Thursday, October 18, 2012

Swiss Chard, Black Beans, and Wheat Berries

I recently had fun working with Talk About Healthy making my first cooking video. It has been a learning experience. Most of all, I'm thrilled to present healthy and tasty recipes to my readers with a pinch of nutrition information to help you make the best food choices for you and your family. This video for Swiss chard, black beans, and wheat berries presents a very simple and nutritious recipe. The combination of ingredients provides a powerhouse of nutrients for health. Protein, iron, vitamin C, magnesium, lycopene, lutein, and fiber are only a few nutrients you'll get when you eat a serving. This recipe provides these nutrients (and more) in a tasty package. Give it a try and let me know what you think. You can add other seasonings to suite your taste preferences. My son always adds a nice dose of Sriracha! Happy and healthy eating! 

Swiss Chard, Black Beans, and Wheat Berries

2 T. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 small bunches or 1 large bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped

1 14-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 large tomatoes, chopped into large pieces

1 ½ cup cooked wheat berries

1 bunch green onions, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Cook wheat berries:

add ½ cup dry wheat berries to 1 ½ cup water. Bring to a boil under medium-high heat, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Set aside.

Heat olive oil under medium-high heat, add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant, but not brown. Add Swiss chard in 2 batches. When the first batch cooks down, add the second batch. Cook approximately 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook another 3 minutes. Add black beans and wheat berries and cook until warm, approximately 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in green onions. Serve and enjoy.

Makes 6 one cup servings

Monday, July 9, 2012

Exercise: A Healthy Addiction?

Exercise should be part of a healthy lifestyle, but it should not take over your life. 
This is a guest blog post.

Is there such a thing as too much exercise? You will often hear concerns regarding Americans’ sedentary lifestyles and the need for people to “get moving” in the media. While this is most definitely a present concern, there are also individuals on the opposite spectrum that need to tone their exercise behaviors down. I work as an instructor at a gym and have experienced compulsive exercise behaviors first hand. Some people habitually visit the gym three to four hours a day and become extremely troubled if something gets in the way of completing their rigorous workout routine.

Terms such as “obligatory (or compulsive) exercising”, “negative addiction”, and “exercise dependence” are all used in literature and all encompass obsessive exercise behaviors (1-4). Compulsive exercise can be defined as “an intense drive to be active, often in a rigid, routine-like fashion that is predominantly performed to manage weight and shape, as well as alleviating negative emotions.” (1). Up to 10% of high-performance runners have an addiction to exercise (3). Compulsive exercise is often discussed within the family of eating disorders (i.e. Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa), as they often occur simultaneously (1,2). Exercise, along with purging or restricted eating, is often used as another method for weight control.

Predictors of compulsive exercise:

One study investigated the risk factors for compulsive exercise. The three strongest predictors were:

1) A drive for thinness
2) Perfectionism
3) Obsessive-compulsiveness (1)

It is by no surprise that perfectionism and a drive for thinness were on the top three predictors of compulsive exercise, as society today endorses both of these behaviors.

According to Diane A. Klein, MD, of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, “So for people driven to achieve, to be perfectionists, and to be in optimal health, it’s kind of understandable that they become excessive.” (3) The demands from society to have a perfectly sculpted physique are simply unattainable and harmful.

How much is too much?

How do you know that exercise is becoming a problem? Symptoms of exercise dependence may include the following withdrawal symptoms in the absence of exercise: disturbed psychological functioning (i.e. severe distress, guilt, anxiety) and an interference with personal relationships. In addition, some individuals continue to run despite serious injury (2,4).

Acknowledging that there is in fact a problem is the first step to treat exercise addiction. Getting to the route of the obsession - whether it is a low sense of self-esteem or previous family history of addiction - is key. In very serious cases, psychotherapy may be a treatment (3).

Exercise for your health

In moderation, exercise is a wonderful thing. Benefits of exercise include a lower risk for chronic diseases, prevention of weight gain, better cognitive function, reduced depression, and the list goes on. It is currently recommended that Americans get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate level activities per week, and at least 2 days of strength training. How will you get your exercise this week?

Jenny, a 46-year-old secondary compulsive-exerciser (i.e. secondary to an eating disorder), was interviewed about her exercise attitudes and behaviors. Jenny stated, “My life tends to fit around the exercise, not the exercise fits into my life.” (2) Healthy living requires a careful balance of both diet and exercise. Make it a priority to fit exercise into your life for health!


1) Goodwin H, Haycraft E, Willis A, Meyer C. Compulsive Exercise: The Role of Personality, Psychological Morbidity, and Disordered Eating. Int J Eat Disord. 2011 Nov; 44(7):655-60.

2) Bamber D, Cockerill I M, Rodgers S, Carroll D. “It’s exercise or nothing”: a qualitative analysis of exercise dependence. Br J Sports Med. 2000;34:423–430.

3) Allen A. Exercise addiction in men: When exercise becomes too much. Retrieved June 21, 2012 from WebMD:

4) Shipway R, Holloway I. Running free: Embracing a healthy lifestyle through distance running. Perspectives in Public Health. 2010 Nov; Vol 130 No 6.

5) U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved June 21, 2012.

About the Author:

Amy Krug is a senior Nutrition and Dietetics major at Messiah College, located right outside of Harrisburg.  She plans to apply for Dietetic internships next spring and to continue on to become a Registered Dietitian. Amy has a passion for people, and desires to empower others to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.  She enjoys the outdoors, gardening, running, jamming out on the piano, singing, and laughing!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Finding Relief from Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Say Hello to FODMAPs!

A dietary approach to help manage IBS shows great promise 

This is a guest blog post.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is defined as disorder that consists of abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, changes in bowel movements, and other symptoms (1). Unlike inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, IBS does not result from abnormal structure of the bowels (1). The actual causes of IBS remain unclear, however a possible trigger may be an infection of the intestines, called post-infectious IBS (1). One theory is that sufferers of IBS may have a particularly sensitive colon that is reactive to certain foods and stress, and that the immune system may also be involved (2). IBS can occur at any age, but usually begins in the teens or early adulthood, and is twice as common in women as in men (1). It is said that one in six people in the U.S. experience symptoms of IBS, and it is the most common intestinal problem for patients who are referred to a gastroenterologist (1). Because this disorder causes patients to experience discomfort when eating certain foods, it can eventually breed anxiety from constant worry of what effects these foods will have on their symptoms.


The major symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and fullness. Symptoms may last three days a month for at least three months . These symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the patient (1).

People with IBS may also switch between constipation (difficulty with bowel movements), or diarrhea (loose or watery stool) (2). Some may only have constipation, while others may only experience diarrhea (1). People sometimes find that their symptoms may subside for a few months and then return, while others have worsening symptoms over time (2).

The FODMAPs Diet

While there is no treatment for IBS, patients can learn to maintain their symptoms by following specific dietary guidelines, including those presented in the FODMAPs diet. FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oglio-, Di-, and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols (3). The theory behind the FODMAPs diet is that consumption of these carbohydrates increases the volume of liquid and gas in the small and large intestines, leading to bloating and abdominal pain (3). Therefore, it is proposed that a diet low in FODMAPs should decrease these symptoms. FODMAPs include lactose, fructose, fructans, galactans, and sugar alcohols, which are found in many common foods, including:

• Animal dairy products, such as cow’s and goat’s milk, cheese, and yogurt.

• Fruits, particularly apples, pears, watermelon, mangoes, dried fruit, and fruit juices (3).

• Legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, broccoli, and soy products (4).

• Wheat products, including wheat and rye breads, cereals, and granola bars containing wheat.

• Sugar-free gums, mints, lozenges, and medications (4).

• Ketchup, barbeque sauce, honey, agave nectar, and other condiments and artificial sweeteners (4).

• Sugary drinks, like soda, and alcohol (4).

While the FODMAPs diet might call for avoiding many foods, there are still foods that are allowed. These include:

• Lactose-free milk (including rice milk and almond milk), cottage cheese, ice cream and sorbet; cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses (4).

• Fruits such as bananas, berries, honeydew melon, oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, grapes, and passionfruit (4).

• All-natural sweeteners, including sugar and natural maple syrup (4).

• Vegetables, including bell peppers, carrots, butter lettuce, celery, corn, eggplant, bok choy, tomatoes, potatoes, and spinach (4).

• Gluten-free breads and cereals, oats, rice and corn pasta, corn tortillas, rice cakes, and potato and tortilla chips (one should check labels on these products for any sweeteners or additives, such as honey or agave nectar) (3, 4).

These guidelines may vary among IBS patients. Some may be able to tolerate some foods that are prohibited by the FODMAPs diet, while others might be able to consume several without having any major discomfort.

Other dietary recommendations for those with IBS include drinking at least six to eight glasses of water per day, especially if they suffer from diarrhea (2). It is also recommended that patients do not consume large meals, as this can cause cramps and bloating (2). Instead, patients may be advised to eat smaller meals throughout the day, or smaller portions (2). Increasing fiber in the diet can also help by reducing constipation (1).

Other Relief Methods for IBS

Along with dietary changes, other methods to relieve symptoms of IBS include:

Prescribed medications

• Laxatives to relieve any constipation, or medicines to decrease diarrhea, such as diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil) or loperamide (Imodium) (2).

• Antispasmodic, which helps control colon muscle spasms and reduce abdominal pain (2).

• Antidepressants

Stress reduction activities

• Meditation

• Regular exercise, such as walking.

• Counseling and support

• Adequate sleep.


1. Irritable bowel syndrome: Spastic colon; Irritable colon; Mucous colitis; Spastic colitis (Last reviewed: July 22, 2011). Retrieved May 27, 2012 from PubMed Health:

2. Irritable bowel syndrome (September 2007). Retrieved May 27, 2012 from National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC):

3. Bradley Bolen, Barbara. Foods on the FODMAP Diet: High FODMAP Foods and Low FODMAP Foods (Updated March 16, 2012). Retrieved May 27, 2012 from

4. Scarlata, Kate. The FODMAPs Approach- Minimize Consumption of Fermentable Carbs to Manage Functional Gut Disorder Symptoms. Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 12 No. 8 Page 30. May 16, 2012.

About the Author:

Lauren Wisnowski is a senior Wellness Management major at SUNY Oswego and is from Rochester, NY. Having a vested interest in nutrition and wellness, she aspires to become a registered dietitian in the future. She enjoys exercising, especially running, as well as reading, writing, and spending time with her friends and family. Her hobbies also include quoting movie lines and watching Nickelodeon re-runs from the '90s.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Should You Be Concerned About Barrett's Esophagus?

Barrett’s Esophagus is a condition where the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid and is replaced by tissue similar to that which is found in the stomach. The exact cause of Barrett’s Esophagus is unknown, but it is commonly seen in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach rises into the esophagus, which may cause heartburn or indigestion. Occasional reflux is common, but for those who experience this sensation more than twice a week, a diagnosis of GERD is made. Within this population, Barrett’s Esophagus affects about 1% of Americans, or about 700,000 adults (1), and it may progress into esophageal adenocarcinoma, a deadly form of cancer of the esophagus. Barrett’s Esophagus does not cause any signs or symptoms, so it is important for individuals suffering from chronic reflux (GERD) to visit their doctor for an endoscopy and biopsy of the esophageal tissue regularly. Although cancer diagnosis is rare, most diagnoses are made late stage when treatment is ineffective. Early detection of precancerous cells (dysplasia) may prevent the development of esophageal cancer (2).

Risk Factors

Individuals with the following characteristics are at higher risk for developing Barrett’s Esophagus:

• Diagnosed with GERD, or experiencing constant reflux

• Heavy alcohol and tobacco use

• Older age

• Being male

• Being Caucasian

• Obesity

• Consuming a poor diet (3, 4).


A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that diets high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene are related with a reduced risk for Barrett’s Esophagus. Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, versus the typical Western Diet of processed foods, showed the greatest reduction in risk. It is important to note that similar results were not found in individuals who took supplements. It is theorized that there are other compounds in whole fruits and vegetables with beneficial, anti-cancer properties. Parallel findings were also discovered in a study completed by the National Institute of Health; Individuals consuming low amounts of raw fruits and vegetables were associated with a greater risk of developing cancer associated with Barrett’s Esophagus (5, 6).

Prevention and Recommendations

An effort to minimize acid reflux may reduce the risk of progression to Barrett’s Esophagus. The following is a list of various lifestyle changes that can be made to decrease this likelihood:

Smoking Cessation

• Smoking is strongly associated with cancer of the esophagus and can contribute to the esophageal cancer related to Barrett’s Esophagus.

Drink in Moderation

• Alcohol relaxes the mechanism that prevents stomach contents from entering the esophagus.

Sleeping Habits

• Avoid lying down three hours following meals.

• Sleep with your head elevated to prevent acid from rising into the esophagus.

Weight Loss

• Loosing weight improves GERD symptoms, as well as reduces the risk for both Barrett’s Esophagus and the development of cancer.

Dietary Changes

• Eat a low-fat diet, as high fat meals take longer to digest thereby increasing the risk for acid to rise.

• Consume small, frequent meals.

• Increase daily intake of raw fruits and vegetables, especially those high in antioxidants.

• Reduce caffeine intake to 2 – 3 cups per day. Caffeine, similar to alcohol, relaxes the mechanism in the esophagus that prevents acid to rise.

• Foods such as chocolate, spicy foods, and peppermint have also been show to aggravate reflux and should be avoided as necessary (1, 7, 8).

1. Dunbar, K. (2009, April 21). Barrett's Esophagus. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from John Hopkin's Pathology:

2. Locke, G., & Rich, J. (2008, July 1). Barrett's Esophagus. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from National Institute of Digestive Diseases Information Clearlinghouse:

3. National Cancer Institute. (2011, December 23). Esophageal Cancer Treatment. Retrieved March 30, 2013, from National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health:

4. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. (2009). Barrett's Esophagus. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from Cleveland Clinic:

5. Tufts University. (2008). Antioxidants from Produce May Protect Esophagus. Tufts University. Boston, MA: Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter.

6. Brown, L., Swanson, C., Gridley, G., Swanson, G., Shoenberg, J., Greenberg, R., et al. (1994). Adenocarcinoma of the Esophagus: Role of Obesity and Diet. Journal of the National Cancer Institute , 87 (2), 104-109.

7. Clark, G., Smyrk, T., Mirvish, S., Anselmino, M., Yamashita, Y., Hinder, R., et al. (1993). Effect of Gastroduodenal Juice and Dietary Fat on the Development of Barrett's Esophagus and Esophageal Neoplasia. 1 (3), 252-261.

8. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2012). Nutrition Therapy for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Nutrition Care Manual . Chicago, IL.

About the Author

Stephanie Wilson is a senior nutrition major at Rochester Institute of Technology.  This May she will graduate from RIT and begin her Dietetic Internship at California Polytechnic in San Luis Obsipo.  Stephanie proudly describes herself as a marathoner, foodie, musician, and blogger at  She hopes to one day follow in Carol’s footsteps and become a private practice dietitian and share her love of both nutrition and exercise with the public!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Women Need More Muscles

Women must weight train their whole life to support their muscles and bones
Bad news for us ladies, a recent study showed that body mass index (BMI) underestimates obesity in 48% of women. The study which was released this week determined that when body fat was measured by duel-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), almost half of the women who were not considered obese using BMI measurements actually were (25% of men were mis-classified as non-obese). This study highlights the problems that women face as they age in losing a greater amount of muscle and bone mass then men.

Being considered the weaker sex for thousands of years, women were discouraged from engaging in physical activity, exercise and sports as recently as the mid-twentieth century. Consequently, even women considered engaging in physical activity unfeminine. Many of us were sedentary throughout most of our lives and dieted to stay thin when we were younger. We know that muscle loss accompanies dieting. As we approached forty, fifty, sixty and beyond, we accumulated more fat at the expense of muscle and bone (you have to use it or you lose it).

Both men and women need to engage in weight training, but women need it more. More attention should be placed on getting women of all ages to pump some iron to prevent the loss of muscle and bone that occurs with age. Today young women seem to embrace this idea, but older women should too (even 90 year olds). Weight training at any age promotes an increase in muscle and bone mass. In turn, stronger muscles and bones promotes improved health. Exercising your muscles is one way to decrease insulin resistance and increase coordination to prevent falls.

So ladies, don't lament the bum hand that we've been dealt in having more body fat then men. Get to the gym now and start cutting up (lose body fat and gain muscle). You will need to watch your diet too to get rid of that extra body fat, but no more dieting at the expense of your muscles. If you want to do it right, consult a personal trainer and a dietitian to get you on track. A personal trainer will teach you the correct form for lifting weights and a dietitian will tailor your diet to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.

To your health!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Childhood Obesity: A Call to Action

Show your children the value of eating healthy foods 

Our children are at risk. Most parents identify drugs, alcohol, sex and violence as threats to the well-being of their children. In truth, childhood obesity will have a greater negative impact on more children than any of the concerns listed above. The most recent data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) collected in 2007-2008 shows a marked increase in the prevalence of obesity from 1976-1980 in all age groups.

Prevalence of Obesity in US Children and Adolescents
   Age                    1976-1980                  2007-2008
2-5 years               5.0%                            10.4%
6-11 years             6.5%                            19.6%
12-19 years           5.0%                            18.1%

Nearly one third of children in the US are either overweight or obese and they are at risk for future health problems.

Overweight and obese children are the targets of many health and social problems. They are often exposed to early social discrimination, which can lead to low self-esteem. This in turn can hamper their academic and social functioning into adulthood. They are also at increased risk for cardiovascular disease due to high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and abnormal blood sugar levels. Additional health risks include asthma, fatty degeneration of the liver caused by a high concentration of liver enzymes, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes.

The causes of childhood overweight and obesity are many. Childhood obesity was aptly described by Dr. Hilde Bruch, a pioneer in the field over seventy years ago. She said, "To understand the obese child, one needs to remember that he (she) accumulated his (her) extra weight while living in a family that, wittingly or unwittingly, encouraged overeating and inactivity." The current culture of America encourages overeating and inactivity, and one must swim against the current to avoid these habits.

The solution is straightforward, but difficult to adopt for many families who are stressed for time. Calories must be balanced with eating healthy foods and engaging in daily activities. When looking for solutions to keep your kids healthy, look not further than your pantry and your own backyard.

Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
  • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grain foods.
  • Offer protein from beans, lentils, nuts, fish, poultry and lean meats.
  • Include some low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
  • Offer smaller portion sizes.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages. One 12 ounce can of soda contains ten teaspoons of sugar.
  • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
  • Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
  • Cook healthier meals at home and eat out less.
  • Avoid calorie-rich temptations. An occasional treat is acceptable, but it should not be a daily occurrence.

Help Kids Stay Active
  • Children should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day. Examples are taking a brisk walk, playing tag, jumping rope, playing soccer, swimming and dancing.
  • Have children join you in your physical activity routine.
  • Limit television, video games, and surfing on the web to no more than two hours a day. Children younger than 2 years should not view television at all.
  • Do not allow your child to have a television or computer in their bedroom.

With attention, support, and hard work, our children can lose and maintain healthier weights.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fabulous Fungi

Mushrooms are not a true vegetable but a fungus. They have no roots or leaves, do not flower or bear seeds, and do not need light to grow. There are approximately 38,000 varieties of mushrooms, some edible and some highly toxic.

Their history is rich and revered. The Chinese used them for medicine. The Egyptian pharaohs declared them a food suitable only for royals. The French were the first to cultivate mushrooms in caves in the early 17th century. In the late 19th century, mushrooms were being grown commercially in both Europe and the United States. Farmers in Pennsylvania developed a method for growing mushrooms indoors, which is how most mushrooms are grown today. Many wild varieties are cultivated in this manner, which has allowed them to become more affordable and widely available.

The flavor of mushrooms comes from glutamic acid in part, which is a natural form of monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG contains a considerable amount of sodium while fresh mushrooms are virtually sodium free.

Since they are not colorful, mushrooms had been thought of as lacking significant nutritional content, however, they do supply key nutrients. They are a decent source of the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin (they contain some B6 and folate too), iron, potassium, selenium, and vanadium (recently identified as an essential trace mineral in humans). They are a good source of dietary fiber. They contain the cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber beta glucan and they have also been discovered to contain antioxidant levels similar to other colorful vegetables. They are very low in calories with one cup of raw mushrooms supplying approximately 20 calories.

Mushrooms contain some vitamin D. When they are exposed to sunlight at the end of their growing cycle, they will produce a significant amount of vitamin D. They are one of the few foods to contain natural vitamin D. Look for the sunlight mushrooms in your local grocery store.

It used to be that the white button mushrooms were the only variety available in the marketplace. Now, varieties abound, cultivated and wild, fresh and dried. Mushrooms can transform the flavor of a dish adding an earthy rich flavor.

Mushrooms are highly absorbent and their contact with water should be limited when cleaning. With that said, they are 80% water and you will notice that they release water when being cooked. It is recommended that they be cleaned by wiping them with a damp towel or brush. Depending on what is being cooked, I often times will rinse them quickly in water to remove most of the dirt.

For more information about mushrooms visit Fresh Mushrooms, Nature's Hidden Treasure.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Shrimp

1# pasta shells (I recommend whole wheat)

2 T. unsalted butter + 2 T. olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 # fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

3/4 # medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

½ cup chicken broth

½ tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 T. chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté 1 minute or until softened. Increase heat to medium high, add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Add shrimp, sauté for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 minute.

3. Drain pasta; place in a serving bowl and toss with cheese and parsley. Add mushroom-shrimp sauce; toss. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snack Attack: The Art of Healthy Snacking

It’s 3 pm and your stomach is grumbling. You decide to eat an apple but the cookies a coworker brought to work are looking mighty good. You eat the apple hoping that the cookies will leave your mind; an hour later they are still there and you eat six. So much for good intentions.

Snacking behavior can make or break a healthy eating plan. Most people go wrong with snacking by leaving it up to impulse. Meals are planned, but what people snack on is left up to whim. The myriad of unhealthy snack foods available in the supermarket doesn’t help impulse control either.

The first defense in taming the inner snack beast is to eat a healthy breakfast. A study of obese people trying to lose weight showed that those who regularly ate breakfast lost more weight than those who skipped the morning meal. Those who skipped breakfast ate more calorie-dense foods later in the day. Breakfast should be more substantial than just a cup of yogurt and coffee. An egg on whole wheat toast with lean ham and cheese, an orange and tea will fit the bill. In a hurry, grab an oat English muffin smeared with peanut butter and a banana and pick up your Starbuck’s coffee on the way to the office (hold the café mocha).

Another important guideline is to avoid eating when not hungry. This may seem like common sense, but snacking clearly plays a role in obesity. Almost a quarter of the American population is obese and obesity related diseases account for over 300,000 deaths per year. Eating because of boredom, anxiety, anger or because food just looks good will lead to weight gain in the end.

Eating smaller, more frequent meals that incorporate healthy snacks has been shown to reduce overall stomach capacity. Over time, one feels more satisfied with less food. It is believed that this is the reason why people who “graze” tend to be leaner.

In general, snacks should contain from 200-300 calories. Consider that an apple has approximately 60-100 calories; it is no wonder that an apple alone may not satisfy hunger. Spread a little peanut butter on your apple or dip it yogurt and your hunger is more likely to be quelled. Protein contained in peanut butter and yogurt increases the feeling of fullness and prevents hunger from coming back too quickly.

Keep in mind that all healthy diets allow favorite foods and treats. Snacking on cookies may not seem like a good idea when trying to lose weight, but allowing a treat at some point in the day may keep one from losing their fortitude.

Snacking Basics

1. Don’t eat if you are not hungry.

2. Don’t skip breakfast.

3. Eat smaller, more frequent meals.

4. Plan your snacks and choose the right foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nonfat dairy, lean protein).

5. Think out of the bag! Avoid foods marketed and sold as snack foods as they tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, sodium and fat and low in fiber.

Snack Ideas

There are any number of good snack ideas out there. Choose foods that you like and find satisfying. Eat enough food to abate your hunger, but not so much to tip the scale.

1. ½ sandwich (peanut butter, lean meat, veggies) on whole grain bread with milk.

2. Nuts. Limit to approximately ¼ cup per day.

3. 3-4 fig cookies with milk (look for whole wheat variety in the organic food section of grocery store).

4. ¼ cup granola with 6 oz. low fat yogurt.

5. Sliced fresh fruit with yogurt.

6. Sliced fresh fruit with cheese.

7. Apple or banana with peanut butter.

8. Bowl of whole grain cereal with low fat milk.

9. Oatmeal cookies with low fat milk.

Keep in mind that every time you eat, you have an opportunity to do something good for your body, mind, and soul.

What kinds of healthy snack do you find satisfying?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Herbs And Spices Pack More Than Flavor

Adding flavor to your food can be good for your health

When you think of herbal remedies, what comes to mind?  Is it black cohosh, ginko biloba, or echinacea?  Well, look no farther than your spice rack for the healing powers of these unassuming flavor enhancers.  Packed with phytochemicals, these leaves, stems and seeds may ward off a wide range of illness--from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.  Read on to learn more.
The bark of a tropical evergreen tree, cinnamon, is used to impart a sweet, spicy flavor to desserts and savory dishes.  An alternate role cinnamon may play is to inhibit bacterial growth, specifically Listeria monocytogenes, which is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, seniors, and those with compromised immune function.  Cinnamon steeped in hot water with tea may act to calm the stomach, lessening nausea and vomiting. Cinnamon may also play a role in blood-sugar regulation.  Of forty-nine herbs, spices, and medicinal plants tested by the US Department of Agriculture for their ability to regulate insulin, cinnamon ranked the highest.

A twisted, knotted root common in Indian and Asian cooking, ginger may lessen pregnancy and chemotherapy-related nausea.  Recent research shows that ginger may also help to alleviate arthritis pain.  These findings, although promising, are relatively new and no recommendations are made for ginger to replace traditional osteoarthritis treatment.

Oregano is a member of the mint family whose main components, thymol and carvacrol, are potent antioxidants capable of preventing lipid peroxidation and neutralizing food-borne bacteria, such as E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and salmonella.  Oregano exhibits stronger antioxidant power than vitamin E.  Other culinary herbs with strong antioxidant activity are rose geranium, sweet bay, dill, purple amaranth, and winter savory.

The use of rosemary in cooking dates back to 500 BC.  It has been used as a food preservative and as a cosmetic fragrance, as well as for medicinal purposes.  It is loaded with a variety of phytochemicals that are proving to be important in the realm of disease prevention.  It has been shown to be beneficial to heart patients, preventing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol oxidation, as well as helping to preserve memory by reducing inflammation and neuron damage.  Carnosol, one of rosemary’s chief constituents, may play a future role in the treatment of liver disease and leukemia.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used sage as a homeopathic remedy.  Spanish sage may have a future as a treatment for age-related cognitive decline.  It has been shown to mimic the action of certain anti-Alzheimer’s medications.

Also a member of the mint family, thyme exhibits strong antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.  Its oils have been shown to disable respiratory pathogens, including those that cause influenza and pneumonia.  It may play a role in cognitive function as well.  Thymol, a primary phytochemical in thyme, may maintain optimal fatty acid balance in aging neurons.

Grown in India and other tropical areas of Asia, turmeric has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties owing to the phytochemical curcumin.  Two areas where turmeric’s effects are being shown are in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and certain forms of cancer, particularly those of the stomach and colon.

Despite the use of culinary herbs and spices in folk medicine for centuries, research into their ability to prevent disease is young.  They are best consumed in whole food form.  Individual plant chemicals isolated from the herbs may not have the same beneficial actions.  So add a little spice to your life, you may be healthier for it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Fallacy of Moderation

What does moderation really mean?
 Moderation is a word that has been used quite often when describing healthy eating and drinking patterns. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines moderation as avoidance of extremes or tending toward average. What does this really mean when we are talking about food? Does it mean one cookie a day or one less cookie than we usually eat? Perhaps it means that we don't eat the whole cookie jar? Does it mean once a day, once a week, once a month or once a year? The problem is that it can mean anything that we want it to mean. This isn't good enough when we are talking about promoting healthy eating behaviors. To say "all things in moderation" to me seems like an excuse to maintain the status quo, which arguably is average.

Paula Deen announced this week that she has had type 2 diabetes for the past three years. Her announcement mentioned very little about following healthy dietary habits. Rather, she stated that she has always been a advocate for moderation (there's that word again). Deen's recipes are not known for being healthy and it must be extremely embarrassing for her to have developed a disease that has a strong tie to dietary factors. Regardless of the cause of diabetes, diet and exercise are integral for its management. They are much too important to be passed off by the use of a non-specific word such as moderation. Deen's announcement this week motivated me to write this blog post, but this post is not about her.

The food industry loves the term moderation for the very reason that it is non-specific. Hershey's has created the Moderation Nation to help consumers find balance in their lives. Part of their message is that 100 calories a day of chocolate can fit into your balanced diet. That's fine, if you do not need to lose weight, but about one third of American adults are obese. George Blackburn, MD, PhD, Chief of the Nutritional/Metabolism Laboratory, and Director of the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine, which are affiliated with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, reports that for a vast majority of obese Americans, as little as 200 calories a day prevents them from losing the 20-30 pounds necessary to gain significant health benefits(1). That is less than a small package of M&M's (240 calories). Often, that 100 calorie treat becomes a 200 or 300 calorie "nibble" especially when the whole package contains more than 100 calories. The concept of moderation keeps consumers buying products, which is the primary concern of major food manufacturers and restaurants. In the case of Deen's Savannah, GA restaurant, it keeps the line of patrons circling the block waiting to be seated. Moderation promotes sales and keeps the customers coming through the door.

Last month the marketing research group NPD discovered that Americans are following MyPlate guidelines only 2% of the time. That translates to seven days out of the year! That surely is not moderation and I would argue that the message of moderation is not working. MyPlate promotes such a simple concept and advises Americans to consume half of their plate from fruits and vegetables. It doesn't get much easier than that!

So what can we do that is better? The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in collaboration with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases developed the WeCan Program to teach children and families how to choose healthier diets and exercise more. This program uses the Stoplight Approach to teach which foods should be eaten every day (green light), which foods should be eaten in smaller quantities and less often (yellow light) and which foods should rarely be eaten (red light). Another way to define this approach uses the words "Go, Slow, and Whoa." These three simple words convey more meaning than the word moderation and help to underscore that not all foods can be eaten regularly in moderation if you are trying to lose weight. This approach can be used to teach adults how to better control their food intake too and shows great promise in some area weight management programs.

Stoplight symbols have been added to packaged foods in some European countries to help consumers choose healthier diets. It's doubtful that food manufacturers would allow such a system in the United States because many food products would be labeled yellow or red which could potentially negatively impact sales. You can understand why manufacturers prefer the use of the term "moderation" when it comes to promoting healthier diet habits.

Smart phone users can benefit from using the Fooducate application which independently grades thousands of grocery food items and provides a stoplight color code and letter grade to help consumers make appropriate food choices. The app also discusses the reason for the grade so that you can better understand what makes a food more or less healthy.

I encourage you to make a pertinent comment on this post. I will send a copy of The Little Black Book of Foodspiration by Yvette Quantz, RD, CSSD, LD to the first 20 people who leave a comment. If you are one of the twenty, please email me at info@rochesternutrition with you name and address.

1. Blackburn, GL and Waltman, GA. Expanding the Limits of Treatment-New Strategic Initiatives. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:S131-S135.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Resistant Starch: The New Carb on the Block

Resistant starch is the next hot topic that you’ll be hearing about in the news, and I’m not talking about the laundry. This is nutrition science discovering new things about how foods impact our health. In the early 1980’s it was discovered that a component of starch could not be absorbed by the small intestine and passed into the large intestine where it was digested by bacteria, releasing beneficial compounds for the cells of the colon. It was identified as resistant starch (RS). RS is different from dietary fiber because it is bound along with other starchy carbohydrates, not the bran or the germ.

RS can be found naturally in legumes, seeds, whole grains, under-ripe bananas, raw potatoes, and (to a lesser extent) processed starchy foods that have been cooked and cooled, such as breads, cereals, potatoes, rice and pasta. A brand of corn has been engineered to contain a large amount of RS for use in food manufacturing; it is called high-amylose corn (Hi-Maize). This isn’t the corn that you eat at your dinner table. High-amylose corn is processed into flour and added to baked goods to decrease the overall absorbable carbohydrate and increase the RS of a product.

There has been a surge of recent research looking at the health properties of RS. Much of the research uses processed products such as Hi-Maize. Some benefits are improved glycemic control, decreased insulin secretion, decreased cholesterol levels, increased fat burning and improved colonic health. Negative effects have been discovered too, especially with highly purified RS diets that do not include the other components of dietary fiber. There is a concern for increased risk of colon cancer in this situation.

The consumption of RS in the US is currently estimated to be about 3-6 grams per day. In developing countries where unprocessed starch consumption is high the intake ranges from 30-40 grams per day. RS intake in China is about 18 grams per day. Research has identified the beneficial intake of resistant starch to be between 10-20 grams per day. With RS, more is not necessarily better, and a healthful intake can be as little as 5% of total carbohydrates.

Over-processing of foods diminishes RS content along with many other nutrients. This is one plague of industrialized food production. Our goal for healthy eating should be to include whole grains, legumes, and seeds while decreasing processed baked goods. Processed and engineered foods are no match for the panoply of nutrients that whole foods provide.

Engineered RS has been developed to be a functional food, a food or dietary component that may provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition. I wonder if eating high-amylose corn muffins, pasta, or bread will benefit the consumer as much as the manufacturer. Only time, and more research will tell.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nutritional Beauty

A healthy diet can make you beautiful inside and out
A growing consumer trend is to eat well for naturally glowing skin, strong shiny hair, and inner holistic radiance. We clearly are what we eat, and this mantra applies to more than just health.

Nutritional products have long been used topically to promote beauty. Honey masks, olive oil hair conditioning, and oatmeal baths can trace their roots back to ancient times. Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, and alpha-hydroxy have been shown to improve sun-damage or wrinkles when applied to the skin. Many cosmetics contain antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals. Most recently vitamin K has been discovered to lighten dark circles under the eyes.

The idea of promoting beauty can also be applied from the inside out. A top nutrient in this category is water. Without proper hydration, skin can seem dull and less supple. Antioxidant vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and essential fatty acids are next in line. Antioxidants neutralize compounds that damage the body including skin. It is no lie that eating your fruits and vegetables can make you more beautiful. A recent study looking at the amount of vitamin C women consumed in their diet showed that those who ate the least amount of vitamin C from food had the most wrinkled appearance. Vitamin C is important for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that helps maintain skin elasticity. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of vitamin C. Another recent study showed that eating more carotenoid containing fruits and vegetables gave the skin a tanned hue when compared with study participants who did not eat the carotenoid containing foods. Carotenoids are the yellow to deep red pigments found in foods. You may say that eating fruits and vegetables provides skin a healthy glow.

The next big beauty secret believed by some estheticians is controlling inflammation from the inside out; not just reacting to a skin problem. Barry Sears, PhD president and founder of Zone Labs, Inc., contends that “inflammation links to all chronic disease, skin degeneration, and the aging process. To stop inflammation, balance protein and carbohydrate ratio at each meal.” Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish such as salmon, walnuts, flax and chia seed exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. An increased intake of linoleic acid, and omega-6 fatty acid found in nuts, whole grains, most vegetable oils, eggs and poultry, is also associated with more youthful looking skin in research studies. Conversely, high intakes of saturated fat and refined carbohydrates abundant in the typical American diet are associated with a more wrinkled appearance.

Companies looking to capitalize on this trend are introducing products containing antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals. Will they make you more beautiful? Perhaps, if you already eat in a healthful manner, but drinking a special concoction won’t help if you are eating doughnuts for breakfast, sub sandwiches for lunch and pizza for dinner. And if you smoke, all bets are off. The aging effect of smoking undoes any good that a healthy diet or special supplement provides. Research shows that what matters more than eating a particular food or nutrient to prevent aging is to follow an overall healthy diet. People eat foods in combinations, not one at a time. It is the interplay of nutrients together that seems to provide the greatest anti-aging benefit. Here’s one more reason to eat your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. They can make you look marvelous.