Posts Tagged ‘healthy-living’

Sometimes it’s important to get back to basics. My blog relates to nutrition and food events based on current research or newsworthy items. As a dietitian, I tend to believe everyone has heard of the foods we need daily for a healthy diet. Not true. With a plethora of information, people tend to forget the simple. Often advertising or false claims mislead people. How can we eat for optimum health and enjoy food without the hassle? Below is a brief summary of nutrients our bodies need plus those we may eat in access.

  • Calories: Our bodies need energy (fuel). We get that energy only from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. An ounce of fat provides more than twice as many calories as the same amount of carbohydrate or protein (which have about the same). The calories we need depend on age, activity, gender, and other factors. Healthy adult women of appropriate weight need about 2,000 calories a day. Men and very active women need more. In addition to calories, the body requires the following.
  • Vitamins: These nutrients help convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy, carry out body functions within the cells, and form bones, teeth, and tissue.
  • Minerals: Mineral elements help regulate enzymes, build body and bone tissue, and keep nerves and muscles healthy.
  • Water and Fiber: Drink ample fluids (six to eight glasses per day), especially water, and eat foods high in fiber to help eliminate waste from the body.

Sometimes our diets have too much or not enough of varied nutrients. While excess of some nutrients may be okay, others can harm health. Consider the following as you eat.

  • Sugar (carbohydrate): Many, if not most, Americans have a sweet tooth. A little is okay as long as you don’t over do it. Foods high in sugar, especially sweetened beverages, are responsible for much of the obesity in society. Sugar may also increase the risk for dental decay, especially in children.
  • Fats: The body needs fat for body fuel and other functions. Fat in the diet helps keep us from getting hungry as quickly. Some types of fats are good while others can increase risks of health problems. Saturated fats, found mostly in meats, may increase risks for heart disease. To consume less of these fats, trim fat from meats, remove skin from chicken, and switch to low-fat milk and milk products. Unsaturated fats, found in plant sources, may help decrease heart problems. Olive oil, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, is considered a healthier source of unsaturated fats. Use more vegetable oils in cooking (see post for 8/20/2013) and limit the use of trans fats.
  • Meats and Protein Foods (protein, fat, vitamins, minerals): About four ounces daily of a protein food is adequate. Legumes and nuts are healthy sources. For a healthier diet, choose skinless chicken and fish instead of red meat. While controversy lingers over the health value of eggs, they are excellent sources of protein and other nutrients.
  • Milk and milk products (carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals): Consume the equivalent of two to three servings a day. Milk, a natural source of calcium and other minerals and vitamins, is fortified with Vitamin D. Choose low-fat options for a healthier diet.
  • Breads, Cereals, Pasta (carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, fiber): Choose five to six servings a day with at least half from whole grain sources.
  • Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins): While Americans may get too many calories from carbohydrates and fats, most fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables. A healthful diet will include a variety of four to five vegetables and three to four fruits each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, or canned sources. Consider the following selections and others.
    • Fruits: apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, grapefruit, mangos, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, strawberries.
    • Vegetables: asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, green beans, green peas, kale, legumes (field peas/beans), mustard greens, okra, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips/turnip greens, pumpkin, zucchini. Choose one serving of a deep green or deep yellow fruit/vegetable at least three to four times per week.
  • Salt (the minerals sodium and chloride): Controversy continues about the amount of salt (actually the sodium) needed by healthy people. While the body needs salt, too much can damage health, especially for those with high blood pressure. With the increased consumption of prepared foods, snacks, and meals eaten away from home, it’s safe to say most American exceed the amount needed. To cut back on the amount in the diet, check sodium content of foods and avoid using extra salt at the table.

Sometimes we make eating the right foods way to difficult. Make your choices based on guidelines for a healthier diet without a lot of hassle.


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While many believe skipping breakfast is the ideal solution to cutting calories and losing weight, possibly the opposite is true. New research confirms that food within the first few hours of the day may promote better health. Skipping breakfast possibly will cause:

  • Worse eating habits. Fasting at breakfast causes the brain to seek high-calorie foods. Even pictures of high-calorie foods trigger areas of the brain linked to reward and pleasure of eating.
  • Greater hunger. Those who fail to eat in the early morning are more likely to become hungry and seek calorie-laden foods.
  • Reduced activity. Individuals who skip breakfast tend to be less active.
  • Increased waist size. Adults who skipped breakfast as children and continued into adulthood may have a waist size nearly two inches greater than breakfast eaters.
  • Increased risk of heart disease. Those adults who have continued to skip breakfast since childhood acquire greater risks for heart problems.
  • High cholesterol. Skipping breakfast can elevate cholesterol levels.

It does matter if you break that fast with breakfast after a night without food. Some people say they can’t eat when they arise in the morning. Even something simple like yogurt or a high-protein breakfast drink or bar can help. Give it a try for a few weeks. It could improve your health. Not only that, you may even lose a pound or two. Now to most of us, that’s important.

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Whereas the DASH diet ranked number one in 2012 as the healthiest diet, not far behind were other excellent diets. The TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet ranked number two (See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/tlc-diet). Developed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association, it claims to lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol by eight to ten percent in six weeks. This diet sharply reduces dietary fat, especially saturated fat found primarily in meats, dairy (butter/cream), and fried foods. The diet encourages restricting foods high in cholesterol and increasing those high in fiber.

Three diets tied for third place, Mediterranean, Mayo Clinic, and Weight Watchers. While the DASH diet is well-known for lowering sodium in the diet and the TLC diet is low-fat, the Mediterranean diet is a balance of healthy foods without reducing any specific food or substance. This diet has no specific “plan” but emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes; olive oil; herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least twice a week; poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation; and sweets and red meats only for special occasions. Those living around the Mediterranean Sea, for which the diet is named, tend to have more active lifestyles, control their weight, consume diets high in healthful foods as listed above, and eat less red meat, sugar, or saturated fat than Americans. See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet.

The Mayo Clinic diet, also a balanced diet, advocates a two-phase program. Part one, referred to as “Lose It” phase, doesn’t count calories. Part two, “Live It,” involves learning the number of calories needed and where those calories come from. The aim of the diet is weight-loss, and participants should lose from six to ten pounds in two weeks. See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mayo-clinic-diet/recipes.

U. S News & World Report ranked Weight Watchers as number five among healthiest diets. Experts considered this diet easy to follow, safe, and nutritionally sound. Weight Watchers emphasizes group support. Foods include lots of fruits and vegetables, and it allows for occasional indulgences. Check http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/weight-watchers-diet for more information.

Although these best diets may contribute toward loss of weight, the news magazine also evaluated diets touted for weight-loss. Weight Watchers ranked number one in that category with Biggest Looser, Jenny Craig, and raw food diet tied at number two (See http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-weight-loss-diets ). Volumetrics came in fifth.

Now you have it. Many diets out there are healthy choices. Forget all the fad diets that may actually do harm and concentrate on wholesome foods to provide adequate nutrients and calories to become a healthier you.

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What will 2013 hold for the latest gimmicks or diets to lose weight? In case you missed it, observers considered 2012 a new low in efforts to lose weight. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) identified what they considered as the top five worst diets.

  • OMG (six-week diet). Ranked at number five, this diet starts with a cup of black coffee early each morning followed by exercise. Afterward, go straight for a bath in cold water and sit until 10:00 a.m. Then you can have breakfast, but no fruits or snacks. If you try it, let me know how it works for you. Me? I prefer hot showers and breakfast as soon as my toes reach the floor each morning.
  • Alcorexia/Drunkorexia Diet. Eat very few calories throughout the week so you can save up to spend them drinking alcoholic beverages on weekends. Sound like a winner? I won’t bore you with details. According to the BDA, “(The diet) is absolutely stupid and could easily result in alcohol poisoning and even death.”
  • “Party Girl” IV Drip Diet. This procedure, costing upwards of $200 – $300, has caught on with some celebrities. A clinician inserts an IV drip of fluids mixed with customized vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream. Gives you extra pep—they say.
  • KEN (ketogenic enteral diet). The KEN diet, also a clinical procedure, involves threading a NG (nasogastric) tube through the nose into the stomach. Special liquid-patented formulas provide specific amounts of protein and nutrients. Referred to as forced starvation, the diet can cause organ damage. It’s administered in 10-day cycles with normal eating in-between.
  • Dukan Diet. Written by the French physician Pierre Dukan, this diet ranked number one for the second year. Similar to the Atkins diet, it begins with high-protein foods and no carbohydrates to accomplish quick weight loss. The BDA considers it “confusing, time-consuming, very rigid, and . . . hard to sustain.” The diet warns of constipation, low energy, and bad breath.

These aren’t the only absurd diets out there. Who knows what will surface or repeat in 2013? Wouldn’t you rather cut back a little on high-fat, high-sugar foods and eat a little less to lose a few pounds? The thought of that cold bath motivates me to make wiser choices and skip all the nonsense.

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