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Archive for the ‘ Nutrition ’ Category

7 Nutrition Secrets to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 secrets to live a longer–and healthier–life.

You can also read it here.

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Let’s face it. We all want to live a longer — and healthier — life. Aging is inevitable but there are healthy habits we can create and foods we can enjoy to help prologue our lives. A nutrient dense diet along with a stress-free lifestyle goes hand in hand to promote longevity.

As a nutritionist, I regularly get asked how to help slow the aging process. Below are some simple tricks to help stop the clock.


1. Go meatless.

Swapping meat for fish, beans, and legumes is a great way to fight inflammation and prevent aging. Indeed, consuming fish regularly has been shown to promote brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines also help boost our intake of omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats also shown to promote heart health. Incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet by eating less meat and more legumes along with more fruits and vegetables has also been shown to fight inflammation.

2. Eat brain candy.

To keep our brains sharp and to prevent cognitive decline, what we eat can make a difference. Foods high in certain vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals may help to boost brain health. Deep red foods such as tomatoes and watermelon contain the antioxidant lycopene which fights free radicals that come with aging. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are rich in vitamins E and K which may prevent memory loss and help reduce our “brain age.” Berries contain anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Maintain your weight.

As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down so it is important to watch calories and exercise more to avoid weight gain. It turns out that maintaining a steady weight and avoiding yoyo dieting is equally important. The centenarians fromOkinawa, known to live long and healthy lives, were known to keep their calories down and their weight steady. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. Eating nutrient dense foods along with practicing portion control allows you to eat almost all of your favorite foods while helping to keep your calories in check.

4. Eat a colorful plate.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help counter free radicals, thereby helping to fight cellular damage and aging. Choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum. Try to start each meal with a mixed salad and as diet planning guides suggest, fill half of your plate fruits and veggies.

5. Skimp on added sugar.

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines set a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. This was done for good reason. A diet high in added sugar has been linked to obesity, chronic diseases, and inflammation. The 2015-2020 guidelines advise that added sugars comprise no more than 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which comes from sugary beverages. While we should skip soda, we also must watch out for other foods such as many store bought salad dressings, ketchup, and prepared foods which contain considerable amounts of added sugar. Read food labels and take note: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and honey are all other names for “sugar.”

6. Spice it up.

Seasoning your favorite foods with spices will not only enhance the flavor, but will boost your nutrient intake, and help fight the aging process. Turmeric, for example, contains the active ingredient curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve joint pain. And, for an added boost, seasoning your foods with spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

7. Keep moving.

As a nutritionist, I am a huge advocate for exercise and recommend that my clients incorporate an exercise program into their (almost) daily routine. Cardiovascular exercise including walking, biking, and swimming help keep our heart strong while strength training helps preserve lean muscle and is therefore equally important as we age.

We would love to hear your favorite anti-aging tricks.

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10 Simple Tips to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right

Below is my blog post “10 tips to savor the flavor of eating right.”

You can also read it on Huffington Post HERE.

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National nutrition month (NNM) is a nutrition education campaign sponsored yearly by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This year’s NNM theme is Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.

Here are smart tips to help you eat healthier this month.

1. Mind your portions and eat slowly.

One of the best ways to “savor the flavor” is to chew our food well instead of shoveling it in. This will not only help us eat less, but we will be able to actually taste and enjoy what we are eating.

2. Include fruits and vegetables at each meal.

Sprinkle in berries to your yogurt, add a colorful green salad to your lunch, and include vegetables with your dinner.

3. Eat a variety of foods from each food group.

Sorry Paleo lovers, but it really is best to include foods from all the food groups.

4. Aim for color!

Choosing a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables is best, as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene, for example. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene.

5. Enjoy whole grains.

The recently release 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, as in previous editions, suggest that half of our grains be whole grains. Healthy whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal.

6. Include plant based proteins such as beans, peas, and legumes.

These pulses not only give you protein, but they have an added bonus as they are chock full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

7. Spice it up.

Adding in spices to your favorite foods will not only enhance the flavor, but it will boost your nutrient intake. And adding spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

8. Snack on nuts.

Adding nuts as a midafternoon snack will not give your diet a boost of nutrients while also filling you up. So you may end up eating less later, a great boost for weight loss!

9. Try new foods.

A huge assortment of whole foods are available to us. But we often get into a rut and stick with the usual fare. Give a new food a try and savor the flavor. You may actually love it!

10. Get outdoors.

Spring is coming, so use this as an opportunity to get more active and take advantage of outdoor activities such as walking and bike riding.

We would love to hear your favorite springtime tips.

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6 reasons to include pulses in your diet

 

LegumesJamesPanARS

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.  I am a huge fan of pulses and regularly include them in my diet.

Below are some of the many benefits of eating pulses.

 

  1. Pulses are super-nutritious.

Pulses are packed with good nutrition. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including the B vitamin folate and the minerals potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

 

  1. Pulses are a vegetarian source of protein.

Pulses are a terrific protein choice if you are a vegetarian or just interested in cutting back on meat and other animal proteins. A ½ cup serving contains 9 grams of protein. Unlike meat, pulses are low in fats, and as discussed above, are also packed with vitamins and minerals.

 

  1. Pulses may prevent disease.

Pulses are beneficial for disease prevention. They may reduce risk factors for heart disease by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. They have also been shown to improve blood sugar thereby reducing the risk for diabetes.

 

  1. Pulses may help you lose weight.

Pulses contain a blend of protein and fiber which make them very filling and, therefore, a great choice if you are watching your weight. People who eat diets high in fiber tend to be less hungry than those who eat low-fiber foods and also eat fewer calories over the course of the day.

 

  1. Pulses are sustainable plants and good for the environment.

Pulses have a positive impact on the environment. They use just one-tenth of the water of other proteins. Pulses also support a healthy farm system and enrich the soil by leaving behind nutrients such as nitrogen and beneficial microbes for the next crop.

 

  1. Pulses are versatile, affordable, and taste great.

Adding pulses to your diet is simple. You can enjoy a hearty lentil soup on a cold day, add chickpeas or hummus to your salad, or make a delicious three bean stew.

 

Ready to incorporate more pulses into your diet? I invite you to visit pulsepledge.com to take a 10-week challenge and get access to recipes, meal plans and other resources.

 

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses and Pulses of Canada.

Photo courtesy of James Pan, ARS.

 

 

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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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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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Fruits and vegetables to enjoy during National Nutrition Month

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 Fruits and Vegetables to Enjoy for National Nutrition Month.” You can also read it HERE.

This month March, is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Enjoy the taste of eating right.” While of course, it is important to eat foods that are nutritious, taste is a key reason why people choose to eat what they do. Pairing good nutrition with great taste creates a win-win situation. National Nutrition Month, created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is a nutrition education campaign which focuses on the importance of making good food choices.

One way to “enjoy the taste of eating right” is to include a colorful diet. In particular, when choosing fruits and vegetables, I always suggest to clients that they choose a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrums. The deep orange color found in cantaloupe and sweet potatoes contains beta carotene. The dark blue color of blueberries contains polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon contains the antioxidant lycopene.

Below (in alphabetical order) are several nutrition powerhouses, of varying colors and nutrients that I love to include in my diet and recommend to clients.

1. Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat which may contribute to heart health. They are also high in vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant. Not only is this green fruit (yes, it is a fruit) good for the heart, it tastes great. Sprinkle a half of avocado with some lemon and olive oil and add it to your favorite salad.

2. Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer. Beets add color and taste to a green salad.

3. Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and have been shown to contribute to health. These tasty blue gems are full of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and the mineral manganese. Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to a reduction of chronic diseases. Blueberries contain only 80 calories per cup and make a tasty topping to yogurt or cereal, and also taste great plain as a snack.

4. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. Broccoli is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It also contains sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that may fight cancer and other chronic diseases. Sauteed broccoli makes a great side dish paired with grilled salmon or chicken.

5. Cantaloupe is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It also contains potassium, a mineral which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is a great choice if you are watching your weight — a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories. Cantaloupe mixed with other melons such as watermelon and honeydew makes for a tasty fruit salad after dinner.

6. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, and also part of the Brassica family. It may be white in color but don’t let that fool you. It is a super nutritious veggie. One cup contains under 30 calories!, and is super high in vitamin C and fiber. It also contains vitamin K and folate. Roasted cauliflower tastes delicious.

7. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers. Spinach makes a great veggie side dish and tastes great sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

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Lessons from the Mediterranean diet: 10 foods to eat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Welcome to 2013!: 8 Healthy Tips

Welcome to 2013.  8 Tips to Better Health

Happy New Year!

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post. You can also read it here.

Happy 2013!  Do you feel that another year has gone by and you have not met your health and weight loss goals? As a registered dietitian (RD), I counsel so many clients who have told me that they make new resolutions early in the New Year, and by spring, they are bored, frustrated and back to their old patterns. Here are some tips I’ve offered them–and now you–to get out of the all-or-nothing mentality and into the mode of setting lifestyle goals that you can actually stick with to help you lead a healthier and more hassle-free life.

1. Set mini goals. Set goals that are achievable and that work with your life. If you want to lose 50+ pounds, set a mini goal first, say 10 pounds. When you lose those 10 pounds, then you can work on the next 10 pounds.

2. Practice portion control. Watching your portion sizes is the single best way to lose weight and keep it off, while eating all your favorite foods. Bigger portions contain more calories than smaller portions, so scaling back on the size of your food portion will help you trim calories. The best way to get started is first to identify how much you actually eat and when you overeat so that you can make necessary changes. Practicing portion control does NOT mean having to eat tiny portions of all foods. You’ll want to limit food portions that are high in calories—such as salad dressings, chocolate, and soda, for example. But good news—you can eat MORE fresh fruits and veggies without having to worry about how much you’ve just eaten. A salad is a great choice (and don’t worry about how much lettuce and cucumbers you include, as they have few calories) but you’ll want to scale back on the salad dressing which is high in calories. Aim for no more than a shot glass worth of dressing which is 2 tablespoons.  I offer an extensive list of tips and tricks in my book The Portion Teller Plan.

3. Keep a food diary for a while. Identifying your problem areas with your food choices is the first step toward making lasting changes. Try keeping a food diary—even for just a month—to identify your problem zones. Try to be mindful of what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, and if you eat because you are truly hungry, or for some other reason.

4. Make small changes. Aim for making 1-2 small changes at a time. You are most likely to stick to it, if you set a small goal.  First, try to avoid liquid calories in the form of soda, for example. After a week or so, when you get that down pat, work on avoiding fried foods for example. And so on. And reward your behavior!

5. Eat a rainbow of colors. Try eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables and vary them by color. Choosing a colorful array of fruits and vegetables is best, as different antioxidants exist in the different color spectrum. PS: By eating a more colorful diet, I’m not referring to different colors of M & M’s!!

6. Indulge in your favorite “cheat” every now and then. By incorporating and legalizing your favorite cheat food once in a while, you will less likely feel the need to have it. Enjoy  it and don’t feel guilty.

7. Get moving. Do an activity you really enjoy and can be incorporated into your life. Pick something you enjoy and can sustain. If you didn’t like going to gym last year, this year, set a goal to do a different kind of exercise. And, remember, small lifestyle exercises count. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, walk for a few blocks at lunch, or park your car a few blocks away from your destination.

8. Nix DIETS. Forget fad diets, high protein diets, or “magical” food combining. You are most likely to succeed if you eat foods from all food groups and develop a healthy lifestyle.

And finally, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. MAKE A COMMITMENT TO SUCCEED AND YOU WILL!!

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Benefits of nuts and seeds

Here is my latest blog post for Huffington Post. You can also  read it here.

While you may have been told to avoid nuts and seeds due to their high fat and caloric content, these tasty gems contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and are truly terrific to include in your diet. They contain protein, fiber, and plant stanols, which may help lower cholesterol, and antioxidants including vitamin E.

Research has 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. The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts aid in satiety and help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less during the day. Nut eaters have also been shown to have a lower incidence of diabetes when compared to those who rarely ate nuts.

Here are a few nutrition points:

Almonds: Almonds are packed with nutrients and are a filling and flavorful snack. They contain protein, vitamin E, healthy fats, along with the minerals calcium and magnesium.

Pistachios: Pistachios contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, and the minerals phosphorus, copper, manganese. They are also rich in plant stanols; research found that substituting these jade gems for fatty meats can actually lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Walnuts: Walnuts not only taste great, but also provide a heart-healthy addition to your diet. Rich in the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, and antioxidants such as selenium, walnuts also provide protein, fiber, magnesium and phosphorus to the diet.

Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are high-protein and rich in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. Its high fiber content (two tablespoons contain nearly five grams of fiber) can help to reduce cholesterol and regulate bowels. They are also rich in B vitamins, the minerals magnesium and manganese, and plant lignans, which may prevent certain types of cancer and diabetes.

Sunflower Seeds: Sunflower seeds contain the antioxidant vitamins E, and C, protein, and fiber. They make for a great heart-healthy snack eaten by themselves or sprinkled onto a salad or vegetable dish. When eating them as a snack, try “deshelling” them yourself, since a small portion goes a long way, both in terms of calories and flavor.

Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Research found that that chia seeds may lower blood pressure and reduce an individual’s risk of heart problems.

Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which may offer protective benefits against inflammatory conditions, atherosclerosis, and certain neurological problems. Hemp also contains vitamin E, protein, fiber and iron, and is a healthy component of a plant-based diet.

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Growing portion sizes in the US: time for action

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post. I highlight key points from my latest academic paper on growing portion sizes.

The prevalence of overweight has increased in adults and children and shows no signs of decreasing. As I have previously written, large portions of unhealthy high caloric foods have indeed contributed to this problem.

In my latest paper, “Reducing Portion Sizes to Prevent Obesity: A Call to Action,” just published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine with my NYU colleague Marion Nestle, we discuss recent portion-size trends and offer several suggestions to address the problem with ever expanding food portions.

Here are some key points:

Portion sizes have continued to increase through the first decade of the 21st century. Top fast-food and restaurant chains continue to introduce new large-size portions. Food companies are introducing bigger burgers, burritos, pizzas, and sandwiches. Some of these single-serving items (meaning, they are marketed for one person) contain more than 1,000 calories. For example, Wendy’s Baconator Triple burger contains approximately 1,300 calories and Burger King Triple Whopper contains 1,140 calories.

As we illustrate in our paper, the trend toward larger portions coincides with the availability of calories in the U.S. food supply and the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity.

The food industry has not responded to pleas from public health officials to reduce portions, and most Americans have become conditioned and have come to expect larger portions. So what can we do about this continued trend toward larger portions?

We offer several approaches:

1. Education and Public Health Campaigns
Health professional should continue to advise patients on portion control and healthy eating.

2. Consistent Serving Sizes
The FDA sets standards for food labels and the USDA sets standards for dietary guidance and education. These standards are smaller than typical portions, differ from one another and may be creating more confusion. One uniform system is needed to better advise the public on the relationship between portion size, calories and weight gain.

3. Price Incentives for Small Portions
The food environment must support healthier food choices and encourage consumers to want to buy the smaller size. One way to do that would be to offer price breaks for smaller-size portions. Our current price structure encourages us to supersize. We can often get twice as much food or drink for just a few cents. We need to reverse this trend
by making the smaller size financially appealing.

4. Portion Size Limits in Food-Service Establishments
Policy approaches to limit marketplace portions should be considered. A recent policy conceived by Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, and recently approved by the Board of Health to cap the sizes of sugary drinks to 16 ounces, will be implemented in March 2013. I have been an active advocate of this policy, have previously written for Huffington Post about it, and do hope other public health departments follow in New York City’s footsteps.

In your own life, I urge you to consider such portion size strategies. Whether it be ordering a small instead of a large size, sharing a restaurant entrée, advising others to eat less, or getting active in a health and portion campaign, small steps in encouraging our food environment to support healthier food choices can ultimately result in reversing our obesity epidemic.

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