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Archive for March, 2013

Healthy holiday tips

Holiday eating tips: how to enjoy a healthy holiday season

With Passover and Easter around the corner, I’ve been helping clients struggle with issues surrounding holiday eating. Holidays are a time for pleasure and enjoyment, family and friends, and food should be enjoyed during this time. Passover, for example, is a holiday focusing freedom and liberation, among other things, and I have, therefore, helped to free clients from challenging eating traps. Whether you are attending a Passover seder, an Easter dinner, or some other festive gathering, follow the principle of moderation. And remember, this is not your Last Supper. Happy holidays!

Here are some tips and tricks so that you can have a healthy holiday season. Enjoy!!

** Watch portion sizes.

Enjoy your favorite holiday treats but take a small portion.

Avoid portion distortion: moderation is key.

Fill up on MORE fresh fruits and veggies. Follow USDA’s  MyPlate guidelines by filling HALF of your plate with fruits and veggies.

** Banish your membership in the “clean plate club.”

Leave a few bites over.  Ask yourself: Am I hungry?

** Be realistic about weight loss during the holidays

Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Try to maintain your current weight. At the very least, now is not a time to begin a diet.

** Don’t go to a holiday festivity starving.

Eat a healthy snack—yogurt, fruit, veggie soup, salad– before a party

** Balance party eating with other meals.

** Don’t skip meals. Make a plan.

** Make only one trip to the buffet table.

Choose only the foods you really want, and keep your portions moderate.

** Move away from the buffet table when socializing.

** Eat your calories instead of drinking them.

Choose your beverages wisely.

Note: Alcohol is high in calories. Moderation is key.

** When you are the host, include nutritious and lower-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes.

** Continue a regular exercise program.

** Enjoy good friends and family.

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Fighting Obesity in New York City One Cup at a Time

It has been a busy week in New York City surrounding discussions of Mayor Bloomberg’s portion-size restriction for sodas. Below is my blog post for Huffington Post on the topic. You can read it HERE.

I was pleased to participate in Mayor Bloomberg’s press event yesterday at Lucky’s Café on East 34th Street along with other public health activists. The mayor vowed that the city will appeal the ruling overturning the portion-size restriction for sugar-sweetened beverages that was set to go into effect. He also eloquently spoke about the health implications of consuming large sugary beverages for New Yorkers. The mayor mentioned that obesity is killing more than 5,000 New Yorkers annually and 100,000 people nationwide. Indeed, large portions of sugar-sweetened beverages are contributing to our obesity epidemic.

The proposed portion size cap was set to restrict the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 ounces in food establishments, including fast-food chains, restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, delis, and street carts. It would include the now-typical 20-ounce soda bottle from the corner deli and most oversized fountain drinks available in fast-food establishments and movie theaters. It would even include many “small” sodas served at such eateries.

The press release from Mayor Bloomberg’s office cites new research from the city showing a strong connection between the consumption of sugary beverages and obesity.

The release states that:

… neighborhoods with higher rates of consumption of sugary drinks tended to have higher obesity rates. Nine of the top 10 neighborhoods with the highest obesity rates city-wide were also the highest in sugary drink consumption. At the other end, the three least obese neighborhoods were also the lowest in sugary drink consumption.

From a nutritionist’s point of view, this makes perfect sense. Sugar-sweetened beverages are purely liquid calories, provide no nutrients, no health benefits, and contribute unnecessary calories to our diets. And, as I found in my research, portion sizes of soft drinks and other foods have grown considerably over time and so have our waistlines. The sizes of soft drinks have morphed into jugs and half-gallon containers large enough for a family of eight. In the 1950s, a Burger King “small” soda was 12 ounces and the “large” was 16 ounces. Today, its “small” is 20 ounces. In 1916, a Coca-Cola bottle was 6.5 ounces, and in the 1950s, a Coca-Cola ad advertised the 16-ounce size to be shared among 3 people. Today, many people complain that 16 ounces is too small. Indeed, our perception has shifted.

As I previously wrote here:

… the mayor of New York City is not banning the sale of soda. Nor is he telling consumers that they can’t drink soda. Rather, he is calling attention to how much should be considered a reasonable amount to drink at a time. And 16 ounces is certainly more than a reasonable — that is a pint-size worth of sugar water. I do not see the proposal as a ban, but rather as an attempt to reset the norm for how much drink constitutes an appropriate portion. This is a much needed proposal in an era of oversized portions.

I was pleased to offer my support to the city’s portion size restriction. As I indicated in the press release from the mayor’s office:

“I am in support of the portion-size restriction on sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Lisa Young, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “Large portion sizes of sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. Capping the size of sugar-sweetened beverages is an excellent way to fight obesity. Large portions of soda contain many calories and absolutely no nutrients. No one should be drinking a 64 ounce (half gallon) of soda. A 16-ounce soda (a pint size) is certainly large enough for one person.”

But consumers will only buy small portions if the price is right or if the large sizes disappear. The price is rarely right for small portions, however. Manufacturers rarely charge half price for a half portion, as it has to cover its costs. And the cost of food is cheaper than most other costs such as rent, labor, and supplies.

As I wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Daily News back in September after the proposal was approved by the Board of Health:

Large portions contribute to obesity because they obviously contain more calories than small portions: A small soda (16 ounces) at KFC contains 180 calories, while the Mega Jug (64 ounces) contains nearly 800 calories — and is more than one-third of an entire day’s recommended calories for some people. Bigger portions also encourage us to consume more and to thus underestimate how much we are really eating and drinking. And it is the destitute who are most frequently the victims of the ills that come with fast-food consumption.

Given the enormous health implications of obesity in New York and elsewhere, capping the portion sizes of liquid calories devoid of nutrients is a terrific place to start.
The city did indeed file an appeal of Judge Tingling’s ruling. It is unclear how long it will take before a decision is reached. While I do hope that the decision is made in favor of the city, regardless of the outcome, Mayor Bloomberg and the city accomplished a great deal. The proposal to limit supersize sugary beverages set the stage for a national discussion on the contribution of our food environment — in particular, large portions of sugary beverages — to the obesity epidemic. And, we can do something about it!

I do hope that while we are waiting, restaurants and other eating establishments follow Lucky Café’s lead and voluntarily offer smaller sodas. We as consumers should also pay closer attention to the sizes of our food portions. We should think twice before buying the larger size, even if we get twice as much for just an extra quarter. And, in the end, we must remember that portion size matters.

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Lessons from the Mediterranean diet: 10 foods to eat

Below is my latest blog post  for Huffington Post: ” What we can learn from the Mediterranean Diet: 10 healthy foods to eat.” You can also read it here.

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that has been thought to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Now a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on thousands of participants in Spain confirms the health benefits of this eating plan. The study found that those following the Mediterranean diet had a 30 percent reduction in the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. The study subjects were people ages 55-80 who had a high risk for cardiovascular disease.

As reported in the New York Times, “About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals.” The study was stopped early because the results were so clear-cut that they found it not ethical to continue.

The Mediterranean diet is an eating plan that is high in fruits and vegetables, and includes whole grains, olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, and legumes. It is low in foods that are high in saturated fats — such as meat and butter — and is also low in processed foods. What I love about the Mediterranean diet is that it is not touted as a weight-loss diet, but rather as a healthy lifestyle plan and a way life.

I previously wrote about the benefits of eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and rich in whole grains.

So how can we Americans eat more like the Greeks? We can eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, include fish instead of meat, use olive oil instead of butter, and snack on nuts instead of chips.

My clients have been asking me which foods they can include in their diet. Here are some winners.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy fat. Diets high in olive oil have been associated with heart health. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E, polyphenols, and beta-carotene, which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Drizzle olive oil on salads and steamed veggies.

Tuna is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with a decrease in the risk of heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings of fish per week, in particular fatty fish. Tuna is affordable, convenient, and versatile. Throw canned tuna on a salad, make a sandwich, or toss it into whole wheat pasta, to get a dose of omega-3s.

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables as it is chock-full of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. It is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Sautee broccoli in olive oil and enjoy it as a side dish.

Raspberries contain the antioxidant quercetin — which contains anti-inflammatory benefits — and the phenolic compound ellagic acid, and can help fight heart disease. And even more good news: One cup contains only 105 calories and eight grams of fiber. Throw some berries into your morning yogurt for added color, taste, and a healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber.

Walnuts not only taste great, but also provide a heart-healthy addition to your diet. Rich in the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, and antioxidants such as selenium, walnuts also provide protein, fiber, magnesium and phosphorus to the diet. Include a handful of walnuts as a snack or toss a few tablespoons into your breakfast oatmeal.

Chickpeas are a great option for plant protein and fiber. They also contain magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is delicious with crackers or veggies as an afternoon snack.

Brown rice contains fiber, B-vitamins, and a variety of minerals. It contains nearly three times the fiber of white rice. A half-cup serving of cooked brown rice contains nearly a half-day’s worth of the mineral manganese, which works with various enzymes facilitating body processes. Brown rice makes a healthy grain to include with a meal of grilled fish and vegetables.

Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, K, and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may prevent against certain diseases. For good news, it is available year-round, offering a readily-available source of many vitamins and minerals. A fresh spinach salad drizzled with olive oil and a handful of nuts tastes great.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and may benefit heart health. Consuming blueberries may keep your blood pressure in check. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, which may reduce the risk of heart disease in women. Snack on these tasty berries or throw a handful into your cereal.

Lentils contain soluble fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates and also offers the added benefit of being a significant source of iron. Consider beginning your lunch or dinner with a hot lentil soup.

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