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Why does eating fewer calories to lose weight seem so difficult? An article in MedlinePlus gives ten easier ways to cut 500 calories each day. If we could do that, it could result in about fifty pounds of weight-loss in a year. As I read their suggestions, they made sense. While we may not always hit our mark, at least these ideas can give a head start without all the agony of strict dieting. Here is their modified list with my comments.

  1. Change your snacks. What do you choose as a snack? Too often we like the salty, sweet, fatty choices. But there are great healthy options out there. Consider fresh fruit, air-popped corn, or my favorite―nuts. While nuts do have more calories than some foods, in small quantities they provide many needed nutrients and a feeling of fullness.
  2. Cut one high-calorie treat. You choose. Is it the high-calorie breakfast doughnut, the tempting dessert at lunch, or fried foods? My choice was to switch from “sweet tea” to unsweetened tea. Saves a good 100 calories a day. I figured with the huge amount I drink daily, it calculated to about ten pounds a year. This leads to their next suggestion.
  3. Stop drinking your calories. It’s not easy to give up all those tasty choices. But those special coffees or sugar-laden colas can quickly add up to 400 to 500 calories a day―and leave us without adequate nutrients or the needed fiber for lasting fullness.
  4. Skip seconds. That sounds like a no-brainer, but we can all be guilty. It tastes so good, we want more. When we can’t resist, make sure we choose lower calorie foods. While we serve most meals family style, serving buffet without options for a return “all-you-can-eat” trip may help the entire family control calories.
  5. Make ingredient substitutions in favorite dishes. Using plain low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream can cut a few hundred calories. We can cut the amount of sugar in many dishes without any effect on the results.
  6. Ask for a doggie bag. My husband and I figure we get a two-for-one with many of the meals we eat out. Call for a to-go container as soon as the meal is served and put half the portions into it. Just remember to take home immediately and refrigerate.
  7. Say “no” to fried foods. That’s hard for southerners who like their fried chicken and catfish. We can save as much as 500 calories when we choose baked, broiled, or grilled. Change those French fries to a baked potato, salad, or vegetable.
  8. Build a thinner pizza. I love pizza, but it is one of those foods I have disciplined myself to skip. That’s not to say we can’t ever splurge, but keep it minimal. For those who prefer to change the topping instead of skipping altogether, omit the cheese and meat and load your pizza with lots of veggies.
  9. Eat from a plate. I can’t start a bag of popcorn―any size―without eating the entire thing. The secret? Put smaller portions on a plate or in a bowl. When it’s gone, it’s gone. The same with chips and other tempting snacks. Avoid grabbing sandwiches and bags of chips on the way to the TV. We tend to eat less when we place meals on a plate and eat in a designated area away from distractions.
  10. Avoid alcohol. While that isn’t a problem for many of us, it is for a great number of people. There is no nutritive value in alcohol. It’s all calories. Some drinks can have as many as 500 calories. For those who choose to drink, light beers or a small glass of wine will have fewer calories.

You may think of many other ways to lower the number of calories you eat. Often people have asked for me to write them a “diet.” I don’t eat the same as they do, and they probably would not follow my choices any better than they follow the many options all ready out there. It’s your diet. Make it your own. Think how you can painlessly make changes, such as my unsweetened tea. True, I did not like it at first, but now I can’t stand the sweet stuff. Give yourself time. Commit to changes that can work into your lifestyle and go for it. What do you have to lose but weight?

 

 

As summer wanes, jazz up your menus with a new dinner salad. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a non-meat dish loaded with nutrients that promiMediterranean Quinoa Dinner Saladse fullness.

The tasty Mediterranean Quinoa Dinner Salad uses quinoa (pronounced Keen wah or ke NO ah), a grain crop grown primarily for its seed, as the basic ingredient. If you haven’t tried it, check it out. It’s gluten-free and packed with vitamins, minerals, and about six to eight grams of protein per serving. An added touch of black beans gives even more protein. Other ingredients add flavor, texture, and healthful choices.

Diets eaten in the Mediterranean part of the world include ample fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil plus servings of seafood, especially tuna and salmon. Choose this eating pattern to improve blood pressure and enhance heart-health. A recent study showed that those seemingly high-calorie nuts, olives, and oil had little effect on body weight or waist circumference when compared to those who ate a low-fat diet. So enjoy this economical, healthy, and tasty dish.

Mediterranean Quinoa Dinner Salad

1 cup                                      Mediterranean Herb Quinoa (uncooked)

2 to 3 tablespoons                   Black beans

5 or 6                                      Black olives

½ medium                              Tomato Wedges

½ large                                  Sliced cucumber

Pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds to taste

Feta cheese

Olive oil

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Layer ingredients on individual plates. Place ½ cup cooked quinoa on each plate.Top with  black beans, olives, feta cheese, and nuts. Arrange tomato wedges around the edge of plate. Place sliced cucumbers on one side. Drizzle all ingredients with olive oil.

The Lemon Gelatin Supreme, a nice blend of lemon gelatin, marshmallows, and bananas topped with a creamy pineapple sauce, shown here gives a tangy taste to the meal. Finish dinner with a rich chocolate pudding made with non-sugar sweetener and low-fat milk. Or if calories allow, enjoy a dish of your favorite chocolate ice cream.

Try this simple dinner salad and let me know what you think.

 

The Paleo Diet, touted for weight loss, has a growing number of followers. What is this diet? Is it right for you? The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman Diet or Stone Age Diet, refers to foods available during the Paleolithic Age, when early ancestors weren’t farmers but hunters and gatherers. They depended on food caught or gathered from open fields and forests.

According to Paleo enthusiasts, the diet includes lean meats, shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils (olive and coconut). Restricted foods include dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, salt, refined vegetable oils (such as canola), grains, and all processed foods.

A recent study of older women on this diet caught my attention. The study included thirty-five post-menopausal women who followed the diet for two years and lost significant weight. A researcher not involved in the study pointed out that those conducting the study veered from a true Paleo Diet to one that mimicked much of the Mediterranean Diet, an acceptable plan for healthy eating. A study of only thirty-five subjects concerned me.

What can we believe? In January 2016, the U. S. News & World Report listed scores of the most common diets based on a scale from 0 to 5. The Paleo diet had a 2.0 overall score. On weight loss, it scored 1.9. The score for healthy eating was 2.1, and the magazine ranked “ease to follow” at 1.7.

The magazine rated thirty-eight diets, divided into nine categories. How did the Paleo Diet fare? For Best Overall Diet, it ranked number thirty-six, tied for next to last place with the Dukan Diet, and came in last for Best Weight-loss Diet. Not only that, to follow this diet requires more home preparation, thus more kitchen time ― a sparse commodity for busy families. It also tends to cost more.

Supporters of this diet claim it leads to a healthier, fitter, disease-free life. In actuality, it fails to provide a number of needed nutrients. Exclusion of dairy makes it difficult to get recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D. Limited grains and pulses (legumes) restrict needed fiber in the diet.

Before we embark on any diet plan, it’s wise to learn the pros and cons. When tempted to follow popular diets whose claims sound too good to be true, think again. They probably are.

Do we bother to check labels on foods we eat? Those labels can help us make informed Comparison of Old and New FDA Nutrition Facts Label Formatchoices about what goes into our bodies. In May 2016, the U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced changes to update food labels, the first revision since 1993. Changes intend to make them more user-friendly. Except for smaller food industries, new labels will go into effect on July 26, 2018. What changes can we expect?

  • The updated design will showcase “calories” and “servings.” Manufacturers will print these two categories in bold and use larger font sizes.
  • Serving sizes will more readily reflect what people actually eat instead of what is healthier to eat. As an example, the previous ½ cup serving size for ice cream is changing to 2/3 cup.
  • A new addition to labels will identify “added sugars” to help consumers follow the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommend no more than 10 percent of total daily calories come from added sugars.
  • Package contents that fall between one and two servings will be labeled as one serving since that is what most individuals will consume, i.e. 20 ounce soft drinks will be considered as one serving since most will drink the entire beverage.
  • Updated daily values (DV) of some nutrients (sodium, dietary fiber, vitamin D) will reflect recommendations of the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine. DV refer to amounts of nutrients the body needs daily, and in many cases, the amount one should not exceed. Labels use %DV to represent the amount in food, and a footnote will help consumers better understand what that means.
  • Levels of Vitamin D and potassium will include actual gram amounts and the %DV. Calcium and iron will remain on labels with grams and %DV listed. Vitamins A and C, however, will no longer be required since these two vitamins are rarely deficient in the American diet. Nevertheless, food manufacturers may choose to list these two as well.
  • “Calories from Fat” will be deleted, but types of fat―“Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat”―will remain. Evidence suggests that the type of fat is more significant than the number of calories derived from fat sources in a given food.
  • Dietary supplements will also reflect the same label changes.

The new label design and revamping of information should make it easier to read and understand the contents of the foods we eat. It remains up to us to use this information to choose the types and amounts of foods to promote healthier lifestyles.

A designated “day” seems to exist for everything imaginable. June 10, 2016 is National Iced Tea Day.

The history of tea goes back some 5,000 years. Recipes for cold spiked punches, made mostly from green tea, surfaced in the late 1700s. Nearly 100 years later, recipes of the iced tea we love today appeared in cookbooks. While iced tea is great unsweetened, early versions were mostly sweetened and often served  with lemon.

Iced tea became a national favorite after Richard Blechynden, a tea merchant, decided on a hot day at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to distribute free iced tea instead of his usual hot tea. This iced beverage immediately became a hit and has become one of the most popular drinks around the world. Some 85 percent of tea drinkers want theirs iced.

Celebrate this national day with a tall glass of refreshing and healthful iced tea.

I am a longtime hot tea fan. For decades, anytime has been tea time for me. While others order a different favorite brew, as I do occasionally, I prefer black tea. Now comes evidence of my reward for my beverage choice. As little as one cup per day may improve health.

Tea contains flavonoids which have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids come from a broad category of non-nutritive phytochemicals found only in plants. These substances help to maintain health in varied ways. Other familiar phytochemicals include carotenoids, isoflavones, phenolic acids, and many more. It is estimated that hundreds of phytochemicals are yet to be identified. Tea has one of the highest concentrations of flavonoids of any plant. The type and amount in tea varies depending on several factors.

While antioxidants are in a different category, some phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, meaning they can help prevent or delay damage to cells and tissues. Antioxidants are found in both plant and animal sources.

Green tea has more of the flavonoid called catechins. Black tea, which has been fermented or oxidized, contains more of the flavonoids theaflavins and thearubigins. Both are water-soluble and readily absorbed into the body. For maximum concentration of flavonoids, steep tea for at least one minute. The longer the brew time, the higher the concentration of flavonoids and increased health benefits.

How is tea effective in health promotion? Research shows several conditions affected by flavonoids and perhaps other unidentified phytochemicals.

  • Heart disease: Tea drinkers may be more than one-third less likely to have a heart attack. Calcium deposits are linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular events. Buildup of these deposits, associated with plaque development in coronary arteries, is less in those who drink tea.
  • Dementia: Older adults with high levels of calcium plaques in their arteries are more likely to develop dementia earlier than those without calcium buildup. As in heart disease, tea seems to decrease the accumulation.
  • Neurological conditions: Antioxidants in tea have possible neuroprotective agents and may prove to reduce risks for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other diseases: Researchers have found favorable, but not conclusive, evidence of lower risks of skin disease, cancer, excessive weight, and other maladies in tea drinkers.

But is it the tea or something else? Although researchers have not found a direct relationship, tea drinkers tend to live healthier lifestyles. Whatever current and future findings, tea is a wholesome, inexpensive drink that contributes to a healthy diet.

Drink up!

Projected new cancer cases in 2016 will exceed 1.5 million. What can we do to avoid being oneWord cloud for Healthy Eating of those statistics? Excessive body weight is a definite link for increased risk of certain cancers. Two-thirds of U. S. adults are overweight or obese. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), one-third of all cancer cases hinge on three weight-related factors.

Eat Smart:    AICR recommends vegetables, fruits, and whole grains make up two-thirds of the meal. More than one-third of people surveyed by AICR claimed cost influenced their failure to eat healthy. The following include AICR suggestions to lower food costs plus my own thoughts.

  • Choose lower-cost fresh produce such as carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, oranges and foods in season. Many of these foods, especially vegetables, keep for longer periods of time so stockpile them when grocery stores run specials.
  • Stock up on canned foods. Canned fruits and vegetables are convenient and economical. Grocery stores also run specials on many canned items. To save on costs, choose store brands that in most cases are as nutritious as name brands.
  • Keep frozen foods on hand if space permits. Frozen foods are quick and easy to prepare and retain nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Move More:    Many claim a lack of time as their reason for failing to exercise. Easy ways to move more  include:

  • Take five-minute walking breaks. Sitting all day at work or at a desk is detrimental to health. Short breaks will improve physical well-being while giving your brain a break as well.
  • Include the family. Use TV commercial breaks for activity challenges for the entire family. Children often relate well to simple family games that involve movement.
  • Try new activities or resurrect old ones. Often sedentary past-times have replaced previously active ones. Find a family member or friend to join you in former active interests or join a class involving your favorite activity.

Maintain a Healthy Weight. Next to smoking, excessive weight is the single most important factor in lowering the risks of at least ten different kinds of cancers. In April 2016 the AICR released an updated report relating stomach cancer to extra body weight bringing that number to eleven. The report confirmed other food-related issues that also increased stomach cancer―consuming three or more alcoholic drinks per day and eating bacon, hot dogs and other processed meats.

More than half of the American population are unaware that weight is linked to their risk for cancer. Many find losing weight difficult and don’t know where to begin. The AICR “Cancer-Fighting Fridge” makes other recommendations in addition to those already stated.

  • Swap white processed grains for whole grains.
  • Make fruit and vegetables front and center
  • Replace sweetened drinks with water and unsweetened beverages
  • Keep easy-to-grab healthy snacks and meal options visible

May 8-14, 2016 is National Women’s Health Week. This is a great time to consider―not only for women but men as well― what you will do to lower your risk of cancer. Women can find additional age-related guidelines to help make more informed choices.

Knowing that too much weight leaves us more susceptible to unwanted cancer, why do we take losing weight so lightly (no pun intended)? Weight-loss is a challenge, but most of us can do it.

And one last suggestion from AICR worthy of note, support and encourage those making an effort to lose weight. Even small amounts of weight-loss benefit health. Don’t wait another day to begin the road to a healthier you and at the same time help others in their quest.

http://womenshealth.gov/nwhw/by-age/ (paste into browser if link fails to work)