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Jan. 19

The New Dietary Guidelines Recommend Eating More Fruits and Vegetables, Less Added Sugar and Saturated Fat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “The new dietary guidelines recommend eating more fruits and vegetables, less added sugar and saturated fat.”

You can also read it HERE.

dga-2015

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released earlier this month. The guidelines, updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are based on the latest research in nutrition science and serve as a basis for federal nutrition policy.

They also help to set the tone for how we should eat. The current guidelines recommend that Americans consume a “healthy eating pattern” consisting of more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limiting added sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Here are several key take away messages.

1. Focus on healthy eating patterns.

For the first time, the report emphasizes that Americans focus on foods and healthy eating patterns as opposed to individual food groups and nutrients. I commend this as we do not eat individual nutrients in isolation, but rather a diet composed of foods, which forms an eating pattern.

According to the guidelines, a healthy eating pattern consists of a diet with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; and less added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The guidelines emphasize a variety of vegetables from the different subgroups (think colorful!) and half of all grains should be whole grains including oatmeal, quinoa, and whole grain breads, for example. Sorry Paleo lovers! Dairy and healthy grains are indeed part of a healthy diet.

2. Added sugar

This is the first time the committee made a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. Too much sugar is linked to obesity and chronic disease and as a nation, we eat too much, with soft drink being a major contributor.

The guidelines recommend a daily intake of 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. This translates into just a tad more than a can of soda. Yikes!

We currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which come from soda, juices and other sugary drinks. So, for a first step, I suggest skipping these sugary beverages.

As a nutritionist advising clients, I often get asked about eating fruit. Added sugar is NOT the same as naturally occurring sugar so you can enjoy fruit. All fruit fits into a healthy diet; however, I suggest skipping the juice and eating the whole fruit instead. Fruit is higher in fiber, contains a greater water quantity, and therefore, is lower in calories than the juice. As I say, “While I don’t suggest eating unlimited amounts, no one got fat eating fruit.

3. Saturated fat

Despite some observations that saturated fats are not linked to heart disease, the guidelines advise, like they did in previous editions, to limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of calories. Saturated fat is found in red meat, fried foods, butter, and full-fat dairy. The guidelines further recommend that teenaged and adult males should reduce their consumption of protein including meats because of heart disease, some types of cancer, and other health concerns. I think this advice should actually be embraced by the rest of us.

4. Cholesterol

The guidelines 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.) However, the report also states that we should eat as little cholesterol as possible. This advice appears to be confusing. While the cholesterol recommendation is not in the headlines, the report does, indeed, recommend minimizing our consumption and says to limit cholesterol to 100-300 mg/day. So no, you cannot eat an unlimited quantity of eggs.

Also, since many foods high in saturated fats also contain cholesterol, if we reduce our saturated fat intake, this will probably help us lower our dietary cholesterol.

5. Sodium

The guidelines say we should consume no more than 2,300 mg sodium, which is no change since the 2010 edition. The report also advises that certain people include those with hypertension and diabetes — which comprise nearly two-thirds of us — further reduce sodium to 1,500 mg.

2,300 mg sodium translates into just one teaspoon of salt. So we certainly should throw away the salt shaker. We should also limit foods high in sodium including deli meats, breads, soups, and pizza. One great way to limit our salt intake is to eat less processed food and to cook more.

6. Portion control

While the previous edition of the guidelines advised us to “avoid oversize portions,” this edition says “focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.” Since many restaurant portions are oversize and contain far more calories than most of us need, I do not think that the 2015-2200 guidelines emphasized portion control and calories nearly enough. Especially with obesity still on the rise.

Buried in the report, however, the feds do suggest reducing portions of sugar-sweetened beverages and decreasing portion sizes of grain-based and dairy desserts and sweet snacks.

So here’s my advice: With the exception of fruits and veggies, watch your portion size, and don’t eat and drink too much.

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Jan. 12

Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Drop a few sizes with these simple portion-control tricks.”

You can also read it HERE.

Courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Scott Chan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

With the start of the New Year, losing a few pounds is often high on many people’s “to do” list. You may even be thinking of trying the latest fad diet, a version of the Paleo diet, or a juice cleanse.

Having spent the past 20 plus years counseling people trying to shed unwanted pounds, I know that losing weight is the easy part. Keeping if off and developing long-term healthy habits you can stick with is a far greater challenge.

If you have previously read my advice to dieters, you know that practicing portion-control is, in my opinion, by far one of the simplest and most effective ways to shed unwanted pounds for good. Ultimately, regardless of which method you try, in order to succeed at weight loss, you have to eat fewer calories.

Many fads work initially because you end up eating less, often because you omit entire food groups from your diet. By practicing portion control, however, you get to eat the foods you love (just not huge amounts every day) without cutting out certain food groups entirely. In my opinion, this is a much healthier and balanced approach. And, with a bit of planning, if you choose your foods wisely, you can often even eat more.

I’ve rounded up some portion-control tricks which can help you get 2016 off to a great start and help you shed unwanted pounds. Many of these tricks are rooted in behavior change which serve as cues to gently remind us to eat mindfully…to eat when hungry…to eat more slowly…and to eat less.

1. Go retro.

If we can return to eating smaller portions like we did several decades ago, we’d probably be a lot thinner. Back in the 1950s, portions were smaller and so were we. I’ve spent a good part of my career tracking how our food portions have grown — and how our waistlines have too. Rates of obesity increased as portions rose. This CDC graph, based on my research, illustrates this point. Large portions have more calories than small portions, so if we can trim our portions, we can cut out lots of calories which can help us to lose weight.

2. Eat a small breakfast.

I recommend that dieters eat within two hours of getting up. It doesn’t have to be a huge feast though. In fact, a smaller breakfast may actually be best. A study found that dieters who ate a small breakfast, as opposed to a large one, ended up eating less over the course of the day. Often, we think if we eat a big breakfast, we’ll eat less for lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

My takeaway message is: eat a light meal in the morning. If you are not much of a breakfast eater, no worries. Make it a brunch and ok to eat something small. I suggest you include protein and fiber, which help you feel full. Some of my favorites are a Greek yogurt and berries, a slice whole grain toast with a thin schmear of peanut butter, or a bowl of oatmeal with chopped walnuts or a little milk.

3. Cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces.

We tend to eat in units. Most of us don’t share a slice of pizza, a bagel, or a soda (or other foods which come in units) with a friend. Instead, we tend to eat the whole thing. An interesting study offers up this trick: cut your pizza pie into smaller pieces and you may end up eating fewer calories. In this particular study, when a pizza pie was cut into 16 slices — instead of the typical 8 slices — people ate less. I invite you try it.

4. Beware the health halos.

So often we get caught up with labels such as “low-fat,” “gluten free,” and “organic.” Many of us also think that if a food is good for us, we can eat as much as we want. This study found that people who thought alcohol was heart-healthy drank nearly 50% more alcohol than those who did not.

My suggestion for 2016: keep an eye on your portion size even if you think a food may be good for you. Low-fat cookies are still cookies and gluten-free crackers are still crackers. And both products do indeed contain calories which add up pretty quickly.

5. At times, you can eat more to weigh less.

Good news if you are a volume lover. As I referred to them in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, volume eaters like a large portion of food. A solution: fill up on fruits and veggies which tend to be low in calories (while also being nutritious.) Good options include berries, melons, citrus fruit, leafy greens and, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli. Enjoy a large colorful salad. Just ask for the dressing on the side.

6. Souper-size it!

I am a huge fan of eating soup and “souping” seems to be a popular trend these days. What I like most about including soups in your diet is that they are filling and often times, you can eat a large portion without too many calories. In fact, people who eat a large vegetable-based soup as an appetizer often end up eating fewer calories at the rest of the meal. My favorites — minestrone, tomato kale, lentil soup, and white bean. Several caveats: skip the cream soups and go easy on salt.

7. Take out the measuring cups once in a while.

It’s a great idea when you are eating at home to occasionally measure out your food to get an idea how much you typically eat. While it is not exactly practical to measure your food when you are eating out, and I don’t suggest you weigh your food daily, finding out just how big — or small — your portion is can be quite an eye opener. For example, I’ve had clients pour their typical ready-to-eat cereal into their oversized bowl and think they are having one serving, or around one cup. After measuring it out, they are shocked that their “healthy” cereal portion is closer to three cups. Yikes!

8. Take a look at your hand.

While you don’t always have measuring cups with you, you always have your hand. Which is why I created the “handy guide” to estimating your portion size. A 3 ounce portion of meat or chicken looks like the palm of your hand and a fist looks like 1 cup pasta or rice. This method is not an exact science, but does come in handy.

9. Downsize your food packages.

Considerable research has found that we eat more if our packages are larger. Instead of surrounding ourselves with temptation, I suggest buying single-serving packages or pre-portioning your favorite snacks and putting them into baggies which you can grab when you are hungry.

10. Slow down.

When we eat more slowly, we tend to eat more mindfully, and, in turn, eat less. One way to slow down is to count your bites. A small study found that study subjects who cut their daily bites by 20 percent lost around 3.5 pounds in a month. While counting your bites may not be the most pleasurable thing to do, especially if you are hoping to enjoy your food, paying attention to how many bites you are taking ultimately slows you down which leads to eating less. While I don’t suggest you count your bites regularly, it may be ok to try once in while.

11. Eat off of grandma’s dishes.

Food portions are not the only things that grew over the years — our plate sizes have too. And research has found that we eat more if plates or glasses are large. A solution: use grandma’s dishes. A client of mine did this and lost 20 pounds, effortlessly. If we downsize our plate, we tend to eat less. A small looks bigger on a smaller plate. I invite you to eat a salad of of a big plate and a pasta or meat dish off of a smaller plate. This study found that halving plate size led to a 30 percent reduction in amount of food consumed.

12. Commit to cooking more in 2016.

When we cook, we often make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking was associated with a slightly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also found that in eight years of follow-up, those who ate more home-cooked meals had smaller weight gains and a lower risk of obesity. These findings don’t surprise me. Restaurant portions tend to be larger than amounts we would typically prepare at home. Foods eaten out also tend to be more caloric than home cooked meals.

We would love to hear portion-control tips that have worked for you.

Here’s to a happy — and healthy — 2016!

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Jan. 10

Add more of these 5 superfoods to your diet

Legumes

It’s a new year and a great time for healthy eating and to try new foods. The foods below are not only trending now but are also healthy, delicious, and versatile. As a nutritionist, I urge you give them a try.

 

  1. Cauliflower

Move over kale; cauliflower is the “in” vegetable these days. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable and a member of the brassica family alongside broccoli and Brussel sprouts. It is a nutrition powerhouse, chock full of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is also very low in calories; one cup raw cauliflower contains only 25 calories so don’t worry about eating too much.

One reason cauliflower may be making a comeback is because of its versatility. When cooked and soft, try experimenting by making cauliflower “rice or potatoes” to replace actual potatoes or rice.

 

  1. Pulses

The United Nations (UN) declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). Pulses are comprised of dry peas, beans, lentils, and legumes and are protein-packed and sustainable vegetables.  As discussed in the recently released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, pulses are also excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients, including potassium and the B vitamin folate. They also contain iron and zinc and are a terrific protein choice if you are vegetarian or just interested in cutting back on meat.

Adding pulses to your diet is easy. You can enjoy a split pea soup, throw a handful of chick peas into your salad, or make a delicious lentil stew instead of a meat dish. Ready to incorporate more pulses into your diet? Visit pulsepledge.com to take a 10-week challenge and get access to recipes, meal plans and other resources.

 

  1. Beets

This long lost vegetable is certainly trending now. Eating more beets is good for you and can certainly help boost your nutrient intake.  Beets contain betalains, a potent antioxidant which can help fight off oxidative stress. Beets are also high in fiber, folate, potassium, and magnesium.  This naturally sweet and tasty vegetable also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which can help fight chronic disease such as heart disease, hypertension, inflammation and cancer.

 

  1. Spiralized Vegetables

Spiralizing is a great way to use veggies in different ways, and can certainly help boost your intake. A “spiralizer” is a spiral vegetable slicer that creates strands (resembling pasta) out of vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato, and carrots. You can swap pasta for spiralized zucchini to save lots of calories. And what I love is that you get to eat a bigger portion. While one cup of cooked linguine contains around 200 calories, two cups of cooked veggies like carrots and zucchini contain under 100 calories. You can also add spiralized veggies to your favorite salad or stir-fry for a healthy side dish. It is a great gadget to add to your kitchen.

 

  1. Hemp Seeds

These nutty seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Use them like you would wheat germ or seeds – sprinkle them on yogurt, oatmeal and other cereals for added flavor, crunch, and nutrients. You can also add them to salads and to sautéed vegetables. You can even use hemp seeds instead of bread crumbs to make a healthy crust for fish or chicken.

 

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. 

Photo courtesy of: USDA/ARS, Keith Weller.

 

 

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Dec. 20

10 tips to supercharge your health this holiday season

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “10 tips to supercharge your health this holiday season.”

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net byApolonia

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‘Tis the season for overeating.

The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s are filled with lots of social gatherings and food festivities. Food is everywhere, whether the office party, family events, buffets, cocktail parties or holiday candy gifts. It is also a stressful time for many people which, in and of itself, can lead to additional overeating.

With some advance planning, and smart pointers, however, you can come out healthier and more rejuvenated, and maybe even a few pounds thinner in time for the New Year.

To help you avoid gaining weight this season and reduce “food-related” stress, below I offer strategies that I’ve successfully used with clients in my talks and nutrition counseling practice. I invite you to try incorporating them into your daily routine.

1. Plan your day.

Part of the reason we overeat is that we do not pay much attention to what we are going to eat. We forget to eat, wait till we are famished and then overeat, or just grab whatever we can find when on the run. I suggest trying to map out your day in the morning and thinking about some of the healthy food choices you can make. For example, if you are going to a dinner party, plan for a healthy snack an hour or two before you go so that you are not starved when you arrive. If you are going out to lunch or dinner, view the menu in advance so you can get an idea of what you may want to order.

2. Eat healthy most of the time.

This is not a time to begin a diet. Or to ban your favorite foods. My suggestion for this holiday season is to pick a few foods that you absolutely love and legalize them, that is, allow yourself to include them, sans the guilt. The key is not eating them all at once. Plan for one treat a day and this way you will have something to look forward to.

3. Downsize your portions.

What I love about practicing portion control is that you can still eat what you love, just less of it, which will help you trim calories. You also do not have to say no entirely. For example, if your family is going to your favorite steakhouse, instead of not joining them, allow yourself to sharing a steak and order an extra portion of vegetables. Instead of saying to yourself “I need to cut out all alcohol,” allow yourself to include an occasional glass of wine with dinner. I offer additional portion-control tips hereand here.

4. Swap and substitute.

I am a big fan of swapping out unhealthy foods for healthier ones. As a nutritionist, instead of telling clients not to eat this or that, providing them with healthy options helps to empower them to make smarter choices. Healthy substitutions allow you to give something up while including something else so that you do not feel deprived. Swap out refined grains for whole grains instead of cutting out grains entirely. For example, choose quinoa over white rice, if possible. You can also incorporate smart substitutions at home. Try using Greek yogurt or applesauce to cut some of the butter in your favorite recipe.

5. Drink more water.

Drinking water regularly will keep you hydrated. So often, we think we are hungry, but we really are just thirsty. I recommend including water, seltzer or herbal tea to keep you hydrated. Fruits and vegetables, along with vegetable-based soups also count toward fluid. Skip the soda and juice, and go easy on alcohol and caffeinated beverages. I suggest keeping a water bottle on your desk or in your brief case. It will serve as a great reminder to drink up!

6. Spice up your favorite dish.

I love recommending spices for several reasons. Spices offer up a multitude of health benefits, ranging from containing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, to acting as antioxidants and warding off disease. Also, when you incorporate spices into your diet, you tend to use less sugar and salt, which is a good thing. Spices are simple to keep on hand and don’t take up much space. Instead of adding sugar to your coffee, try using cinnamon; instead of sprinkling salt on your eggs, try turmeric.

7. Include a fruit or a vegetable at each meal.

Many of us fail to eat enough produce. Fruits and veggies contain lots of fiber as well as vitamins A and C, folate, and potassium. They are also relatively low in calories. Make an effort to add fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks. Add berries to your yogurt, choose a salad with lunch or order a veggie-based soup, munch on baby carrots as a snack, and include a colorful assortment of veggies at dinner. Engage your kids and make a smoothie as an evening snack. The fruit and veggie servings quickly add up.

And here’s an added benefit–when you eat plenty of fruits and veggies, you tend to eat less junk food.

8. Keep moving.

Even though this is a busy time of year, trying to incorporate some kind of exercise will really help you to not only keep your eating–and weight–in check but also to help you stay centered. Go for a swim or a run in the morning to get you going or go to a yoga class to help you slow down and be more mindful. Weather permitting, it’s great to exercise outdoors in nature. Call a friend and go for a walk in the park.

9. Practice gratitude.

Being grateful for your life and all of the good things going your way is so important. While things can always be a bit better, it is so important to take time out and have a grateful heart.

10. Enjoy the company of family and friends.

Last but not least, instead of focusing on food, nurture your relationships. When getting together with family and friends, savor their company, and enjoy catching up with them. At a dinner party, take a portion of food, grab your loved one, and focus on filling each other in on what has been going on in your lives.

We would love to hear your favorite holiday survival tips.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy–and healthy–holiday season!

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

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Dec. 5

Hold the Salt: NYC Warning Labels and Tips to Take to Shake the Habit

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Hold the salt: NYC warning labels and tips you can take to shake the habit.”

You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist and health advocate in New York City (NYC), I applaud the New York City Department of Health’s latest attempt to help New Yorker’s get healthier.

Effective this week, diners in NYC will be able to spot foods on menus of chain restaurants that are too high in salt. NYC is the first city in the United States to require eating establishments to post warning labels next to menu items that contain too much salt.

According to the proposal, which was passed unanimously in September by the city’s Board of Health, chain restaurants with 15 or more outlets, will be required to display a salt shaker icon for menus items that contain 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium–about a teaspoon of salt–and the equivalent of the recommended daily intake.

Certain segments of the population, including individuals over 51, those with diabetes or kidney disease, African Americans, and others, are advised to consume no more than 1500 mg sodium daily.

The salt “warning labels” will apply to an estimated 10% of menu items at the NYC chains.

I applaud the measure. Salt — and lots of it — is commonly found in bread, sauces, condiments, deli meat, and pizza. And, large portions of many restaurant meals.

Many consumers are not aware just how much sodium is found in foods typically consumed. And a large majority of us already eat too much salt, with the average intake around 3400 mg of sodium.

I also support the health department’s initiative as I am hoping it will give restaurants an incentive to lower the sodium content in its overly salty menu items.

After all, one meal should not contain an entire day’s worth of sodium.

It’s pretty shocking just how much salt many restaurant meals contain. According tocompany websites, a cheddar and bacon burger at TGI Friday’s contains 4280 mg sodium and the boneless Buffalo chicken salad at Chili’s has 3460 mg.

I hope other cities follow suit.

I am also hoping that this measure will help raise our awareness as to the relationship between sodium and health as well as how we can be more conscious to steps we can take to limit the amount of salt we consume.

Cutting down on salt can help prevent and control high blood pressure and reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke.

In addition to being on the lookout for the salt shaker icons (if you live in NYC), here are six things we can all do to reduce or salt consumption.

1. Limit the salt shaker.

Just 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2300 mg. In my counseling practice, I urge my clients not to keep a salt shaker on the table. Out of sight, out of mind!

2. Cook more.

Restaurant foods tend to be higher in sodium than home cooked meals. Eating at home can help reduce your salt intake.

3. Use spices to add flavor and zest to your favorite foods.

Oregano, black pepper, thyme, and rosemary are a few spices you can try. Spices also impart many health benefits.

4. Go easy on condiments.

Mustard and ketchup contain lots of salt so here׳s a reminder to go easy with them. Next time you are ready to schmear your sandwich with your favorite condiment, start with a smaller portion–a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon, for example.

5. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and high in the mineral potassium which can help to lower our blood pressure.

6. Watch your portion sizes.

When you practice portion control and eat less, especially when eating out, you are likely to consume fewer calories as well as less salt and sugar. So next time you buy an oversize sandwich for lunch, my suggestion: eat half!

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

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Nov. 20

5 sensible tips to keep from becoming an obesity statistic

Below is my blog for Huffington Post, “5 sensible tips to keep  from becoming an obesity statistic.”

You can also read it HERE.

We received bad news from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) about the current state of obesity in the United States (U.S.). Despite some improvements to our current food environment (soda consumption is down, food manufacturers are removing artificial ingredients), obesity is still on the rise. Compared to 2003 when just 32 percent of Americans were obese (defined as a body mass index greater than 30), the most recent data collected in 2014 reveals that 38 percent of the U.S. population is obese. These results come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NANES), the largest federal health and dietary intake survey conducted by CDC.

The report also reveals a drastic health inequality between genders and ethnicities. About 38 percent of adult women were obese from 2011 to 2014 as compared with 34 percent of men. And obesity rates were highest among black and Hispanic women.

Clearly, our food environment remains to be challenging for many of us. We are surrounded by temptations, food is available 24-7, portion sizes are too big, we eat out, we don’t cook enough, and junk food is cheap and heavily advertised. These, and other factors, help to explain why we eat too much. And, on top of that, many of us don’t get enough exercise.

While lots more needs to be down on a policy level — subsidizing fruits and vegetables, capping oversize portions, taxing soda and junk food, and limiting food marketing to children — there are lots of things YOU can do to keep from becoming an obesity statistic.

Here are five sensible tips to get you started.

1. Don’t go hungry.

Eat regular meals and snacks. (And keep them healthy, of course.) By eating at regular intervals, we tend not to get too hungry which helps us resist temptations. As a practicing nutritionist, I advise my clients to pack healthy snacks such as an apple and a small bag of nuts or baby carrots and a single-serve hummus to keep hunger at bay.

2. Rightsize your portions.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity. Large portions contain more calories than small portions and the more we are served, the more we eat! Practicing portion control is, in my opinion, one of the most important steps you can take to help you lose weight. Wrapping up leftovers, purchasing smaller sized snacks, and eating off of smaller plates are a few simple things you can do.

3. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.

I like the advice of the U.S. Department of Health’s (USDA) ChooseMyPlate.gov which suggests that we fill up half of our plate with fruits and veggies. Not only are fruits and veggies healthy and low in calories, when we fill up on them, we tend to eat less of other less nutritious foods. I always suggest having a colorful plate!

4. Create a healthy kitchen environment.

Keeping a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter, making junk food invisible, and putting that box of cereal in the cupboard are a few things you can do to keep your kitchen healthier.Decluttering your kitchen counter and keeping healthy foods handy may even help to prevent weight gain.

5. Cook more.

When we cook more, we tend to make healthier food choices. A recent study found that cooking meals at home was associated with a slightly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The researchers also found that in eight years of follow-up, those who ate more home-cooked meals had smaller weight gains and a lower risk of obesity.

We would love to hear healthy tips that have worked for you.

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

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Nov. 5

5 Kitchen Tweaks That Could Lead to a Slimmer Waist

Here is my latest post for Huffington Post: “5 kitchen tweaks that could lead to a slimmer waist.”

You can also read it HERE.

“If you want to be skinny, do what skinny people do,” says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design.

Dr. Wansink and colleagues recently conducted an interesting study on 300 kitchens in Syracuse, NY and found a correlation between participants’ weights and their kitchen counters. The researchers found that the “presence of fruit on the counter was associated with lower body mass index (BMI)… but the presence of foods such as candy, cereal, soft drinks, and dried fruit were associated with weight differences that ranged from 9.4 to 14.4 kg,” translating into roughly 20-30 pounds.

While such results found a correlation — as opposed to a cause and effect — between what is on your counter top and your weight, nonetheless, we can take away some useful pointers which may help us slim down.

As a nutritionist and author specializing in portion control and dieting, I believe that our environment is a huge factor affecting our eating habit. If we are served large food portions, we eat them. Similarly, if we leave candy lying around on our counter top, guess what? We will, most likely, eat it!

For the good news, how we set up our home environment, especially our kitchen can help us make healthier food choices. After all, as most of us know, leaving our food choices up to willpower is not the best idea.

Here are five simple things you can do to create a healthier kitchen environment. You may even lose a few pounds along the way.

1. Place a fruit bowl on your counter.

Keep fresh fruits handy. As Dr. Wansink’s study suggests, it’s a great idea to keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter.

2. Munch on baby carrots.

I’d also suggest keeping fresh vegetables in your refrigerator at arms reach. Baby carrots, celery, red peppers, you name it!

3. Put that box of cereal away!

If you love ready-to-eat cereal, aim for healthier whole grain varieties, and equally important, do not keep the cereal box sitting out on the kitchen counter. Put it away in the cupboard where you can’t see it. Seeing food, often translates into eating food!

4. Make junk food invisible.

Keep healthy food, including fruits and vegetables, in clear containers and unhealthy foods, such as candy and cookies, in opaque containers. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind!”

5. Follow the rule of one.

Keep only one bag of candy and one type of cookies in your kitchen at a time. The more variety we have, the more we tend to eat. This is a great concept when trying to eat a more colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables. But when it comes to candy and junk food, I suggest not having too many choices around.

We would love to hear your kitchen makeover tricks.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

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

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Oct. 22

7 tips to nourish your body and soul

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “7 tips to nourish your body and your soul.”

You can also read it here.

With a new season comes changes and often a time for new beginnings. If you are at all like me, transitioning into the fall and winter seasons are more difficult than moving into spring and summer where the days are longer and the meals often lighter.

As the weather gets colder, we often have different food preferences as well as exercise habits. The days also get shorter, which can affect both our moods and our food preferences. However, there is lots of good we can cultivate as we transition into the fall season.

Here are seven tips to nourish your body and your soul.

1. Enjoy the beauty of nature.

As the weather cools off, the leaves begin to change (at least in many locations), and the colors are breathtaking. Many people consider it one of the most incredible times of the year. Spending time outdoors, whether it be taking a hike or just going for a brisk walk, is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of nature. It is a great way to take advantage of the changing seasons.

2. Start your day with hot cereal.

When the weather cools off, I love starting my day with hot cereal. Oatmeal or mixed whole grains make for a nutritious and satisfying breakfast, high in fiber and rich in nutrients. Top your favorite whole grain hot cereal with berries, flax seeds, and chopped nuts as a great way to boost your nutrient intake.

3. Smile.

Putting on a happy face is a great way to boost your spirits. Smiling may improve our mood, reduce our stress levels, and also make us more attractive, and even younger.Smiling increases our endorphin levels, hormones which make us feel happier. People who smile also appear to be more self confident.

The next time you are not feeling in a great mood, put on a smile, and there is a good chance, you will feel better. As the saying goes, fake it till you make it.

4. Warm up with soup.

This is a great time of year to enjoy soup. I am a huge soup fan. Soup makes for a great hot meal (or snack) with huge benefits. Soups are filling and a nutritious, and a great way to boost your intake of healthy vegetables, especially if you are in the mood for something more satisfying than just a salad. At this time of year, I tend to prefer split pea, lentil, mushroom barley, and minestrone soups. An added bonus: If you start your meal with a healthy low-cal soup, you may actually end up eating less over the course of the meal. Because soup is so high in water, it helps fill you up without too many calories. One caveat: Many store bought soups are high in sodium, so you may want to make your own soups and freeze them.

5. Go apple picking.

This is a great time of year for many of us to go apple picking. I love the different varieties of apples available in New York at this time of year. As I previously discussed, apples are high in fiber, antioxidants, low in calories, and an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away. As the weather cools off, I love eating a baked apple for dessert. Add spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, for an added boost of flavor and health.

6. Enjoy winter squash.

Despite its name, winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall. I am a huge fan of both butternut and acorn squash. Not only are these winter squashes nutritious, they are also versatile and, best of all, filling. One cup cooked butternut squash contains only 80 calories, over 6 grams of fiber, and is also rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium. It tastes great roasted, lightly sauteed in olive oil, or pureed into a soup. I often enjoy it as a filling side dish or even as a late afternoon snack.

7. Get a massage.

I love getting a massage to help me relax and de-stress. Massage therapy, however, offers up many additional health benefits. Some research has found that massage therapy can be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, headaches, soft tissue strains, and even mild insomnia. My favorite is an aromatherapy massage which provides an added boost. Inhaling the aroma of essential oils (my favorite is lavender) may stimulate brain function, improve mood, and perhaps even increase cognitive function.

We would love to hear your favorite fall rituals.

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Oct. 7

9 Foods This Nutritionist Stocks in Her Kitchen

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, 9 foods this nutritionist stocks in her kitchen.

You can also read it HERE.

The people we surround ourselves with help to contribute to our happiness. In food speak, the foods we surround ourselves with, help keep us healthy.

As a nutritionist, I have seen first hand that our environment plays a huge factor guiding our food choices. If our “default” environment is filled with large portions of junk food, it becomes increasingly difficult to make healthy food choices. If, on the other hand, we keep healthy foods handy, we are more likely to make more nutritious food choices.

While everyone — including me — loves to indulge on occasion, eating well at least 80 percent of the time is the key to staying healthy. And surrounding ourselves with nutritious foods certainly helps us to make healthy food choices.

Here are nine healthy foods I try stock in my kitchen regularly.

1. Greek yogurt

I make sure to keep Greek yogurt in my refrigerator at all times. It tastes great and contains protein which helps keep me full along with the mineral calcium necessary for bone health. Greek yogurt is a great snack and the sky is the limit as far as nutrition goes; adding ground flax or chia seeds, nuts, and your favorite fruit adds a huge nutrition boost. Greek yogurt is also rich in good bacteria called probiotics known to have a multitude of health benefits, among them aiding in digestion.

2. Almonds

Almonds are packed with nutrients and are a filling and flavorful snack. They contain protein, vitamin E, heart-healthy fats, along with the minerals calcium and magnesium. I try to pack a one ounce serving — 23 nuts to be exact — in a small tin or baggie to take along with me if I will be out all day.

Almonds are also very versatile and make for a delicious addition to both fruit salads and green salads. I also love sprinkling slivered almonds into my morning oatmeal or yogurt.

And you have no reason to avoid eating nuts if you are watching your weight. Even though they are high in fat, research found 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 total calories. One caveat: include a handful of nuts instead of chips (the key word being “instead of.”)

3. Oatmeal

Not only does oatmeal taste delicious, it is also filling, chock full of fiber, and lower in calories and sugar than many breakfast cereals. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol level, making it a great choice to prevent heart disease. Oatmeal also contains magnesium and potassium, two minerals also good for your heart.

4. Apples

I love eating apples especially in the Fall season in New York. Apples are high in fiber, antioxidants, low in calories, and an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away. I enjoy an apple (Fuji is my favorite) as a snack most days and also love making baked apples to enjoy while home. I suggest buying organic apples and eating the entire apple along with the skin.

5. Blueberries

These tiny blue-colored berries are among my favorite fruits. Not only do they taste great, they are relatively low in calories and pack in nutrients including vitamin C, manganese, and fiber ( 4 gram of fiber per 1 cup serving). I often eat them by the handful or throw them into yogurt, smoothies, or salads. Frozen blueberies also taste great after nuking them in the microwave for a minute or so.

6. Peanut butter

I must confess that I love peanut butter and find it hard to stick with just a tablespoon or two even though I have spent a good part of my life studying portion control. If you can get a handle on your portion (2 tablespoons look like a walnut in a shell), peanut butter makes for a great snack or even a quickie mini-meal for kids and grown ups (remember peanut butter on whole wheat bread with sliced bananas). Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and contains protein which helps you to feel full.

7. Broccoli

I am a huge fan of eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit not just because they are healthy and relatively low in calories but because they taste great. Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables and is a true nutrition powerhouse. A cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family, broccoli is high in the antioxidant vitamins A and C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can help ward off cancer. While I prefer fresh broccoli, I always keep a bag of frozen broccoli on hand for a rainy day. Sautee broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and you are good to go.

8. Olive oil

While olive oil is high in fat and calories, and should be used sparingly (1-2 tablespoons as a serving on a salad), it is rich in monounsaturated fat and contains many health benefits, among them controlling cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels. I always keep a bottle of extra virgin olive oil handy — in a cool dry place — to toss on salads, drizzle on fish, and add zest and flavor to my favorite vegetables.

9. Avocados

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. I love to add avocado to a salad or spread it on whole grain crackers as a late-afternoon snack.

We would love to hear which healthy foods you stock in your kitchen.

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

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Sep. 18

Size Matters! Simple Strategies to Overcome Portion Distortion

Below is my post for Huffington Post, Size Matters! 10 simple strategies to overcome portion distortion.

You can also read it HERE.

I’ve been convinced for years that oversize food portions are one of the leading contributors to obesity.

When results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a federal survey assessing the health of Americans, were released back in the mid-1990s with the scary statistic that the average American adult gained 8 pounds, I immediately suspected that it was due, at least in part, to growing food portions. However, back then, virtually no one was talking about portion sizes, at least as it related to obesity.

So I decided to conduct my doctoral dissertation exploring U.S. portion sizes and trace the history of food portions. Indeed, my research found that American food portions began to explode in the 1980s continuing through the 1990s and into the present. This increase in portion sizes parallels rising obesity rates, and is a perfectly logical explanation to explain rising obesity rates in the U.S.

Now, 20 years later, a comprehensive report from researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge, analyzed results of over 60 studies involving more than 6,700 participants and found that larger portions and oversize tableware contribute to overeating. The study, published on Sept. 14, 2015, in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that people consumed more food and drink when given bigger portions, plates, or silverware. And they ate more food regardless of if they were thin or overweight, male or female, hungry or not hungry.

We know that eating too much can lead to obesity, which increases our risk for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

As a long-time portion size researcher and educator, I believe that if we can make changes to our environment to reduce the availability and appeal of large portions and practice portion-control strategies on an individual level, we can make great strides to reduce obesity.

The University of Cambridge researchers concluded that efforts to reduce portion sizes could reduce caloric intake by up to 29 percent and (527 calories a day) among U.S. adults and up to 16 percent among U.K. adults. That is pretty significant and can make a huge difference in helping us all slim down!

As written in the University of Cambridge news release: “Our findings highlight the important role of environmental influences on food consumption. Helping people to avoid ‘overserving’ themselves or others with larger portions of food or drink by reducing their size, availability and appeal in shops, restaurants and in the home, is likely to be a good way of helping lots of people to reduce their risk of overeating,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Gareth Hollands, a behavior and health researcher at the University of Cambridge.

“There has also been a tendency to portray personal characteristics like being overweight or a lack of self-control as the main reason people overeat,” Dr. Hollands added.

The study suggests that legislation, price incentives, and marketing strategies may be needed to help bring about significant reductions in our food portions. As I wrotehere, I couldn’t agree more.

In the meantime, here are some simple things you can do to combat portion distortion.

1. Purchase single-serving portions.

2. Eat off of your grandmother’s dishes. They are sure to be smaller than your current plates.

3. Use smaller glasses and utensils too.

4. Avoid serving food family-style. Plate out your portion in the kitchen. If you are still hungry, you can get up for more.

5. Fill up half of your plate with nutritious fruits and vegetables. No one got fat eating too many carrots or berries.

6. When eating out, share an entrée with your dinner companion. Order an extra salad or vegetable side dish.

7. Wrap up leftovers. They make a great accessory.

8. Steer clear of all-you-can eat meals and deals. Resist the bargain. And remember, volume does not mean value!

9. Eat mindfully–sitting down, without distractions such as watching TV and talking on the phone. And do not straight out of the container.

10. And, finally, wherever you are, eat slowly and enjoy your company.

For more strategies to avoid oversize portions, I offer tips here and here.

We would love to hear your tricks on how to overcome oversize portions.

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

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