By Kelly Bothum, Wilmington News Journal, April 9th, 2013
Judging from the label, that box of cereal looks like a nutritional bonanza. Made with whole grains. Low-fat. With added protein. Enriched with vitamins and minerals.
Except for the fact that precious little of the heavily promoted whole grain is fiber and while lower in fat, it’s higher in sugar. The protein might be a boost, but most Americans tend to eat more than enough protein anyway. And the enriched nutrients only make up for what was taken out during the processing.
So is it a dietary dream or disaster? The only way to find out is with a little nutritional sleuthing.
“The food manufacturers are perfectly happy to trick you,” said Dr. Dana Simpler, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., who uses diet as part of the treatment plan for some patients. “If it looks like junk food, it is junk food. Don’t be fooled by ‘no fat’ and think you’re eating a health food.”
It can be hard to navigate the myriad claims made on the nutrition labels, especially if you’re trying to make better choices when it comes to reducing your intake of sugar, salt and calories. And of course, the best options are usually those that don’t come from a box but rather the ground – especially fruits and vegetables.
But there are times in our busy day when packaged foods are the best, easiest or most available option. So how do you know which foods make the cut?
It’s not always easy. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that consumers often miscalculate the number of calories and nutritional content of products – like a snack-size bag of potato chips – that actually have multiple servings but are usually consumed all at once.
“We as consumers want to be able to look at something and get a quick answer. We don’t want to think about it long,” said Tracey Sinibaldi, a registered dietitian in Middletown. “The marketing piece, you need to look at what it is they’re saying on the label. What’s the intent of the target? You may see a pretty red heart, but you need to dig deeper because it might not be truly heart healthy if you have that add-on sugar and everything else.”
The following tips can help make sense of those sometimes confusing nutrition labels and health claims:
1. Know how much you’re eating.
One of the first places your eyes should land on a package is the serving size information, said Marianne Carter, a registered dietitian and director of the Delaware Center for Health Promotion at Delaware State University. Skipping this step makes it impossible to know how much you’re actually consuming in the package.
“There are beverages out there that people drink all at once, but you look at the serving size and it says two. Every piece of information is about that one serving,” Carter said.
That means if you blow past the serving size, you’re likely to add calories, fat, sugar and sodium to your diet that you might not have been expecting, Simpler said.
“The serving sizes are nowhere near what most people would consider an actual serving size,” she said. “You’re tricked into thinking something has less sodium or fat than it really does.”
To get a better idea of how a serving size stacks up with how much you actually eat, measure out the recommended size before you eat it. You might find you’re eating more than one serving at a time.
2. Know the marketing labels.
There are plenty of ways food manufacturers can make us think we’re eating more healthily than we actually are, Simpler said.
“I know there’s lots of marketing tools in terms of ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ and they put a hard play on the heart. They’re making you feel like, ‘This is really healthy for me,’ vs. the item that doesn’t have the word on it, said Sinibaldi, owner of TKS Nutrition.
Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration acknowledges the term “natural” is hard to define because the processing that goes into food preparation often leaves it different than something grown in the ground. The agency doesn’t have a definition for use of the term, but doesn’t object as long as the food doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.
While the FDA doesn’t have any regulations for the “organic” label, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does. It refers to foods that have been grown according to accepted farming standards, including the absence of herbicides and pesticides. On multi-ingredient products, the seal indicates the product is at least 95 percent organic. But that doesn’t say anything about the nutritional value of the food, Sinibaldi said. “It won’t be higher in fiber or minerals,” she added.
3. ‘Free’ doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.
It’s the labeling trifecta: fat-free, sugar-free and cholesterol-free. But that doesn’t mean that what’s inside is better for you than the original version.
“If they are taking something out of the food, they have to add something back in. And likely, it’s going to be sodium or sugar,” said Arianne Missimer, a registered dietitian and owner of Core Fitness in Wilmington. “They are always playing tricks like that.”
Sometimes people think they’re making a smart swap by opting a lower-fat version of a food, such a peanut butter. But the fat in peanut butter, while high, is of the healthy variety, rather than saturated fat. In picking the lower-fat spread, you wind up with less fat, but more fillers and and sugar, Missimer said.
That’s not to say you should avoid everything low-fat. Dairy products should be low-fat or fat-free, Missimer said. As for sugar-free options, take a look at what’s being added to keep the sweetness – usually artificial sweeteners. Depending on the rest of your diet, moderation might be a better choice.
“It’s very enticing,” Missimer said. “If people really understand it a little bit more, it’s easier to pick the right food.”
4. Don’t fall for deceptive claims.
Take the vegetable spray that advertises zero grams of fat. That might be true, but the serving size is a 1/4-second spray – barely enough time to get your finger off the trigger. For most of us, that spritz of spray might be three, four or more servings, which drastically changes the fat and caloric information.
Skewing serving sizes is just one way that manufacturers might skirt the truth. Other sneaky methods include labeling something as calorie-free if it contains fewer than five calories.
“If they can get below a certain threshold, they’re allowed to call it zero,” Simpler said. “Those are a couple ways they legally figured out how to mislead.”
One way to figure out what’s in a product is to look at the first few ingredients. The earlier in the list, the bigger proportion they are. But sometimes manufacturers will use more than one name for a sugar source so they don’t have to put it as the first ingredient, Simpler said. Ingredients like maltodextrin, corn syrup, sugar, fructose and sucrose are different forms of sweeteners that, taken as a whole, might make up more of the ingredients than you realize.
“The louder the claim, the more unhealthy the item generally is,” said Lisa Harkins, a registered dietitian in Lewes. “I love when potato chips or some snack food states ‘a cholesterol-free food.’ Well, duh. Only animal foods have cholesterol in them.”
5. Know how much you should be eating.
The percentages that run down the right-hand column of the label is the percent daily value, and it’s based on a 2,000-calorie diet. While some children, women and older people might not eat that much in a day – they might be logging about 1,500 calories, for example – the percentages can give consumers a good idea about the healthfulness of a food product.
For example, the nutrition label on a candy bar says it has 5 grams of saturated fat. According to the percent daily value, that’s 25 percent of the day’s allotment of saturated fat. If you still plan on eating the candy bar, be sure to balance the rest of your diet that day so you’re not exceeding the daily recommended amount of saturated fat, which is 20 grams.
“I really do a lot of encouraging of using the percent daily value. This is a fast, simple way to make a quick decision,” Sinibaldi said. “It’s not going to give you 100 percent of information, but you can start to narrow it down.”
If a product’s serving constitutes more than 10 percent of the daily value for a particular category, take notice. While that’s good for foods high in fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, it’s bad for foods high in fat and sodium. And if you’re not eating 2,000 calories a day, keep in mind the serving size and nutritional information might be higher or lower for you, depending on how many calories you’re eating.
6. Look for fiber rather than whole grain.
Whole grain, multi-grain, enriched grain – what’s the difference? That’s the feeling of many shoppers as they read packages claiming good-for-you ingredients. Carter said customers should search out food that advertises itself to be “whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat.”
Whole grains or foods made from them contain the essential parts and nutrients of the entire grain seed, according to the Whole Grains Council. They are different from grains that have been processed and stripped of nutrients.
While checking for whole grains in the ingredient list – they should be among the first listed – it’s also important to note the number of fiber grams per serving, Harkins said. A good serving of whole grain products should have at least 3 grams of fiber.
Products that say they’re made with cracked wheat, enriched flour or wheat flour might sound healthy, but they’re whole-grain imposters.
And even the whole-grain label can be confusing. “Just because something has 20 grams of whole grain doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy,” Harkins said. “Grams of fiber is what you want to look for.”
Lisa Harkins, RD Takes Time Out to Discuss Sports Nutrition at the Body Shop
Cape Gazette, January 3rd, 2013
Sports nutrition plays a key role in promoting athletic success by helping athletes stay healthy and optimally fueling themselves so they can maximize training and conditioning. If any team in the state of Delaware knows about athletic success, it’s your local Cape Henlopen girl’s lacrosse team. The Cape Henlopen girl’s lacrosse team has been training at the Body Shop Fitness Center for the past seven years. At the Body Shop, Adam David Howard B.S.CPT, owner, has been introducing the girls to many important elements of fitness. The girls have been participating in sports specific personal training, yoga, zumba, spinning, and most recently nutritional counseling. Understanding the importance of nutrition in sports, Adam contacted local registered dietician Lisa Harkins to provide the girls with correct information concerning sports nutrition. Lisa distributed hand-outs addressing sports nutrition, healthy snacks, pre/post workouts meals, and various hydration tips.
Nutrition and Fitness LLC’s Owner, Lisa Harkins, RD, LDN, has a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Delaware. Upon completion of her dietetic internship with the University of Delaware she was awarded the prestigious “Dietetic Intern of the Year” Award from the American Dietetic Association and the Delaware Dietetic Association.
Ideal Nutrition and Fitness LLC’s nutrition and fitness services are available to all: males, females, children, teens, adults, seniors, healthy individuals wishing to maintain their well-being, and even those with chronic health conditions – that’s where Ideal Nutrition and Fitness LLC’s client-focused, personalized nutrition plans and custom fitness programs come in.
Hosting a Sane Holiday Feast
By Kelly Bothum, Wilmington News Journal
November 20, 2012
There’s a temptation this week to chuck any semblance of healthy habits and hit the turkey and pumpkin pie like a running back bulldozing his way from the 1-yard line into the end zone.
Of course, there’s usually a price to pay. That lingering holiday hangover – brought on by excess food, stress and everything else – can make you feel as if you were pummeled by an angry linebacker once the festivities and hoopla are over.
But it is possible to make it through Thanksgiving with a cornucopia of happy memories – and your waistline and sanity still intact. And it’s not about depriving yourself or copying Martha Stewart down to the handmade napkin rings and mulled cider.
“Sometimes there’s unrealistic expectations that the holidays are going to be perfect,” said Mary Kennedy, a clinical psychologist in Wilmington. “I try to ask: ‘What does this holiday mean to you?’ It gets them thinking out of robot mode.”
The good news is that you don’t have to pass on your grandma’s homemade stuffing or listen passively while your grouchy uncle lambasts everything. Instead, you can make smart choices when it comes to socializing, eating and managing family expectations. The result is a holiday memorable for the moments, not just the menu.
Read on for some tips on how to sail through the holidays:
Tip #1: Eat breakfast
This is not the day to skip breakfast, registered dietitian Lisa Harkins said. Even if you plan on eating a big holiday dinner, a smoothie or bowl of oatmeal can help jump-start your metabolism.
“You want to have a really good breakfast because it prevents you from overeating later in the day,” said Harkins, also a personal trainer and owner of Ideal Nutrition and Fitness in Lewes. “When people don’t, they’re going to overeat in calories because they’re so hungry. You could eat 500 more calories because you’re snacking to make up for what you didn’t get earlier.”
Tip #2: Silence the technology
These days, it seems that just about everyone has a smartphone. But if Grandma’s too busy tweeting on Turkey Day instead of playing with the grandkids, consider putting a temporary ban on technology.
Encourage family and loved ones to put away their cellphones, laptops and tablets, even for just a couple of hours. Turn off the television during dinner.
If you must hold on to your iPhone, use it to record an older family member sharing a favorite Thanksgiving memory.
Tip #3: Simplify
There are no rules about what makes for a good Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t need a fancy tablecloth or the best china or matching silverware. It doesn’t matter if the cranberries are made fresh or plopped out of a tin can.
Rather than getting caught up in all the trappings , take away some stressors associated with the holiday. Maybe that means opting for paper plates or going out to dinner.
With clients, Kennedy asks them to talk about the values their family celebrates with the holiday. That’s usually when they see their perfectionist perspective may have been a bit skewed. “It’s like a sea change when they start reframing it,” she said. “It’s away from the idea that money and spending and excess equals happiness.”
Tip #4: Get moving
Find an activity that gets you moving, whether it’s a family walk after dinner, a game of touch football during half-time or a morning run to set the holiday mood.
For many Wilmington-area families, the PNC Bank Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk for MS is as much a part of Thanksgiving as fighting over the wishbone. Last year’s race, which features 5k and 10k runs, plus a 5k walk and kid-friendly run drew a record-breaking 2,800 participants, but this year’s event is slated to top that, said Stephanie Fitzpatrick, spokeswoman for the Delaware chapter of the National MS Society.
“It’s the whole package. Not only do you get to support a great cause, but you get to go with family, friends and do something healthy,” said Annie Coons – wife of U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. – who has run both the 5k and 10k on Thanksgiving Day for the last 10 years. “You leave and feel great and do your own family tradition.”
Tip #5: Think of others
Ask a volunteer why they do what they do, and likely they’ll confess a secret: giving to others feels good. So what better way to celebrate the giving spirit of Thanksgiving – and enjoy a health ego boost to boot – than by helping those who need it?
Volunteer to spend part of your day at your local food bank or shelter. Sponsor a Thanksgiving dinner for a family who can’t afford one. Consider donating money, clothing or to your favorite local charity, outreach center or house of worship. (Visit www.fbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/holidayfooddriveshopping-list.pdf for a list of the staples requested by the Food Bank of Delaware.)
Of course, helping others doesn’t feel good only during the holidays. Make it a year-round activity, and get the whole family involved.
Tip #6: Share the love – and sanitizer
Thanksgiving can be a time of hugs and kisses. And that’s good, except for when it comes to spreading germs. That handshake seems innocuous, until you realize the cousin with the phlegmy cough let loose a wet sneeze just before clasping your hand.
While most people know they should wash their hands after going to the bathroom, a thorough cleansing with soap and water also is a good idea whenever you come back into or in contact with food or animals. When hand washing isn’t an option, hand sanitizers made with at least 60 percent alcohol are a good alternative.
Tip #7 Time is not infinite
The holidays as we know them won’t last forever, Kennedy said. It’s best to try and be in the moment, whether it’s taking a few moments to look at family photographs or playing a game together. These are memories that can’t be replicated.
“You really should try to shift your focus to ‘what everyone means to me,’ ” Harkins said. “It helps take the focus a little bit off the food.”
Tip #8: Bag the chips
Snacks and appetizers are great to nosh on while waiting for the big meal, but they also can be a source of unwanted fat and calories. An ounce of regular-fat cheese – about the size of one four dice – can have more than 100 calories and eight to 10 grams of fat. A handful of cashews clocks in at about 210 calories.
“It’s really important to have a healthy option for hors d’oeuvres and appetizers, like raw veggies and a healthy dip. It keeps you away from the cheese and crackers, Harkins said.
Tip #9: Know why you’re thankful
Most days, it’s easy to find plenty of things to complain about. On Thanksgiving, make a point to remember everything that’s good in your life. Even better, make it a family tradition, with one person writing down the list of gratitudes.
Those with younger children can make a “thankful tree” with each person at dinner contributing a “leaf” showing for what they’re glad.
Tip #10: Eat naked
It’s still a good idea to come to the table fully clothed, but think twice before drowning your turkey in extra gravy. Try the mashed potatoes without two pats of butter. Sneak a taste of sweet potato casserole before it’s snowed under with marshmallow topping.
Tip #11: Look at serving sizes
Is your dinner plate roughly the size of those giant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons? If so, consider downsizing. Smaller plates are an easy way to trick your stomach because they encourage you to consume fewer calories.
Also, serve smaller portions of turkey, stuffing and other higher-fat foods. Opt for mini slices of cake and pie.
Tip #12: Eat local
The average American meal includes food from five countries, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental action organization. You can reduce those food miles by picking up some or all of your Thanksgiving trimmings from local sources.
Kale, parsnips, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts and pumpkin are among of the local produce available this time of year. Check out what’s available locally with the Delaware Fresh app at www.delaware.gov/apps/.
Tip #13: More water, less alcohol
Alcoholic beverages easily can add an extra 1,000 calories to an already heavy meal. A 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories, while there’s about 120 calories in each 6-ounce serving of wine. (Keep in mind those large wine glasses can easily hold two or three times that amount.)
Keep track of your alcohol consumption, particularly if you’re watching your calories, said Harkins.
Tip #14: Give away leftovers
Send your guests home with a slice or two of their favorite pie or a serving of their favorite side dishes. It’s even easier if you pick up an extra set of plasticware or freezer bags before the holiday. You can’t eat leftovers if you don’t have them.
Tip #15: Pick your poison
Don’t let the holiday be your excuse for overindulging. Instead, decide which foods you plan to enjoy, and set your meal accordingly. Thinking ahead also increases the chances you will consider other alternatives like making time for physical activity.
“If you really like a good glass of wine, skip the dessert,” Harkins said. “It’s like a trade-off.”
Owner Lisa was featured on WBOC News September 14th, 2012 speaking about the calorie counts now available on McDonalds menu boards – check it out (Counting the McCalories)!
Overcoming Your Fitness Plateau
by Kelly Bothum, The News Journal
May 22nd, 2012
Ten weeks ago, more than 5,000 people kicked off the “Be Healthy Delaware: Walk It Off!” fitness challenge.
They set out with an individual goal of walking 10 miles a week – or at least 150 minutes weekly as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And walk they did – hitting more than 100,000 miles collectively in the first few weeks.
Many participants noticed a difference in themselves early on – more energy, a smaller number on the scale, better sleep and an improved mood.
But as the weeks progressed, those gains weren’t so easy to achieve. The reason is frustratingly simple: Our bodies catch on to our healthy changes and adapt accordingly. In short, we hit a plateau.
“The body is so resilient. It really is an efficient machine,” said Christopher Gray, a personal trainer and co-owner of Punch Kettlebell Gym in Dover. “What I’ve experienced is that by the time people notice they’ve plateaued, their body actually plateaued months earlier. After your body does the same routine for a few weeks, it learns to adapt. The trick is to keep changing.”
It’s possible to push through a fitness plateau with your motivation intact, said Marianne Carter, a registered dietitian and director of the Delaware Center for Health Promotion at Delaware State University. But it takes some effort, whether it’s re-evaluating your exercise program, changing your diet or rethinking how you measure progress.
“When people don’t see the positive changes, then they think it’s not worth continuing and that’s when they tend to give up, which is the last thing you want to do,” Carter said.
Here are some tips:
1. Mix it up.
Exercise plateau is a common complaint among athletes, particularly those who focus on one activity, said Dr. Jeffrey Dassel, director of sports medicine with Christiana Care Health System. Overtraining a particular muscle group can essentially halt your fitness progress.
“Like you zone out while doing something repetitive, your body can have the same response to exercise,” Dassel said.
To improve your performance, consider changing your routine.
“That’s where interval training comes in handy,” said Lisa Harkins, a registered dietitian and personal trainer in Lewes. “It’s all about muscle confusion and surprising your body.”
The changes don’t have to be extreme – if you’re in the gym, simply move up to a bigger resistance band, increase weight or add repetitions of an exercise.
If walking is your exercise of choice, include a new element on a regular basis – seek out hilly terrain or alternate walking with jogging. What’s more, consider adding activities like bike riding, swimming laps or playing tennis.
2. Assess progress.
Every three months, it’s a good idea to assess your progress to see how you’ve improved physically, said Steve Rapposelli a physical therapist and co-owner of Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness in Hockessin. Look for functional measurements, such as balance, flexibility and coordination.
“It doesn’t have to be how many pounds can you bench press,” he said. “It should be something you can assess yourself.”
Among his suggestions: Test your balance by standing in front of a mirror on one leg. Aim for more than 30 seconds at a time. Older women should be able to get in and out of a chair without using their arms 12 to 17 times in half a minute.
3. Set new goals.
A desire to lose weight often prompts people to start an exercise routine, and watching the pounds disappear from the scale can be a strong motivator, Harkins said. But as the weight loss stabilizes, some people may lose the incentive to stay active.
“If they’re that bored, then I tell them, ‘We need to take this to the next level,” Harkins said.
Try to set small, achievable goals to build a momentum of success, Rapposelli said. Don’t be afraid to try something new such as a different workout or exercise.
Dawn Creasy lost 60 pounds in two years in part by setting a series of goals for
herself. After reaching her goal weight – and dropping from a size 22/24 to a size 4/6 – Creasy has continued to challenge herself by increasing the amount of weight she lifts and pursuing a career in the fitness industry.
“You always have to revisit your goals,” said Creasy, 39, of Smyrna, who works at Punch Kettlebell Gym and is studying to become a certified personal trainer. “Fresh goals keep you coming back.”
4. Don’t keep quiet about your efforts.
This is not the time to be shy, said Gray, the gym owner in Dover. As you change your goals, share them with others to increase your accountability and motivation.
“If you don’t let anybody know what your goals are, there’s no risk in you failing,” he said. “You can quit at any time and nobody
knew any different.”
5. Look at your diet.
Make sure you’re getting enough nutrition to sustain your exercise program, said Dassel at Christiana Care Health System. If people are cutting calories and boosting workouts to lose weight, they may not bemeeting their nutritional needs, especially if they are building muscle, which burns more calories than fat.
Then again, many dieters lose a combination of fat and muscle as they drop
pounds, so they can end up burning fewer calories than at a heavier weight, said Carter of Delaware State University. In that
case, they may need to eat fewer calories or increase their activity to bust through a weight-loss plateau.
6. Take a break.
If you’ve been working hard, then maybe what you actually need is a break. That’s a common tactic among athletes preparing for a competition, Dassel said.
“A short rest prior to reaching a new level can rejuvenate the muscles, body and mind. It can help break through,” he added. “Just doing something leisurely and fun, something outside of the norm, just for a week, can help the body recover.”
7. Finding other like-minded
As Creasy found success in the gym, she noticed not all of her friends were as
supportive of her lifestyle changes as she would have liked.
So she found herself making new friends from Punch, many of whom were on the same journey. Now as a coach at the gym, she encourages people to find positive support. “If I have people coming to me with questions, that kind of keeps me on track,” she said. “At this point for me to go and step back would be a bad example, and I don’t want to do that.”
8. Track yourself.
The best way to know how your fitness program is faring is to keep track of your workouts, Gray said.
Keep an exercise journal that includes when you work out, the number of
repetitions and the intensity. Recording your workouts can help you evaluate your progress and make improvements. “There’s a lot of little moving pieces to keep track of,” said Gray, author of “3 Steps to Your Best Body in Record Time.”
9. Don’t give up.
Some people might look at Jeanne Marianiof Wilmington and think she’s too old to worry about exercise. They’d be wrong.At 82 – “and a half,” she points out with a laugh – Mariani works out for two hours three days a week at Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness. She has been doing it for 10 years, and credits her regular visits with helping her deal with the effects of
breast cancer and the death of her husband, not to mention decreasing her
risk of falls and injury.
“I am much stronger. I can see my biceps and triceps,” Mariani said. “Falls are the things that really keep people down whenthey’re senior citizens. Sometimes they go downhill and never are functioning again.” Exercise also has let her enjoy special moments with family, including wowing the
crowd at a steakhouse when she took a turn on a mechanical bull after her 17-
year-old granddaughter. “I don’t know how long it was,” she said, “but I hung on a long time.”
10. Set priorities.
As a lawyer in Wilmington, Bill Johnston has a busy schedule. But rather than trying to fit in time to exercise around his schedule, he works his schedule around his workouts. Twice a week, he leaves the house about
6:30 a.m. for the gym. It’s the same time his wife heads out for her exercise routine. With the early start, he can be in the office by 9 a.m. to reduce any scheduling conflicts.
Setting aside time for yourself can be a challenge, but it shows an investment that can pay dividends such as reduced stress, improved mood and better relationships, Rapposelli said. Johnston has seen that firsthand.
“That’s why now I try to guard this early Tuesday morning and early Thursday morning time,” he said. “It really has made a difference.”
Gear Up to Avoid Holiday Hazards
By Kelly Bothum, The News Journal
November 22, 2011
It’s the start of another holiday season, and for many of us, that means a return of the annual onslaught of foods. From cookies in the office to candy canes on the trees, it’s hard to escape those extra calories.
Oh, it starts innocently enough — pawing through the bowl of leftover Halloween candy for that unclaimed Almond Joy. But with Thanksgiving arriving this week, Tom the turkey and his carb-loaded sidekicks assume the spotlight.
And that’s nothing compared to cornucopia of Christmas cookies and cakes to come.
By the time New Year’s Eve arrives, we’ve gone calorie crazy, loading up our plates with piles of cheese, wings and other tasty hors d’oeuvres, stopping only to hand over the wine glass for yet another pour.
It’s so bad that Alice Henneman, a registered dietitian with the University of Nebraska, even coined a name for this time of year — the Food Olympics.
And while nutrition researchers have debunked the myth that the average person gains seven to 10 pounds over the holiday season, the reality is that many of us start the new year at least one or two pounds heavier. Problem is, that’s weight we don’t lose over the course of the year, said Marianne Carter, director of the Delaware Center for Health Promotion at Delaware State University.
“Imagine that you are 40 years old and every single year you gain two pounds. By the time you are 50, you are 20 pounds heavier just from overeating at the holidays,” she said. “When you think about a lot of diseases, like type 2 diabetes, are related to excess weight, you’re increasing your risk for health problems down the road.”
But that’s not to say that the holidays aren’t meant to be a time of good food — or even a little indulgence. They certainly are, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your fun, said Lisa Harkins, owner of Ideal Nutrition and Fitness.
“You don’t just blow it for six weeks. Maybe Christmas is one night, but if you know you have brunch the next day, plus Thanksgiving and six parties to go to, you’re going to have to rein it in. Maybe that means making the focus on the family and creating memories rather than stuffing your face to oblivion,” she said.
Looking to do some training for the Food Olympics? Check out our tips for some healthy strategies:
Tip #1: Eat breakfast.
You improve your odds for the rest of the day by making sure there’s something in your tank when you leave the house, said Michell Fullmer, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Dietetic Association. Skipping breakfast increases the odds you’re going to wind up starving later in the day, when your will power might be more vulnerable to another slice of pecan pie.
“It completely sets the tone for the day,” Fullmer said. “It keeps you from the spiral of eating whatever you can find, which can be really bad when you’re spending the day at the mall and can smell what’s in the food court.”
Make it work: If you’re not a breakfast person, consider portable options like yogurt, cheese sticks or fruit. Even PB&J on whole-wheat bread works for a morning meal.
Tip #2: Slow down and enjoy your food.
This busy time of year can leave you feeling a little like the Energizer bunny, except with a need for fresh batteries. So slow down, especially if you’re savoring a treat this holiday season.
Indulging in a sliver of pie on Thanksgiving night? Try not to eat it over the kitchen sink in between loading the dishwasher and putting away the leftovers. Instead, sit down — preferably with your family — and really enjoy what you’re eating.
“Instead of gulping down your food, then going on to the next thing, make sure you get as many bites out of it as you can,” Fullmer said. “It’s important not to feel guilty about those things. See how much you actually can enjoy it.”
Make it work: If you find yourself craving something decadent this season, go ahead and eat it. Ignoring the urge can lead to feelings of deprivation, which may make you more likely to overindulge at another time. So enjoy your treat and remove that temptation. Just don’t make it a habit.
Tip #3: Tweak those holiday traditions.
Maybe it’s a family tradition to bake dozens of holiday cookies. But if you’re trying to curb your intake of sweets, that might be a recipe for temptation. Instead, think about healthier alternatives that still keep true to your traditions. Making flavored vinegars, homemade jams or fresh loaves of bread also can send the same message of homebaked love without threatening your resolve.
“You don’t want to sabotage your own efforts. You’re going to get enough from other people around you,” Carter said.
Make it work: If a year without your cookies or cakes will cause a family revolt, consider asking a friend or family member to help you with baking. Not only does it reduce your workload, you’re less likely to do extra taste tests on the final product if someone else is there.
Tip #4: It’s OK to fib to your hostess.
Nobody wants to be the party pooper who kills the fun vibe by announcing all the foods they can’t eat. So don’t, recommends Harkins.
Tell the hostess you love her spinach dip, can’t get enough of the lasagna or have already loaded up on cookies — even if you haven’t had a bite. Or put a couple of appetizers on your plate and carry them around as you mingle. Just don’t eat them. Think of them more as accessories that help you look the part of a partygoer.
“If you tell people, ‘I’m on a diet,’ you’re directly insulting them because they think ‘Are you saying I’m fat?’ or ‘My food isn’t healthy,’” Harkins said. “I tell people just to fib. You’re really keeping yourself on track and keeping your hostess from feeling let down. It just makes sense.”
Make it work: Don’t eat a full meal before you got to a party. Aim for about 200 calories — enough that you’re not feeling full, but that you don’t have room for much more. It can help keep you from overindulging when you’re out.
Tip #5: Watch the bubbly.
Moderate your alcohol intake at parties and other family events, said Arianne Missimer, a registered dietitian and owner of Core Fitness in Wilmington.
Driking can easily add an extra 1,000 calories. A 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories, while an ounce of liquor has about 60 calories. Wine usually has about 120 calories in each 6-ounce serving, but those mega wine glasses can easily hold two or three times that amount. Festive drinks, such as egg nog or Tom and Jerry batter drinks, can top 500 calories per serving, depending on if they are made with cream or whole milk.
Make it work: Before you head out, set a limit on the number of alcoholic beverages you plan to have. Don’t drink on an empty stomach — you’re more likely to overindulge.
Tip #6: Go for smaller portions.
Use smaller plates. The result: You’ll fill your plate with fewer calories. When deciding what to take, look for a mix of protein and healthy carbs, including fruits and vegetables, Missimer said. That way you’re less likely to be hungry before the party’s over.
Make it work: Be snobby when it comes to holiday foods. Don’t eat everything to satisfy your host. Instead, go for seasonal favorites, such as winter squash or baked apples. Aim for vegetables and fruits to fill at least half your plate. That way there’s less room for the higher-fat fare.
Tip #7: Mingle more, munch less.
Be that social butterfly who flits away from the treat table. Visit with friends and loved ones, especially those you haven’t seen in a while. If you’re cooking, be sure to take time to get out of the kitchen. If you associate food and drinking with a good time, try to socialize without either — even for one conversation — and see if you still have a good time.
“Really focus on enjoying the season, so when it’s over, you’re not just focused on the resolution of losing the weight,” said Tricia Jefferson, director of the Healthy Living program at the YMCA of Delaware. “You remember what a good time you had.”
Make it work: If you’ve had success trying to improve your health, show off the results. Wear clothing that’s more form-fitted, Harkins said. Not only will you look good, you will be less likely to overindulge. It works for health-conscious chefs, who often wear tighter clothes when they’re cooking to keep them from oversampling their fare.
Tip #8: Take care of yourself.
There are lots of great things about the holidays, but there’s a lot of stress, too. It’s important to take time for self-care, whether that’s exercise, meditation or even something as simple as lighting a tea candle at the end of the day to recenter yourself, Jefferson said.
Being stressed out during the holiday season also can lead to overeating, so there’s a good reason to put the focus on yourself, even if it’s just half an hour a day.
“Be mindful before you have that next meal or next snack,” said Jefferson, who coordinates the diabetes prevention program at the Y. “Think about what’s going on. Maybe it’s that you are out shopping and there’s nowhere to park. If you take those couple minutes, it can help you make a good choice that benefits your health.”
Make it work: If you’re the holiday host and trying to manage your food choices, avoid the leftover landmines by sending guests home with doggie bags.
Tip #9: Know your stressors.
Maybe it’s the out-of-town family members you see once a year. Or the gift list that seems to grow each year. Or the constant stream of visitors. Whatever it is that causes you stress, figure it out, said Lori Graham, coordinator of the Smart Start program at the Bear/Glasgow Family YMCA. That way you can take steps to help yourself, whether it’s scaling back holiday gift-giving or holding a potluck open house in lieu of a big holiday party.
“We all know what stress can do to us physically. It’s not just how we feel, but the way we relate to other people,” said Graham, whose program helps people new to the Y who are interested in adopting healthy changes. “Knowing what you can do, that’s the control factor. There may be a lot going one, but there’s one thing I can control.”
Make it work: You might not be able to get away for a holiday vacation, but you can take one without leaving your seat. Try guided imagery, which uses deep breathing to help relieve stress.
Tip #10: Get moving.
A good way to keep stress at bay is to exercise, said Sheri Minear, a personal trainer with Lifestyles Fitness Center, part of Bayhealth Medical Center. Exercise burns calories, but it also releases endorphins important in mood control.
If you’re facing a time crunch, schedule regular exercise like any other appointment on your calendar. Don’t have time for a 30 minute block? Divide it up over 10 minutes three times a day. Do something with your family that gets everyone moving, whether it’s a walk or a game of touch football.
“My extended family laughs at me, but after our holiday dinner everybody knows they’d better bring their shoes because there’s a family walk,” Minear said. “We might be a little dressed up, but we go. It’s a nice tradition that the kids now enjoy.”
Make it work: If the holidays keep you away from home, consider body weight exercises, such as lunges, squats and sit-ups. Ask a loved one to join you for a yoga class or a walk around the local track.
Contact Kelly Bothum at 324-2962 or email@example.com.
Deciphering Food Gimmicks Can Be Difficult
By Rachel Swick Mavity, Cape Gazette
April 11, 2011
These days grocery shelves are overflowing with fortified foods, many boasting added values of enriching ingredients; but deciphering the actual value of the product may prove difficult for consumers.
New milk products boast DHA added, while nutritional items include calcium-fortified or immunity support labels. In the health aisles, vitamins and supplements are all labeled as the best.
Local nutritionist Lisa Harkins teaches classes on reading food labels in an effort to educate consumers about what is behind the print.
“You can almost be guaranteed the more ‘health claims’ on a box, the less that food is truly nutritious for you,” Harkins said. “Kellogg’s recently came under fire for ‘immunity’ claims on Rice Crispies cereal and was ordered to drop the claim because it was misleading.”
Kellogg’s is not alone; in recent months, General Mills also came under fire for its statement that Cheerios reduces cholesterol. Cheerios contains 1 gram of soluble fiber. Studies show an adult needs to eat 25 to 30 grams per day of soluble fiber to reduce heart disease.
“Immunity labels were big for awhile but are now fading,” said Harkins. “If a product has some Vitamin C in it, are you really going to label it as having ‘immunity powers’?”
No substitute for real
Local trainer Paul Timmons said real food will always be better than supplements.
“If it wasn’t food 200 years ago, it isn’t food now,” Timmons said. “Having said that, most of us don’t have the time to prepare five real-food meals a day.”
Timmons advocates drinking water over vitamin water drinks or supplement drinks. In the case of the athlete who is in recovery, he does recommend a protein and carbohydrate supplement to aid in the process.
“Real food as frequently as possible and supplement infrequently,” said Timmons. “Our fast-paced lifestyles will always demand time-saving food, however it is certainly less than ideal.”
Harkins agreed, stating the actual food provides the best health benefit.
“We don’t know exactly why certain nutrients such as antioxidants can decrease heart disease or shrink cancerous tumors, we just know that, for example, lycopene in tomatoes can assist in prostate health,” Harkins said. “I don’t suggest my clients with prostate cancer take lycopene supplements because it is not clear if it is the lycopene itself or the other compounds in the tomato. I would encourage them to eat more tomatoes.”
TOPS provides information
Taking Off Pounds Sensibly or TOPS is working with consumers to provide information on food gimmicks.
They have released a list of information to help weed out healthy choices from not-so-healthy ones.
The list of value-added food gimmicks includes:
Juice with Added Fiber
While whole fruit is a great low-calorie source of fiber and nutrients, fruit juice packs in the calories and forgets the fiber in the discarded pulp. Fiber-enhanced fruit juice is essentially pulverized fruit with its fiber removed, with a different type of fiber added back in. One cup of orange juice with fiber can boast three grams of dietary fiber per 120 calorie serving. But one orange has four grams of fiber and only 70 calories – a lower-calorie, cheaper option with no processing needed.
Drinks with Vitamins
In 2008, the most popular diet soda in the U.S. released its “plus” product, a diet cola with a small amount of water-soluble vitamins added.
Other vitamin-enhanced drink and waters have taken off in recent years, although, according to TOPS, many are merely overpriced, sugar-sweetened waters with a tad of vitamins thrown in for good measure.
Lately, there has been a wealth of foods on the market touting “immune enhancing” or “pro-immunity” benefits – from yogurts to cereals, drinks, and even frozen vegetable blends. While there is ample data to support the notion that a diet with insufficient nutrients compromises immunity, the opposite does not hold true: eating more nutrient-laden foods has not been proven to increase immunity.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish, fish oil, and, to a lesser degree, in flax and flaxseed oil, canola and soybean oils, and walnuts. Omega-3s have numerous heart-health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular disease risk, lowering blood triglycerides, and lowering blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 1,000 mg of EPA + DHA (two types of omega-3 fatty acids) for people with documented heart disease, equivalent to eating two to three servings of fish per week. Because many people don’t eat as much fish as they should, omega-3-fortified foods, like eggs and butter, can seem appealing.
“It’s a bit tricky because you almost need to determine a food’s benefits on a case-by-case basis,” Harkins said.
Pump up the volume & your heartbeat: Add your favorite uptempo music to a workout for the motivation to go that extra mile.
By Kelly Bothum, The News Journal
April 18, 2010
Don Davis admits he’s not one to give much thought to music. He doesn’t keep up with which artists are charting on the Billboard Top 100. He prefers talk radio in the car.
But Davis knows without a doubt what would happen if he had to exercise without music to distract him from the sound of his own breathing.
“It shortens the run to not have it,” said Davis, of Middletown, who has finished five marathons. “If I’m hitting a rough spot and I hear ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2, it puts a spring back into my step, no matter how I was feeling at the time. I can’t imagine not having music for a long run. It just picks me up.”
For many people who exercise regularly, music is as important to their workout as the sneakers on their feet. Several studies have proven the benefits of music, including one in 2005 that found runners who listened to their own music released fewer stress hormones during their run. A 2008 study by a researcher at Brunel University in London found that listening to rock music boosted endurance by 15 percent among people using a treadmill.
What makes the difference? Exercise physiologists theorize that music reduces athletes’ sense of fatigue, promotes relaxation and narrows their focus, allowing them to exert themselves at higher levels for longer.
Whether you’re a veteran runner, a regular at the gym or someone just getting back into exercise with the “Be Healthy Delaware: Walk it Off!” fitness challenge, injecting music into your workout may make it more enjoyable — and easier to make it a routine.
With that in mind, we offer 10 fitness-friendly songs and tips for getting the most out of your music workout:
“Push It” — Salt-n-Pepa
One of the biggest benefits of using music in your workout is motivation, said Lisa Harkins, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer in Lewes. The right song can make a long walk or run seem more manageable, and even provide a needed psychological second wind.
“I know purists say you should listen to the sound of your breath. That’s great, but I’m also about, ‘Let me get through this,’ ” said Harkins, who crafts up-tempo playlists to use during her almost daily runs.
To keep your motivation high, look for upbeat songs with a fast tempo. Songs between 120 and 140 beats per minute — most dance and rock music — are best, as they closely coincide with the heart rate of someone exercising at moderate intensity.
Tip: Harkins recommends songs by Adam Lambert, Ke$ha and Beyonce for heart-pumping fun.
“Lose Yourself” — Eminem
It’s unfortunate but true– one of the biggest inhibitors to moving our bodies is ourselves. We come up with myriad reasons why we can’t work out — too busy, too tired, too many other to-do items on our agenda. But the right music can block out those distractions and force you to focus on, well, you.
Katie Hopkins works out every morning on her elliptical machine. She’s tried watching TV to pass the time, but only music has helped. With the sounds of Black Eyed Peas and Limp Bizkit, she finds she’s better able to concentrate and make it to the end. Sometimes, she’ll play the same song — currently “I’ve Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas — two or three times during a single workout.
“It helps me forget about the minutes, calories and even the pain,” said Hopkins, of Newark, who is getting married this October in Jamaica. “The beat helps me get into a good rhythm.”
Tip: Consider a song that evokes a positive memory. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said “Sweet Caroline” is his favorite song to listen to while riding his bike because it reminds him of being at the beach.
“Gonna Fly Now” (Theme from “Rocky”) — Bill Conti
It would be nice to have a cheering section behind us every time we stepped on the treadmill or hit the road for a run. Since that’s not practical, consider music as your motivation. Pick 10 or 15 of your most inspiring songs and see if they make a difference in how hard you work out.
Davis, who runs about five times a week, said he relies on his iPod to get him through his four-hour, 20-plus mile runs. Although the use of iPods or personal music equipment is forbidden in most races, Davis said he usually sneaks his in because it helps get him through long stretches of running.
“I don’t necessarily know the names of all the songs on there,” said Davis about the tunes loaded on his iPod. “It’s more about the beat of it and getting out of your head.”
Tip: Go outside your musical tastes to stave off boredom. If you’re into rock, consider a few hip-hop tunes. If Top 40 is your thing, try classic rock tunes.
“TNT” — AC/DC
Actually, this song is meant as a safety reminder when incorporating music into your workout.
While music can be a great motivator, it may not a good choice if you’re learning a new skill or trying to improve your technique, said Jane Detweiler, a personal trainer at the Central YMCA in Wilmington. Throwing music into this environment can blot your concentration and actually make you perform worse. This can even lead to injury if you’re not careful.
Once you’ve learned the skill or made the improvements to your technique, feel free to bring the music back. And when you do, remember to keep the sound at a reasonable level, not just for your the protection of your ears but out of respect to your fellow exercisers.
Tip: If you’re running on the street near traffic, keep the earbuds out of one ear so you can hear traffic and stay alert to other distractions.
“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” — Daft Punk
Music also can help when it comes to setting personal heath and fitness goals. Paul Rapposelli of Wilmington began walking as a form of exercise in early 2003 after finding out his blood pressure was high. He kicked up his efforts in 2007, and has lost 62 pounds since then.
Rapposelli walks every day, spending anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 1/2 hours, depending on the day of the week. He credits music with helping him to keep a positive attitude. Because his walks tend to be long, he prefers to listen to albums, usually from artists who recorded in the 1960s to 1980s, though early Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash are favorites as well.
Tip: If you tend to go for the long haul when you’re working out, make sure you have enough music — and battery power — to keep you going.
“Time of Your Life” — Green Day
It helps to think of exercise as a gift you give yourself. And the music you select can help foster that feeling. Before she sets off on her walks — usually four to five miles daily outside — Anita Sterling makes sure her iPod Shuffle is loaded with fast-paced songs of different genres. Her favorites include Manheim Steamroller, Canadian Brass, Yanni and Todd Chappelle.
“I call it my ‘pacemaker’; it keeps me on pace,” said Sterling, who walks a 13-minute mile and averages 900 miles a year.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to include some slow songs in your playlist. They can help you recover without overworking your body. If it helps, think of it as musical interval training.
“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” — C+C Music Factory
If you’ve ever spent any time in a group exercise class, you understand the importance of good music in getting everyone ramped up to break a sweat. The same goes for solo exercise. Choose songs with words that are natural motivators — LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” is an obvious choice. Your mind can be an effective tool in getting your body to finish the job it started, Harkins said.
“Fast, loud music with a good beat can make the workout very fun and really get you pumped up,” Detweiler said. “It can help you work harder in the right situation.”
Tip: Check out sites like iTunes.com, JogTunes.com and BestWorkoutMusic.com to make your own playslists.
“If You’re Going Through Hell” — Rodney Atkins
Even with the most motivational music pouring into your ears, there are days when working out is still a struggle. It’s OK when that happens. In fact, you may want to create a playlist for just these kind of days. Pick 10 or 15 songs you know will help make a tough workout, run or walk feel a little easier.
Tip: Consider tried-and-true mood-busters like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” or Superdrag’s “5 Minutes Ahead of the Chaos.”
“SexyBack” — Justin Timberlake
If the music helps you move, can it also help you feel better about yourself?
Think of a favorite song and the memories it evokes, like the karaoke rendition of the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” you sang with friends years ago or belting out Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” while riding alone in your car. Use these songs — and the memories — to keep you focused on working out to look and feel your best.
Tip: Find the song that puts a swagger in your step and maybe even makes you feel, well, sexy. Stumped for ideas? Try “The Way You Move” by Outkast, Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” or Madonna’s “Ray of Light.”
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” — Michael Jackson
It’s OK to stop once you’ve had a sufficient workout. But don’t stop making exercise part of your regular routine, whether you walk 30 minutes a day or run 30 miles a week.
If it’s music that gets you moving, then let music keep you moving. There’s an artist — and a song — for everyone. You can listen to the same playlist over and over or switch it up each time you work out.
Think of music as another tool in your workout arsenal, Harkins said. You are the best judge of what will motivate you to stay active.
Tip: Simply look for songs that make you want to move. When it comes to music and moving, the advice is the same: the more, the better.
Step by step- Resolving to meet simple lifestyle goals is the easy way to achieve big gains in your health this year.
By Hiran Ratnayake, The News Journal
January 5, 2010
As New Year’s Day 2008 approached, Ashley Sinclair faced a crossroads.
The Magnolia resident needed to stop gaining weight. Or she needed to begin buying new, larger clothes to fit her expanding waistline.
At the time, Sinclair weighed 250 pounds. Had she vowed to lose all of her excess weight in the calendar year, she would have failed. That prospect, she said, would have been overwhelming. Instead, she chose “a total lifestyle change.”
“The first thing I needed to do was look back and see why this was happening,” said Sinclair, 24, a registered nurse at Kent General Hospital, in Dover. “I never looked at what I was doing as a diet. I was looking at changing from my sedentary lifestyle.”
She was on a steady diet of take-out food for lunch — Chinese food, pizza, chicken wings — while also noshing on the cookies that patients’ families brought in for the nurses.
So she made attainable resolutions.
Instead of establishing a goal to lose 90 pounds, for example, she vowed to snack on more fruits. Instead of eating out nearly every day, she vowed to spend more days cooking at home, where she could control the amount of salt and fat in the dishes. Instead of using food as a way to deal with stress, she committed to exercise when she felt burdened.
All those simple resolutions paid off. Sinclair has lost about 90 pounds in the past year and will be running a half-marathon in March.
“I did a total lifestyle change because I wanted to feel healthy,” she said.
Even though we’re not even finished with the first week of 2010, you already might have given up on your lofty health-related goals. But instead of setting yourself up for failure by setting some unreachable resolution, consider several easy, realistic ones.
We offer the following ways to get healthier by making simple lifestyle choices. By following these strategies, you might be surprised by how much better you’ll feel and how much healthier you’ll become.
Instead of vowing to lose X number of pounds this year, resolve to …
1. … eat a fruit or salad with every meal.
You may have an ultimate goal of losing 25 pounds. But to make that attainable, take your mind off the weight and focus instead on your plate. You need mini-goals to achieve the final outcome, said registered dietitian Lisa Harkins, who works at Kent General Hospital, which is operated by Bayhealth Medical Center. One of those goals should be to eat nutritious foods, and one smart resolution would be to plan to eat a fruit each day with your meal.
“If you’re going to eat that fruit instead of a cookie every day for lunch, you won’t even have to look at the scale because the pounds will start to fall off,” she said.
2. … eat the right portions.
Steaks at restaurants can be so big that there’s little room for vegetables. People tend to take that mentality home, where they serve huge portions of meat and only small servings of nutrient-rich veggies. Those options should, in fact, be reversed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service recommends that adults eat about two cups of vegetables for dinner and only 2 ounces of meat. For the entire day, no more than 6 ounces of meat is recommended.
Broccoli is a good vegetable since it has cancer-fighting properties. But others, such as asparagus, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts and green beans, are also beneficial.
“I always suggest that when you get your plate, split the plate in half,” Harkins said. “Half that plate should be vegetables.”
3. … eat food on smaller plates.
Studies have shown that people continue to eat even after they’re full because they’ve been conditioned as youngsters to clean their plates. The Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, for example, found that people eating from a larger popcorn bucket ate 53 percent more than those who were eating from a smaller bucket.
Other similar studies conducted by the Cornell lab have found that people are more likely to continue eating just because their food is served on oversized plates and bowls.
“Whatever plates you are using now, you can simply look for plates that are slightly smaller,” Harkins said. “It will still appear that you’re using a full plate.”
4. … eliminate a product from your diet, or just eat half of it.
A 12-ounce can of soda likely contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. If you drink several cans regularly, and choose to give that up, you’ll notice a quick, positive impact.
“I’ve had people who drink seven sodas a day, and if I can get them to drink just two or three, the pounds will just melt away right away,” Harkins said.
Harkins said she eventually wants her clients to give up habitually drinking soda since it contains so much sugar. “But it can be a gradual process,” she said.
If you’re used to having dessert each day after dinner, registered dietitian Marianne Carter recommends having it every other day instead.
“That way you don’t feel deprived because you didn’t give it up, and by the end of the week you’ve still cut the consumption,” she said. “It’s very unrealistic to completely eliminate any food, so it’s better to just try to make these foods more of a special treat than an everyday occurrence.”
You may still feel you’ll be most successful if you cut something out entirely. Florence Johnson was used to eating white bread with meals. She eliminated that habit on New Year’s Day 2007 and has lost 50 pounds.
“I didn’t even think about losing 50 pounds when I started,” she said. “That wasn’t even on my mind when I decided to do it. It was hard right away, but then it turned into my lifestyle and it became a lot easier.”
5. … track what you eat.
An exercise specialist at Kent General recommended that Sinclair keep a diary on everything she ate. That made her become more aware of how many fatty foods she was consuming and forced her to stay within a range of calories. Before the change in lifestyle, she ate out at least four times a week. Most of the meals she eats today are home-cooked, so she has more control over the calorie and fat content.
“If I ate a Snickers bar, I’d have to check to see how many calories I’d have to burn and that would make it easier,” Sinclair said.
Instead of vowing to exercise for an hour a day five days a week this year, resolve to …
1. … use the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator.
A study in a 2000 issue of Preventive Medicine found that a short-term stair-climbing program improved the cardiovascular health of previously sedentary young women. Guy Scotolati, an exercise physiologist at Christiana Care’s Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute, said that stair-climbing also will strengthen your quadriceps and hips, and better develop balance.
“It’s a weight-bearing activity and it’s not as high impact as jogging would be for some people,” he said.
Many employees who have offices at the Community Service Building in downtown Wilmington routinely use the stairs instead of the elevators. Christiana Care put up motivational signs in the stairwell four years ago to encourage workers.
“Not everybody will hike up to the 11th floor, but they’ll take the elevator to the ninth floor and walk up the remaining steps from there,” said Jerry Bilton, whose corporation manages the building.
2. … park in the back of the parking lot.
The next time you go grocery shopping, don’t hunt for the closest parking spot. Drive instead to the far end of the lot. Do the same thing when you go to work. If weather permits, do it every time you park. All that extra walking adds up, Scotolati said.
“Exercise doesn’t mean you have to work up a sweat; it doesn’t mean you have to be breathless,” he said. “Even a low-intensity exercise interspersed throughout the day is helpful.”
An added bonus: At the end of the parking lot, your car will be less likely to get dented.
3. … do a brief physical activity after dinner.
When you’re sitting in place, you’re not burning any calories. But even a small walk after dinner is going to change that.
“You don’t have to say, ‘I’m going to walk for an hour,’ ” said Michael Lenk, a personal trainer who lives in Wilmington. “You don’t have to put a time limit on it. You just have to say, ‘I’m going to walk every day.’ “
If it’s too cold outside, consider doing a physical activity with your family at home, like jumping jacks. You may want to invest in a game console like the Nintendo Wii, which engages its users since they must stand up and move around to play the video sports games. If you’re watching TV after dinner, consider walking in place during commercials.
“When you are sitting, you’re burning no calories at all,” Carter said. “So even just standing up and walking in place will help.”
Moderation key when enjoying holiday meals – Calories add up quickly during seasonal parties.
By Katie Kazimir, Delaware State News
November 25, 2009
DOVER – Before asking for that second helping of mashed potatoes or Grandma’s homemade stuffing, take into consideration the eight pounds people normally gain the weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas. “You can eat a pound’s worth of calories in one day,” said clinical dietitian Lisa Harkins of Bayhealth Medical Center. Ms. Harkins said all it takes is 3,500 calories to gain a pound, easily done when loading up on holiday favorites.
“Thanksgiving is one of those times when we generally eat more than we need,” said Dr. Carol Giesecke, director of the dietetics program at Delaware State University. Depriving oneself of holiday favorites isn’t necessary – so keeping weight down this season doesn’t have to mean forgoing the pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. “Once in a while it’s not bad,” said Dr. Giesecke. “It’s about not eating all holiday season long,” said Ms. Harkins.
Simply adding an extra 500 calories a day through Christmas could cause someone to gain up to a pound a week. Ms. Harkins said people don’t realize how easy adding an extra 500 calories is. “It seems like a lot but it’s really easy to do,” said Ms. Harkins. A cookie and a couple slices of cheese and crackers would break the limit easily.
With obesity rates on the rise, Ms. Harkins said being mindful of one’s diet all season long is critical Lisa in keeping weight gain Harkins down. According to Debora Spano, spokes-woman for United Healthcare, obesity rates in Delaware have gone up 44 percent in the past two decades. In the nation, Delaware ranks 31st for obesity this year, up from 35th last year.
Ms. Spano said people shouldn’t pass up on their favorite holiday treats, but they should plan on making smart choices when they splurge. “Think about it ahead of time. You have to make the healthiest choices you can,” she said. Dr. Giesecke said to not come to the holiday meal with an attitude of guilt. “Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy,” she said. “The best thing to do is to enjoy it and know you don’t do it every day,” she said.
Dr. Giesecke said the focus on Thanksgiving should be more about spending time with family and loved ones than on what food there is to eat. “It’s better to eat as slow as possible,” said Dr. Giesecke, and what better to way to eat slowly than to sit, chat and visit with family.
“If we eat too fast our brain doesn’t get the message we’re full until 10 minutes later, and then we’re really stuffed,” she said.
Another tip is to eat a decent breakfast instead of fasting until dinner time. “Sometimes when you’re ravenous you tend to eat more than you need and you eat too fast,” said Dr. Giesecke.
To avoid nibbling while preparing food, “put a piece of gum in your mouth,” suggests Ms. Spano. Ms. Harkins said serving salad as well as healthy green vegetables is a must at every holiday meal. An easy way to sneak in healthier food options is by providing fruit and vegetable trays with low-fat dips. “People really do like raw vegetables and dip,” Ms. Harkins said.
Other ways to make favorite recipes lower in calories is to use applesauce or beans instead of oil in sweet breads and muffins, Egg Beaters instead of eggs, and cutting at least half the sugar with Splenda in baking. “Try to use low-fat dairy whenever you can. It makes such a difference in calories,” Ms. Harkins said. “Modifying your recipes to make them less fattening is really key.”
Maintaining weight isn’t only about watching what you eat, but also being active.
Planning a group activity, such as football or a walk, helps balance out extra calories while allowing families to spend quality time together. “Have a nice saunter around the neighborhood and visit other people in the community,” said Dr. Giesecke.
Staff writer Katie Kazimir can be reached at 741-8242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listening to our ancestors- More fitness buffs are coming to believe that those hunter-gatherers had it right.
By Kelly Bothum, The News Journal
November 3, 2009
For years Kara White Schilling followed the crowd when it came to exercise and eating. She’d hit the gym a few times a week for a kickboxing class or 45 minutes on the elliptical machine. She followed a low-fat diet and counted calories.
But she wasn’t seeing the results she wanted. So, six months ago she made a radical change. She traded her visits to the gym for thrice-weekly CrossFit workouts that rely on short bursts of strenuous physical exertion. She adopted a high-protein, no-grain, no-dairy diet — dubbed the Paleo diet because it mimics how our ancestors ate. She also began eating more fruits and vegetables.
The difference? She’s lost 12 pounds and dropped a dress size. What’s more, her cholesterol has gone down 14 points.
While White’s eating plan may not win much support from registered dietitians who worry about nutritional deficiencies arising from eliminating entire food groups, White said she feels better and more nutritionally balanced than in the past. She takes her success as a sign that the one-size-fits-all approach to eating and exercise may not actually fit everyone.
“I can do things now I never thought I could do,” said White, who also nixed sugar and caffeine from her diet. “I never realized how strong I was before.”
Whether it’s challenging mainstream conventions about nutrition or changing the way they exercise, some people are taking a less traditional approach to their health. While some of their methods are contrary to current health recommendations, adherents believe they are following a plan that works for them. They don’t need peer-reviewed studies in published journals or endorsements from the medical or sports establishment to prove the legitimacy of what they’re doing. They believe because they see the difference in themselves.
It takes a determined person to go against mainstream ideas in the hopes of bettering themselves, said Val Whiting, who owns the GameShape CrossFit fitness program with her husband, Jay Raymond. She said clients who are adhering to the CrossFit workouts and the Paleo diet are seeing life-changing results.
“A lot of things we do are controversial. We cut out dairy and cut out grain. It’s so different from what we’re taught,” said Whiting, who said her family’s health has improved since they began eating this way several months ago. “It’s about what you love more. Do I love social acceptance more or do I love the health of my children?”
Whiting and Raymond follow the Paleo diet, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seafood. Proponents of the diet believe it is more in line with the way humans ate before agriculture — in particular, the harvesting of grains — became the dominant means of feeding people.
Eating with this hunter-gatherer mindset allows for a big dose of fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and low-glycemic carbohydrates, all without the addition of refined sugars, trans fats and salts found in many processed foods. Dieters are encouraged to replace the nutrients they would have gotten from dairy and grains with vegetables and protein. The high concentration of omega-3 found in the nuts, seafood and grass-fed meat that’s encouraged also can help with lowering the risk for inflammatory diseases.
Lisa Harkins, a registered dietitian with Bayhealth Medical Center, said it’s normal for people to want to individualize the way they eat, but when they follow eating plans that advocate the elimination of entire food groups, they may not realize they’re also losing important nutrients. If they cut out dairy, they need to make sure they’re getting enough calcium, either through eating more dark-green leafy vegetables, like kale and broccoli, or taking a supplement. They also need to take a supplement for vitamin D.
Eliminating grains can increase the risk of a B-vitamin deficiency, something that’s usually seen in third-world countries, where people don’t have access to fortified grain products, Harkins said. Without enough thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and other B vitamins that are added to grain products, dieters may begin to feel sluggish and experience tingling sensations and feelings of confusion. It is possible to get some B vitamins from select fruits and vegetables, including avocado, kale and peas.
“You really have to know what you’re doing,” said Harkins, who also owns Ideal Nutrition and Fitness.
It was a challenge at first for Christine Serio to give up grains. She grew up in an Italian household where pasta and bread were dinner staples. Prior to her switch to the Paleo diet, she had been eating whole grains such as whole-wheat bread because she thought they were better for her. Now most of her meals involve salads with some kind of protein source. She eats lots of spinach, asparagus, cucumbers and broccoli as well as berries.
“At first I thought it was crazy,” said Serio, who switched her diet about three months ago. “Once you start to do it you realize almost instantly you feel the changes. I don’t feel as sluggish.”
While the abundance of fruits and vegetables is good, the emphasis on protein does raise the risk of consuming too much protein and potentially damaging the kidneys, Harkins said. Those following the Paleo diet also need to make sure they’re getting at least a minimum amount of carbohydrates so their body functions properly.
Whiting said her family take multivitamins and supplements, including vitamin D and fish oil, to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need. Since eating mostly organic, gluten-free foods on the Paleo diet, Whiting’s sons, she said, no longer have gastrointestinal issues and their overall behavior seems to be better.
One of the biggest changes has been in her husband. While following the diet along with an exercise regimen focusing on short bursts of strenuous activity, Raymond has lost 27 pounds and increased his cardiovascular endurance.
“I lost weight and I got stronger,” Raymond said.
Running free — of footwear
Nutrition isn’t the only area where there is debate about how best to practice healthy habits. Earlier this year, Christopher McDougall reignited a debate with his book, “Born to Run.” The New York Times best-seller is about a tribe of Indians in Mexico who run 100-mile races across treacherous terrain even when they’re old, wearing nothing more on their feet than thin sandals made from strips of rubber tires. Their experience convinced McDougall that modern efforts to improve running and prevent injury — most notably, our shoes — may be doing more harm than good.
It’s an idea that has caught on with Irene Davis, who already knows a thing or two about running. Davis is a physical therapist and professor at the University of Delaware who has been studying running injuries for more than 20 years. She thinks shoe improvements like arch support and rear cushioning may be weakening the muscles in the rear foot. More cushioning means a longer stride for the runner. As a result, more runners wind up landing on their heel rather than in the middle or front of the foot, potentially increasing their risk for injury.
“I believe they’re making our feet lazy,” said Davis, who started running without shoes over the summer and is now up to four miles three to four times a week. “When you take your shoes off you actually strike the ground differently.”
But it’s not as easy as slipping off the sneakers and hitting the pavement. Because most runners are used to the extra support, they need to ease into barefoot running, starting off with as little as quarter-mile runs. Not only do their feet have to adjust, but so does the rest of the body, Davis said. And not everybody actually runs barefoot — some runners opt for shoes with no extra support while others wear thin, glove-like shoes that offer some protection against hazardous objects on the path.
Although there are no studies that suggest footwear can cause injuries in runners, one study did find that wearing footwear didn’t reduce the risk of injury either. Davis said she expects more research on the topic in the next two to five years.
“When I run on the pavement barefoot, I get looks like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. “As a scientist I’ve got to get the data.”
Milton resident Carol Blake also credits a book with helping her to make a big change in her life. In her case, it was “Real Food” by Nina Planck, a book that advocates moving away from processed, packaged eating to the kinds of whole — and even sometimes higher-fat — foods our older relatives used to eat.
Planck’s message resonated with Blake, a physician’s assistant, and helped her refocus her eating habits toward more locally grown, unprocessed foods. Blake, who makes her own bread, granola, yogurt and peanut butter, considers herself a “partial locavore.” She belongs to a CSA — short for community supported agriculture — where she has a subscription service for fresh, local produce. She also eats local eggs and raw milk from Pennsylvania.
For Blake, it’s a matter of personal and global health. “I like the idea of supporting local farmers instead of factory farms that are far away. I prefer not to eat food that has been contaminated with antibiotics, growth hormones or pesticides,” she said. “I think that our food supply has become so industrialized and processed that it is responsible for a lot of our current health problems, obesity being a good example.”
Eating organic may be popular these days, but Harkins also thinks local is more important because it’s an opportunity to eat just-picked fruits and vegetables. Many smaller local farms aren’t certified organic — a label bestowed by the government — but they still follow the same protocols that certified farms do.
Hattie Allen, who runs a small-market garden in Lewes, said the demand for local produce goes beyond the summer months. Allen also grows vegetables like kale, collard greens and lettuce in the winter, thanks to an unheated tunnel that keeps her crops from freezing. Many of the customers who frequent Hattie’s Garden are concerned about sustainability, supporting local farmers and, of course, eating good food.
“The people I serve know they can come over here. They know it’s more than a business, that it’s my passion,” Allen said.
Skipping the treadmill
Carol Arnott has always been active, whether it was running, biking or working out in a gym. But about 2 1/2 years ago, she decided she needed a more intensive, structured workout.
She found the challenge in GameShape’s CrossFit program. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that incorporates components of weighlifting, gymnastics and interval training, all performed at high-intensity levels. Rather than traditional gym equipment, participants use kettle bells, sandbags and pull-up bars to work their body during a short but intense period. The hourlong class includes a warm-up, an intense cardio activity like rowing, jump roping or running, and an anaerobic activity like a deadlift.
“If you think about how our ancestors moved, it was mostly short bursts of energy — a tiger was chasing them. That’s how we train,” Whiting said. “We’re not meant to go on a treadmill and run for 60 minutes.”
Arnott, who goes three times a week at 5:30 a.m. to work out, said the program has boosted her fitness above what she initially expected. “Their whole program is to use your body the way it was designed to be used,” said Arnott.
Interval training can be a beneficial form of exercise even for people who have been sedentary, said Guy Scotolati, an exercise physiologist with Christiana Care’s Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute. If people are new to exercising or overweight, it may be too much for them to work out for a consistent 30-minute or hourlong period.
But when practicing interval training on a regular basis, it’s important to make sure your muscles are accustomed to the activity, Scotolati said. Incorporating aerobic activity, such as running or riding a bike, can help the body tolerate the highs and lows that come with working out in short bursts, he said. Working anaerobically, such as with weights, also has the advantage of helping to build the body and muscles over time.
Last month, GameShape decided to up the ante with its members by injecting some good-spirited competition into the regular workouts. The Lean and Mean Challenge is a team-based competition that awards points when participants eat, exercise and sleep in ways that mimic our ancestors.
Participants get two points for doing a CrossFit workout. They get one point for each Paleo-style meal they eat and another point for sleeping eight hours a night. One quarter-point is subtracted for each glass of alcohol. And in a twist, participants also can get up to two points for cheating — eating anything off the Paleo diet — once a week. It’s a planned cheat, and the goal is psychological and physical, Whiting said.
The friendly competition is intended to give people more motivation to improve their health. Arnott said her participation has helped in those moments when temptation looms large.
“Before I might have had that second glass of wine just because,” she said. “But when you’re on a team, you don’t want to let them down.”
Eating like our ancestors?
A small but devoted group are eschewing traditional eating plans and following in the footsteps of their early ancestors. The Paleo diet, developed by Loren Cordain, a professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University, also has been called the Caveman diet and the Hunter-Gatherer diet.
People who follow this food plan eat lean meat, fresh fruit and vegetables and nuts but no, or little, dairy and grains. Proponents say they get the nutrients they would otherwise ingest from grain and dairy from their vegetable-heavy meals. And because the carbs in their fruits and vegetables are low-glycemic, there are no spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
It’s not quite naked running, but barefoot running is causing some controversy.
Most recently, author Christopher McDougall — who will be speaking at the University of Delaware on Friday — has caused a sensation with his book, “Born to Run,” which details the story of an Indian tribe called the Tarahumara, who can run for hundreds of miles without wearing shoes. The book also explains his argument for why we should run sans shoes. Among his reasons — there weren’t as many running injuries before Nike introduced its first cushioned running shoe in the 1970s.
McDougall will be speaking at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Room 100 of Wolf Hall. The presentation is free and open to the community. For more information, call 831-2792.
What food is available locally?
More than you might expect — raspberries, corn, lettuce, artichokes, eggs, turkey and beef. June through September are typically the best months for getting local produce, although some farmers may have offerings year-round because they continue to grow in hothouses or cold frames, which shield plants from the winter weather.
The best way to find out what’s growing in your area is to visit a farmers’ market. Ask the growers about their produce, including how they grow their foods, whether they use chemical pesticides or fertilizers or rotate their crops. Many small farms aren’t certified organic, though they may use those methods.
Another option is joining a CSA, which is short for community supported agriculture. It’s a subscription service that requires customers to pay in advance for produce and sometimes eggs available later in the year.
Backpack? Check. Cool clothes? Check. Healthy food? Uh-oh. Time to cram.
By Kelly Bothum, The News Journal
August 18, 2009
The mad dash for back-to-school must-haves is in full swing. Advertisers are hawking their latest collection of cool clothes, backpacks and school supplies. But while skinny jeans, mechanical pencils and graphing calculators may be on the gotta-have list, fresh fruit, whole-wheat pita pockets and cheese sticks probably aren’t.
Perhaps they should be. As kids agonize over which outfit to wear on their first day, many parents wonder about what to feed them. Go with PB&J, the nutrient-dense but boring standby? A prepackaged meal that is easy, but full of processed and artificial ingredients? Or take a chance that they’ll buy the school lunch rather than load up on cookies and chocolate milk?
Parents know that kids benefit from eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains. But getting them to eat that way isn’t always easy, regardless of whether the meal comes from home or the cafeteria.
Some research studies suggest a link between nutritious food and academic performance. One of the most recent ones, a study of 3,200 Florida elementary-age children involved in a school-based obesity intervention program, found that those who focused on healthy eating and increasing their physical activity also improved their standardized test scores, according to research presented in March at the American College of Cardiology’s scientific session.
The group of 6- to 12-year-olds also lost weight and lowered their blood pressure as a result of the effort, which included school-based wellness and healthy lifestyle education during the day. About 60 percent of the kids qualified for free or reduced school lunches.
While lunch is a big concern, however, it’s not the only one.
“Some of the studies talk about just making sure students have something in their bellies before the day starts,” said Tony Ruggiero, a senior program and policy analyst for Nemours Health & Prevention Services. “When children arrive at school without breakfast, they’re not ready to learn.”
The challenge for parents is to give kids food that’s not only good for them, but tasty enough that it won’t end up being traded for a bag of cookies or worse, dumped in the trash.
“You really want to instill in your kids a value for food,” said Lisa Harkins, a registered dietitian with Bayhealth Medical Center.”If you’re not going to eat it, let’s talk about what you are going to eat. Let them know you don’t just throw things away.”
During the school year, Dawn Davis packs two lunches daily, one each for daughters Lindsay and Katelyn Turunc. While the mechanics of the lunch don’t change much daily — half a sandwich for each, a small container of 100 percent juice and a 100-calorie pack of chips or cookies — she has encouraged the girls, ages 8 and 10, to take ownership of what they eat.
“They help me pack their lunch. They don’t complain about half a sandwich because they’re little and it’s enough. I let them choose what they want with the [snack] pack,” said Davis, a single mother of three from Aston, Pa. “We do it the night before and in the morning, they get their own breakfast. It helps them feel like they’re older.”
Let them help
Kids should learn that meals aren’t battles and food choices – like vegetables, fruit and dairy – aren’t weapons used by the enemy, Harkins said. Give them some choices in what they’re eating and solicit their help in the preparation. If they make their lunch or at least pick out its contents, they are more likely to eat it than if they open up the bag to find an unwelcome surprise.
At the same time, don’t set yourself up to be a short-order cook. Have them pick between an apple and a banana, not the entire produce section. If they pick carrots, let them figure out how much to take and bag it themselves. “Making them part of the decision-making process is really key,” she added.
If possible, parents should aim for a serving of calcium, protein and complex carbohydrates, as well as fruits and veggies, in their children’s lunches. Complex carbs provide energy throughout the day, rather than in small doses. White milk and yogurt – not the kind loaded with sweeteners – do double-duty as both protein and calcium sources that are more likely to prevent steep spikes or drops in blood sugar levels. That’s especially important for kids who have their lunch earlier or later than usual.
It’s OK to include a sweet treat as well, provided kids know they also need to eat their other food. Pudding cups can be a calcium source and granola bars can provide extra energy if they have at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams of sugar.
When kids buy their lunch at school, encourage them to make good choices. While most districts have eliminated trans fats from their menus, there are still opportunities for kids to make unhealthful a la carte purchases. Harkins said parents should try to find a reasonable compromise.
“Have a good, honest conversation about what they’re eating. If their school has a salad bar, ask them to do a salad at least twice a week,” Harkins said. “ It’s all about teaching them moderation. Otherwise, if you ram it down their throat, they’re going to fight it.”
Start the morning right
It should go without saying, but make breakfast a priority. Martha Coppage-Lawrence, a senior nurse practitioner at Hodgson Vocational Technical High School near Newark, said she still sees students who skip breakfast in an attempt to reduce calories and lose weight. They don’t realize the extra hunger pangs may result in a slower metabolism or overeating later in the day. They also don’t think about the consequences in the classroom, like a lack of attention or difficulty focusing.
“We try talking to them about how that plan usually backfires on them and how body and brain don’t function as well if they’re not getting the nutrition they need,” Coppage-Lawrence said.
When it comes to the first meal of the morning, kids – and their parents – should stay away from high-sugar breakfast foods. Sugary cereals and doughnuts can cause kids to have an energy slump in the midmorning. But if it’s a choice between a doughnut and nothing, at least eat the doughnut, Harkins said. “We don’t want to tell people to eat food like that, but really you should eat something, even if it’s last night’s dinner,” she said.
Coppage-Lawrence said she also tries to talk with kids about the academic advantage breakfast can provide. Last year at another school, the wellness center worked with a peer educator group and provided fruit, cheese sticks and a whole-grain cereal mix to students in advance of the Delaware Student Testing Program. The idea was to stress the importance of good nutrition and how it can contribute to improved concentration, feeling more alert and an overall better ability to perform.
But there are times when the food choices are out of the students’ control. “Sometimes we will hear, ‘My parents don’t buy that,’ ” Coppage-Lawrence said.
Healthy habits start early
In addition to packing healthy lunches for her kids, Davis also tries to stock up on nutritious snacks to quell midafternoon hunger pangs. Her daughters know they can always find cut-up melon, grapes or berries in the fridge. It may be a little extra work on their mom’s part, but Davis said it’s worth it.
“I know if it’s put away in the drawer, it’s like it’s not there,” she said. “Doing this, they see it.”
Simple tricks like that not only make it easy for kids to eat well, they also show kids that their parents are practicing healthy habits, Harkins said. If children know their parents eat the same way they do, they are more likely to reach for that apple or celery stalk instead of a bag of chips.
When Lucas Ramsey, 8, pulls out his sandwich made with whole-wheat bread and low-sodium cheese and crunches on raw broccoli and red pepper strips, he knows it’s pretty close to the same thing his mom, Jessica, is eating. Like him, she takes to work a bag lunch filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“To me, lunch is definitely important,” said Ramsey, a mother of three who plans out her family’s lunches just as she does with dinners. “I look at it as fueling his day.”
Ramsey, who owns Physicore, a personal training studio in Pike Creek, said she and her husband teach their children to view food as the energy source powering their day. They prefer to give them high-quality whole foods while explaining the difference between a snack (something to eat when you’re hungry) and a treat (something that satisfies a craving).
So far, it seems to be making a difference. Lucas, who will be going into the third grade, prefers his raw spinach leaves and veggies without dips or sauces. His younger sisters seem to be following his example.
Harkins said some parents believe their kids are programmed to want junk food, but if they’re exposed to fresh foods and variety in their diets, chances are they’ll seek out healthier fare. “You really may have to offer it to them 10 times, but then they’ll take it,” she said. “Just keep at it.”
Eating smarter- A little tinkering can make recipes healthful.
By Hiran Ratnayake, The News Journal
March 10, 2009
Among Robyn Unthank’s repertoire of recipes, the most popular is her macaroni and cheese.
The dish, which takes 90 minutes to prepare, calls for whole-milk cheese, butter, eggs and bread crumbs. Although Unthank makes it a point to cook and eat healthfully most of the time, she doesn’t dare lower the fat and calorie content in her mac-and-cheese — that might mess with its taste.
“I don’t want to take the time and spend all the money on the ingredients to make it healthier only to find out that it’s going to taste worse,” said Unthank, who lives in Wilmington.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to taste bad to be better for you. With just a few substitutions or different steps, meat dishes, pasta dishes, chilies, stews and even desserts can be made lower in calories, fat, sugar and cholesterol, say registered dietitians and personal chefs. Sometimes they can even be made higher in important nutrients.
“When you’re talking about savory items, there are many ways to cut the fat and cut the sugar and make it still taste really good,” said Lisa Brisch, a personal chef from Middletown who recently held a healthy cooking demonstration in Bellefonte. There, Unthank and more than a dozen other participants learned how to make a soup, a salsa and black bean quesadillas that taste just as yummy as the ones in a restaurant — but with less fat, sugar and calories.
Altering recipes doesn’t mean you need to spend more money. In fact, you might find yourself saving money by dining on chef-quality food at home, instead of at your favorite restaurant. When possible, make extra; it’ll save time as well as money.
“You can put the food you make in serving-size containers and half of it can be stored in bulk in the freezer,” said Mary Trotter, a clinical dietitian with Nemours Health & Prevention Services. “It’s a good way to have something healthy on hand.”
Cornerstone of good health
Healthy eating is a key to good health — it can help lower our chances of developing a chronic illness, said Dr. William Weintraub, chief of cardiology with Christiana Care Health System. It can also help lower the chances of having a heart attack.
“If we cut down the amount of fats we eat, we cut down the amount of fats in the blood that can cause blockages over a period of time,” said Weintraub, who also works with the American Heart Association.
It’s not just the amount and types of fats we need to consider. Weintraub said there are also significant benefits to reducing the amount of sugar in our diet. Cutting sugar means cutting calories, and that helps reduce our risk of diabetes and obesity.
“Eating right is one of the cornerstones of good health and in the prevention of heart attacks, strokes, obesity and diabetes,” Weintraub said.
That’s why it’s a good idea to try to “slim down” recipes. Derek Brewington, a personal chef from Newark, said many pasta and chicken dishes call for heavy cream, butter and lots of salt. But there are ways to make them healthier without sacrificing taste.
Instead of cream in his chicken dishes, he opts for light chicken broth. He uses olive oil instead of butter to sauté chicken. And he often adds low-fat or fat-free dressings, which contribute flavor and oil to help keep the chicken from drying out.
“I want to take the fat out, but most of the flavor comes from the fat,” said Brewington. “So the marinade will give a more healthy flavor to the chicken.”
You can also reduce the fat by buying the leanest ground beef or using a substitute. About 3 1/2 ounces of ground turkey has just over 2 grams of saturated fat and 149 calories; that same amount of 85 percent lean ground beef has 6 grams of saturated fat and 215 calories, said Lewes registered dietitian Lisa Harkins.
And ground turkey can easily be substituted in lasagna, spaghetti and ziti dishes, as well as chilies and other dishes.
“Ground turkey is becoming much more accepted as people realize that you don’t have to have that greasy taste,” she said.
Egg yolks are loaded with cholesterol and have less protein than egg whites, Harkins said. So if you’re making an omelette with four eggs, use only one whole egg and three whites.
“You’ll barely notice the difference at all,” she said.
But your body will. Four yolks contain 839 milligrams of cholesterol and 18 grams of total fat; using only one cuts that by 75 percent.
Getting desserts right
Desserts are more complicated, since many need the fat to maintain the texture and taste. Baked desserts, like a crème brûlée, require a certain amount of fat for creaminess.
And nonfat substitutes don’t melt as well.
Brewington said it’s important to know which ingredients can be successfully substituted. He’ll use light cool whip instead of regular cool whip and reduced-fat cream cheese instead of the regular kind for his no-bake cheesecake.
Another trick is to use less sugar. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup less instead. This works well with quick breads, cookies, pie fillings, custard, puddings and fruit cakes. But it may not work for some cakes. You can compensate by increasing the amount of cinnamon or vanilla in a recipe.
For extra richness in her recipes, Betty Burleigh, a personal chef in Bear, uses evaporated skim milk instead of whole or 2 percent milk. Another way she makes her recipes better is by using whole wheat flour, oatmeal and whole cornmeal instead of highly refined products.
For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, she’ll use 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of whole-wheat flour. She prepares muffins and quick breads using three ripe, well-mashed bananas as opposed to a 1/2 cup of butter, lard or shortening.
She also replaces the butter with applesauce in her muffins. In her mashed potatoes, she uses nonfat sour cream instead of butter and she mixes it with skim milk.
“I make my pancakes using whole wheat flour instead of white flour,” she said, “and they taste just as good and just as fluffy.”
The prices for fat-free substitutes typically are about the same as their fattier counterparts. Fat-free milk, however, is cheaper than 1 percent, 2 percent and whole.
Preparing a dish at home also saves money and, for the most part, provides better nutrition, since many processed foods are loaded with salt.
Multigrain rather than white
Within 20 minutes of Brisch’s cooking demonstration, the black bean quesadillas were ready for testing. Instead of using white flour tortillas, she used multigrain ones. She spread only a little cheese (reduced fat, of course) inside each.
“Not only are we cutting back on lower-fat ingredients, we’re also using less cheese, because you don’t want a quesadilla that is only cheese,” Brisch said.
Three quesadillas using white flour tortillas and 1 full-fat cup of cheese would have 303 calories, 17 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber. With Brisch’s recipe, they had only 232 calories and 10 grams of fat. Brisch’s quesadillas also had 6 grams of fiber.
To Jeanette LaVecchia, of Wilmington, on hand for the demo, the quesadillas tasted quite different from the ones she’s eaten in restaurants.
“The others have so much cheese in them that they’re overbearing,” she said. “But this tastes good.”
It also tastes healthy, said Michele Lloyd, of Wilmington.
“It’s flavorful but not heavy,” she said. “It’s very fresh and light.”
Perhaps those black bean quesadillas should be called guilt-free quesadillas.