5 Weight Control Tips for December Damage Control

Woman Stepping onto ScaleWeight loss in December is not usually the objective for my clients.  Most of my clients simply hope to hold the line on their weight.  The challenges of the holidays are numerous:  shopping which leads to more frequent fast grab lunches at the mall, office parties, stress-related eating, and family or friend gatherings during the holidays.  Here are 5 tips to help you manage the tipping point on the scale:

  • Try to eat a healthy meal before hitting the mall.  If your shopping period is an all day affair, then plan your restaurant meal in advance.  Use the Internet to preplan your options at your mall restaurant by reviewing the nutrition information online.
  • For office parties and gatherings, try to have a healthy snack of fruit or veggies prior to the festivities.  If you are feeling a sense of fullness, it will be easier to resist some of those high temptation goodies which are sure to be available.  If you are having lunch catered in, see if you can find out the menu so you can preplan how you will handle the meal to meet your health and weight objectives.
  • You can help your stress-related eating by simply controlling your eating environment at home.  Make sure your kitchen is full of healthy food options which are easy to prepare as opposed to a kitchen full of high temptation baked goods and candy.  If you must bake for the holidays, keep those baked treats where you cannot easily get to them.  Better yet, store them at skinny friend’s house.
  • For gatherings with family and friends, contribute something to a potluck which meets your dietary objectives.  Make it something healthy, but something you can enjoy as well.  Fresh shrimp, a fruit platter, or crackers with reduced fat cheese spreads are good options.
  • Watch those alcohol calories!

An ounce of prevention is probably worth much more than a pound of cure.  It is much easier to avoid weight gain, than to undo those unwanted December pounds come January.

Wishing my readers a happy and healthy holiday season and 2013.

B12 for Weight Loss: Is this Bunk/Junk Science?

B12 shots for weight lossLast evening the topic in my college nutrition class was vitamins. As we came to the topic of vitamin B12, several students inquired about B12 for weight loss. One student said her former pediatrician suggested she take B12 to help with weight loss. Several students in other course sections asked repeated questions about B12 shots for weight loss.

I must admit I was stumped as to why they would even ask about this. THEN, the spa Groupon email came this morning advertising B12 shots. The Groupon ad suggests B12 injections as an additional therapy for boosting energy and the body’s metabolism for those looking to lose weight.  The price: a mere $69.00 for 12 vitamin B12 injections. This was a major savings from the original hefty retail value of $480.00! This all begs the question as to if there is any benefit to B12 injections for weight loss.

B12 injection benefits?

We do like to take pills and look for magical methods to lose weight easily. Unfortunately, I would have to say this is just another one of those gimmicks. I can find no sound scientific basis for suggesting additional B12 from supplements or injections to aid in weight loss. If someone is tired from anemia due to a B12 deficiency (called pernicious anemia), then administration of B12 will indeed give that person more energy because the person needs the B12 to treat that specific type of anemia. But, for the rest of us, that B12 will neither give us more energy or boost our metabolism.

There are ways to boost one’s metabolism, but chowing down on more B vitamins or injecting them is not a way to raise our metabolic rate. We get energy from the calories in our foods and resting our bodies. B vitamins do not give us energy, they are needed in small amounts to help the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies to release energy from foods-that gives us energy!

B12 and meat consumption

Most people who eat animal protein are getting more than sufficient amounts of B12.  B12 is derived from animal protein, and since many Americans eat more protein than recommended, B12 is not usually an issue. For vegans, it may be necessary to take a B12 supplement to meet requirements. However, many foods are fortified with B12 (such as cereals which may have 100% of B12 requirements provided in a single serving) so not all vegans would necessarily need to be taking a supplemental form of B12.

Have you tried B12 shots for weight loss? Did you see any benefit? Right now over 200 Groupon deals have been sold!

Is this a waste of money or helpful for your waistline?

 

 

 

 

Is Your Child Too Energetic? Check Out the Caffeine!

If your child seems a bit too “energized”, you might want to throw out the theory that it’s simply overstimulation from sugar. Instead, give some thought to hidden caffeine-like compounds in the diet. While Johnny may not be drinking Starbucks with you in the morning, there are actually plenty of opportunities for kids to get caffeine-like compounds into their bodies. Caffeine, and another dietary compound called theobromine, are commonly found in foods we give our kids.

Common food sources of both caffeine and theobromine

Beverages 

Lemonade, bottled teas, non-cola soda, vitamin water, hot cocoa, chocolate milkshakes, and energy smoothies can all contribute varying amounts of caffeine-like stimulants. While your 5-year old may not be consuming energy drinks, your teen probably is, and these beverages are loaded with excessive caffeine. Because these beverages may be hidden sources of caffeine or other stimulants, read any available labels of all beverages you provide to your child and teen.

Noting that a standard cup of drip coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine, check out how some of these common beverages stack up with regard to caffeine content:

  • 8 ounces of most popular energy drinks range from 80-300 mg
  • 12 ounces of Coke Zero, Classic Coca Cola, Diet or Regular Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange Soda- 30-45 mg
  • 12 ounces of Diet or Regular Mountain Dew has 55 mg
  • Diet Snapple Tea-42 mg
  • White Tea or Green Tea-15 mg-25 mg

Foods

Foods may contain either caffeine or the caffeine-like stimulant theobromine. Chocolate flavored cereals, desserts, ice cream, and candy may have theobromine. Coffee ice cream and yogurt could contain varying amounts of actual caffeine and should be discouraged for children. A 6-ounce serving of Dannon Coffee Yogurt contains a whopping 36 mg of caffeine. And, Starbucks Coffee Ice Cream has 50-60 mg of caffeine per one cup serving.

You won’t find the caffeine content of these foods listed on any Nutrition Fact Panel, so all you can do is be aware of the potential foods containing caffeine or theobromine.

Medications

Certain adult medications may contain caffeine which speeds pain relief. Examples of non-prescription pain relievers containing caffeine include:  Excedrin, Anacin, and Dristan. Parents should avoid these medications and choose medications that are caffeine-free. Another medication an adolescent female might take which does contain caffeine is Midol for relieving menstrual cramps.

While a little caffeine will not harm your child, if your kid is bouncing off the walls or having trouble sleeping it’s wise to assess if he or she is consuming too much “hidden” caffeine.

Thoughts on how else caffeine gets into our kids’ diets?

Crustless Pumpkin Pie & Minestrone Soup: Fall Recipes

crustless pumpkin pie recipeToday, some major plans fell through, and I very unexpectedly have the whole day free to tackle my kitchen and food preparation. With the fall chill in the air and mums on the front step, I am in the mood to make some of my favorite “fall” foods. These incude my crustless pumpkin pie and super effortless minestrone soup!

For a healthier sweet tooth fix, consider making crustless pumpkin pie. In my family, we eat crustless pumpkin pie all year-not just during the holidays. This is a slimmed down version, with literally half the calories of traditional pie The trick is to get rid of the crust calories, but still have the pie hold its shape. Using Bisquick mix (and you can use the reduced fat version), you will decrease the calories by 50%. This is a healthy dessert, full of anti-oxidants. You might even want to consider eating this for breakfast! My family uses this as breakfast food all the time.

Slimmed Down Pumpkin Pie Recipe (1/8 pie has about 100 calories)

15 oz. Can pumpkin pie

1 can evaporated skim milk

¾ cup Splenda or 1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. salt

½ cup Bisquick mix

Mix all the ingredients in bowl. Use baking spray and coat a glass pie pan. Add the mixture and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn down the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking approximately 45 additional minutes.

Soups are another fall favorite recipe. Soups are wonderful in that most can be frozen very well and then pulled out of the freezer for a very quick dinner when time is tight. A favorite soup in our family is quick minestrone. It takes virtually no time to assemble my version of this recipe. This is a true family favorite, and all of my adult children and daughter-in-law really enjoy this recipe. I hope you do as well.

 Very Quick Minestrone Soup (1.5 cup serving has about 200 calories)

1 cup carrots, thinly sliced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, sliced

one large can (28 ounces) of low sodium chicken broth

1 can light kidney beans (15 ounces), rinsed and drained

1-2 cans of stewed tomatoes

1 cup medium pasta shells, uncooked

1 cup frozen peas or Italian-style beans

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

Parmesan cheese to top soup (optional)

Directions

Toss all ingredients into a stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese if desired. Serve with whole grain bread and a light salad. This is a meal rich in anti-oxidants and fiber. And, serve some pie along with it.

Enjoy the autumn along with these favorite fall recipes.

Heartburn: Food and Lifestyle Fixes

 

how to halt heartburn

Managing heartburn

Recently a student in a college nutrition class I teach raised her hand to contribute to a discussion on heartburn. She indicated that her doctor told her to drink whole milk to help her heartburn. She stressed that the doctor noted it HAD to be whole milk. Since she was not interested in drinking whole milk, this recommendation was not followed through on by the student. The recommendation was neither realistic for her, and probably not really the best advice to take anyway with regard to managing heartburn. And, she’s not alone in trying to control heartburn. Surveys suggest 25-40% of the population experience heartburn on a monthly basis and 7-10% have the problem almost daily.

You know if you have suffered from heartburn. Symptoms include a burning sensation in your chest, mouth, or both. You may actually have a burning sensation in either your chest, mouth, or both areas. Your throat may be sore and you may even vomit food and bile.

Common factors contributing to heartburn include: pregnancy, smoking, certain medications, obesity, and alcohol.

Food factors to consider for control

Certain foods are known to aggravate heartburn. Take a look at the following list of foods and evaluate if your symptoms are worse when you eat these foods.

  • Citrus fruits (limes, lemons, oranges, grapefruit)
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated food (coffee, soda pop, tea)
  • High fat foods (salad dressing, oil, butter, margarine, fried foods, rich desserts)
  • Raw onions and garlic
  • Tomato based foods
  • Peppermint or spearmint oils (sometimes recommended for irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Lots of sugar

Lifestyle factors and heartburn

By manipulating your daily habits, you can help to decrease your heartburn symptoms.

  • Make sure you eat a low fat diet. Fat triggers the sphincter muscle to relax, and allows stomach acid to more easily reach the esophagus.
  • Avoid alcohol as much as possible.
  • Mange your weight and lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Avoid overly large meals-instead eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • If necessary, prop your head up with multiple pillows at night. This makes it a bit more difficult for the acid to back up into your esophagus.
  • Drink liquids between meals, instead of with your meals.
  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Wait several hours to lie down after a larger meal.

Taking these first steps to halting heartburn can be very effective. You can always consult with a dietitian as well. If your symptoms persist even after diet and lifestyle adjustments, you should see your physician for medical management of your problem.

 

Doctor Refusing Obese Patients: Weighing In

doctor refusing to treat 200 pound patientAs I turned on the morning news the other day, the attention grabbing “teaser” headliner was about a physician in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts who refused to treat anyone weighing more than 200 pounds (link to the story). If you haven’t heard it, the recap is that an internal medicine physician has decided to reject all new patients weighing over 200 pounds. She indicates that her staff has been “hurt” by handling these heavier people (not sure what she means by this), and that those patients already in her practice and weighing 200 pounds were grandfathered in. She  notes that some of these grandfathered patients proceeded to lose weight after her office policy was implemented. The physician further states that there is an excellent university affiliated medical facility nearby that can better treat the obese. Will your doctor be the next provider refusing obese patients?

This scenario seems to beg the question, “is this a new trend in the medical profession?”  Will the United States evolve to medically managed weight loss centers for all people classified as obese?

If a doctor is refusing obese patients, then who should take responsibility?

Mayor Bloomberg restricts soda pop. Michelle Obama encourages us to plant vegetable gardens. But what can individuals and society really do to take responsibility? This will become even more pressing of a concern to individuals if primary care physicians begin to refuse treating heavier patients on a wider scale. If those heavier people are required to find access to health care in settings equipped to handle their special needs, this could also potentially handicap the weight loss process even more.

Failing at weight management

failing at weight loss

Right now, we are clearly failing in managing our weight as a nation. We did not come to this point because of one problem. As a society, we are not inclined to move. For safety reasons, we may stay inside (dodging bullets). We sit in front of computers all day, play video games rather than dodge ball, and we eat out constantly. While eating out is a great treat, doing so too often really insures your energy intake is too high. This translates to weight gain. Unless you are training for a marathon or triathlon, you still need to manage your calories to manage your weight. All too often, those that workout regularly still forget the energy content (meaning calories) of the food they consume. So, again, what are some solutions?

What’s the societal solution?

I do not have a simple solution because there is not necessarily a simple solution to a laundry list of factors causing this national crisis. Our current societal complexities seem to set us up for obesity at this point. Both physicians and patients need to take responsibility for slimming down the nation. But, if the new trend is your doctor refusing obese patients, more of the responsibility will end up with the patient.

Other options

Apparently, it is perfectly legal for this physician to screen her patients according to weight limits. If this is her prerogative (and it’s her practice), she should make a point of offering some other options. While she was relying on a nearby medical facility affiliated with a teaching hospital, she and other physicians have other options. How about business cards of dietitians, therapists, and trainers and referring to those professionals! And, patients need to take responsibility as well. There is no magic solution here. The message to move more and eat less is perceived as “boring” by many. And to many, this simple message is not really simple.  After all, how much should one really eat and move in order to both prevent and manage obesity?

What can we do as a nation? Please provide input to this question directly on my blog.  I look forward to your comments.

 

 

 

Are You a Nutrition “Purist” or “Realist”?

dietitian commentary are you a realist or puristIt seems as though these days everyone has an opinion about the field of nutrition.There is a an old saying that “some people think they are experts on eating, because they eat.” So, that could mean the whole human race perceives themselves as nutritional experts! For me, it seems that is the case sometimes! Of course, some of those people are experts with years of college level education under their belts, but some are simply uninformed, uneducated, or misdirected, but very interested in the field of nutrition. That begs the question about being a  nutrition “purist” or “realist” in terms of professional conduct.

What I know for sure is that more people in more and varied fields are now providing nutritional advice to the American consumer. And, more nutritional advice is rapidly and readily available these days at the touch of our fingers as well as from “doc google.” So, this blog is about how those of you that give nutritional advice handle the words you choose while guiding those you are attempting to help with nutrition. It is also meant as food for thought for the consumer who is seeking nutritional guidance. So let’s take a look at nutrition “purist” or “realist” thinking!

Nutrition Purists

It seems as though some of those disseminating nutritional advice are best described as purists. Insisting on great precision or correctness in a particular discipline is a purist. It seems that, more and more, those that are guiding consumers are often leaning to what I call this purist mentality. This purist mentality is along the lines of “the diet must be perfect, no junk, sugar, fat, and so on.”  I must add at this point that I would love my clients to eat only at home, eat only healthy unprocessed foods, and in the correct portion sizes. With that stated, my experience tells me the purist mentality does not necessarily fit all people.

Nutrition Realists

A realist is a person who accepts the world as it is. Then, deals with it, but realistically. This appears to be the case for those practitioners who have counseled for a long time. I tell my clients that I can design what I feel to be the  “perfect” eating plan. However, if they cannot follow it long enough to help their health, then what good is it?

I’m a realist. I would be happy to have my clients switch to a flavored green tea rather than a Starbucks Frappuccino! That’s right, the flavored green tea might not have the same nutritional edge as plain green tea, but it’s a start in the right direction! That’s what I want from my clients-to move in a better dietary direction.

One size does not fit all, especially when telling people how to eat. The concept of tailoring a diet to an individual means that like a pair of slacks or suit, the “diet” can be tailored with time. As the person’s nutritional requirements and acceptance of dietary change evolve, so can the diet.

How do you choose to counsel your clients?  And consumers, what nutritional guidance has worked for you?

 

“Great” Green Tea: What’s in it For Your Health?

Green tea health benefits and how to prepare

Green tea is probably the one beverage I can think of that can be deemed completely healthy and almost without any controversy!  A search on pub med today just yielded 4688 scientific/medical journal abstracts on green tea. I am not aware of any studies that are critical of green tea regarding health, and scientists have been interested in the potential health benefits of green tea for many decades.

Key anti-oxidant in green tea that promotes health

The compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is found primarily in green tea, and it is the compound that appears to confer the significant health benefits of green tea. This compound is one of four prominent compounds which are strong anti-oxidants present in green tea. Some of the health benefits of green tea include: interfering with cancer cells, lowering lipids, decreasing inflammation, decreasing the risk of blood clots and stroke, and fighting tooth decay.

Caffeine

Many people assume green tea has a lot of caffeine and they opt for decaffeinated green tea. A cup of regular brewed green tea has less than 30 mg of caffeine while a cup of regular brewed coffee (not Starbucks) has 95 mg or more. So, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, go for the decaffeinated version. But if caffeine sensitivity is not an issue, even the regular green tea is still low in caffeine. Choose decaffeinated teas that remove caffeine with carbon dioxide rather than chemicals. Use of chemicals for decaffeinating may actually destroy the anti-oxidants.

How to brew green tea

Green tea can be brewed as loose leaves of tea or using a tea bag. Use one tsp. loose tea or one tea bag per serving. Using bottled water rather than tap water for brewing may improve the taste of the tea. Steep your tea in water which has just reached the boiling point of 160 degrees. Turn the heat off and steep the tea for 2-4 minutes. Limiting the steeping time to 2-4 minutes will allow for optimal anti-oxidants and decrease the bitterness and caffeine content. Steeping tea for 4 minutes will actually increase the caffeine content to 40-100 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce serving.

Flavored teas and tea products 

Flavored teas will be lower in anti-oxidants. The flavoring added to the teas reduces the actual tea percentage and therefore the anti-oxidants. Nonetheless, flavored teas and already prepared tea products can still be a source of anti-oxidants. You can also brew your own tea, and add your own flavorings such as mint, lemon, or ginseng.

With the summer heat wave sweeping the entire country, consider making your green tea into a pitcher of iced tea. You’ll get the health benefits of green tea along with hydration!

Do you have a favorite green tea brand or recipe to share on this blog?

How to Buy Bread: Shopping Tips for the Savvy Shopper

how to buy bread

Ever wonder how to buy bread?  It’s just a simple food staple, but the choices can be overwhelming. What points should be considered? A recent family conversation revealed to me the confusion on  how to buy bread. It’s not just an issue of rye versus wheat or white versus whole grain. Grocery shoppers encounter a far more complex array of bread terms such as enriched, 100% whole grain, high fiber, and gluten-free.

Knowing a few facts about what these terms mean is crucial for the savvy bread shopper. Check out some of the key factors to consider when you buy your next loaf of bread.

Whole grain bread or 100% grain, does it matter when you buy bread?

These terms mean the entire grain kernel was used to make the bread, as opposed to just part of the kernel. More specifically, the bread was made from all parts of the grain kernel: the nutrient dense bran and germ of the grain, as well as the less nutrient dense middle endosperm. As a result, the fiber and nutrient content of the bread is generally higher. Both whole grain bread and 100% grain translate to a healthy option for the consumer.

Enriched white bread (refined flour)

Enriched white bread is made from the less nutrient rich endosperm. US government regulation also requires that only some of the nutrients found in whole grain bread be added back into enriched white bread. These nutrients include some B-complex vitamins; however, fiber, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and chromium are not typically added in to the enriched product. So, opt for whole grain or 100% grain when you buy bread. You are getting more nutrition bang for your buck.

Wheat bread, brown bread, stone ground

how to buy bread

These breads are not necessarily made from a whole grain, and consequently are not guaranteed to be a nutritious option. You must check the label to determine whether the bread is made from a whole grain or an enriched flour.

Fiber

Most whole grain breads will yield more fiber than white enriched products. Fiber is an important element of a healthy diet, so look for a minimum of 2 grams of fiber per slice. Many whole grain breads may have as much as 5 grams of fiber.

Sodium

Bread can be a significant source of sodium. If this is an issue for you, check out the nutrition fact label for this information. Sliced packaged bread typically ranges from about 150 mg to several hundred mg of sodium per slice.

Calories are an important factor when you buy bread

Calorie content per slice of bread varies widely. Many varieties of sliced bread range from 70-120 calories per slice. Check the nutrition information to ensure that the bread of your choice aligns with your caloric requirements.

Other label deciphering tricks for how to buy bread

Look at the list of ingredients. The most prevalent ingredient is listed first, and the least prevalent ingredient is listed at the end. If you are looking for a healthy whole grain bread, you would most likely see “whole or 100% wheat” noted first on the list of ingredients. A less nutritionally desirable bread might list 100% whole wheat, followed by enriched wheat and other ingredients.

A word about gluten 

Gluten is protein which some individuals are sensitive to, or must avoid due to celiac disease. It has become popular to avoid or decrease gluten, but it is not necessary for everyone to do so. When medically required, gluten must be avoided in order to prevent damage to the gut.

A word about high fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in food items, and it has been highly criticized in the past few years. Whatever the final scientific findings on high fructose corn syrup may be, there are many breads on the market free of this ingredient. Read your labels and find a bread that uses an alternate sweetener if this concerns you.

Do you have a healthy favorite store brand bread you can recommend?

Are Your Dietary Supplements Dangerous?

Updated: November, 2019

is your dietary supplement dangerousMany Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein powders, thinking they are helping with overall health. The reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous! In fact, according to recent newspaper headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws. These flaws are extensive enough have the potential to harm our health. From quality control to formulation issues, the product you are taking may not be what you are thinking it is. There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient. Even lead, arsenic, and rodent feces have been known to contaminate our supplements. So, being a savvy consumer can indeed protect you from dangerous supplements.

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry. That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. Companies are largely left in charge of their own standards. Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement. The FDA relies on manufacturers themselves, as well as consumers, to report any adverse effects.

Proactive steps to take when purchasing supplements

Buy name brand supplements to protect yourself from dangerous supplements

Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake. Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.

Look for the USP label to avoid dangerous supplements

usp label assuring supplement safety

This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label. It also means the product will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body. The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement. With this symbol present, you at least know that product has what it’s advertising, and the product will dissolve in your digestive tract.

Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement

Note the percent daily value of the nutrients. If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful. We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients, and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety. And, you should be getting a lot of these nutrients from your diet!

Consider using the internet to investigate your supplement before taking it

Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee. The analyses and data are extensive and informative.

 Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.

A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients. Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  After all, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?