Ahhh autumn. Time to pull out the Uggs and pretty scarves, slide my snow scraper back into the car, get the flu shot (or decline it when it's offered 18 different times), and load up on my favorite flavor of fall: pumpkin!
Here's a recipe I created, chocked full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and protein--the Pumpkin Power Smoothie! I send The Husband out the door with this delicious smoothie for breakfast, but it also makes for a great snack after school, or can be modified into a delicious healthy dessert.
8oz Pumpkin nonfat Greek yogurt
1-2 Tbs TJ's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
1.5 cups frozen mango
1 frozen banana
8oz unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup ice
Yields: 4 large smoothies
Blend all ingredients in a blender, adding ice or almond milk to desired consistency. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon!
For a more complete meal replacement, add your favorite unflavored or vanilla protein powder. For a sweet holiday dessert, simply add vanilla ice cream and an additional tsp of vanilla extract.
For OTHER benefits of pumpkin, please read this. :)
Happy Fall, Y'all!
The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published a study in their April 2016 edition entitled "Association between self-weighing and percent weight change: mediation effects of adherence to energy intake and expenditure goals" that analyzed weight change over 18mo in participants who were instructed to weigh themselves every other day. The participants used electronic scales at home that recorded their weighing history for adherence, and the study found that the participants who stuck with their weighing plan better stuck with their diet/exercise plan and tended to lose weight.
At the heart of regular self-weighing as a weight-management strategy is Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory of self-regulation. This theory explains behavior change as a continual interaction between cognition or personal factors like motivation, one's behaviors, and the environment.
In this study, participants who engaged in the behavior of weighing saw numbers on the scale drop--especially in the first 6mo of the study. This likely affected their personal cognitions--they probably felt more capable and more motivated (higher "self-efficacy") to keep up their nutrition and exercise behaviors.
Self-weighing as self-regulation sounds like a good idea. Bandura points out that high-quality self-monitoring needs to be accurate, done regularly, have close proximity (or be easy), and be informative. Weighing fits most of these criteria. It's fast & simple, it can be done regularly, and it gives you something concrete to measure accurately.
Our environment overwhelmingly supports using the scale to inform us of our health status. We're a society obsessed with weight, so many people feel like their weight equates with "progress" or "success" or a "problem". We attribute so much of our health status to the number on the scale that self-weighing seems like an obvious way to evaluate our health behaviors.
The problem is, as I've written about before, your weight is actually a rather arbitrary number in the big picture of your health. Self-weighing fails to be informative.
Moreover, weight goals aren't the best goals to have, when you're looking to change your nutrition and exercise habits, because our society has an ingrained belief that dieting is the way to change the number on the scale. While tracking weight can tell you something about your energy balance and if you might be consuming more or less energy than you need, our usual tendency to "correct" a weight is to implement diet rules, such as restricting quantity & avoiding "bad" or "forbidden" foods. We look for dieting quick-fixes, because in the short run, weight can be changed quickly.
Self-monitoring is good. It's a necessary activity for turning new positive health behaviors into habits. Eventually, with enough regularity, positive health behaviors become second nature. You don't need to check in with yourself. It's wonderful when healthy living is so easy!
But nutrition changes can be difficult at first, and reminders that also serve to encourage you are excellent aids for your goals. Ideally, work first with a dietitian like me to help you assess where change is needed and develop some healthy goals. Dietitians can also help you become your own coach through developing self-monitoring practices. Here are 3 self-monitoring ideas:
1. Write your behavior goals and post them where you'll see them often. Goals that aren't weight-centered don't need a scale to measure progress. Maybe you want to exercise 45min 3x/week. Maybe you want to include a high-protein food at every breakfast. Whatever your goal is, seeing it in your daily environment, like as a recurring calendar reminder on your computer or as a post-it note on your fridge or steering wheel. Adding in an encouraging note, such as a motivating factor, is a great idea.
2. Keep track of progress. A journal, a calendar, an app--even stickers on a chart. If you routinely keep track of something you want to change, you're more likely to remember to follow through the next time, and the next. Want to stop eating late night snacks when you're already full? Reduce sugar-sweetened beverages to <4 drinks/week? Workout 250min/wk? Keep track!! You'll see your progress (encouraging), and you'll also notice when you're falling off your goal behaviors early, to give you plenty of time to problem-solve and come up with ways to make the desired behavior easier or, if necessary, set a different goal.
3. Use social support. Ever tried training for a marathon on your own? HARD! And lonely! Some health goals can be just as challenging. Whatever your health goal is, there is probably someone who can support you--and online friends and even apps count. Want to workout more often? Join a group. Planning to eat more vegetables? Tell your family that they can help. Trying to practice daily progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress? I've just found there's an app to remind me, keep track for me, and give me encouraging support. Other people can serve as encouraging reminders or model behavior you want to follow. Use them as part of your environment to to help you self-monitor, and move along those healthy behaviors into easy habits that are just party of your healthy lifestyle.
On Monday, April 18, thousands of proud Bostonians will be running the epic 120th annual Boston Marathon. Most of the event's runners have spent hours and hours, training miles and miles to prepare for this grand event. Rested and ready, there is one key factor remaining to prepare for success: Nutrition.
Not planning for nutrition can turn an epic memory for a lifetime into a nightmare to try to forget. But following these simple tips can help you cross the finish line like you’ve been dreaming about—with a huge smile on your face!
Nutrition Tips for Marathon Runners:
1. Hydrate EARLY and OFTEN.
You’re never more hydrated during the marathon than when you start! Stay hydrated! There are excellent water and Gatorade stations at every mile on the course. Even if you’re not yet thirsty, take small sips at aid stations at the beginning of the race. Be sure to sip often during the 26.2 miles.
2. Stick with your nutrition routine!
Race day is not the time to try new nutrition products. Different products might give you GI upset. You want to be pausing at water stations, NOT stopping at every porta-potty! Save the bars and gels and all the other products you get at the Expo for next year’s marathon training, and stick with what you’re already used to.
3. Have a nutrition plan.
Running a marathon requires not only pacing strategy, but nutrition strategy. Review the course map, and plan at which miles you are going to refuel. And be sure your cheering squad brings your favorite treats to the finish line when you celebrate!
I moved to Boston in July, when I married my awesome husband and best friend who had been living here. I quickly fell in love with the city. Living in the South End (and writing songs about it), I love the walkability of Boston, the street lamps at night on the old streets of Beacon Hill, the crowded & noisy North End, and the people of Cambridge, all of whom seem to be carrying a laptop and a thousand thoughts. Boston is a big small city, with history, with arts, with science, with sports, and with everything else you could want in a city. I love my sphere of biomedical science and nutrition research, where everyone is pushing for new discoveries. Boston emanates innovation, and it comes from a people full of enough wit and grit to endure each others' frankness and our brutal winters. I love Boston.
I also love L.A. and feel wonderfully at home there, where I lived 10 years and hope to one day return. Most Los Angelenos have a conflicted love/hate relationship with the city, but, then again, they seem to have a love/hate relationship with everything, depending on what's trendy, am I right? What I love most about L.A., besides the Perfect year-round weather, is that there's a neighborhood for everyone. At its worst, though, L.A. is self-centered, materialistic, fair-weather, and ADHD. You find in L.A. an anxious desperation for uniqueness. A hot mess. On the other hand, L.A. is an optimistic town bursting with creativity, encouragement to Be Yourself (and Tweet and Facebook about it), and a focus on relationship-building (aided, of course, by your therapist, which everyone has). With the hellacious 405 and brutal state taxes, with its sunny sidewalk cafes and the USC Trojans, all in all, I love L.A.
Hawaii feels like another world, compared to Boston. I lived in Waikiki for 4 years, while studying nutrition. Destination Education. If I had to use one word to describe Hawaii, I'd use "Magical". If I got a second word, it'd be expensive, or maybe slow. But I loved being outdoors. The hikes, the runs, the swims-- they were surreal, and I never wanted to shut my eyes. In Hawaii, you can take your time. You can exhale. You can take a nap. Nobody is rushing you to wake up. In fact, nobody is rushing for anything. Yawn. But in Hawaii, memories are made with all the senses, and they are beautiful indeed.
While Hawaii was gorgeous, l.A. suited me, and Boston is great... I am now and will always be a TEXAN. Texas speaks to my heart; Texas resides in my soul. Not only was I born and raised in Houston, several generations of my family traced back lived their lives as Texans too. It's in my blood. I'm a Texan.
Texas isn't about geography. It's a whole culture unto itself--to outsiders this is "for better or worse". We think BIG. We're proud of our roots. We love independence, freedom, and traditions. Family and the Protestant work ethic. Respect for the military, and football. Church picnics in fields of bluebonnets. "Boldest and grandest", our state song goes, and that's how Texans feel about our land. There's nowhere else in the union whose people identify so strongly with their home state than Texas.
I love Texas. Texas has space, big skies, bright stars. Texas has my childhood, and Texas has my Mom.
Texas also has good food. REALLY good food! One thing we do really well is chili. Here's a recipe I made this week I wanted to share. It'll make you feel like you're right back in the Lone Star state.
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb beef brisket, chopped
1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can tomatoes, diced, undrained
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprkia
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Mesquite seasoning
1-2 shots tequila
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup salsa verde
4oz can diced green chilies
Saute the beef stove top, then add to a dutch oven with all other ingredients. Cook on low for 30 min. Serve with sour cream, green onions, and cheddar cheese. Tastes even better the next day!
I found a great recipe for skillet cornbread, that goes great with my Texas chili! Click here to follow.
Y'all take care now!
The obesity "epidemic". The "Health At Every Size" campaign. The "war on obesity". The "fat acceptance" movement.
Depending on your exposure to these lenses through which the media discusses obesity, you may have different responses to the question, "Can an obese body be healthy?"
Media is a powerful tool that influences our perceptions of obesity. Unfortunately, discourse on obesity as a public health crisis has often been within a damaging framework of obesity as a failure of personal responsibility and has led to awful prejudice against overweight and obese people--in social settings, employment, and even healthcare. The "fat rights" movement is an attempt to remove such prejudice. Another helpful media campaign is "Health At Every Size", which calls for people to look at healthy habits and individual needs without a constrained focus on body weight, which, along with reducing social stigma of obesity, also helps individuals become their healthiest selves, accepting that this may be in a body with more fat than others.
Last week, Chapman University published an article in Science Daily on the results of their studies with UCLA and Stanford on participants' perceptions of BMI after reading news articles discussing obesity in the context of either "Health At Every Size" and fat rights (anti-prejudice) dialogue, or in the framework of obesity as a public health crisis and obesity as a personal responsibility issue.
Using these photos, participants, after reading their article, responded whether they thought the figure could be healthy, and you'll see that 69% responded "yes" to an obese body after reading Health At Every Size or anti-prejudice articles, compared to only 27% who read the other articles. That is a big difference!
What do you think about obesity and health? Or what about an overweight body and health? Is the "normal BMI"--the 18.5-25 BMI--the "healthiest" body?
What is the healthiest BMI? There isn't one! There are increased risks for various diseases with increasing BMI over 26, but these risks don't take into account the smattering of variation of body fat settling points we have without any health problems--the weight range our body naturally maintains when we practice gentle nutrition guidelines and regular body movement. These settling points are influenced by our genes, our prenatal and neonatal health, and a great many other uncontrollable variables.
For some, an "overweight" or "obese" settling point may require more attention to diet and exercise when chronic diseases are present. For others, though, additional body fat does not cause metabolic dysregulation. These healthy bodies, which include many in the "overweight" BMI of 26-29, have normal insulin sensitivity, normal cholesterol levels, and normal blood pressure.
Obese bodies can be healthy. But as BMI rises above 30, the odds of an obese body being free from chronic diseases decreases sharply. For most people, excess body fat--particularly abdominal fat--promotes chronic systemic inflammation, which causes increased oxidized LDL's & atherosclerosis, blunted insulin signaling pathways & diabetes, and increased free radical damage & cancers.
Why are some bodies apparently immune to these health problems associated with obesity? An important factor is how individuals store fat within fat cells. Those who have much body fat but are at lower risk for health problems tend to make plenty of new fat cells to accommodate extra fat to store (see "hyperplasia" in the photo). These people tend to have a difficult time losing weight, because it's easier to reduce the size of a fat cell than for existing fat cells to die and be removed. (This was a very desirable adaptive mechanism for energy storage before our food-abundant era!) Where obesity can be unhealthy is when it causes cell "hypertrophy"--when fat cells swell too large and an inflammatory cascade ensues.
How do you make sense of various media frames around obesity? Rejecting the restrictive and often unattainable standards of slimness that the media equates with health is a great start. Respecting everyone and celebrating our diversity in our bodies' shapes and sizes is an excellent aim for public health campaigns. Welcoming campaigns that focus on engaging positive self-esteem, like "Health At Every Size" is essential for promoting allied health improvements at the community level. And, while prejudice and "fat shaming" need to be eradicated, we also shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater in ignoring real systemic health problems that can occur in metabolic dysregulation with obesity. The various media frames around obesity tend to have some elements of truth, but being able to consider numerous factors that contribute to health will help us to recognize that BMI isn't a very representative picture.
When acquaintances learn I am a dietitian, they usually respond in 1 of 2 ways:
Scenario 1 “Oh a dietitian! Well, haha… You do NOT want to see what I eat…” As if I'm the Food Police.
Scenario 2 involves the inquisitive person: “What do you think of the Such-And-Such Popular Nutrition Myth?”, or some personal nutrition-related question. Of these diet and personal health questions, one of the most common ones is, “Should I go gluten-free?”
Gluten-free diets have become very popular. A recent Gallup poll showed that 1 in 5 Americans actively choose to include gluten-free products in their diets. And production has soared; sales for gluten-free foods has increased about 63% the past 2 years. Unfortunately, many people who think gluten-free is healthier don’t know what gluten is. [Check this Jimmy Kimmel clip out for a laugh.]
Anecdotal accounts from friends and family about how GI problems or other health conditions were “cured” by omitting gluten from the diet provide compelling influence in the consideration of omitting gluten yourselves. And media, the food industry, and under-educated nutrition/health/fitness coaches have been spreading a gluten-free mantra with broad and bold health claims. With all the positive noise around going gluten-free, how can you know if it’s right for YOU?
This blog is to help you! Here are some important things to consider if you’ve been wondering where gluten should [or shouldn’t] fit in your diet:
1. You should have a gluten-free diet if you have celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes damage to the intestinal wall when gluten is eaten. People with celiac often have abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and fatigue. It is diagnosed by a blood test, with a biopsy sometimes to confirm. It tends to run in families and isn't very common (only about 1% of the population). To improve and even eliminate symptoms, people with celiac disease need to avoid gluten. For some, even very small amounts of gluten can trigger symptoms. Here is a great guide to gluten-free living for people with celiac disease: https://celiac.org/index.html. Don’t know if you have celiac disease? Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and whether you should get the blood test.
2. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, you may have a sensitivity to gluten (or, more probable, FODMAPS) that causes symptoms and could benefit from reducing dietary gluten--or FODMAPS. There has not been a lot of research on non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but a couple placebo-controlled studies have shown that some people with celiac-like symptoms who don't produce antibodies to gluten improve their symptoms when they omit gluten. However, the research isn't very clear yet, because conflicting results have occurred in studies, and the biological mechanism of a "sensitivity" hasn't been clarified. Regardless, many people feel significant relief from GI symptoms, and some other non-GI symptoms like headaches and chronic fatigue, when they reduce gluten.
Beyond a gluten sensitivity, the common reports that avoiding gluten improves GI symptoms may be due to the fact that naturally gluten-containing foods tend to be high in fermentable oligo-di-monosaccharides and polyols (or--much easier!--FODMAPS). In people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which often mimics celiac in symptoms and is about 10x more common, reduction of readily fermentable foods (which are simple sugars found in lactose, gluten-containing grains, fruits, legumes, and high-fructose corn syrup) decreases the GI symptoms. For many who benefit from a low FODMAP diet, restoring gut microbiota with probiotics can help relieve symptoms and permit the inclusion of FODMAPS and gluten again in the diet without symptoms.
Another reason why going gluten-free may help people without celiac improve GI symptoms and improve other health problems is that often when people make the behavior change of avoiding gluten, they become more aware of what they are eating... and tend to make more nutritious choices. People start reading labels and noticing what's in the food they eat, and, simply by an increased awareness, they become more thoughtful about what they eat. For this reason, they may gain many health benefits of nutritious eating--loss of excess body fat, increased energy, improved GI function--all of which actually have nothing to do with omitting gluten.
Don’t know if you have gluten sensitivity? Speak with a Registered Dietitian like me! You can contact me here, and I can help you identify triggers—which may or may not actually be related to gluten—and plan diet changes that are right for YOU.
3. If you don't have concerning symptoms and want to improve your nutrition, going gluten-free won't be helpful. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about gluten. In healthy persons, it is digested by enzymes in the gut and by bacteria in the colon, problem-free. There are many gluten-containing foods that are nutrient-dense, high in fiber, and great to include in a balanced diet, such as whole-wheat breads and whole-grain cereals; you may be missing out on nutritious and tasty foods by needlessly avoiding gluten. Food manufacturers are LOVING the confusion about gluten, charging on average over twice as much for gluten-free products as their gluten-containing comparisons. Instead of avoiding gluten, practice balance, variety, and moderation! To use words from Michael Pollan, "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."
For questions or comments, please post or contact me! -Joy
It's December 16. Nine days till Christmas. Maybe because it's because I'm in a new city, or maybe because it has been about 20 degrees warmer than I prepared for in Boston during my first winter here (when is it going to SNOW, people?! I've STILL been dreaming of a white Christmas, and it's warmer here than L.A. right now!!), but for me the holidays approached almost out of nowhere this year.
Holidays are fun. However, they can also be very stressful and emotionally challenging. And with all the holiday parties, the abundant tasty treats wherever you go, and the loss of your regular daily routine, it can be easy to drop your healthy eating and exercise habits this time of the year. Here are 3 tips to help you enjoy the holidays, with a healthy mind and body:
1. Be thankful with less. For most of us, somehow, somewhere along the way, the holidays become a time of staggering excess. We do too much, spend too much... and eat too much. We put too much on our plates, both figuratively and literally. This season, savor the small. Be able to turn down invitations if you're overextended. Give a sentimental or thoughtful gift instead of the expensive one. And enjoy one of the holiday desserts instead of sampling them all. Be thankful with less, and your heart will be warm seeing you still have more than you need.
2. Focus on friends & family, not food. Even if you're practically Betty Crocker, your conversation will be more memorable than your award-winning mashed potatoes. Don't stress over preparing the perfect meal. And plan holiday activities that aren't food-centric, such as walking through a neighborhood with decorated homes, seeing a tree lighting, visiting temple or church to hear the Hanukkah or Christmas story, or making art with others. Instead of covering your family's holiday party table with appetizers before a meal, lay out an assortment of family photos. No one will miss them as they're focused on the beautiful memories captured in the photos.
3. Slow down & savor. Ironically, holidays can be downright chaotic. Instead of vacation, you're more stressed than ever. Work and school often resume in January with a feeling of let-down, of rest and relaxation missed that you were hoping to enjoy. As with your enjoyable holiday foods, engage in holiday activities using all your senses. Stop and notice the moment, instead of rushing from event to event. Find something good in the present, and communicate it with your friends and family. By savoring the moment and being thankful for it too, you can truly enjoy your holidays and prepare yourself for a great healthy 2016.
Omega 3's (EPA, DHA, and alpha-linolenic acid), are essential fatty acids commonly found in salmon, sardines, anchovies, flax seeds, chia seeds, and in supplement form. Omega 3's have cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, and neurological benefits, and they have also been used as a home remedy for depression.
Like many home remedies for psychiatric conditions, anecdotal reports, lack of scientific evidence, and poor dissemination of information have kept Omega-3's on a long list of nutrition supplements that potentially help relieve the [unfortunately] common problem that depression is. However, a recent Cochrane review, which is considered the most extensive review of scientific evidence, shows that Omega 3's, despite their other known health benefits, likely do not significantly improve depression.
In their review, Appleton & colleagues examined 26 studies, 25 of which compared Omega-3's with a placebo and 1 compared Omega-3's with antidepressants. A small but clinically insignificant benefit was seen with Omega-3's, but the quality of the evidence was deemed low/very low, concluding that more research is needed. An example of an interesting future study is: do people with inadequate Omega-3 intake with depression improve with Omega-3's, just as iron deficient women who suffer symptoms of depression may improve their depression more from iron supplementation than those who aren't deficient? With the studies that do exist, however, Omega-3's shouldn't be counted on as a supported treatment for depression.
If you've been experiencing the symptoms of depression, speak to a medical professional. Evidence supports antidepressants and talk therapy as effective treatments, but a medical professional can also help you find additional or alternative remedies, to provide an individualized treatment plan for YOU that's MOST effective.
So, what are some home remedies and strategies that have been proven beneficial for depression?
1. Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins--one of the best natural antidepressants! Exercise also increases norepinephrine production, lowers blood pressure, and can improve self-confidence. As a behavioral activation strategy, movement in exercise even when you don't feel motivated can be an important mood lifter and help you stay in remission...not to mention exercise's countless other health benefits!
2. Get adequate sleep. Poor sleep is very common in depression, with insomnia sometimes being one of the first symptoms of a major depression episode. If you have depression, don't discount the importance of adequate sleep; prioritize sleep in your schedule, and try following these helpful sleep hygiene strategies.
3. Be routinely social. You may not feel like socializing, and your regular routine may seem overwhelming. But it's important to schedule socializing with other people, who will encourage your or at the very least be a distraction for you. Remember that, if nothing seems fun, that's just a symptom of depression. Depression is isolating; socializing can help stop and reverse the downward spiral.
It's important to know that appetite and nutrition intake can be significantly harmed during depression. For nutrition consultation, please connect with me, and together we can help you feel like the best YOU again.
On Veterans Day, The Husband and I went on a fun tour at Boston's Harpoon Brewery--a recommended excursion if you've never been. Harpoon's $5 tour lets you see the brewing process where the most famous Massachusetts IPA is made, and ends with a triple tasting, before heading back to the beer hall for fresh baked pretzels and more beer.
Although overall beer consumption has been declining in the U.S., with the rapid rise in local craft brews, beer has expanded its market into a more sophisticated yuppie sector than previous decades. One of the challenges to the brewers' sales is that there is a pervasive misconception that beer, especially when compared to wine or hard liquor, is less healthy and will add quick pounds to your body--that even small quantities will give you a "beer belly"!
You might be surprised to know that, ounce for ounce, beer has FEWER Calories than wine--about half, actually. A typical serving of wine, however, is 5oz, whereas beer is 12oz; a glass of wine has about 120 Calories and a glass of beer averages 150. The reason why beer has fewer Calories per ounce is because it contains a lower % alcohol by volume--around 4.5% compared to 12%. While beer contains additional Calories in carbohydrates because it's a grain product, and wine has just a few grams of sugar from grapes, most of the Calories in both come from alcohol.
There is, however, a considerable Caloric variance across beers. Stouts and porters will have more grams of carbohydrates (around 15) than pale ales and lite beers (around 5). Click here for a neat table comparing many different brews. These differences across beers, however, generally only amounts to ~50 Calories, which is the equivalent to about 5 whopping potato chips. Which brings me to perhaps a more important nutrition consideration regarding beer...
When was the last time you went out for beer with friends and ONLY consumed beer? I'm sure you're aware that alcohol can give you the munchies. When you drink any alcohol, regardless whether beer or wine, you feel less full and you can become more pleasure-seeking and less inhibited, which can lead to overeating. Additionally, alcohol, especially beer, enhances the taste of salt and fat, making you crave more. Often times, we eat more fat, salt, and Calories with beer than wine because of what foods tend to be paired with them. Though beers are becoming a more sophisticated beverage in our social circles, you probably pair it in your mind with burgers and fries, nachos and football games, and pepperoni pizza--high Calorie, fat, and sodium foods. So, you see, it isn't that beer is a serious threat to causing unwanted weight gain on its own. The "beer belly" is likely more the "beer and junk food belly".
However, if you're someone who can tilt back can after can during a football game, your beer belly might be just that. I know the "dad bod" is the new cool look (eh, or so they say) these days, but beer bellies are not healthy bellies. Alcohol, no matter what kind of drink it comes from, doesn't just add Calories that are metabolized the same way carbs, fats, and proteins are. Alcohol, as a toxin, is metabolized with high priority in the liver, and when it is consumed in abundance, fat deposits accumulate in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. (Over time, the inefficient and inflamed liver can become cirrhotic, which even leads to death.) With fatty liver there is also a localization of fat stores in the abdomen--which is more predictive of heart disease and cancers than BMI.
So, what then? Is beer out? No! Beer can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy nutrition lifestyle. Here are 3 Tips to Enjoy Beer without the Beer Belly:
1. Drink beer for pleasure, not hydration. You might think you're craving a beer, on a hot day, or after a hard workout, but I promise you: your body is craving water, not alcohol. Beer's alcohol is a diuretic and is dehydrating, not truly quenching. So drink water for hydration, and only choose beer for its taste and enjoyable benefits of alcohol--for pleasure.
2. If choosing to drink a beer, choose the beer you like the very most. Yes, I did note that some beers have fewer Calories and fewer grams of alcohol than others; beers differ considerably nutritionally. But these differences are small in the grand scheme of enjoying a relatively "empty Calorie" beverage. Because different kinds of beers taste rather different, you might want to experiment with different flavor profiles; branch out, to find your favorite brew. If you crave a beer, make it the best beer you can find. Better to drink less beer and really enjoy it!
3. Be mindful of what you eat during and after you drink beer. You're never going to be at your best intuitive eating when you consume alcohol. It simply comes with the drug's territory. So be mindful of your health goals and align your consciously align your consumption decisions when you're drinking beer.
Drinking beer in moderation and following these 3 tips, you can be sure to enjoy beer sans the beer belly.
When you think of the word "health", what do you think of? What images does your mind conjure up? How do you define it? Do you think of various domains, such as physical, mental, spiritual, social? What does health mean to you?
Are YOU healthy? What does your vision of your healthy self look like?
How do you compare your health now to your vision? Are there any areas that deserve improvement?
Everyone's vision of their best health is different. But no matter what yours is, and no matter how far away you are from yours, today you can make meaningful steps towards it. But before you start taking any actions, even before you start declaring SMART goals, you need to contemplate these 3 prerequisites to achieving your vision that local Bostonian Clayton Christensen, Harvard MBA professor, describes as key factors that determine the capabilities of what an organization can or can't do, in his inspiring book How Will You Measure Your LIfe?:
1. Adequate Resources. How equipped are you in your vision, with knowledge, with a health-promoting environment, and with support persons? Do you need to buy sports equipment or iPhone apps? Do you need to become educated with a dietitian or read a basic nutrition book? Do you need to get some cookware? How is your family and peer support--does that need developing? Your resources determine the capability of your vision becoming reality.
2. Effective Processes. How supportive is your infrastructure to support your goals? Do you need to reorganize? Would you benefit from fine-tuning your daily schedule? How is your communication with your support team? Are you lacking efficiency in your plan? Can you use technology to help you with reminders, with education refreshers, with progress tracking? Or, are you reasonably capable of your vision but just need more practice? Many health behaviors take at least 6 months of consistent practice before they become habit, and you may need to reassess and fine-tune your processes repeatedly before victoriously relishing in living our your vision of your healthiest YOU.
3. Clear Priorities. To make what matters to you most become your priorities, you first need to know what matters to you most. Do your nutrition goals keep taking the back burner? Are you tired of your own procrastination? Do you want to change but keep finding you lack the "motivation" to make changes? You are not alone. Unfortunately, many of us choose to focus on matters of urgency, elbowing out our matters of importance. We are very limited in our capacities, and it makes sense in the moment to direct our efforts to what has the soonest deadline or screams the loudest for our attention. All the while, what is truly important to us gets lost. Maybe what stands in the way of achieving your vision are unclear or unsettled priorities.
Knowing how to get from point A to point B requires a clear vision, but you also need the right resources, processes, and priorities in place. Where are your weak areas? Where can you change?
Discovering these limiting factors in your pursuit of your vision enables you to create goals. Then you'll be ready to take action, and with a lot of patience and persistence, reach your vision!
For fun owl cupcakes that are sure to be a HOOT during the holidays, check out this idea from Better Homes & Gardens!
Use your favorite white or yellow cupcake recipe or mix and bake accordingly.
Following my example photos below, frost the cupcakes with chocolate and then a yellow frosting (which I brilliantly made using a white frosting with yellow coloring. You have to take food science courses to become an RD. That's about the extent of the challenges.) Add white SweetTarts for the eyes, halved orange M&M's for the feet, a whole orange M&M for the beak, and sliced almonds for the feathers.
Then dab a little yellow frosting in the center of the eyes as pictured. Special guest appearance made by The Husband here! He helped! Place a gold M&M in the center for eyes. Don't have gold? Use brown. (Moment of silence now for the loss of the original tan M&M's. #candynostalgia #kindgergarten1989.)
Now, I was really determined to decorate these little owls perfectly like I was Martha Friggin Stewart. I had made a special trip to a candy store on Boylston for the candies, which I had warded off The Husband from eating all week. And, though you might know I'm a writer and a poet, an artist through using skilled hands I am not, exemplified if you've ever seen my handwriting. Frosting these little owls was wicked hard. I was almost getting frustrated enough to bite their little faces off. But I persevered. Which is why I was especially disappointed when I realized we didn't have chocolate chips for the owls' ears, which the BH&G recipe calls for.
...The reason we didn't have the chocolate chips is because... I ate them. ...All of them. The whole bag. In less than a week. I had told myself I'd save enough for the ears, but then when I realized I'd probably eaten more than I should have to save enough, I reasoned I could just swing by the store and get more... But when I swung by the store, they were clean out.
There's a moral in there, somewhere. Anyway, the Trader Joe's semi-sweet chocolate chips are delicious, FYI.
When I expressed my disappointment about the missing ears to The Husband, which I think came out in bitter sadness as something like "I'll never be Martha!" and self-directed anger as "the price is WRONG, witch!", The Husband consoled me and then radically surprised me. Using his lifetime of videogame playing, which included countless hours of Angry Birds, no doubt, The Husband picked up the sliced almonds and showed me how to make the owls' eyebrows, improving upon the BH&G owls. The Husband saved the day! Ingenuity > Perfectionism!
So, next time you feel the masochistic need to spend half a day decorating scary little predator bird cupcakes, you have the instructions. My advice: go to a bakery. Your friends will be none the WISEr, nor will they give a HOOT.
32 million pounds. That's the astounding approximate weight of the antibiotics that the U.S. uses annually in farm animals, according to Dr. Lance Price, Director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington's Milken Institute School of Public Health. Last Friday, I had the privilege of attending the Annual Harvard Law School - UCLA Food Law and Policy Conference, where outstanding speakers such as Dr. Price presented on law and policy of antibiotics in the food system. They discussed the current practices of broad-spectrum antibiotic usage for animal disease treatment, for "prophylactic" treatment, and for growth promotion.
Since their discovery, antibiotics have saved countless human lives and farm animal lives. With their powerful curative effects, there is general agreement that the use of antibiotics for the treatment of disease in farm animals is a positive humane and cost-effective practice. However, it is common practice for farm animals to receive antibiotics prophylactically in conditions where the animal might contract bacterial illness. For the majority of U.S. farming, with animals' cramped conditions atop their own feces, bacterial infection is indeed probable; without improvements in confinement and crowding, antibiotic use under this permissible "prophylaxis" will surely further the abundant usage of antibiotics in our food system. Additionally, noted Dr. Price, the feed used to fatten the animals compared to grass-fed animals often causes fatty liver disease in the animals, wherein antibiotics are necessary for the treatment of liver abscesses; poor production conditions further the overuse of antibiotics to treat their medical consequences.
Additionally, and even more controversially, antibiotics are used for growth promotion, referred to as "subtherapeutic use". According to Dr. Martin Blaser, Director of the NYU Microbiome Project and author of the exceptional book Missing Microbes, "an estimated 70-80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used for the single purpose of fattening up farm animals." Inexpensively and efficiently, farm animals gain 5-15% body weight (predominately in fat tissue, see below) through non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
As a dietitian interested in food, disease, and the gut microbiome, antibiotics' effects are an important and urgent concern for clinicians like me and, because of their personal health and societal impacts, should be known to consumers like YOU. I want to share with you 3 Reasons You Should Choose "No Antibiotics Administered" Meat:
1. The practices of subtherapeutic and prophylactic antibiotic treatments are causing the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs". Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC, notes that we are at "The End of the Antibiotic Era". (As one of his Twitter followers, he is constantly asserting the concerns of overuse of antibiotics.) The CDC ranks antibiotic resistance as the #1 global health threat. But it's not just humans overusing antibiotics--"superbugs" are developing to adapt to animals' drugs. Blaser writes in Missing Microbes that over 50% of ground turkey and beef and pork chops from supermarkets in 2011 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This is a serious, widespread problem!
2. Antibiotics are fattening our animals (and us too). I already mentioned that 70-80% of antibiotic use in the U.S. is to promote growth in farm animals. Generally, growth promotion is a desirable aim; bigger animals yield more food, to feed more people, for less money. Sounds great! But what happens to the animal which grows up to 15% bigger with antibiotics? Sure, it gets bigger--taller, longer, more muscular. But mostly, it gets fatter. The shift in body composition to being higher in fat doesn't just change our meat quality, too. It gives animals liver damage, sometimes leading to infectious abscesses...which, in a nasty cycle, require antibiotics for treatment.
3. Antibiotics in our food supply is harming our microbiome. I previously blogged on the importance of our microbiome for health. Overuse of antibiotics for our own bodies may have damaging side-effects related to the destructive alterations in our microbiome, such as, potentially, autoimmune diseases and obesity. But even conservative use of antibiotics for ourselves and for our kids still doesn't adequately reduce our exposure. With the antibiotics in our food supply, we are exposed to trace amounts of broad-spectrum antibiotics daily. Blaser writes, "For example, milk can legally have up to 100 micrograms of tetracycline per kilogram", which isn't a lot, but kids drinking milk daily can be exposed to meaningful quantities of antibiotics. And they're not just in purchasable foods, either-- tap water can contain antibiotics from farm runoff. Because of farm practices, it's difficult to avoid exposure, and our microbiomes are paying a price.
What can YOU do?
Choose USDA Process Verified "No Antibiotics Administered" products! Your consumer choices not only help protect yourself, they also affect others. Economically, you communicate to our relatively free ag market what you want, and, with increases in demand, it follows that there will be an increase in supply... and if the demand is great enough, more American farmers may finally take serious actions towards removing antibiotics from our food supply. Will health problems from missing microbes escalate, and will "superbugs" become a leading health--and mortality--risk? YOU help decide.
You were on your way to a healthier you, and then it happened. Again. Dinner. Dinner and the Dinnertime Monster that keeps possessing your mind and body and compels--even forces!--you to overeat.
You ate an energy-boosting breakfast and a healthy, balanced lunch. To explain, you chose oatmeal and a banana over the chocolate croissant, and a coffee with a little cream instead of the caramel frappuccino. You were thoughtful at the lunch cafeteria and grabbed an apple instead of potato chips to accompany your sandwich, which you even ate with whole wheat bread, believing your new healthy nutrition choices would all add up. You had confidence in yourself and you felt good about establishing your healthy nutrition habits. Heck, you even ate your sandwich and apple mindfully!
Flash forward to 9pm, and the confident, pleased YOU had disappeared. Despite the great start to your nutrition behaviors in the morning and nourishing choices at work for lunchtime, somehow during dinnertime at home, you ate your entire fridge. And it's not the first time this has happened. The dinnertime monster keeps showing up and, in spite of your best intentions to follow balance, variety, and moderation, your dinner plate keeps looking nothing like the MyPlate, and you keep overeating!
If you have a tendency to overeat in the evening, you are not alone. There are some powerful factors common to everyone that make overeating at night so easy! I'm going to explain 3 powerful factors that influence evening overeating, and, from these, I hope you will gain personal understanding and self-compassion towards your tendency to stray from balance, variety, and moderation at night. But I'm not going to just leave you hanging in there-- I will also explain 3 practical strategies to finish dinner without overeating.
1. Natural, healthy hormonal changes in the 24hr circadian rhythm can make our bodies less reliable in the evening to know whether we're hungry or not. Our bodies' endocrine systems are magnificently aligned with the 24-hour day. Melatonin, human growth hormone, and cortisol are some of the powerful hormones our bodies produce and release largely according to our internal clock; they rise and fall at given times surrounding the sleep-wake cycle. Other circadian hormones affect our satiety and hunger--leptin, insulin, and ghrelin, with ghrelin being a hormone of focus when it comes to evening overeating because it isn't produced as much at dinnertime.
Ghrelin is produced by the stomach and communicates with the brain to stimulate appetite. You can think of it as the "hunger hormone". (When I was a student, I remembered GHRelin = "GRRR I'm hungry!!") As you can see, it rises until a meal and falls sharply when you eat. But you should also notice the differences between this drop in ghrelin after breakfast compared to dinner. After dinner, the absence of hunger isn't as strong as earlier in the day. Our body simply isn't as reliable in the evening at telling us whether we're hungry or not!
2. Away from work distractions, we are more prone to emotional eating at dinner. Do you overeat when you're stressed? Worried? Lonely or upset? While during the day our minds might be focused on work, at the end of the day our stress is often more acutely felt. Do you come home exhausted--physically, mentally, emotionally? Eating is a hedonic pleasure that makes you feel better, and, in pursuit of food's pleasure, it's easier to eat more than your body needs.
3. We tend to go too long without food between lunch and dinner, making us especially hungry for dinner, where we overshoot and overeat. Do some simple math: How many hours are between your typical lunch and breakfast? 5ish? Do you eat a snack between breakfast and lunch? If you're like most people, you're less likely to eat an afternoon snack than a mid-morning snack. How many hours then do you go without eating from lunch to dinner? If it's close to the typical 7 or so hours, that's too long! When you notice it on paper, no wonder you're starving come dinnertime!
Maybe some of these common tendencies help explain your evening overeating. What, then, can you do to change?
1. Be aware of your weaker evening hunger/satiety cues, and pay extra care to practice mindfulness. Plate your food with appropriate portions, letting yourself know that, if you are still hungry--actually hungry, not bored or any other distracting feeling--later, you will get more food. And by getting more food, pay attention to what and how much you are getting for seconds. In other words, eating straight out of cartons with the fridge door still propped open doesn't count as mindful eating!
2. Choose another activity besides eating to unwind. Try going for a walk. Or maybe you're one of those people who can unwind doing laundry or house cleaning. (Don't call them-I-mean-ME a weirdo!) Maybe you're into meditation. Or maybe early evening is the perfect time for you to exercise! No matter what you do, find something that is effective for YOU to unwind or emotionally process the day.
3. Reduce the amount of time you go without food before dinner. Eat an afternoon snack, preferably with some protein and fiber. If you tend to eat dinner rather late, try eating a little earlier. Allowing yourself to become very hungry will cause you to respond by eating very much food. Keep your hunger in check, and you will be able to enjoy balance and moderation at dinner.
Concerned about evening overeating? Contact me for individualized strategies for YOU!
It's a number most of us know. Some of us know it as a rough estimate, maybe rounded to the nearest 5 units, maybe as a flexible range a few units up or a few units down. Or maybe you know it down to the exact unit. The exact tenth of a unit. You know it because you checked it last week. This morning. Half an hour ago.
The #1 reason people see me, in their own words, is they want to lose weight. Sometimes they tell me a specific goal--to lose a certain number of pounds or to reduce their weight until it's a certain number, a certain "ideal" number.
How do you interpret your weight? Take a minute to self-reflect. If you step on the scale, what thoughts run through your mind when the number appears? What emotions?
How important to you is this number?
If you come to my office, you will not find a scale. Weight is not how we measure your improvements toward your health goals. Because when we create health goals together, the number of pounds you weigh is not one of them.
Why do I generally not care about body weight?
#1.Body weight is a poor indicator of health. Even weight-for-height, AKA BMI or body mass index, is an inadequate indicator. Consider this illustrative picture. Now, the Ahhnald guy on the left might be at risk from dropping dead of a heart attack due to apparent steroid use, but if you mentally tone down the exaggerated cartoon, you can swiftly and logically assume that, though they weigh the same and have the same BMI, "muscular" man is healthier than our round "fat" man.
Why does weight get so much, well, weight with health appraisals? Because BMI is associated with % body fat, an excess of which is associated with chronic health diseases, cancer, and other health problems. BMI gives a quick screening for risk. But there are many other health and behavioral factors to take into consideration when assessing risk. BMI just happens to be so very inexpensive and efficient.
#2. Body weight can change for many reasons. If you're a daily weigher, you've noticed inconsistencies. State of hydration can shift the number on the scale (why we tend to weigh the least in the morning). Conditions that cause fluid retention, from kidney disease to common pre-menstrual retention, can add a couple to several pounds. And, especially relevant for people seeking to improve their health through nutrition and exercise, anabolism of skeletal muscle will increase your weight, with its addition of beneficial metabolic tissue and its accompanying weighty glycogen and water.
#3. Body weight is an unhealthy obsession in our culture. Over half American adults want to lose weight. Because, as I mentioned above, there are many reasons for weight changes, many people use unhealthy weight-loss behaviors to drop the number on the scale, but instead of improving health, they damage it. Or maybe they've lost weight using positive behaviors but now equate the state of their health with the number on the scale and lose sight of what good health really is. Not only do many people attribute their state of health to their weight, but also their self-worth. With the media messages surrounding us today, I'm sure you need no imagination to consider how a person might begin to evaluate how they feel about themselves as a person by whatever their current weight is. Maybe you know from experience.
What does a number on the scale mean to you? If you have a "goal weight", what would you accomplish if that number were your weight?
What would it mean to you to feel like your body is strong and energized? What would it mean to you to see your children have children, and your grandchildren have children? What would it mean to you to no longer have achy joints, and to be able to take the stairs without feeling tired? Would would it mean to you to be the only one of your siblings who doesn't need to inject insulin every day? What would it mean to you to go a PR in a half marathon--at age 49?
We all have a weight. Regardless of whatever attitude you hold about it, it's just a number.
If you want to take new steps towards meaningful health goals, contact me. And, oh yeah, toss the scale.
If you think about it, nutrition problems can be broken down into 2 simple categories: choices and amounts. For choices, the USDA has repetitively attempted to give Americans simple guidelines through the Basic Seven, the Food Guide Pyramid, and the latest MyPlate. The MyPlate, as you can see, is simple enough for a child to grasp, and clearly portrays the need to consume different kinds of foods for a healthy balanced meal.
Of course, there is a little confusion among lay people about where foods people eat go onto this plate, especially when you're dealing with something like a burrito or a casserole or a piece of pizza. This isn't just an issue of nutrition education; there is squabbling and even downright heated debate among nutrition experts about where to place foods onto the MyPlate, too.
Generally speaking, though, the message is to eat a balanced plate with variety, avoiding too much in one particular category while being sure to eat something from every category. Exactly which foods you put on your plate, though, are influenced by a great number of factors, including preference, beliefs about particular health benefits of certain foods and health risks of other foods, convenience/availability, social/cultural influences, and costs. But as long as you're somewhat clear as to which foods are grains and proteins, and fruits and vegetables, you can presumably make the largest strides into avoiding nutrition problems of choices.
But just because you eat the appropriate kinds of foods doesn't mean your diet is healthy. The amount you eat is also important! We often overeat, causing weight gain. There are many factors that influence eating more than our bodies need, but probably the #1 reason why overeating happens is mindless eating.
Mindless eating happens when we are not absorbed in the activity of eating. I recently posted tips on mindful eating, to be mindful of hunger and satiety cues--to eat when you're hungry, and stop when you're full. But it's important to know that these cues aren't rigid. We can influence our perception of satiety in many ways. (For an engrossing read on this power of psychology on perception in eating behaviors, check out Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.) One of these perception influences is the size of your plate.
If you look closely above, the amount of food on both plates is the same. And the white circles in the middle of the black ones are the same size too.
When we put food on a bigger plate, covering less of it, our brain thinks there is less food than if another plate has the same amount of food but is better covering a smaller plate. Portion distortion!! All other things being equal, we will eat 20% more if given food on 12inch plates than if given the same meal on 9inch plates. That's a big difference!
When trying to practice mindful eating to have appropriate moderation through listening to your body, it's also important to be aware of other influences like plate size that can communicate with your brain.
Have trouble stopping eating when you're full? Try swapping out your big dinner plates with smaller ones. And if trouble with portions are keeping you from your health goals, work with a trained Registered Dietitian (named Joy Galloway!) who knows much more than perception tricks to help you make healthy choices of foods, in healthy amounts too. Contact me here!
I'm new to New England. This is a distinctly different way of life than the other places I've lived--Houston, Honolulu, and Los Angeles.
For one, I've never seen snow. Well, I've seen it fall (rare occasions in Houston worthy of canceling class at school), though it melted immediately upon contact with the ground. And I've seen hard frozen patches of it (U.S. Nationals for swimming in Minnesota in April - shudder to think of what January there feels like). But I've never seen it fall and land in those soft pillowy heaps I've dreamed about, where kids scoop up snowballs for fierce play or lie contentedly in it, making snow angels as they gaze up to the magical blue winter sky, perfect delicate flakes still falling on their smooth rosy cheeks.
Word on the street is, I'll probably get to see snow this winter in Boston. At least a little of it.
Another Bostonian seasonal joy I've never experienced is apple picking. Closest I've come is carefully choosing which organic overpriced individual apples to add to my cloth reusable grocery bag whilst strolling drowsily, sipping Caffe Luxxe coffee in my Uggs and Juicy sweatpants on an early Sunday morning at the Gretna Green farmer's market in Brentwood. But apparently, apple picking is a big deal here. And it's not just for kids; adults get into it too.
In fact it's my opinion that the adults get the most fun out of apple season in Boston, because of the tasty alcoholic beverage that hard apple cider is, which is enjoyed at cideries in New England where a hip, sophisticated vibe and a love of all things local resonates through the taprooms.
This past weekend, The Husband and I enjoyed a scrumptious tasting of ciders at Bantam Cider in Somerville. My flight of 5 ciders surprised my taste buds with different creative flavors of sour cherries, smoky spices, and sweet honey. My personal favorite was Bantam's OG, the Wunderkind, and The Husband and I left with a bottle of it to enjoy at home.
Bantam is open year-round, every day, and offers free tours of their cidery on the weekends. They typically have 8 ciders on tap, and the taproom is humming with lighthearted mingling.
So far, I'm loving the New England life, and, though I've yet to go apple picking, cider is a part of the culture I'm happily embracing.
My affinity towards the 2nd of 10 snowstorms might not be the same...
It happened again. Someone stole my sandwich. Right off my desk.
I was doing my regular noonday reading, alternating between my top 2 favorite sources of important information: the NEJM, and TMZ. (They stimulate different areas of my brain, you see.) I also had my Twitter feed open, was scheduling an event on my calendar, and was responding to an email. I had had my turkey and mustard sandwich on my desk. I was planning to eat it at some time during my lunch break, but when I looked down, it was gone!
Irate (and a bit freaked out), I jumped up, ready to storm out of my office and catch the sneaky sandwich thief. Fortunately, I didn't get far before I ran into a mirror... and noticed I had a tiny smidgen of yellow mustard on my top lip. Brushing it off, I couldn't help but feel a little shred of turkey in my molars. And then it struck me! I was the sandwich thief.
Have you ever eaten something and hardly noticed? I bet you have! We all do it: Mindless eating. We eat when we're working, watching TV, driving, surfing the web, texting on our phones, people watching on the T. We eat while we're deep in thought, worrying about problems, mentally problem-solving, or simply caught up in enjoyable conversation with friends. We're eating with our mouths, but we're eating mindlessly.
Mindfulness, essentially the opposite of mindlessness, is a hot topic these days. Google the term and you will come up with over 27 million hits. Mindfulness has probably become a common topic because we live in such a fast-paced world with ubiquitous communication, where not only is high productivity a chief aim but also that fantastical ability to "multi-task". Mindfulness is an increasingly important topic because it's often not natural to practice in our environment!
What exactly is mindfulness, and why is it important for nutrition for YOU?
Mindfulness is the awareness that comes from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, to things as they are. What is mindful eating then? Making the conscious decision to pay attention to what and how we're eating without making judgments about it.
Mindless eating is a problem. Through mindless eating, we:
1. Only eat when you're eating. I hate to admit to myself, but, try as I may, I can't fully attend to more than one task in a given moment. If I'm engrossed in online depictions of oral manifestations of Crohn's disease (NEJM time) or trying to judge TMZ's report on whether Kate Hudson and Nick Jonas are seeing each other (...an equally significant topic), I am not able to put any focus on my turkey sandwich. To my brain, it's almost as if I never ate it.
2. Slow down! Take smaller bites. Chew more slowly. Extend the time you are focusing on eating and not only will you extend the enjoyment of a meal, you will also give your body time to send signals to your brain that your body is responding to hunger (a hormone called ghrelin) and time for the release of leptin, a hormone that causes you to feel satiety. By slowing down, you can eat an appropriate quantity of food to match your body's needs.
3. Notice your food with all your senses. Smell your food. Just by using olfactory senses, your GI tract already prepares for digestion, and you are able to activate your brain's pleasure centers to maximize that primal feeling of reward when you eat. Fully taste your food. Is it salty? Savory? Sweet? Does it feel grainy, smooth, dry? Does it sound crunchy, squishy, liquid? What does it look like? Appetizing? Not quite as appealing to be Pinterest worthy, but good enough to beckon you to eat it?
Eating is not merely a fueling activity--it is meant to be a necessary part of your day that gives you pleasure-- that nourishes your body, and, through mindful eating, nourishes YOU!
Looking to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet? I can help you incorporate them into your regular meals AND some tasty treats, like these zucchini banana muffins!
Zucchini, a summer squash, is a vegetable very low in Calories that helps you feel full--a great benefit for weight management. It's also a good source of Vitamin C, helping you fight colds and other illnesses. Bananas add sweetness and moisture to your muffins, along with potassium and Vitamin B6, which is essential for protein metabolism and may also help prevent late-life depression, which affects 5-10% of seniors.
Preheat oven to 325. Grate zucchini into a bowl. Whisk the egg and egg white. Add oil, sugar, bananas, and zucchini and blend well. Add all remaining ingredients and stir till combined; do not over-mix. Pour into a 12-muffin tin. Bake at 325 for 20-25min. EnJOY!
Push aside the butter and maple syrup, and try using wholesome blueberries in my delicious, light, and fluffy buttermilk waffles. Blueberries are packed full of Vitamin C and are a low-Calorie, all-natural sweetener to add to your Belgians. With their deep blue color, blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, flavonoids which research suggests may help lower cardiovascular disease risk.
-2 cups lowfat buttermilk
-1/3 cup melted salted butter
-2 cups organic flour
-2 Tbs natural brown sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 cup blueberries
It's felt by 7% of us every year. It's the leading cause of disability for adults 15-45yrs old, and it saps $70 billion from Americans each year, for medical costs and lost work. It increases the risk of heart attack fourfold, can hasten disease progression in the elderly... and it often causes subtle to striking carbohydrate cravings.
Countless research studies have found a significant relationship between low mood or depression with cravings for sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods. Why the carb cravings?
First, when you're depressed or even just feeling blue, sugary foods bring comfort. They taste good. Seeking pleasure when you're down isn't a bad thing--it's a healthy adaptation for getting on with life by helping ourselves improve our mood. But when the pleasure of food becomes a habitual coping mechanism to feel better, you may be on a slippery slope of emotional eating, which can lead to health problems, added depression, and a new problem to work through on top of your mood troubles. So, while eating sugary foods can help you feel better because of the hedonic pleasure they bring, proceed slowly and with caution, knowing your responses to life trials and your actions meant to improve your mood may cause unhealthy habits and ultimately worsen your mood.
Second, in addition to the pleasure the taste of sweets bring, there is a more indirect mechanism that drives our carb cravings when we're sad and low; carbs indirectly increase brain serotonin. You've probably heard of serotonin, the chemical in our brain that promotes good mood and is deficient in major depression. Serotonin is the target of the most common anti-depressants; by increasing serotonin in depressed persons, depression can be significantly improved.
With all this talk about sweets, it may surprise you that serotonin is a product of the amino acid tryptophan. Since tryptophan is found in protein sources, you probably would expect to boost serotonin by eating more high-protein foods. And, while that does indeed increase the amount of tryptophan in the body, it doesn't mean the brain is getting more serotonin.
There is a magnificent protective blood-brain barrier that prohibits many different chemicals from entering the brain with all of its blood vessels. While tryptophan can enter into the brain's cells through a transporter, certain other large amino acids from dietary proteins compete for entry and can crowd out tryptophan at this transporter. There simply aren't enough transporters for them all to flood into the brain. So less tryptophan enters the brain, and less serotonin ("5-HT" in the diagram above) is produced.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body release insulin, which is needed to bring glucose into cells. However, insulin signaling also causes certain amino acids to enter cells--not tryptophan, but tryptophan's competitors for brain entry. With less competition because the other amino acids have entered other cells like those of muscles, fat, and the liver, more tryptophan is able to enter the brain, and more serotonin can be produced.
So what does this mean? Eat more carbs when you're feeling the blues?
While carbohydrates can cause a temporary improvement in mood through increased pleasure and serotonin, it is only a temporary effect. It doesn't last. Relying on carbs to feel good can have negative health effects. Eating a high carbohydrate diet, especially the simple sugars we usually crave when we crave carbs, can cause spikes and dips in blood sugar during the day, leaving you to feel tired, anxious, and irritable. Simple sugars also only briefly satisfy your hunger, whereas proteins, fats, and fiber leave you feeling satisfied longer; relying on carbs can lead to overeating and weight gain.
What is the best nutrition advice for depression?
1. Practice general healthy eating. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and dairy--balance, variety, and moderation. Getting the nutrients and energy your body needs is important for maintaining physical health when you're not feeling as upbeat as usual.
2. Eat at regular intervals. A symptom of depression is a significant change in appetite--usually a significant loss of appetite. Plan to eat regular meals and stick with your plan, knowing you're going to feel better soon. Eating with others may help improve your appetite and engaging in social interaction may relieve your blues too.
3. Enjoy your food with all your senses. Guide your attention to the tastes of your food. Do you taste something savory? Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Does your food look desirable? What does it feel like in your mouth? Is it chewy, crunchy, smooth, velvety? What different aromas can you smell? By practicing mindfulness and engaging your senses in your meal, you can boost your pleasure in eating and through nutrition brighten your mood.
What could be better than dinner and a drink with your friends AND Man's Best Friend's friends?
At The Liberty hotel next to MGH, dogs are welcome to party on the patio with you! So grab your pup for an evening of cocktails and tail-wagging fun, 5:30-8pm every Wednesday.
For a protein-packed lunch your kids are sure to enjoy as they settle into a new school year, try this light and healthy curried chicken salad sandwich with apples, cranberries, and pecans. This chicken salad I created also works great at the office with crackers as a mid-morning or afternoon snack..
Also goes great with a PSL. (Although, what doesn't?)
-2x 12.5oz cans premium chunk chicken in water
-1/4 cup light mayo
-2oz (1/3 tub) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-1/4 cup chopped pecans
-1 1/2 red apples (I've chosen Braeburn here)
-1 tsp honey
-1 Tbs whole grain Dijon mustard
-2 tsp curry powder
-1/4 tsp cinnamon
Dice 1.5 apples and put into medium sized mixing bowl. What to do with the unused half of apple? Well, I thought I'd give some of it to the Husband, as a small tasty bit while I was cooking. Half an apple SHOULD make for a very healthy little appetizer... but he had another plan...
Add to your apples the drained chicken and all other ingredients and stir well. The salad tastes best the following day, when the apple, curry, and cinnamon have blended together in a delightful autumnal melody. EnJOY!
There are really many perks to living alone. Freedom, privacy, predictability... and you never have to share. No waiting on the shower, no moving your roommate's double-parked car, and--I loved this one--you get the whole fridge--the whole kitchen to yourself.
While you never have to take turns unloading the dishwasher, and you never have to worry that your spouse is going to eat that extra Flour bakery bread pudding you were saving for tomorrow [sorry, Husband, I thought you didn't want it], living alone has a major nutritional drawback.
A study recently published in Nutrition Reviews, "Relationship Between Living Alone and Food and Nutrient Intake" found that people who live alone tend to, in general, consume a more limited diet, losing out on that "V" factor we dietitians know is one of the critical factors in healthy nutrition with Balance and Moderation--Variety.
It's not hard to understand why individuals who live with others have a broader range of food choices. Sharing individual food preferences in grocery shopping and meals at home helps improve diversity. Also, you may find that when you live alone, you try to use the same ingredients in recipes to lower food waste from spoilage, whereas living with others helps insure those non-staple ingredients get consumed.
Why is variety important?
Superfoods that contain all the essential nutrients and helpful phytochemicals for our health do not exist. Instead, we have foods that are merely good sources of some, but never all, of what we need. If you only eat the same things over and over, you're bound to be missing out on an identified vitamin or mineral, or a phytochemical that the young field of nutrition science has yet to identify to be helpful or even essential to good health. Variety is the only way to ensure you're covering all your nutrient bases!
Second, "variety is the spice of life". Eating should be enjoyable, and changing up the menu is essential to avoid the boredom that comes with monotony. Your taste buds scream for new flavors!
How can you expand your diet diversity? Here are 3 tips:
1. Simply, plan to buy new things you don't always buy at the grocery store. Try new fruits, new vegetables, new types of meat or fish. Try shopping at local farmer's markets, where seasonal produce from local sources helps you support sustainability and your community while purchasing small quantities suitable for feeding yourself. If your grocery list usually has the same food items on it, you may need to consciously plan ahead by writing on the list something you don't often eat or plan to choose something that looks appealing at the store.
2. Experiment with new recipes. Try using a website like supercook.com that gives you recipes based on ingredients you have at home, or simply browse through the internet for ideas. With sites today like AllRecipes.com and countless others, user reviews can help you rest assured that you CAN successfully reproduce a delicious recipe.
3. Be adventurous at restaurants. Not only does your favorite restaurant have all those necessary odd ingredients that your own pantry or fridge doesn't, at a restaurant you don't have to worry about buying more than you yourself can eat at home. Pick menu items you'd never want to cook at home. For example, some people dislike chopping their own onions or using a lot of garlic or fish sauce in their house. Or choose something that you're unable to prepare at home, such as, for example, something blended if you have no blender, or an entree cooked in a brick oven if your house didn't come with one of those. (Mine didn't, so sad.) Another great way to choose something new at a restaurant is to focus on ordering items you like but never have time to prepare for yourself.
These tips all can help you enjoy different foods, while ensuring optimal nutrition for a healthy YOU!
The PSL is back!!!!
The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte made its glorious return for all PSL lovers on Labor Day, making today Day 3 of the PSL End-of-Summer Lovefest (more on lovefests below). Day 3... Can you guess how many PSL's I've enjoyed already? (Hint: See photo above.)
As a nutritionist, I am obligated to here take the time to tell you about some of the health benefits of this fall vegetable. Like most other plants with a deep orange color, pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A; one cup has 2x the RDA! It is also an excellent source of Vitamin C. Further, containing only ~50kcal per cup, pumpkin is low in Calories, helping you to maintain a healthy weight. And pumpkin also has blah blah BLAH!!---
---Guess what. The PSL doesn't actually have ANY pumpkin in it. None whatsoever.
BUT the PSL has another health benefit that for you today may be much more riveting than a discussion of Vitamins and Calories...
The smell of pumpkin, amply present in your beloved PSL, is the most potent olfactory aphrodisiac known to man! (And, yes, sorry ladies--it only gears up men, while cucumber and licorice work for us.) Research by Dr. Alan R. Hirsch of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago shows that the smell of pumpkin is a powerful turn-on, able to increase blood flow to the man's nethers by 40%. Pumpkin spiciness!
Why is the scent of pumpkin an aphrodisiac? The research isn't exactly clear. But there are 3 possible answers, and indeed all 3 may play a role in this special health benefit of pumpkin:
1. Emotional trigger of pleasure. Your olfactory bulb has a direct circuit to your limbic system--the area of your brain responsible for emotions. Smelling pumpkin may be related to past frisky experiences, or, more likely, to just pleasurable experiences in general, with fall festivities and holiday parties and, let's face it--past Starbucks PSL enjoyment causing your brain to go into instapleasure mode, readying men for arousal. This mechanism makes sense, as Dr. Hirsch found other potent aphrodisiacs for men are cheese pizza and glazed doughnuts! Pleasure awaits!
2. Aromatic relaxant. Pumpkin, like lavender--a strong aphrodisiac shared by men and women both, has an affect on the parasympathetic system, causing you to relax. Pumpkin might help eliminate anxiety in the occasion or stress carried from a long day, enhancing arousal.
3. Unknown pheromone effects. Studies on chemicals that directly stimulate arousal without any prior emotional connection or exposure to the scent suggest some chemicals like pumpkin may have these sextastic powers.
However it works, pumpkin, or even the pseudopumpkin scent from your PSL, has some mighty health benefits.
3 Nutrition Tips to Enjoying Your Pumpkin Spice Latte
1. Skip the whip. This 100 Calorie topping will only melt and cool off your hot PSL.
2. Go with Nonfat milk. Same great protein, calcium, and Vitamin D as 2%.
3. 1 Pump! The grande PSL comes with 4 pumps of pumpkin spice syrup, and each pump has 8-10g sugar... which means that a regular 4-pump grande PSL has roughly the same amount of added sugar as a can of Coke. Don't worry - just 1 pump has enough pumpkin taste to enjoy... and enough pumpkin scent for enjoyment later!