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Posts Tagged ‘ Diets ’

10 diet tweaks for a healthier 2015

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “10 diet tweaks for a healthier 2015.”

You can also read it HERE.

Welcome to 2015! As a nutritionist and health advocate, I am not a fan of rigid diets or New Year’s resolutions that you cannot keep. Unmet goals and resolutions just lead to frustration and feelings of failure. Instead, I am a fan of small actionable changes that you can incorporate into your day-to-day life.

What I have found in my work with private clients is that simple action-oriented steps or tweaks to your daily routine can be kept throughout the year, ultimately yielding positive results, whether it be losing weight, eating healthier, or learning to cook.

Here are some smart and simple diet tweaks that you can incorporate into your everyday routine to lead you to a healthier 2015.

1. Shop smart.

You will, likely, eat what you bring into your house. Trust me on this one. With years of experience helping clients lose weight, one of the most effective tools to eating healthier is to surround yourself with healthy food. Do not go food shopping on an empty stomach (as you will be tempted by unhealthy choices) and shop the perimeter of the supermarket first, stocking up on fresh fruits, veggies, and other real foods. Keep healthy foods around the house for you and your family that you can easily grab and eat: baby carrots, assorted berries, apples, part skim cheese, hummus, nut butters, and whole grain crackers.

2. Choose wisely.

When deciding what to eat, choose healthy food choices. Try to include protein at each meal. Healthy choices include fish, chicken or turkey breast, beans and legumes, eggs, and low-fat dairy. No need to eliminate grains and starches. Instead, pick the healthier ones: whole grains such as whole wheat breads, quinoa, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and oatmeal to name a few.

3. Be wise about portion size.

Aim for approximately 4 ounces fish or poultry (a little larger than deck of cards or your palm). As for healthy starch, stick with no more than a cup (your fist) as a side dish. Watching your portion size is by far the best way to watch calories without having to actually count them.

4. Fill up on lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories. Include tossed salads, cooked veggies, and veggie-based soups to round out your selections. And don’t skimp on fruits. Aim for around 2 cups fresh fruits daily and choose the whole fruit over the juice.

5. Cook more.

If you rarely eat at home, I suggest you try it. Home-cooked food tends to be healthier than store bought food, containing fewer calories and less salt and sugar. If you don’t know how to cook, take a cooking class or experiment with your mom’s favorite recipe.

6. Don’t skip meals.

Eating meals at regular intervals prevents you from getting overly hungry that you would just eat anything. Best to start your day with a healthy breakfast. If you are not a morning person, no need to eat a huge breakfast but do include something light, at least mid-morning. Fruit and a yogurt is a good choice. Eat a healthy lunch and dinner including vegetables/fruits, lean protein, and healthy starch.

7. Snack wisely.

Snack on whole food instead of processed foods. A piece of fruit, a small bag of nuts, whole grain crackers and cheese, or hummus and carrots are all god choices. Skip the chips and candy.

8. Hydrate healthfully.

Don’t forget to drink your water. Flavor your water with lemon, lime, or a slice of cucumber. Flavored seltzer is also a great option. Skip the soda or other sugar sweetened beverages full of empty calories and devoid of nutrients.

9. Dine out wisely.

Do not arrive at a restaurant famished. Skip the bread basket and start with a salad or a vegetable based soup such as minestrone. Choose grilled fish, chicken, or tofu and include lots of fresh vegetables. Choose dishes sautéed or steamed as opposed to fried. Choose fresh fruit for dessert, or for a special treat, share dessert with your dinner companion.

10. Enjoy!

Enjoy your food, enjoy the company you eat with, and savor each bite.

Here’s to a healthy 2015 with joy, peace, and contentment.

We would love to hear your healthy tips.

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

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Lifestyle intervention beats diet for weight loss: 6 changes to make

Here is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “Lifestyle intervention beats diet for weight loss: 6 changes to make today.”
You can also read it HERE.

As a nutritionist, for years I’ve seen the pendulum swing back and forth as to which “diet” works best for weight loss: low-carb, high-carb, low-fat, the fill-in-the-blank diet (rice diet, grapefruit diet, peanut butter diet), you name it. The diet rage of the day just leaves overweight individuals confused as to the best way to lose weight and keep unwanted pounds off. It turns out that we may just be better off forgetting the word “diet” altogether, according to an editorial published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Two researchers, Sherry Pagoto of the University of Massachusetts Medical and Bradley Appelhans of the Rush University Medical Center, call for an end to the diet wars, because they write that they are all equally as good, or bad, in helping lose weight. In the report, “A Call for an End to the Diet Debates,” they make the case that lifestyle changes trump diet in fighting the battle of the bulge.

As a nutritionist recommending lifestyle changes over diet, I couldn’t be happier with this report. I’ve seen clients try different diets over an over, just to fall off the wagon, get discouraged, and then try a different diet. Which is why I am more concerned helping clients stick with a plan they can follow while incorporating lifestyle changes they can stick with. One of the major problems with diets is adherence, which is so hard for so many overweight people struggling to shed unwanted pounds.

Indeed, as the authors write in the report:

The only consistent finding among the trials is that adherence — the degree to which participants continued in the program or met program goals for diet and physical activity — was most strongly associated with weight loss and improvement in disease-related outcomes.

As reported in Fox News:

In the end, patients only get confused thinking that one diet is superior to another, they said, when in fact changes in lifestyle, not diet types, are the true ways to prevent weight gain and the associated ills of diabetes and circulatory disease.

Lifestyle interventions involve a three pronged approach: making dietary changes, exercising more, and incorporating behavior modification techniques.

Here are six simple lifestyle changes you can make to get you on the road to permanent weight loss. I have used these techniques, along with others, with much success in my private practice helping clients lose weight and keep it off.

1. Practice portion control.
As an advocate for portion control, watching how much you eat is one of the best ways to lose weight. I have been counseling clients for years, and I have seen in my private practice that when clients watch the sizes of their portions (aka eat less), they shave hundreds of calories daily, and lose weight effortlessly. While it may seem obvious that larger portions have more calories than smaller portions, most people don’t recognize just how many more calories a large portion contains.

Another advantage to practicing portion control is that you do not have to cut out entire food groups to get thin and you get to indulge in your favorite treat every now and then. No dieting and no deprivation.

For tips on portion control, click here for my blog post “Rightsize your waist and your plate.”

2. Think positive.
Instead of dwelling on the foods you cannot eat, try instead to focus on what you can have. I tell my clients that there is no restaurant that is completely off limits. You can always find something healthy to eat. For example, when going to an Italian restaurant, instead of dwelling on the fact that you shouldn’t eat fettuccine alfredo, called a “heart attack on a plate” by the Center of Science for the Public Interest, think instead of what you can eat: whole wheat pasta with veggies and fresh tomato sauce or fresh grilled fish with sautéed spinach.

3. Keep food records.
There is no better way to get a handle on what and how much you eat than by keeping food records. And, for the good news you do not have to keep records forever. People who keep records are generally more aware of the mistakes they make and are then able to make corrections. Food records help you see your patterns, both positive and negative ones. For example, are you nibbling in front of the TV without realizing it, are you famished when you get home from work so you eat whatever is on the counter. By identifying your bad habits, you can easily find substitutes for new habits.

4. Eat structured meals and snacks.
Speaking of nibbling and mindless munching, one advantage to eating structured meals and snacks is that you tend to get famished less often. And when we are famished, we tend to just grab whatever food is in sight. And, we also often end up grabbing junk food. Planning in advance is also important. Keep healthy foods at arms reach and bring along a fruit and yogurt if you know that it will be hard to buy something healthy midafternoon.

5. Move more.
All exercise helps. The key is to do what you enjoy and follow an exercise program you can stick with. You do not have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy gym. Lifestyle activities also add up. For example, take the stairs and walk around the block at lunch. I also advise taking advantage of different exercises you enjoy during the different seasons: swimming outdoors in the summer, taking a walk on the beach, and skiing in winter. The key is to follow an exercise program that you can stick with for the long haul.

6. Cut yourself some slack.
I am a big advocate of focusing on progress, not perfection. It is important to take stock of the changes you’ve made so far and look at the big picture. For example, if you need to lose 50 pounds, and already lost 10 pounds, recognize your accomplishment, instead of complaining that you have 40 more pounds to lose. One way to recognize your progress is to try on some old clothes. Seeing that they are too loose can help you actually see your accomplishment.

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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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Want to lose weight? Eat Less.

Two thirds of Americans are overweight and succeeding at weight loss is quite a challenge for many dieters. A new study just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) reported that eating less, exercising more, and switching to healthier food worked best.

The researchers were from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and looked at data collected as part of the dietary intake survey  National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The authors wrote in the  study published online that “Liquid diets, nonprescription diet pills and popular diets showed no association with successful weight loss.”

The Los Angeles Times summarized what worked and what did not work for the dieters.

Here’s what the dieters tried that worked:

* 65% ate less food

* 44% ate less fat

* 41% switched to foods with fewer calories

* 4% took weight-loss medications that were prescribed by a doctor

* Joining a weight loss program was also helpful perhaps because of “the structure of being in a program.”

Here’s what the dieters tried that didn’t work:

* 41% drank more water

* 14% ate “diet foods or products”

* 10% used nonprescription diet pills, including herbal remedies

* 7% adopted a “liquid-diet formula.”

I was glad to see this study as I’ve been advocating eating less and moving more for years. While this old fashioned advice may not seem as sexy as some fad diets and supplements, it works for the long haul. And, it will save you money—no need to buy unneeded supplements.

Take home messages:

*  Skip the fad diets and practice portion control instead.

* Go out and exercise. Pick something you enjoy and stick to it.

*  Choose healthier and more nutrient dense foods. A good place to start is by eating more fruits and vegetables!

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Why Calories Count

Want to know more about calories? Most dieters are obsessed with calories, often counting them meticulously and incorrectly. They have no idea what a calorie actually is or how many calories they require.  My NYU colleague Dr. Marion Nestle and Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Malden Nesheim have just written a terrific new book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.

While the book isn’t officially out until April, it has already received wonderful write ups. Last week, two articles on the book were written for the New York Times, one by Jane Brody and the other by Mark Bittman. I’ve had a chance to read my copy and here are some excellent points worth sharing.

This is not another fad diet book telling you exactly what to eat or not eat. It also does not advise you to count calories. On the contrary, Marion and Mal dissuade readers from counting calories. It is a well-researched guide (with over 30 pages of references) on what you need to know about the “mysterious” calorie, the science behind the calorie, and the social implications of living in a society surrounded by too much food.

Marion and Mal begin by defining a calorie, reviewing its history, and discussing how scientists count and measure calories. They review some of the confusion surrounding the calorie and the struggle we have to estimate our intake. As a nutritionist researching portion sizes and counseling overweight individuals, what I found particularly important in the book is the discussions on obesity (two thirds of us are overweight or obese), weight gain, diets, and an in-depth look at the politics of calories, Marion and Mal tackle our “eat more” society, the role of the food industry, and the issues surrounding calorie labeling. They help readers understand the calorie in terms of food labeling, fad diets, and calorie myths. One such example is the concept of negative calories– which is wishful thinking, they write, unless of course you are drinking ice cold water!

Finally, the book concludes with a section on how to cope with our current calorie environment. Some simple and practical take away messages from the book: “Get organized. Eat less. Eat better. Move more. And, get political.”

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Rightsize your waist and your plate

Rightsize your Plate and your Waist: Portion control for the New Year.

Practicing portion control is one of the most difficult tasks facing anyone who eats out or even eats in these days. Look around you and everything is supersized. And not just fast food. Bagels, muffins, steaks, even frozen dinners have grown in size. I tracked the history of portion sizes increasing since the 20th century and found that portions are much much bigger than they were in the past, 2-5 times bigger to be exact. And so are people! No surprise. As I wrote in The Portion Teller Plan and in numerous articles, large portions contribute to weight gain because large portions contain more calories than small portions. Simple as it sounds, so many clients that I counsel don’t seem to apply logic to the equation. We know that if a 64-oz double Gulp soda is eight times bigger than a standard 100 calorie 8-oz soda, it should contain 8 times the calories. Yes, the Double Gulp contains 800 calories. Simple math?  Yes. But… if WE drink it, we think, how can a soda possibly have so many calories?

Our plates have increased, so have our mugs, glasses, and wine goblets. Our cabinets and  dishwashers are now larger to accommodate our satellite-sized dishes. And, car seats for our kids, who are now pudgier than ever, have also increased. And even caskets have become supersized!

Many of us don’t understand what a healthy portion is, and for good reason. A pasta portion in a restaurant is easily 3 cups, and many steaks are at least a pound. That is much too much food. The problem is that we’ve gotten used to these jumbo portion sizes and we think that a “portion” is whatever is put in front of us.

Getting used to normal-sized portions is not an easy task. Here are some tips:

Practice plate control. For starters, try eating off of plates your grandmother used. Next, change your expectation. Restaurants are in business to sell food, and lots of it. It is time to shift our perspective on what a reasonable amount of food is. If you use a smaller plate, you will probably begin to scale back on your portion.

Fill up on fruits and veggies. We want to scale back on our meat and potato portions and increase our intake of veggies. An easy trick is to fill half your plate with veggies. One quarter of your plate protein (meat, fish, poultry, tofu) and one quarter healthy starch (brown rice, quinoa, barley).

Buy single-servings when possible. Steer clear of the jumbo bags of chips, cookies, and nuts sold at price warehouse clubs such as Costco. We all love a good bargain, but beware when it comes to buying food. While you may want to stock up on toilet paper or paper towels, when it comes to food, buy smaller servings. Single-serve bags of chips will really help you practice portion control while snacking.

Order a small. In many cases you have a choice between a small, medium, or large. Order the small size whenever possible.

Avoid your triggers. If you can’t stop at one serving of chips, then don’t even start. Choose a treat you CAN control.

Don’t snack out of the bag. Familiarize yourself with the serving size on the food label, pour  yourself one serving, and put the bag away. Practice this for chips, nuts, pretzels and other treats.

Don’t be fooled by health halos. Just because a food is labeled organic or trans fat free doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Calories are still calories.

Skip all-you-can-eat buffets. They may be a bargain for your pocketbook, but not for your health. If you must visit a buffet, do a full lap around the buffet before choosing your selection and wear tight fitting clothes (you’ll probably eat less.)

Share, share, and share. Restaurant portion sizes are huge. Order one main dish and an extra veggie dish or salad and share both. And order one dessert for two or three people and you will still feel satisfied.

Eat like a Parisian. Eat slowly, savor your food, and enjoy your company.

Enjoy! Bon Appetit.

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A low-calorie meal for weight loss?!

Are you trying to lose weight? Perhaps try eating one smaller meal per day.  Cornell University researcher David Levitsky conducted a small study published in the October issue of Appetite reporting that eating just one reduced calorie meal per day, while eating what you want the rest of the day, can be and effective weight loss strategy.

Study subjects ate nearly 250 fewer calories on the day they ate a reduced calorie lunch. And guess what—on average, participants lost an average of a pound a week for the two week period.   This study found that if you eat one low calorie meal, it doesn’t mean that you will compensate and eat more the rest of the day.

We would need more time and more subjects to see how these findings would pan out for the long haul. But it is still good news for dieters.

My advice: Start by watching what you eat for just one meal per day. But take note: you can’t eat “whatever you want” for the rest of the day and expect to lose weight. That would be wishful thinking. So be sure that the rest of your meals and snacks are still within a reasonable calorie range. And, aim for healthy choices such as fruits, veggies, lean protein, and small amounts of healthy fats.

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Eat MORE to lose weight!

Eat MORE to lose weight.

Tara Parker Pope of the New York Times reports on research showing that eating MORE of certain foods can control calories and stave off hunger. Such foods include adding cayenne pepper as well as pureed vegetables to various dishes. I am pleased to applaud that adding veggies to various dishes is a great idea; they add volume to your food, and are packed with antioxidants, and fiber which helps you to feel full. Professor Barbara Rolls from Penn State University and author of the excellent Volumetrics books has done research showing that that adding veggies to casseroles results in fewer calories per serving. So dieters can eat the same amount of food for fewer calories! And both Jessica Seinfeld and Sneaky Chef Missy Chase Lapine have published cookbooks where they have added healthy ingredients into kids’ favorite meals.

In my counseling practice, I have found that  getting clients to eat MORE fruits and vegetables is a great tool for dieters as that they do not have to stare at a half empty plate. Feeling satisfied and having a full plate of food may also keep you motivated and help you stick to your plan.

Here are some ideas that have worked well for my clients and will hopefully work well for you:

  • Start your meal with a low-cal veggie based soups.
  • When making a soup or a bean dish, throw in a mix of veggies to add bulk and volume.
  • Add assorted vegetables into casseroles and pasta dishes.
  • Bake brownies or other favorite desserts with pureed fruits and veggies.
  • And, be sure to include a fruit or veggie serving to each meal.
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