Category Archives: Nutrition Info

Intuitive Eating

Do you spend a lot of time and effort counting calories? Do you label food as being “good” or “bad?”  Is concern about your diet causing you more harm than good?  Consider ‘intuitive eating’ to develop a more peaceful relationship with food.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that relies on inner wisdom to guide food choices, rather than external cues (1).  The approach was developed by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in the 1990s.  Those who follow a practice of intuitive eating:

  • Eat when they feel hunger and stop eating when they feel full.
  • Make food choices based on both health and enjoyment.
  • Trust, respect and nourish their bodies.
  • Reject the “diet” mentality.

What are the advantages of eating intuitively?

Research indicates that intuitive eaters:

  • Are less likely to be overweight or underweight.
  • Are less likely to suffer from eating disorders.
  • Have better self-esteem.
  • Are happier overall.

One recent study compared a traditional weight loss program to an intuitive eating program (2).  People in the intuitive eating program improved their cholesterol levels, boosted their self-esteem and increased their body satisfaction.  Participants in the traditional weight loss program experienced no such benefits.

How do I start?

Try these tips to start eating intuitively.

  1. Stop the “diet” mentality.  Recognize that quick-fix diets usually fail. Resolve to making a lasting lifestyle change instead.
  2. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness signals.  Make a plan to eat when you are hungry, and stop when you feel comfortably full.  Jotting your feelings down in a journal or notebook might be helpful to you to understand what “hungry” and “full” feel like for you. Keep your energy levels up with regular healthy meals and small snacks.
  3. Stop labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’  Labeling foods can make you feel guilty, and “restricted” foods often feel very tempting.   The truth is, any food in moderation can be part of a healthy eating plan.  Choose foods that honor both your health and taste preferences.  Take a sensible approach and choose a diet that contains a variety of different foods from all of the food groups.
  4. Enjoy eating.  It’s okay to relax and enjoy the experience of eating.  When you eat mindfully and savor every bite, you may find that you are satisfied with less.
  5. Learn to soothe yourself without food.  Anxiety, loneliness, boredom and anger are emotions we all experience.  For some, food may provide comfort in the short-term, but eating will never solve an underlying problem or worry.  Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract and resolve your issues without using food.
  6. Respect your body.  When you stop to think about it, you will see that the human body is amazing, and it’s the only one you will have for the rest of your life.   It’s important to understand that bodies naturally come in all shapes and sizes.  Instead of judging and criticizing, try truly caring for your body with respect. The results may surprise you.

Resources:

Book: Intuitive Eating, 3rd edition by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Website: IntuitiveEating.com

References:

  1. Schaefer JT, Magnuson AB. A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 May;114(5):734-60.
  2. Bacon L, Stern JS, Van Loan MD, Keim NL. Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic dieters. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Jun;105(6):929-36.

Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming (Book Review)

childs-weightEvery parent and dietitian should read Ellyn Satter’s Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming.  Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist, and is considered to be the leading expert on feeding and raising healthy kids.

In the book, Satter refutes the idea that parents must force their children to eat less and exercise more to lose weight.  In the long run, this technique backfires, as children become preoccupied with food and turned off to physical activity.  Rather, Ellyn coaches parents to feed well, parent well, and allow children to grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

For a summary of the books main points, read on, or click here for a PDF summary from Satter herself.

Feed well.

Feeding embodies your entire relationship with your child.  Feeding your child is nurturing your child, and it should be about providing, not restricting.  Restricting hurts both emotionally and physically, and in the long run it will make your child fatter, not thinner.

To feed well, start by having regular family meals.  Family meals are more important than most people realize.  Not only do family meals teach kids how to eat well, they also provide kids with reliable social and emotional support.  Children who have regular family meals do better in school, have better mental health, and display better social skills.  Make family meals rewarding for everyone by following these tips:

  • Prepare and serve food that you enjoy.  It doesn’t all have to be healthy.  Find a balance.
  • Put 4-5 foods on the table and let everyone pick and choose what they want.
  • Teach and expect your children to behave nicely.
  • Understand enough about children’s normal eating behavior to feel successful with feeding.
  • Follow Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility (below).

Follow Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility.

Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility states that:

  • Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding.
  • Children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating.

In other words, if parents do a good job with feeding, they can relax and trust their child to do a good job with eating.

Parent’s feeding jobs:

  • Choose and prepare the food.
  • Provide regular meals and snacks.
  • Make eating times pleasant.
  • Show children what they have to learn about food and mealtime behavior.
  • Do not let children graze for food or beverages between meal and snack times.
  • Let children grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

Children’s Eating Jobs:

  • Children will eat (although sometimes erratically, this is normal).
  • They will eat the amount they need.
  • They will eat an increasing variety of food.
  • They will grow predictabily.
  • They will learn to behave well at the table.
  • Gradually, during school age and teen years, your child will learn to manage the what, when and where of feeding for himself.  Slowly dole out responsibilities as they demonstrate responsibility to handle them.

Parent well: physical activity.

Ellyn Satter also promotes a division of responsibility with physical activity:

  • The parent is responsible for providing structure, safety and opportunities to move.
  • The child is responsible for deciding how much and whether to move.

In other words, if parents will provide fun and safe opportunities for physical activity, the child will take care of the rest.  Children are naturally inclined to move and find joy in active play.

Parents jobs:

  • Provide safe places for activity that the child enjoys.
  • Find fun and rewarding family activities.
  • Provide opportunities to experiment with group activities such as sports.
  • Set limits on TV but not on reading, writing, artwork or other sedentary activities.
  • Remove the TV and computer from the child’s bedroom.
  • Make children responsible for dealing with their own boredom.

Children’s jobs:

  • Children will be active.  Each child is more or less active depending on natural inclinations.
  • Each child is more or less skilled, graceful, energetic or aggressive, depending on natural inclinations.
  • Children’s physical capabilities will grow and develop.
  • Children will experiment with activities that are in concert with their growth and development.
  • Children with find activities that are right for them.

Know how to read your child’s growth chart.

Children grow predictably, usually along a similar path on a growth chart.  According to Satter, it doesn’t matter if the child is at the 5th percentile or the 95th percentile, as long as he/she is tracking along the growth chart.  There is only an issue if a child’s weight is accelerating or decelerating, and rapidly crossing growth chart lines.  (Slow and gradual change across the percentiles is typically normal.)

If a child’s weight is rapidly accelerating or decelerating, Ellyn asks, “What is undermining this child’s natural ability to grow in a way that is right for him/her?”

Usually, Ellyn finds that the cause is restrained feeding, poor feeding practices or stress.  Forcing food, restricting food, or allowing children to graze all day can all cause weight issues.  The solution?  Follow the division of responsibility, and the growth pattern will begin to track appropriately.

Allow children to grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.

Satter recommends that you let go of any agenda that you (or your child’s doctor) may have regarding your child’s size or shape.  Feed well, parent well and help your children to feel good about themselves at any size.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know what you think.

How to Snack at the Office

Top-12-Best-Healthy-SnacksSnacking can help you stay energized and prevent overeating at your next meal.  But chips, candy and soda contain “empty calories,” meaning short-lasting energy and virtually no nutritional value.  Here are some healthy snack ideas to fuel your workday.

Fruits and vegetables: Hands down, the healthiest snack choice you can make is fresh fruits or vegetables. Try keeping a fruit bowl at your desk, or bringing fresh vegetable sticks to munch on.  If you are trying to lose weight, consider limiting snacks to only fresh fruits and vegetables to cut calories.

Dried fruit is less nutritious than fresh fruit, but a much healthier snack than candy.  The fiber in dried fruit helps to slow the absorption of sugar, making you less likely to have an energy spike and crash compared to eating candy.  Stay away from fruit juice, which has lots of sugar but no fiber.

Nuts: People often fear nuts because of their high calorie content, but a recent study published in the Obesity journal found that people who eat nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts.  Grab a small handful of nuts for a mid-afternoon snack, or spread 2 Tablespoons of nut butter on apple slices or celery sticks.  Choose nuts or nut butters without added oil, sugar or salt.

Light microwave popcorn: Did you know that popcorn is considered a whole grain?  Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains (such as white rice and white bread), because fewer nutrients are stripped away during manufacturing.   Three cups of light popcorn contain only 100 calories, making popcorn a light, yet voluminous snack.  Microwave popcorn packets fit conveniently into your desk drawer.  Just don’t overcook it in the microwave, unless you really want to tick off your coworkers!

A hard-boiled egg: Eggs have gotten a bad reputation in the past for their cholesterol content, but more recent research suggests that the amount of cholesterol consumed from food is not linked to heart disease.  Plus, eggs are an excellent source of important nutrients, including high-quality protein, selenium and choline.  Studies have found that people with a high choline intake have lower levels of inflammation.  This is a good thing, because chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Most health groups in the US suggest that up to one egg yolk a day and unlimited egg whites will not increase the risk of heart disease, even for people who are watching their cholesterol.  Hard-boiled eggs and other protein-rich foods should not be kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

Your food choices have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing.  The time spent preparing healthy snacks for work will pay off with improved energy and health.

This article was originally written for Comstock’s Magazine, the premier monthly business publication in California’s Capital Region.

Pick Holiday Food that Won’t Pack on the Pounds

ImageNavigating the food choices at holiday parties can be a challenge for nutrition-conscious people.  Here are a few general strategies and specific ideas to enjoy a healthy holiday.

Don’t arrive hungry.

Although it can be tempting to skimp on breakfast and lunch to “save up your calories” for a party, this strategy almost always backfires.  Eat balanced meals and avoid arriving hungry, or you risk overindulging in high-calorie party foods.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition, but low in calories.  When you fill up on fruits and vegetables, it’s easier to moderate the amount of higher-calorie foods you eat.  This is a good habit to adopt not only around the holidays, but year-round for good health.

Choose wisely.

Not all holiday foods are created equal.  Here are some common holiday foods and better choices to avoid packing on the pounds.

Drinks:

  • Instead of egg nog (350 calories), choose sugar-free hot chocolate (25 calories).  Packets of sugar-free or “diet” hot chocolate are available at most grocery stores.  Skip the whipped cream though, or you’ll add 150 calories.
  • Instead of mixed drinks (250+ calories), choose light beer, red wine or champagne (100 calories).  Keep in mind that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making moderation at dinner more challenging.  After 0-2 alcoholic drinks, switch to calorie-free beverages.

Appetizers:

  • Instead of crab cakes (400 calories), choose shrimp cocktail (150 calories).  In general, appetizers that are fried soak up a lot of oil, and calories along with it.  Stick to appetizers that are steamed, baked, grilled or fresh.
  • Instead of chips and dip (290 calories), choose vegetables and hummus (75 calories).  Salsa is another excellent low-calorie dip choice.

Dinner:

  • Instead of prime rib (600 calories), choose grilled salmon, beef tenderloin, or roasted turkey breast without the skin (180 calories).  The proper serving size for meat is 4 oz, or about the size of the palm of your hand (fingers not included!)
  • Instead of traditionally prepared stuffing or mashed potatoes (300+ calories), find recipes with lighter versions online (150 calories).  Hidden ingredients like butter and turkey drippings add unnecessary calories.

Dessert:

  • Instead of pecan pie or cheesecake (600 calories), choose pumpkin pie and leave off the crust (150 calories).   Another good strategy is to share your favorite dessert with a friend.

The holidays are a time for celebration, so plan to enjoy small amounts of your favorite holiday foods.  Balance them out with a few of these healthful strategies, and you can relax and enjoy the holidays without worrying about packing on the pounds.

This article was originally written for Comstock’s Magazine, the premier monthly business publication in California’s Capital Region.

Better Health in Your Own Backyard

Anyone who has ever eaten a freshly picked fruit or vegetable will agree: there is nothing as satisfying or delicious as garden-fresh produce. And with spring finally here, there’s no better time to start a vegetable garden so that you too can enjoy the fruits of this season’s bounty.  To learn how to pick, plant, and prosper from your very own vegetable garden, just follow the tips below.

Step 1: Choose plants for your climate.  When deciding which produce to plant, consider what foods will thrive in your climate. Most seed packets state the climate the plant prefers, so pay close attention. Generally, plants prefer to grow in warm, moist soil with plenty of water. In California, however, water is a scarce commodity, so plants that require little water are an ideal choice. Onions, lettuce, potatoes, or even apple and orange trees are tasty examples that grow well in a variety of soils and climates. If you don’t have the space or desired climate for an outdoor garden, you can always opt for an indoor garden. Smaller plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, are wonderful low maintenance, indoor options. Just remember to place them in a well-lit area and water them a couple times a week.

Step 2: Prep your planting site. To begin, start by picking a planting site. This site should be in a well-drained and level area that receives a large amount of sunlight on a daily basis. Next, it’s important to ensure that you have nutrient-rich soil in order to grow a healthy and successful garden. Start by clearing your planting site of all weeds, sod, and debris. The size of the area that you clear will depend upon the amount of space your garden needs. Once this is done, you’ll need to loosen the soil to aerate it so that oxygen can reach the plant’s roots more readily. This is also a good time to incorporate compost or fertilizer into the soil to add more nutrients. If your soil is beyond repair, considering building raised beds or opt for a hanging garden.

Step 3: Plant your garden.  When all of the prep work is completed, you can finally plant your garden. Most seeds have planting instructions on the back of the packet, but if not, plant your seeds 1/4-1/2 inches in the ground leaving a 1-2 inches in between.  For larger plants that have already started growing, place them in a deep enough hole to cover the starter soil. Cover all holes with fresh soil and water liberally to initiate nutrient uptake in the roots. Then, wait for your plants to grow and in a few months you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.

Gardening Tools

Here’s a list of five essential tools any gardener should have.

  1. A gardening spade and shovel are a definite must for gardening. A good quality shovel allows you to move soil quickly, while a spade ensures perfect sized holes for all your fruits and vegetables.
  2. If you’ve ever tried gardening, but forgot to remove the weeds first, then you know how indispensable a weeding tool is. Weeds are devious creatures that work to destroy your garden by choking out the plants you’re trying to grow, so it is of utmost importance that you remove as many of them as you can. Don’t forget to remove the small pieces, too. Weeds multiply quickly, so even the smallest piece can cause damage.
  3. A wheelbarrow is another handy tool to have while gardening. It saves your back the trouble of carrying heavy bags of soil around and helps to organize your mess.
  4. While plants thrive in ample amounts of sunlight, too much can be harmful to us. A sun hat is highly recommended to wear while gardening. Protecting your face from the sun’s intense rays will stave off future headaches and allow you to enjoy the beauties of your garden.
  5. Kneeling to plant and care for your garden can take a toll on your knees. Invest in a padded knee mat for a much more enjoyable gardening experience.

For tasty recipes ideas that use common vegetable garden items, check out these links:

Written with assistance from nutrition intern, Natasha Fowler.

EurAsian Secrets to a Healthy Lifestyle

How do individuals living in Asian and European countries manage to remain slim and healthy without sacrificing great-tasting foods? The secret is… they don’t diet. Instead, they embrace food as fuel and eat real, whole foods that are packed with nutrients. Here are some key tips from both cultures to help you live a little healthier:

Shop at a local market. In Europe and Asia, most grocery shopping is done at a local market. Because the produce varies with each season, shopping at markets are a surefire way to get fresh fruits and vegetables that contain the maximum amount of nutrients and are loaded with flavor.

Get real! European and Asian cultures emphasize eating “real” or “whole” food; that is, food in its natural form. By eating more whole foods, you eliminate the chemicals that are added during processing and retain the food’s original vitamins and minerals.

Eat fish. Fish and seafood are staples in European and Asian cuisine.  Both are great sources of lean protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart and overall health. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings of fish each week. Just swap fish for red meat or poultry at your next meal, and you’ll be halfway there.

Ditch the sugary drinks. Sugary drinks play a miniscule role in the European and Asian diet and often replaced with water, tea, or wine. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, swapping sugary drinks for one of these substitutes can also help you shed about 25 pounds in one year.

Spice up your life! Herbs and spices are used abundantly in European and Asian cuisine. Herbs such as basil, parsley, and cilantro are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that help fight cancer, jumpstart your metabolism, and add flavor to any dish. Ginger, chili peppers, and lemon grass are delicious spices with an Asian flare. They also contain chemicals that fight cancer, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

By following these tips, you can ditch the dieting and finally reap the benefits of a healthy and delicious lifestyle.

Written with assistance from Natasha Fowler, Nutrition Intern.

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Easy Tips for a Healthy Spring Break

Great news! Spring has sprung, and with it comes the ever-coveted Spring Break for many students (and adults, if they are lucky!). Finally, after months of suffering through the blisteringly cold winter weather, the chance to take a vacation and soak up the sun has arrived. Sometimes, it can be all too easy to overindulge during this time off. Here are some easy tips to eat right and remain active while enjoying your Spring Break.

Packing for the Trip

Most diet busters occur before the trip even begins, as most people don’t think to pack healthy snacks to eat while on vacation. Packing your own snacks is a great way to avoid filling up on fast food while traveling. Just remember to pick foods that will last a while and are easy to eat. Granola bars, cheese sticks, apples, and oatmeal are perfect snacks for traveling. They are easy to store and contain tons of nutrients that will give the energy you to need to enjoy your trip.

Don’t forget to pack your walking shoes and workout gear, too. With less time spent working, vacations provide the perfect opportunity to fit in quick exercise sessions. If you’re crunched for time, just pack a couple resistance bands or a few workout DVD’s. Most hotels have DVD players that’ll allow you to get fit in the comfort of your room.

During the Trip

Instead of that bus tour, why not try a walking or bicycle tour of the city?  This is a great way to explore and see sights up close.  Another idea is to plan a little adventure into your trip, such as a hike, swim, rafting, or other excursion. If neither of these options will work for you, you can always hit the hotel gym and work out there.

Vacations are synonymous with eating out, and by default eating too much. Restaurant portion sizes are usually more than twice the recommended serving size, so split your meal in half and share with a friend. This will save you calories, money, and help you to fully enjoy your trip.

After the Trip (aka. Damage Control)

Vacations are a time to relax and let loose. If, however, you overindulged a little too much during your time off, don’t fret. Just continue your healthy eating habits once you return. Incorporate more fruits and veggies into your meals to replenish your body with the nutrients you may have omitted during vacation. Drink plenty of water and start a workout routine. Most importantly, know that it’s okay to treat yourself every once in a while. Hard work deserves a reward, and with these tips you can relax and enjoy a healthy and fun-filled spring break.

Written with assistance from nutrition intern Natasha Fowler.