Use these simple eating tips for form good eating habits in the New Year

Eating Tips for Good Health and Weight Loss in the New Year

USE THESE SIMPLE EATING TIPS FOR FORM GOOD EATING HABITS IN THE NEW YEAR

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read it here.

Anyone old enough to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve will probably make a resolution to drop a few pounds in the coming year. It’s one of the top resolutions made in the first minute of the first day of every new year. If it’s on your list, I have a few eating tips that can help you reach your health and weight loss goals in 2013.

The key is forming good eating habits so the preferred behavior happens automatically. A habit is a habit whether good or bad, so swapping out your old way of eating for something new, and better, solves the problem for good.

The biggest challenge is interrupting the status quo. It’s like switching off the cruise control in the car when we’re driving on a highway. Once we do, we’ve got to think about maintaining the speed limit again. The same is true when we‘re making food decisions. It’s not that we dislike every brand of high fiber cereal on the shelf; we just keep selecting the same low fiber one over and over again because that’s what we’ve always done.

But that does not mean you should skip the resolutions when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. If you’re really willing to leave the old year behind, let this be the year you ring in good health and weight loss for the very last time.

Top 10 Eating Tips For 2013

  1. Pick a start date that works for you. There’s nothing magical about January 1st, or the 52 Mondays in the year, or your birthday. There’s also no reason to wait a minute longer if you’re ready. You can start right now.
  2. Be brutally honest with yourself about what has blocked your success in the past. Do you feel entitled to eat certain foods? Procrastinate about meal planning? Blame others for your food choices? It’s time to deal with those disabling thoughts and beliefs.
  3. Make educating yourself about good nutrition part of your commitment. It is much easier to eat well when you understand why it matters.
  4. Talk about the changes you’re making to those who need to know so they can be supportive of your efforts and so they’ll understand why you stopped eating the way you used to do.
  5. Don’t try to make anyone else change along with you, just be an example for them. You can only change yourself.
  6. Plan each meal and snack around a fruit or vegetable – or both – instead of thinking about the meat or starch first.
  7. If you eat out more than once a month, it’s not a special occasion. Those meals should be as well- planned and carefully selected as the meals you eat at home.
  8. Don’t worry about disappointing others if you don’t eat as much as you used to or celebrate with food the way you once did. Worry about disappointing yourself.
  9. Small changes are all it takes to overhaul your life as long as you make enough of them and you stick with each one.
  10. Make sure you never view any food as a reward, no matter how tempting or delicious. If you’re thinking, “I deserve to eat this,” don’t eat it unless you can say, “I choose to eat this.”

How many of your resolutions from last year did you keep?

Shiny red apple sitting on top of a book

Nutrition Education vs Healthy Eating Habits

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

NUTRITION EDUCATION AND HEALTHY EATING GUIDELINES ARE ONLY USEFUL IF WE EAT WHAT WE LEARN

Americans have received a lot more nutrition education than is evident by looking at what we eat. Thanks to a number of successful campaigns by the food industry and government-issued healthy eating guidelines, we have had the chance to learn what’s in our food and why it’s good for us, even if we don’t always put it into practice.

Please take this little quiz to help make my point:

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know milk is rich in calcium and calcium is good for our bones?

  1. Can you name a food high in vitamin C?
  2. Where does most of the iron we eat end up in our bodies?
  3. Why do we need protein in our diets?
  4. What makes our blood pressure go up?

(You can find the correct answers below.) If you got them right, that’s proof the marketing about these food-nutrient-function connections stuck. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you have healthy eating habits.

What’s Missing From Nutrition Education?

Associating individual nutrients with individual foods is an easy way to get a message across, but there are unintended consequences. The biggest one is that we tend to lose sight of the synergy of a mixed diet and the way nutrients work together to keep us healthy.

For example, teaching people which foods have the highest level of this nutrient or that overlooks the fact those nutrients are of little value to us until they are absorbed. As it turns out, one of the best ways to enhance absorption is to consume different types of food together, not single foods.

Then there is the danger of believing the only nutritional value of a food is the one nutrient you associate with it, such as the calcium in milk. This narrow view can result in your thinking something as complex as milk can be replaced by a single dietary supplement, such as calcium. If that happens, you’ll end up cheating yourself out of the 10 other vitamins, minerals and protein found in milk.

And finally, there is the problem of not knowing about the other foods-nutrients-functions that haven’t had their own advertising blitz yet. So until someone launches a “Get Your Potassium From Produce” promotion or “Go Nuts for Magnesium” movement, we’ve got to include as much variety in our diets as possible to cover all the bases.

Eat What You Know

At the end of the day, healthy eating habits aren’t measured by what we know about food and nutrition. They’re reflected in what we eat. I believe most people know enough, they just have to eat what they know.

(Answers: Orange juice, blood, build muscles, sodium)

Assorted dried fruit, nuts and seeds for a gluten free snack

Great Gluten Free Snacks in a Hurry

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

CONVENIENCE STORES OFFER MANY GLUTEN FREE SNACK ITEMS TO ENJOY ON THE GO

If you or someone in your family is on a gluten free diet, then you know how hard it is to find something to eat when you’re in a hurry and hungry. Even though there are more gluten free items in stores and on menus than ever before, they’re hard to spot when you really them.

At least that’s what I’m told by people who are trying to avoid gluten.

They say eating healthy meals and snacks is easy when they plan ahead, shop regularly and prepare or pack their food for the day, but that doesn’t always happen.

Sound familiar?

Of course, the rest of us can always grab something to eat on the go from a vending machine, at any checkout counter or the drive-up window of a quick service restaurant. But if you must steer clear of all wheat, barley, rye and oats, it’s another story.

The best way around this dilemma is to keep a supply of portable, non-perishable, single-serving gluten free snacks on hand wherever you spend a lot of time, like your job or the car. A trip to your local supermarket or specialty food store is the best way to stock up on your favorite gluten free products or by placing an order online.

It also helps to know what you can buy when you’re out and about and forgot to tote your own.

Fortunately, there are many gluten free foods as close as the neighborhood convenience store, chain drug store, or even the corner Starbucks – a great place to find KIND bars. Just reach for a piece of fresh fruit or single-serve fruit cup, some sliced or string cheese, or a raw vegetable and dip combo for gluten free munching.

There are also some national brands you can count on for gluten free options right alongside the other crunchy, crispy and chewy snacks on the shelves.

In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, I have 10 recommendations to help you with your search for gluten free snacks. Just be sure to check the ingredient list on all packaged foods before making your purchase since manufacturers can change their formulations at any time.

10 Grab & Go Gluten Free Snack Foods

KIND all natural whole nut and fruit bars that deliver the perfect combination of protein, carbs and heart healthy fats to keep you feeling fuller longer.

Blue Diamond single or mixed nuts sold raw, dry roasted, or seasoned for naturally gluten and wheat free munching.

Quaker rice cakes made from white or brown rice for a snack that can be sweet, salty or savory.

Indiana Popcorn FIT bagged popcorn for a whole grain snack from non-GMO corn.

Frito Lay white, yellow and blue tortilla chips in different shapes suitable for dipping.

Kettle brand potato chips that are baked, reduced fat or fried in more than 15 flavors.

General Mills Rice and Corn Chex cereal you can eat right from the box or add to a custom trail mix.

Sun Maid raisins and other dried fruit that deliver natural sweetness with no added sugar.

Welch’s chewy fruit snacks and fruit ‘n yogurt snacks for a fat free fortified snack.

Dove chocolate bars and novelties (just don’t leave them in the car in hot weather!)

Confused about who should be on a gluten free diet and why? Read my Q&A on gluten free eating here.

superfoods can’t prevent cancer, healthy eating habits are essential

Focus on Healthy Eating Habits, Not Superfoods

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you follow nutrition news as closely as I do, you might be convinced that eating certain foods can cure cancer. Not only that, the top superfoods promise they can do everything from prevent acne to reverse aging.

If your hearing isn’t impaired, this should sound too good to be true.

When I hear these claims I’m reminded of Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth. While it did help him discover Florida, no one living there is getting any younger.

Similarly, there are no miracle foods that can save us from the other bad choices we make or our genetic predisposition. If we want food to save us, we need to establish healthy eating habits.

Pursuit of the Perfect Diet

Eating the top superfoods cannot spare us from the leading causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease, stroke and cancer. That’s because when it comes to good nutrition, it’s not individual foods that matter, it’s the total diet.

In its Position Paper on the Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) states it is the overall eating pattern that matters most, with attention to not only what foods are eaten, but how much and how often. A well-balanced diet must also be complemented by adequate physical activity to achieve a healthy weight.

The Position Paper further points out that classification of specific foods as “good” or “bad” (read as super or lousy) can have unintended consequences. Such simplistic categorizations may lead people to limit the scope of their food choices, rather than striving to eat a wide variety of foods, which can offer the best nutritional profile.

Making Moderation Your Mantra

Giving up the belief that a perfect diet is built upon eating only the top superfoods is not, however, the most difficult notion for most people to grasp in their pursuit of healthy eating habits. The real challenge is accepting the principle that all foods and beverages can be included in a healthy diet.

Moderation is a basic tenant of the “Total Diet” concept and one that will withstand the test of time.

There is much we do not know about food composition and how to best meet our unique nutritional needs throughout our lifetime. The future of nutrition science lies in identifying our individual nutrigenomic profiles. But until we have that information, we must rely on what we know. The evolutionary history of our species shows us that human beings have an uncanny ability to adapt to a constantly changing food supply. Limiting ourselves to only a few superfoods is incompatible with our evolutionary success.

Get help starting with your healthy eating habits here:

  • The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet
  • If Diet Means Don’t Eat, Don’t Diet!
  • Finding the Best Diet for You
  • Why is the American Diet So Bad?
  • Debunking Another Fad: Paleo Diets
Traffic light symbol used to help count calories in restaurants

Counting Calories in Restaurants

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

CHANGES IN MENU LABELS SHOULD MAKE IT EASIER TO COUNT CALORIES IN RESTAURANTS

When you see a red light you know it means “stop.” With that in mind, a study was designed to test whether using a traffic symbol on menus would help people select lower calorie options over just providing their caloric values.

It produced some surprising findings.

There’s no denying that we eat more when eating out. In an effort to slow us down (make that an “amber light”), the Affordable Care Act requires posting calories in restaurants. If you’re into counting calories, this might help.

But if you’re one of the millions of Americans who don’t have a clue how many calories you need each day, those extra numbers next to the price on menu labels won’t mean much.

Traffic Lights and Calories on Restaurant Menus

The study was done by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in February 2013. To conduct the experiment a restaurant was divided into three sections, all with the same food and menu descriptions. Different information about the caloric content of the items was on the menus in two of the sections. One section had no caloric information and served as the control group. One section had calorie-only information for each item on the menu. The third section had menus with the calorie information and a traffic light symbol. The Green Light indicated 400 calories or less, the Yellow Light meant 401-800 calories, and the Red Light items had more than 800 calories.

Over a two week period, diners were seated at random in one of the three sections during lunch service. They could choose from the 51 options on the menu or the daily special, and had no idea they were participating in a study.

At the end of the meal they were asked to complete a survey that included questions about their demographic characteristics, health consciousness, reason for dining out and frequency, method of item selection (taste, price, healthfulness, etc.) and menu label preference when given the choice between calorie-only or calorie+traffic light. They also completed a checklist indicating everything they ordered. At this point they were informed they were part of a research project.

The Big Surprise

The biggest surprise for me when I read the results had to do with the way people with different levels of “health consciousness” were influenced by the calorie information provided. Here’s what the researchers found:

  • calorie-only labels had the greatest impact on the least health conscious
  • calorie+traffic light menus had greatest impact on the most health conscious
  • calorie-only labels had their greatest impact on the selection of the main entrée
  • calorie-only and calorie+traffic light menus resulted in more extra calories (sides, desserts, drinks) being ordered than by those with no information on their menus
  • calorie+traffic light menus resulted in total calorie reduction of 69 calories

Summary of Key Findings:

At low levels of health consciousness, the calorie-only label led to larger calorie reductions; however, as health consciousness increased, the calorie+traffic light was more effective at reducing entrée calories. The results suggest the calorie-only label does not really tell those who are the most health conscious any new information, so their entrée choices did not change. But the calorie+traffic light label did appear to provide some new information, leading the most health conscious to choose entrée with fewer calories.

Diners who received menus with calorie information actually ordered more extra calories than those who received none. This suggests they may have experienced a “licensing effect,” meaning they felt that by ordering a lower-calorie entrée that had “license” to order an extra side item or dessert.

Lower calorie entrees were chosen by women, people over age 55, and those who ranked health as the most important characteristic when ordering.

Those with higher education ordered slightly fewer extra calories, while those in larger parties ordered more.

The preferred menu information by 42% of the participants was calorie-only, with only 27.5% choosing the calorie+traffic light. The researchers said this could be interpreted to mean the diners want more calorie information on their menus, but do not want to be told what they should or should not consume (i.e., green = good, red = bad).

What helps you make the best selection when ordering from a restaurant menu?

Studies show a bowl of cereal is an easy healthy breakfast

Is a Bowl of Cereal a Nutritious Breakfast?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

STUDIES SHOW A BOWL OF CEREAL IS AN EASY HEALTHY BREAKFAST

I’m one of those people who can hardly get down the stairs in the morning – let alone out the door – without eating breakfast. I wake up hungry, so head straight for the kitchen. Lucky for me since more and more research shows the benefits of eating a nutritious breakfast.

But what about the one-third of Americans who do not start their day that way?

The excuses I hear run the gamut from “I don’t have time” to “It’s too fattening.” My response to all of them is, “Eat a bowl of cereal.”

Ready-to-eat cereal is an easy healthy breakfast that’s lower in calories than most other foods people eat in the morning. If you choose a cereal made from whole grains and pair it with skim milk and fruit, it delivers three important food groups to start the day. With them come key nutrients most often lacking in our diets: fiber, calcium, Vitamin D and potassium.

Here’s what else research has to say about the most important meal of the day.

Benefits of a Bowl of Cereal

Better Weight Control

Children who regularly eat cereal for breakfast (at least 7 out of 14 days) have lower body mass index (BMI) than children who only have cereal 4-7 times or fewer than 4 times every two weeks, reports the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. The same holds true for adults. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found lower BMIs in women who had ready-to-eat cereal rather than higher-fat breakfast foods, and a Harvard study of more than 17,000 men found those who routinely ate breakfast cereal consistently weighed less than those who rarely ate breakfast.

Better Quality Diets

People who rush out the door without eating in the morning have diets that are lower in essential vitamins, minerals and fiber than those who do make time for nutritious breakfast. Even if something is grabbed on the run, the types of foods selected do not make up for the nutrients provided by a breakfast of fortified cereal with milk. In fact, a review of the research on breakfast and health found the diets of people who people who eat whole grain cereal with milk and fruit or fruit juice come closest to meeting the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Better Cognitive Function

Eating breakfast doesn’t just help children perform better in school; it can help adults with recall and memory, too. Many people think they need a jolt of caffeine to clear the cobwebs from their head’s in the morning, but a healthy breakfast is more important.

After an overnight fast of 8-12 hours with no food, your blood sugar level is at its lowest. The only fuel our brains can use is glucose, and the best way to get it is from complex carbohydrates, such as those found in whole grains. They are digested more slowly so deliver a steady supply of glucose that keeps our brains fueled longer. And who doesn’t need more help staying focused these days?

These are just a few of the many benefits to eating breakfast, and the options to make it quick and easy are endless. Whether you eat your cereal dry with a smoothie on the side, stir it into some yogurt, or buy a cereal bar to nibble on with a latte, eating breakfast is the best way to start your day.

There are many ways to substitute whole grains for refined grains

15 Stealth Health Tips With Whole Grains

This blog was written as a guest post for the Bell Institute for Nutrition and health. You can read the original post here.

The message to eat more whole grains is now a familiar piece of nutrition advice to most Americans. It has been reinforced in each update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans since the year 2000 and is prominently featured in the new MyPlate food plan. The food industry has also done its part by offering a wide assortment of whole grains choices to cover everything from cereals to snacks and side dishes.

The only challenge left is helping consumers incorporate more of these whole grain foods into their everyday meals.

The top 3 reasons I have heard from my clients for not eating enough whole grains are:

  • They’re not always available when eating out
  • I don’t always have a grain food with my meals
  • I don’t like the taste and texture of whole grains foods

While nothing could be easier than eating a serving of whole grain cereal for breakfast, a sandwich made on whole wheat bread for lunch and a stir fry over brown rice for dinner to get 4-5 servings of whole grains in one day, that menu doesn’t work every day of the week.

For those situations, some stealth solutions are needed. That means making simple substitutions in how food is prepared at home to make whole grains available at every meal and snack to increase their consumption throughout the week. What makes them stealth solutions is that they look and taste as good as the foods they’re replacing and can save money, too!

15 Stealth Solutions to Boost Whole Grain Intake

  1. Cube whole wheat or rye bread, brush with olive oil, season, and bake for crunchy croutons
  2. Crumble stale cornbread to make a country-style poultry stuffing
  3. Save whole wheat bread crusts and ends in the freezer, then use to make bread crumbs
  4. Slice day-old whole wheat baguettes, spray with olive oil, and bake for use with hummus and other spreads
  5. Prepare individualized pizzas using whole wheat pitas as the crust
  6. Cut corn tortillas into 6 pieces and crisp in a hot oven to enjoy with salsa
  7. Replace bread crumbs with rolled oats in meatloaf and meatballs
  8. Crush leftover whole grain cereal flakes and nuggets to stir into muffin batters instead of some flour or nuts
  9. Combine whole grain pretzel and cracker crumbs to use as a coating for fish and poultry
  10. Use white whole wheat bread to make French toast, and make extra to freeze
  11. Stretch tuna and chicken salad by adding some chilled brown rice
  12. Create a mixed-grain pilaf using brown rice, barley, and wild rice
  13. Use whole wheat couscous in place of noodles in soups
  14. Make risotto from barley instead of short-grained round rice for its creamy, chewy texture
  15. Mix cornmeal or oat flour into pancake batter for added flavor