planning when it comes to grocery shopping can lead to the same scenario. If you are constantly relying on food prepared by others, chances are pretty good that you are eating way too many calories and too much sodium, total fat, and saturated fat!  Do this too often, and your overall health will eventually decline while your waistline goes the opposite direction.

Time management is key for healthy eating strategies

One key aspect to eating a healthy diet is time management. And, its imperative to apply your time management skills to your food activities. Considering the huge impact a healthy diet has on your health, it seems wise to budget a certain amount of time to being able to feed yourself and your family appropriately. While eating is basically instinctive, healthy eating needs some thoughtful planning.

Suggestions for pulling off healthier eating

Take time to plan your dinner

As dinner is typically the most problematic meal, take about 20 minutes on the weekend to map out your dinner eating strategies for the entire work week. This advance planning allows you to think through your evening commitments and plan appropriately, as you will need to keep it simple if you need to run off to school or an evening meeting. For the tough evenings, you can plan on cooking ahead or purchasing already cooked entrees such as a roasted chicken. Or, with some advance planning, you can use a slow cooker.

Have a well stocked kitchen

Having a well stocked kitchen can allow you to eat a healthy meal without any effort. There is nothing wrong with cereal, milk, and fruit for dinner or a sandwich and fruit. Such labor-free meals can easily have the same nutrients as a hot meal. Granted, a hot meal is more comforting, but nutritionally speaking it really makes little difference to your health!

Prep your produce

While most people say they like fruits and vegetables, very few people eat the 5 servings a day recommended by the National Cancer Institute. I have concluded, in part, this is due to the fact that fruits and vegetables can take some time to prepare and even eat.  A little planning and preparation for the week’s menus can cut down on the struggle to find the time during the week to get these foods into your diet.

Chopped vegetables for the week. Planning ahead for healthy meals.The noted photo to the left is from an organized mother of an infant and toddler. She works full-time and still manages to feed her family an extraordinarily healthy diet. With her well thought out eating strategies for the week, she is ready to start cooking with either a slow cooker or on the spot when arriving home. All she needs to do is pull her ingredients out of the refrigerator to pull this off.

Her family will be dining on Rose Family Baked Stew and another family favorite of penne pasta with chickpeas, tomatoes and low-fat feta cheese. She will also be serving several slow cooker recipes including sweet potatoes with red beans and rosemary chicken with white beans.

Once we learn to manage our food related activities as well as we mange our work and recreational activities, we are on the way to reaping the enduring health benefits of good nutrition.

What tips can you share?