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Jul. 27

Eat these 5 foods to help boost bone health

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, Eat these 5 foods to help boost bone health.

You can also read it here HERE.

Our bones tend to remain strong through early adulthood. As we age, however, our bones tend to become thinner. And when a woman enters menopause, she loses additional bone. Men and women alike, however, can get osteoporosis, a disease characterized by breaking bones. It happens when you make too little bone, lose too much bone, or both.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis. About 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men ages 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Good news you can control. The foods that you eat — as well as other lifestyle habits — can affect your bones. To build strong bones, several key nutrients play a pivotal role, including calcium and vitamin D. Calcium supports the structure of your bones while vitamin D improves calcium absorption. Other key nutrients to build strong bones include vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.

To boost bone health, include these five foods in your diet.

Milk

When we think about calcium, we tend to think milk, and for good reason. An 8-ounce glass of fat-free milk contains under 100 calories and around 300 mg of calcium, and 30 percent of the calcium recommendation for a 50-year-old. If you are not a milk drinker, try blending it with your favorite fruit and making a smoothie. Choose a brand that is fortified with vitamin D to get additional bone-health benefits.

Yogurt

Eating a serving of yogurt each day is a great ways to get your daily intake of calcium. Yogurt is portable, tasty, and packed with nutrients. Yogurt also contains probiotics, shown to promote gut health. Yogurt makes for a great breakfast option and also an easy snack. While Greek yogurt contains less calcium than regular yogurt, I tend to prefer it due its higher protein content helping to promote satiety, a feeling of fullness. Even if you are lactose intolerant and have a hard time digesting milk, you can probably eat yogurt without a problem.

Turnip greens

While most of us know that dairy products are good for our bones, we rarely think of fruits and vegetables as being linked to bone health. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is healthy for a multitude of reasons, one being that it contributes to stronger bones. Produce contributes antioxidants and polyphenols, in addition to vitamin K, magnesium and potassium, shown to promote skeletal health.

Greens such as turnip greens, bok choy, and kale are also rich in calcium. Turnip greens are one of my favorites: one cup cooked contains nearly 200 mg calcium, and 20 percent of the calcium recommendation for a 50-year-old. These greens are also chock full of other nutrients including vitamin K, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, and fiber. Sautee them with a little olive oil, add them to a salad or smoothie, or add chopped turnip greens to veggie casseroles.

Prunes

Got prunes? Move over milk. Prunes, also known as dried plums, may help strengthen bones, prevent bone loss, and perhaps even reverse bone loss due to osteoporosis. In fact, research found that eating just 5-6 medium prunes per day may do the trick. Prunes also contain plenty of fiber (helping our digestive help), vitamin C, and are alkalizing to the body, which may help to protect our bones.

Salmon

While we know that fatty fish, including salmon and sardines, are good for our heart (thanks to its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), believe it or not, fatty fish have also been linked to skeletal health. In addition to being an excellent source of protein and omega-3s which help support skeletal health, salmon is rich in vitamin D which improves calcium absorption and bone health. A 4-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains around 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D, the recommended intake for adults under 70 years old. While we can get vitamin D from sunlight, nearly half of Americans are deficient in this vitamin, and few foods are naturally rich in this bone-protecting nutrient.

Still think your diet is low in calcium and vitamin D? Try taking a supplement. While I recommend that you get your nutrients from foods, if your diet is low in calcium or vitamin D, a supplement may help fill the gap.

While you can take calcium in pill form (citrate or carbonate are preferred), if you are the type to forget to take it, try ending your lunch or dinner with an Adora, a yummy chocolate supplement. Each wafer provides 500 mg calcium and 500 IU of vitamin D. Be sure to stop at just one. Additional calcium will not provide any added benefits for bone health. In fact, too much calcium can lead to kidney stones and other problems. So proceed with caution, and as I like to say, practice moderation.

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Jul. 2

9 tips for a guilt-free July 4th BBQ

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, 9 tips for a guilt free July 4th BBQ.

You can also read it HERE.

The 4th of July marks the season for summer barbecues. For many of us, that means burgers, hot dogs, and more diet disaster. But it doesn’t have to be.

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time educating clients on how to stay healthy, or even lose a few pounds, when attending summer BBQs and parties. While I know lots of people who simply decline invitations to parties for fear of overeating, I generally suggest that you enjoy the company of great friends and family, and make some wise food choices as well.

These days, most hosts, offer some healthy choices in addition to the usually barbecue fare. So, it is not too difficult to choose health.

Here are 9 simple and painless strategies to try at your upcoming July 4th barbecue.

1. Eat before you go.

Eating a healthy snack before heading to your summer food fest may seem silly, (after all, you are going to eat at your party, no?), but it is actually one of the best ways to fend off overeating. Eating a healthy snack, preferably with fiber and protein, will cut the edge off your hunger so that you don’t arrive at your party famished and ready to eat anything. Some good choices include: a yogurt with fruit, hummus and baby carrots, or an apple with a thin schmear of nut butter.

2. Wear tight fitting clothes.

Wearing tight fitting clothes is a simple way to remind you not to overeat. After all, you don’t want to see your belly bulge. For men, this means wear a belt. It would be great, of course, if we listened to our internal hunger as a cue to stop eating. But unfortunately, so many of us are not in tune with our bodies in that way. While we are working on it, wearing tight fitting clothes can help.

3.  Drink a glass of water or seltzer before eating.

Oftentimes, we think we are hungry, when we really are just thirsty. So I suggest starting off with a glass of water or flavored seltzer as a way to hydrate.  Also, if we drinking water, we are less likely to guzzle down sugar-laden soda.

4. Do a lap around the buffet line before filling up your plate.

Check out what foods are available instead of starting at the beginning of the buffet table and piling up on everything in sight. When we survey the selections first, we can pick a few healthy choices while also choosing a small portion of our favorite treat food. Taking a treat also makes it easier to skip the high calorie unhealthy foods we can do without.

5. Choose something green.

Yes, I know it’s July 4th and we’ll be patriotic for dessert (more on that later), but be sure to fill up in some greens: mixed lettuce, spinach, kale, cucumbers, celery, or broccoli. Your host will probably offer at least one of these healthy vegetables.  These green veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants—a great way to fill up. Another healthy green option is choose some guacamole which contains heart-healthy unsaturated fat.

6.  Try a veggie burger.

These days, with so may people following vegetarian diets, many hosts offer veggie burgers, a healthy addition to a summer barbecue. Give it a try. Top your burger with tomatoes, fresh avocado and you’ve got a super healthy meal. Free of  artery clogging saturated fat.

7.  Go bun-less.

I often suggest skipping the refined white bread and choosing a whole wheat bun, if available, or skip the bun altogether. Choosing a fresh salad and topping it with a burger makes for a delicious and nutritious meal. And you save room for a healthier starch option.

8.  Enjoy corn on the cob

If you decided to skip the bun, corn on the cob makes for a great starch option. Corn on the cob is high in fiber and will keep you feeling full for a while.  And fresh corn on the cob also tastes delicious right off the grill.

9. Be patriotic for dessert.

Here’s how to be patriotic—enjoy a delicious fruit salad for dessert. Choose red cherries, fresh blueberries, watermelon, and pear. If your host doesn’t make a fruit salad, offer to bring one.

We would love to hear your healthy tips.

Happy 4th! Safe travels.

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Jun. 19

12 healthy swaps in time for summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, 12 healthy swaps in time for summer.

You can also read it HERE.

Summer is right around the corner, marking a time of barbecues, outdoor eating and gatherings with family and friends. It is also means going to the beach and wearing (while also feeling comfortable in) your favorite bathing suit.

To enjoy the summer season and social gatherings that go along with it, it is important to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. It is no surprise that as a practicing nutritionist, this is one of my busiest seasons.

Here are several healthy — and simple — swaps to make this time a healthy season. Try to incorporate at least one swap per day and you will be on your way to a healthier summer.

1. Wake up practicing gratitude instead of complaining.

Be grateful for the good things in your life, instead of the bad things. While we can all finds things in our lives that could be better, things could also be a lot worse. Starting your day with a grateful heart opens us up to receive all of the miracles that life has to offer.

2. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of a bowl of granola.

Not only is oatmeal filling and contain fiber, it’s also lower in calories and sugar, when compared to granola. While a half cup serving of oats contains just 1 gram of sugar, many varieties of granola contain upward of 10 grams of sugar.

Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and also for weight control. Oatmeal also contains minerals, including magnesium and potassium, which promote heart health.

3. Top your oatmeal with fresh blackberries instead of sugar.

Blackberries taste sweet and are high in antioxidants and fiber while adding bulk to your portion of oatmeal. Sugar, on the other hand, is nothing more than empty calories

4. Drink sparkling water instead of soda.

Soda contains pure sugar, is liquid candy and a waste of calories. Swapping soda for sparkling water can save you hundreds of calories. For flavor, add a splash of lemon, lime or cucumber or throw in a few fruit flavored ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze).

5. Eat a salad made with kale instead of iceberg lettuce.

In general, the darker the green, the more nutrients it contains. While iceberg lettuce is mostly water, kale is richer in nutrients and antioxidants such as folate, fiber, and vitamins A and C.

6. Top your salad with grilled salmon instead of steak.

Salmon contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids known to prevent blood clots and promote heart health. Red meat, including steak, on the other hand, is high in saturated fat.

7. Toss cherry tomatoes instead of croutons into your salad.

Adding tomatoes to your salad will boost your intake of antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin C without contributing too many calories. Croutons, on the other hand, contain few nutrients and are mostly empty calories.

8. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Engaging in unstructured exercise such as taking the stairs or parking your car a few blocks away from where you are going is a great way to rev up your metabolism. Taking the stairs is also a great way to boost lean body mass.

9. Snack on peanuts instead of chips.

Hungry for a snack? Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of healthy unsaturated fats which may benefit the brain as well as the skin. Peanuts are also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E. And even better, eating peanuts may protect against major causes of death.

10. Eat ‘spaghetti’ primavera made with spaghetti squash instead of white pasta.

Not only will you save lots of calories by swapping pasta for spaghetti squash, the squash will also give you a healthy helping of folate, vitamin C, fiber and magnesium. And even better, you can enjoy a generous portion without having to worry about gaining weight.

11. Enjoy fresh corn on the cob instead of mashed potatoes.

It’s great to take advantage of produce in season. Corn on the cob is fresh and sweet while also containing a healthy dose of fiber. It is also portion controlled so it is hard to overdo it as you would mashed potatoes.

12. Swap your salt for a dash of turmeric.

Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to reduce the amount of salt you ingest.Turmeric, in particular, not only adds a zesty flavor but it also contains anti inflammatory properties which may promote health.

Wishing you a wonderful summer. We would love to hear your favorite summer swaps.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Jun. 2

Starbucks to mini size it!

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, Starbucks to mini size it!

You can also read it HERE.

As a portion-size advocate, I was glad to hear about Starbucks plan to unveil the “mini” 10 oz. Frappuccino sugar-sweetened coffee drink, two ounces smaller than the “Tall” (also the smallest size sold by the coffee chain).

The new “mini” size would be considered a “regular” size by the 1970s standards, a time before the era of supersize portions and oversize people. But in today’s food environment of Venti, Trenta, and Big Gulp size drinks, it seems like progress for the food industry.

Americans rarely want less of anything. We are a nation attracted to bargains and deals, and that certainly includes big portions of foods and drinks. And the food industry has been wonderful at selling us cheap food in mega sizes.

Just a few years ago, back in 2011, Starbucks introduced the “trenta” size iced coffee, a 30+ oz. size, still available today.

Why the introduction of a “mini” size now?

Starbucks said it was responding to customer requests for the smaller Frappuccino size. According to Business Cheat Sheet, “Katie Seawell, senior vice president of category brand management at Starbucks, told the AP the mini Frappuccino helped lift overall store sales in the regions where it was tested last year… Seawell added it attracted new customers and got existing customers to come back more frequently.”

Are consumers interested in health or are they hoping that a smaller size would cost them less? It looks like the former. According to the Associated Press (AP), the “mini” size will only cost 20-30 cents less than the Tall size.

But the smaller size will contain fewer calories than larger sizes, and therefore, will be good for the waistline.

According to AP, “For the regular coffee with no whipped cream, Starbucks says it’ll have 120 calories and 24 grams of sugar. That’s compared with 180 calories and 36 grams of sugar for a small (tall) and 240 calories and 50 grams of sugar for a medium (grande). A large (venti) Frappuccino has 350 calories and 69 grams of sugar.”

Seems like progress. I hope this trend continues.

The soda industry has aggressively responded to anti-soda activists (including me) by selling smaller 7.5 oz. cans of sodas. Smaller sodas are lower in sugar than the larger sizes, better for health, and certainly selling points for parents. (Never mind that the 7.5 oz can costs more than the 12 oz. can, and that kids should be drinking water instead of soda.)

It is my hope moving forward, that as a food manufacturer introduces a new smaller size, it gets rid of the largest size. That would be the best way to reshape societal norms about how much food and drink constitutes a reasonable portion.

Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, tried this by attempting to cap the size of sugary drinks sold in chain eating establishments to 16 oz. But his attempt failed. (Not surprisingly, the soda industry sued the city and court system called the portion cap an overreach of power.)

In my opinion piece for the NY Daily News, I supported Bloomberg’s efforts.

As I wrote,
“Bloomberg 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 is a reasonable amount to drink at a time. Sixteen ounces is certainly more than reasonable — a full pint of sugar water. Instead of viewing this as a ban, let’s see it as an attempt to reset the norm for how much soda truly constitutes an appropriate portion.

And while one policy alone will not solve the problem, encouraging New Yorkers to watch what they consume is a much-needed step toward reversing the obesity epidemic. It is time to return to the more reasonable sizes of the past, when obesity rates were lower.”

Perhaps the former mayor was ahead of his time. Maybe now. It’s not too late.

Let us remember, when it comes to portion sizes and attempts to lose weight, size does matter.

Kudos to Starbucks. And I am hoping that the coffee chain considers dropping its large venti size Frappuccino in the not so distant future.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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May. 12

6 handy tips to help get you slimmer by summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “6 handy tips to help you get you slimmer by summer”

You an also read it HERE.

With summertime right around the corner, as a nutritionist helping people shed unwanted pounds, I get calls from clients for simple tricks to lose weight, whether to be able to fit into last summer’s bathing suit or just be healthier.

Indeed, we have far too many overweight people who need to lose weight, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that since 1980 worldwide rates of obesity have doubled, and in 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight. Yikes!

The key to losing weight — and keeping it off — is not following the diet de jour of the day. Rather, it is to be able to trim your portions and be mindful of how much you eat.

Having spent a good part of my career studying the link between portion sizes and obesity, it has become obvious to me that if we can learn to recognize how much food we should be eating (and then actually eat that amount), we would be much thinner, and would not need the wacky diets being promoted today. (After all, who want to walk around hungry and grumpy as Jeb Bush reported feeling when following The Paleo Diet?)

When people think of portion control, however, they often think of measuring cups and food scales, and then want to run the other way. However, I do not regularly recommend weighing food for the long term, especially because it is not practical. And because we eat out so often, where portion-control becomes all the more important, we need simple tools to help us guesstimate our food portions.

When I developed my Portion Teller program, I developed the “handy method” to help you guesstimate your portions: comparing your foods to different parts of your hand. It’s not a perfect comparison because everyone’s hand is a different size, but even if it’s not an exact science, it is very useful. And if your hand is larger than average, you can probably can eat more food than someone with a smaller hand.

Here are six handy tips to help you estimate just how much of your favorite foods you should be eating.

1. Cereal flakes

It is very easy to pour too much cereal into your favorite bowl. A tight fist is around a cup of cereal, which is an appropriate portion for most of us. Top the cereal with fat free milk and berries and your bowl will fill up fast.

2. Meat, poultry, or fish

Most restaurants serve us far too much meat, often giving us nearly an entire pound’s worth. The palm of your hand is around 3-4 oz. Eat no more than 1-2 palms’ worth of meat, fish, or chicken per meal. The trick is to fill up half of your plate with veggies.

3. Mixed nuts

Nuts make for a great snack. Because they are high in fat and calories, however, it is so important to watch your portion. If you eat shelled peanuts or pistachios, you can see the shells, thereby unconsciously getting you to eat less. Many of us, however, carelessly nibble on nuts and end up overeating without realizing. My recommendation is to spread one layer of nuts on your palm (around ¼ cup) and stop there! Don’t fall into the trap of just picking at nuts straight from the bag… because, before you know it, the entire bag will be empty.

4. Cheese

It is very easy to eat too much cheese, especially if you are at a cocktail party. We nibble on cheese with a glass of wine, and before we know it, we’ve eaten more than 1,000 calories. With my “Handy Method,” however, just grab two index fingers’ worth of cheese (approximately 2 ounces) and you are set. Just think of a peace sign! And remember, if you’ve eaten more cheese than you have fingers, you definitely overate.

5. Peanut butter

Who doesn’t love eating peanut butter straight from the jar?! It can be a dangerous practice, however, if you are trying to watch your calories. On my program, you can eat peanut butter and still lose weight. Just follow my “rules of thumb” for a healthy serving of peanut butter. Aim for three thumb tips’ worth of peanut butter which equals around one tablespoon (3 teaspoons).

6. Popcorn

When we think of popcorn, we often think of the movie theater — a typical food trap, with its bottomless bags of popcorn. A bag of popcorn at the movie theater often holds 20 cups, far too much food for one person. Many of us are watching a movie and absent-mindedly digging into our oversize bags grabbing piece after piece. Before we know it, we’ve eaten the entire bag.

If you want an idea of how much popcorn you’re eating, scoop out one rounded handful. That’s about 1/2 cup. Or, cup both your hands together, and scoop out a mound of popcorn. That’s a cup. A healthy popcorn serving contains 3 cups of popcorn. Hold the butter.

We’d love to hear from you if you have a “handy” tip or a favorite trick to help control your portions.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Apr. 22

Healthy foods to keep your hunger pangs away

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post.

You can also read it HERE.

The worst part about trying to lose weight is feeling hungry. As a nutritionist specializing in weight loss and maintenance, I have experienced firsthand that feeling hungry often leads dieters astray and contributes to them falling off the wagon.

I have never been a fan of deprivation diets — or any diet for that matter. It is more important to develop lifelong habits you can sustain. One such habit is choosing “go to” foods that you enjoy and that also make you feel full. The key to feeling full is not eating large portions, but rather, choosing foods that contain nutrients which aid satiety. Foods high in protein, fiber, and good fats tend to keep your hunger at bay, which is what you want to aim for when trying losing weight.

Here are six nutritious — and delicious — foods that will help keep you feeling full. You won’t even know you are trying to lose weight.

1. Oatmeal

Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal is a great way to keep from feeling hungry an hour after eating breakfast. Oatmeal contains a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber which is not only good for your heart, but it also may also keep your hunger pangs away.

Research comparing the effects of oatmeal and corn flakes on feelings of fullness and hunger found that overweight subjects reported feeling more satisfied after consuming oatmeal than corn flakes. And they also ate less at lunch.

Add water, fat-free milk, vanilla-flavored soy milk, or almond milk to your favorite brand of oatmeal and you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

2. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great food to include in your diet. It is high in protein keeping you feeling full and a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It also makes for a great snack, as it is portable. Just one caveat: Stick to flavors that are not loaded with added sugar. My suggestion: Stick to the plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, flax seeds, and a drizzle of honey if necessary.

3. Avocado

Avocados taste great and add zest to a meal. They are also rich in healthy nutrients — including heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E and potassium — while also keeping your hunger at bay. Research from Loma Linda University and sponsored by the Hass Avocado Board found that subjects who consumed one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch felt more satisfied and had less of a desire to eat after the meal.

So the next time you are deciding what to eat for lunch, add some avocado and you won’t be running to the vending machine for a late-afternoon snack.

4. Lentils

Beans and legumes contain a terrific combination of nutrients to help keep you feeling full. They are loaded with soluble fiber and protein. An excellent protein alternative for vegetarians, they are a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate. These heart-healthy nutrients may also help to reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

I invite you to incorporate lentils into your diet, if you don’t already. You can enjoy lentil soup, lentil pate, or lentil salad. Toss some cooked lentils with some olive oil, chopped red peppers, scallions, and your favorite spices. This salad can be eaten as part of a meal or as a healthy and satisfying snack.

5. Almonds

Need a healthy late-afternoon snack? Grab a handful of almonds. The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less throughout the day. Studies show that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control for total calories. As an added benefit, nut eatersmay have a lower incidence of diabetes when compared to those who rarely eat nuts.

6. Quinoa

Quinoa makes for a healthy and satiating addition to a meal. This ancient grain contains an array of vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E as well as protein and fiber, a winning combination to helping you feel full. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked quinoa contains 2.6 grams of fiber and 4.1 grams of protein as compared to 1/2 cup of cooked white rice which contains only 0.3 gram of fiber and 2.2 grams of protein.

And no, quinoa is not fattening. A ½ cup of cooked quinoa contains approximately 100 calories. And next time you can’t decide what to eat for dinner, enjoy a healthy portion of quinoa (around ½ cup-1 cup cooked) with grilled fish or tofu along with your favorite assortment of sautéed vegetables.

We would love to hear your favorite foods that keep your hunger pangs away.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Apr. 9

Spring forward into health with these simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Spring forward with these 10 simple tips.”

You can also read it here.

With a new season often come new rituals and habits. With more daylight in the springtime, it is often easier to adopt certain habits, such as fitting in an early evening bike ride. It is also a great time to try new foods and develop new habits, in an effort to get healthier.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies–as well as our minds–for optimal health.

Below are 10 easy tips to incorporate into your life this spring. I hope you can give some of them a try, if you are not already practicing them.

1. Start your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and having an attitude of gratitude lead to stronger relationships, better sleep, and improved mood. Research reveals that cultivating gratitude not only leads to better psychological health, but also to improved physical health. While we can always find something to complain about, if we look hard enough, we can always find a multitude of things to be grateful for.

2. Get moving outdoors.

Exercising regularly offers many health benefits, ranging from managing weight to improved cardiovascular health and strength. Exercising outdoors, however, seems to provide added benefits. Research shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you also enjoy it more. People exercising outdoors report less depression and fatigue. Whether going for a morning run, a bike ride, or taking a brisk walk in the park after work, the spring season is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and be one with nature.

3. Try a new food.

As the old adage goes, “variety is the spice of life.” It turns out, variety may also be good for you, at least when it comes to making food choices. Choosing different foods of varying colors from the various food groups provides a more nutrient-dense and balanced diet. So next time you visit your favorite market, select a fruit or vegetable you have not tried before. You just might like it.

4. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary provides many benefits, from helping you shed unwanted pounds to identifying foods that may not agree with you.

Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that dieters who kept a food diary for six months lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep records. Perhaps because keeping a diary makes you more aware of certain habits such as nibbling and munching mindlessly. Keeping track of your mood may also prove useful.

5. Toss avocado into your favorite salad.

Avocados are a delicious, nutrient-dense fruit loaded with healthy fat and fiber. For an added nutrition boost, avocados seem to enhance the absorption of certain nutrients.

Research conducted by Ohio State University and supported by the Hass Avocado Board found that eating avocado with either raw carrots or tomato sauce (both rich in carotenoides, including beta carotene) significantly enhanced the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin as well as convert these carotenoides into an active form of the vitamin.

This is a great example of how eating certain foods together can impart added health benefits. So next time you are making a salad with carrots or a pasta dish with tomato sauce, toss in some avocado for an added health boost.

6. Snack on an apple

Apples are tasty, loaded with fiber, and low in calories. They are also easily portable, which is great if you are often on the go. While we are not sure if an apple a day will really keep the doctor away, new research reports that people eating an apple a day take fewer prescription medications than non-apple eaters. Certainly a good thing.

7. Add a handful of peanuts.

Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet can give you a great nutrition boost; they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, antioxidants including vitamin, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. They are also easy to pack and do not need to be refrigerated. Just be sure to stick to one handful.

8. Practice yoga

Practicing yoga has seen shown to increase flexibility and strength, boost mood, relieve stress, and more. While you can practice yoga at a studio, your local gym, or at home you can even do certain poses wherever you are and reap some benefits.

9. Include a cruciferous vegetable with dinner.

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and folate, and are low in calories. Perfect for watching weight and promoting health. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties which may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. Turns out, these veggies also taste great. Choose from cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and bok choy. Sautee your favorite veggie with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite spices and you are good to go.

10. Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Laughter seems to provide some health benefits and research finds that it may even compare to eating well and exercising to keep you healthy and free of disease. Laughter may calm the mind, relieve anxiety, and reduce stress.

And when you laugh and think positive thoughts, you are more likely to end your day on a happy note.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Mar. 19

Foods to enjoy without added sugar

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post 10 foods to enjoy without added sugar.

You can also read it HERE.

The problems with consuming too much added sugar seem to be getting lots of attention these days. From contributing to inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, sugar has been recently singled out as a cause for concern.

The recently released report from the Dietary Guideline Committee (DGAC) suggests, for the first time, that Americans limit sugar to 10 percent of calories. That would translate into roughly 200 calories–and 12 teaspoons–for a 2000 calorie diet. TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) also suggests we limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of total calories. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed that manufacturers be required to declare the amount of “added sugars” on food labels to help consumers understand how much sugar has been added to a product.

Indeed, we love sugar and eat too much of it. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. Sugar contributes to the sweet taste of our foods and drinks while also acting as a preservative in many of our favorite foods.

Acting as a food sleuth, I recently visited a local New York City supermarket with a reporter for a public radio station for a story on hidden sources of sugar. While we know that sugary drinks such as soda and sugar-sweetened cereals such as Fruit Loops are a main culprit of added sugar, it is often surprising to people when they hear that sugar is also lurking in breads (even whole-wheat varieties) as well as salad dressings (even healthy sounding ones especially low-fat varieties.) Perusing the supermarket aisles, while we were sure that we would see lots of sugar in fruit punch, ice cream, and candy bars, we also found considerable amounts of added sugar in many commonly consumed foods including waffles, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, and granola.

So what can we eat without too much added sugar?

Below are 10 foods to enjoy without having to worry about exceeding sugar budget.

1. Plain Greek yogurt
Finding the added sugar on your cup of yogurt can be tricky these days which is one of the reasons why the FDA wants to require manufacturers to list “added sugars” on the food labels. While on first glance, yogurt appears to be high in sugar, unsweetened yogurt contains only the naturally occurring simple sugar lactose, called milk sugar. Flavored yogurts, on the other hand, often contain lots of added sugar, in addition to the naturally occurring sugar. Many sweetened yogurts contain several teaspoons of added sugars.

2. Apple
While fruits contain sugar (called fructose), it is a naturally occurring source of sugar. Apples, as well as other fruits, also contain fiber which will help you feel full without the calories.

3. Peanut butter
Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on your apple for flavor and fullness while also getting a dose of healthy fats and added nutrients. Steer clear, however, of the sugar-sweetened peanut butters. Stick to the plain unsweetened varieties.

4. Tossed salad
Fresh vegetables of all kind contain carbohydrates as their primary source of calories but you really do not have to worry about their sugar content. While a carrot may have more sugar, and therefore more calories, than a stalk of celery, vegetables contain naturally occurring sugar while also containing fiber, high water content, and a fairly low calories count. Fresh vegetables in their natural state do not contain added sugars.

5. Avocado
Throw in some avocado which contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. While avocado is not low in calories, (due to its fat content), this fruit is not a source added sugar.

6. Homemade salad dressing
To skip the added sugar often found in store-bought bottled salad dressings, I suggest making your own. Ingredients such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and lemon are very low in sugar.

7. Grilled Salmon
Top your salad with grilled salmon which contributes protein as well as heart-healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon as well as other fish and high protein foods are not a source of added sugars. However, watch the teriyaki glaze, soy sauce, and breadcrumbs which can contribute sugar, salt, and added calories. Drizzle your salmon with olive oil and spices to save on added sugar and salt.

8. Air-popped popcorn
Hungry for a mid-afternoon snack? Skip the candy bar and choose air-popped popcorn instead. Air-popped popcorn is low in sugar and calories and contains fiber which will help you feel full. And, what’s even better, is that you can enjoy a generous serving. 3 cups of popcorn constitutes one serving from the grain group.

9. Hummus and veggies
Hummus contains protein which helps you feel full. Enjoy this yummy chick pea spread with your favorite fresh vegetables.

10. Sparkling water
Hydrate yourself with sparkling water instead of soda and other sweetened drinks. Add a twist of fresh lemon or lime for a hint of flavor. Many sparkling waters are flavored naturally without any added sugar. Read labels carefully, however, because some healthy sounding beverages often contain added sugars. And those without added sugar often contain artificial sweeteners, which aren’t much better than sugar.

We would love to hear some of your favorite foods which are low in added sugar?

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Feb. 26

Nutrition panel urges American’s to eat green, limit sugar, drink coffee and more

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post on the new report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC):  Nutrition Panel urges American’s to eat green , limit sugar, drink coffee and more.

You can also read it HERE.

new report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which convenes every five years and advises the federal government on the official dietary guidelines, calls for some changes to the American diet.

The purpose of the Advisory Report is to inform the government on the scientific evidence related to diet and nutrition. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly write the Dietary Guidelines, which are due out later this year.

According to the DGAC:

… about half of all American adults — 117 million individuals — have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults — nearly 155 million individuals — are overweight or obese … Poor dietary patterns, over consumption of calories, and physical inactivity directly contribute to these disorders.

Americans eat too much sugar, saturated fat, and salt. We don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish.

The report further states that:

… individual nutrition and physical activity behaviors and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are strongly influenced by personal, social, organizational, and environmental contexts and systems. Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes.

The report by the committee eased certain restrictions (those for cholesterol, total fat, and coffee) and stressed limits for other restrictions (such as those for added sugar and saturated fat).

Rather than obsess over individual nutrients, the committee urges Americans to strive for a healthy dietary pattern: a diet with more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, seafood, and low- or non-fat dairy, and less red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and refined grains.

According to Dr. Marion Nestle, my NYU colleague, author, and nutrition policy expert: “The DGAC has produced an honest, straightforward, courageous report thoroughly based on research and at long last without mincing words.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C., also supports the report and issued the following statement:

The report of the DGAC is mostly unchanged from the reports of 2010 and years past, and in the ways it differs, the changes are mostly for the better. Contrary to some media accounts, the pendulum is not swinging wildly back and forth on most of these scientific questions; the basic advice to eat less saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and to eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, is largely the same.

Here are some of the committee’s key recommendations.

SUSTAINABILITY

The committee, for the first time, urges American’s to eat green.

The report recommends that the government consider the environment — along with their heart, of course — when advising Americans about what they should eat.

The panel wrote “The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”

This move could have a significant impact on how much meat people eat. Not surprisingly, the meat industry called the report “flawed” and “nonsensical.”

ADDED SUGAR

The committee stressed that Americans consume too much added sugar and recommended a daily intake of 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet. To put this in perspective, “12 teaspoons of sugar” is just a tad more than a can of soda. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. This is why the report recommends that Americans drink water instead of sugary beverages such as soda.

Previous dietary guidelines have included warnings about eating too much added sugar, but this is the first time the committee made a specific recommendation for limiting sugar. Indeed, too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease.

The CSPI welcomed the DGAC suggestions to consume less sugar along with the report’s blunt advice to drink fewer sugary drinks. They said, “The strong recommendations on added sugars are important and have far-reaching policy implications.”

I also applaud the recommendation for limiting added sugar along with environmental and policy changes like those suggested by the committee. As I toldFood Navigator, “The DGAC report supports the possibility of soda taxes as an incentive to promote purchasing healthier beverages, policy changes for SNAP…and limiting food marketing to kids, all steps in the right direction to promote a healthier food environment.”

The American Beverage Association (ABA), however, issued a different sentiment on restricting sugar and sugary drinks. According to Food Navigator, the ABA said: “Numerous studies have shown that restricting one food or food group is not the best approach for achieving calorie balance and maintain a healthy weight.”

Indeed, drinking less soda would be bad for their business.

FAT

The Committee is recommending that we limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of total calories. Saturated fat may promote heart disease by elevating blood cholesterol levels. Americans are urged to eat unsaturated fat — found in nuts, fatty fish, olive and vegetable oil — instead of saturated fat, found in red meat, cheese, butter, coconut, and palm kernel oil. While many celebrities and Atkins devotee’s heavily promote both coconut and red meat, the committee report advocates the contrary.

The DGAC, however, dropped a suggestion from previous guidelines to restrict total fat intake to no more than 35 percent of daily total calories. While previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines have advised Americans to eat a low-fat diet, the committee suggests that reducing total fat intake does not appear to decrease our risk for heart disease. Rather, replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates — including low-fat cookies and cakes — increases our disease risk.

CHOLESTEROL

The committee dropped its long recommendation that Americans limit their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs and shellfish to no more than 300 mg per day. (One egg contains nearly 200 mg cholesterol.) The committee cites research showing that cholesterol from the diet has little or no effect on blood cholesterol levels for most people.

Dr. Nestle, however, wrote a thought-provoking blog post raising several important points on the research. She states, “I’m wondering if research sponsored by the egg industry could have anything to do with this.” Furthermore, she writes, “if the Advisory Committee is dropping the cholesterol recommendation, could it be because so many people are taking statins that dietary cholesterol doesn’t appear to matter so much anymore?” These are certainly points to consider.

COFFEE

If you enjoy several cups of coffee, you are in luck. The committee advised that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day (or up to 400 mg of caffeine) is okay. However, I suggest you watch the size of your mug to partake healthfully in those “five cups of coffee.” As I told Food Navigator, “3-5 cups translates into 2-3 Starbucks-sized cups … I worry that the public may think they can drink more coffee than the guidelines really suggest. Education on serving size is necessary here…”

Finally, will the feds accept these recommendations, and how will we implement them?

The DGAC report states:

It will take concerted, bold actions on the part of individuals, families, communities, industry, and government to achieve and maintain the healthy diet patterns and the levels of physical activity needed to promote the health of the U.S. population. These actions will require a paradigm shift to an environment in which population health is a national priority and where individuals and organizations, private business, and communities work together to achieve a population-wide “culture of health” in which healthy lifestyle choices are easy, accessible, affordable, and normative — both at home and away from home.

According to Dr. Nestle, a former member of the DGAC:

Whether the agencies — USDA and HHS — will accept its recommendations remains to be seen. Congress has already weighed in and said that the Dietary Guidelines cannot consider sustainability in making dietary advice. Much will depend on the response to the call for public comments.

Stay tuned.

We would love to hear our thoughts on the DGAC report. And you can tell the gov’t what you think by weighing in here.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Feb. 12

Eat your heart out with these healthy tips.

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, Eat your heart out with these 11 healthy tips.

You can also read it HERE.

February is American Heart month sponsored by The American Heart Association. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.

For some good news, however, heart disease can often be prevented by making healthy food and lifestyle choices. As a nutritionist, I often work with clients to help them develop a healthy diet and lifestyle to prevent heart disease.

Below are 11 simple — and healthy — tips for heart health.

1. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal.

Oatmeal not only tastes yummy but it is also good for the heart as it is rich in soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Beta glucans, the kind fiber in oatmeal, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains magnesium and potassium, minerals which contribute to a healthy heartbeat.

2. Watch your portion by using a smaller bowl and spoon.

A simple way to practice portion control is to use smaller plates; we tend to eat less when we use smaller plates and bowls. And… use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon — you will probably eat even less.

3. Top your oatmeal with sliced banana.

Bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium, which help promote heart health. They are also relatively low in calories and high in fiber to help keep your weight at bay.

4. Include a bean soup for lunch.

Beans contain soluble fiber which help lower cholesterol. Lentil and split pea soup are great choices. They are also filling and help keep you satisfied.

5. Snack on a handful of mixed nuts.

Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats and have been shown to reduce heart deaths in the elderly. Nuts also help to control weight. The key is to snack on nuts instead of chips, and practice portion control. Aim for approximately ¼ cup or one layer of your palm.

6. Start your dinner with a colorful salad.

Starting your meal with a colorful salad is a great way to boost heart healthy nutrients in your diet. Vegetable salads are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. The different colors provide different nutrients so throw in dark greens which are high in folate, tomatoes high in lycopene and yellow peppers which are full of vitamin C.

7. Dress it with olive oil.

Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Best to use an olive oil based dressing over creamy varieties such as blue cheese. However, it’s important not to over pour; aim for 1-2 tablespoons, or a shot glass worth.

8. Cook dinner at home.

People who cook dinner at home tend to eat healthier and take in fewer calories. No surprise. Restaurant portions are huge and full of all sorts of hidden ingredients which are loaded with calories.

9. Enjoy grilled salmon or arctic char as your main course.

Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be good for the heart. Grill your fish with your favorite spices and a drizzle of olive oil.

10. Have cauliflower as a side dish.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a cousin to broccoli and Brussels sprouts, high in fiber and low in calories. It is an excellent, low-calorie source of potassium. One cup of chopped raw cauliflower contains 320 mg in only 27 calories

11. Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert.

Saving the best for last, research found that people who eat dark chocolate have lower rates of heart disease than people who do not. Chocolate contains flavonols, phytochemicals which may reduce heart disease risk. However, remember that amounts count and aim for one small square.

And, finally, because no one got heart disease from a deficiency of chocolate, if you are not a chocolate lover, no need to start indulging. Finishing off your meal with fresh fruit will do just fine.

We would love to hear your favorite heart-healthy foods.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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