March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward.
So how exactly can you go about leading with your best fork?
Small shifts in your food choices add up over time. So don’t stress if you don’t have a “perfect” diet – just work to make small changes that move you in the right direction!
Here are the key messages for this year’s month-long celebration of nutrition:
- Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
- Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
- How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
- Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
- Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
For more great information about National Nutrition Month, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ NNM website.
An often-cited statistic is that the typical American packs on 1-2 pounds over the Holiday Season. While that might not sound like much, if you do this year-in and year-out, on top of other weight gaining factors…things could get heavy!
So why do people tend to gain weight over the holidays? A number of factors could be at play:
- Stress – the Holidays can be stressful for many reasons, and some people turn to food when emotions run high
- Greater availability – face it: you don’t see cookies and cakes and candy ever as much as you do around the Holidays, there’s just more bad food constantly in our faces!
- Less activity – cold weather can be a deterrent for physical activity; if you’re not offsetting your calories with motion, pounds can creep up
- Alcohol – the Holidays mean celebration, and many celebrations come hand-in-hand with alcohol and their added calories
With parties and gatherings galore, it can seem challenging to keep your health in check. So here are a few tips to help fight the heaviness that sometimes gets associated with the Holidays:
- Make a plan – exercise earlier in the day if you know you have a party later; bring your lunch to work if dinner means drinks and food with friends…keep in mind that, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
- Never show up hungry – you’ve likely heard this one before, but don’t show up to the festivities when you’re famished. Have a snack ahead of time to ensure you don’t overdo it at the party.
- Walk it off – the Holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family, so why not get everyone together outside for a brisk walk after dinner? You can spend time together in places other than on your butt!
Whatever your holiday has in store – don’t forget that it doesn’t HAVE to involve weight gain. Stay active and savor small versions of what the season has to offer!
Fall is upon us and the holidays are just around the corner. With the season of overeating just on the horizon, it bears mentioning that the typical American gains about a pound from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. That might not sound like much, but year in and year out, that pound adds up and can be a significant contributor to overweigh and obesity.
If it’s any consolation, N. Americans are not alone. In a letter posted in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, researchers posited that weight gain over the holidays is a universal problem. Whether its Thanksgiving in the US, Christmas in Germany or Golden Week in Japan, weight gain was almost an inevitability.
While the authors pointed out that most people lose about half of that holiday weight gain in the first few weeks of the New Year…half is not all…and half may still be a problem if you habitually put on weight in the holidays.
Here are a few tips to put in the back of your mind as we roll into holiday party season:
- Don’t go to a party hungry – snack before so you don’t show up famished
- Bring a healthy dish to share – of course ask the host ahead but why not contribute something you know you can safely eat?
- Back your booze up with water – don’t guzzle high calorie cocktails, slow your roll with a big glass of water in between drinks
- Relocate away from the food – out of sight, out of mind, don’t post up too close to the food if you default to grazing when you’re not really hungry
It’s the first week of January – so chances are, you’re still on board with your New Year’s resolutions. But did you know that approximately 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the 2nd week in February?
Many folks resolve to eat better, exercise more and lose weight in the New Year. And if this description fits you, you’ve probably got a goal weight in mind.
So when it comes to weighing yourself, the big question is – how often should one weigh in to stick to a weight loss plan so you don’t become a mid-February resolution failure statistic?
The old school of thought used to be don’t weigh yourself too often or you’ll become neurotic about the number on the scale. But other data indicates that regular weighing is important to stay on track towards your goal. Who’s right? Or does the scale really even matter?
Weigh Every Day
Registered Dietitian and nutrition communications consultant Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD suggests weighing yourself regularly, stating, “If you weigh yourself every morning, that can really nip in the bud any weight gain, or start to show you some weight loss.” Giancoli recommends weighing in at the same time every day, preferably first thing in the morning.
Throw the Scale Away
On the other side of the spectrum, Lindsay Stenovec, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Registered Dietitian and owner of NutritionInstincts.com recommends her clients leave weigh-ins for doctor’s visits and get rid of their personal scales. Stenovec notes, “Most weight loss goals are made with health in mind, so I suggest that individuals focus on actual behaviors that impact their health – rather than weight change. Focusing on weight can actually sabotage healthy changes.”
Consistency is Key
However you decide to go about self-weighing or tracking other health-related behaviors, consistency is key. The National Weight Control Registry, a cohort of “successful losers” (those who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 1 year or more) keeps track of common behaviors shared by those with successful weight loss experiences. The NWCR has found that 75% of successful losers weigh themselves at least once a week.
Thinking Beyond the Scale
While the number on the scale may matter if you’re working towards a weight loss goal – don’t forget it’s not your only barometer to health-related success. If you pick up regular exercise after a period of inactivity, you may not initially lose much weight as you convert fat to muscle.
Pay attention to other markers of success besides dropping lbs, such as:
- Reduced waist circumference – can you notch your belt a little tighter or go down a pants size? If so you’re losing belly fat and that is a major accomplishment even if your weight isn’t reducing as quickly as you’d like
- Lowered blood pressure measurements – regular exercise and improved diet can help lower blood pressure in people prone to high blood pressure; improvements in this metric are vital to reducing cardiovascular risk, even without weight loss
- Improved energy level – do you feel more energized and less sluggish with your recent improvements in diet and exercise? If so congratulate yourself on improved quality of life, which in the larger scheme of things is probably more important than the number on the scale!
With the new year upon us, it’s time to tackle what’s going to be trendy in 2016. Here are a few hot food items you’re sure to see popping up in the coming months:
Sprouted grains are gaining traction for their increased nutrient bioavailability and whole grain nutrient cred. Look for sprouted grains in snack foods, or recipes that promote using your own.
Plant Based Diets
With the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans likely publishing in early 2016, there will be an increased focus away from animal foods and towards more plant-based foods. Look for plant based proteins like legumes, nuts and seeds to be big in 2016.
Sustainable Food Practices
Waste not want not will be big in 2016. A backlash against the incredible amount of food thrown away in the US that started in 2015 will likely continue into the New Year. Look for food rescue programs and imperfect produce to make a comeback.
Fermented foods like kimchi and kombucha will be big in 2016. Advocates tout their digestive health benefits and probiotic content to get your gut back in shape.
Ancient grains had their day in the sun in 2015. For 2016 look to pulses such as dried beans and peas and lentils to be big. As a plant-based protein, these are great nutrition givers, but they also pack fiber and other valuable nutrients and are affordable to boot.
Good fats are back! The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans will likely highlight the importance of eating good fats vs. eating less fat. Think olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil instead of butter, lard and coconut oil. Avocados and nuts will likely get their day in the sun too as they are sources of heart-health unsaturated fats.
While we eat food every day, Food Day is a special day to think about what and how we eat. Food Day is on October 24 and the celebration seeks to “inspire Americans to change their diets and our food policies.”
Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest but is championed by a diverse group of leaders in the food movement, public office, school settings and local organizers.
In addition to celebrating food, the Food Day movement has a number of national priorities that relate to our food system and “provide common ground for building the food movement”. Food Day seeks to:
- Promote safer, healthier diets
- Support sustainable and organic farms
- Reduce hunger and improve food access
- Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals
- Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers
To get involved this year in Food Day, you can:
- Host an event
- Attend an event – search for an event here
- Check out the Essential Food Day Toolkit: 35 Ways to Change the Food System
This year as an added bonus, Food Day is partnering with EatingWell.com to host filmmaker Susan Rockefeller’s new film “Food for Though, Food for Life” that, “inspires us to think differently about what we eat, and to make changes that will positively impact our health, our communities and the environment”. The film will be available this month on the EatingWell.com website, available here.
With summer just around the corner, chances are you are firing up your grill and gearing up for backyard barbeques. If you want to make a splash this summer dining season, fix your focus on fruit.
Summer means peak season for lots of fruits (and veggies too!). For your next get together, why not gather up what’s fresh and in season? Check your local markets for apricots, blueberries, blackberries, bell peppers, melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew), corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, nectarines, strawberries, summer squash, raspberries, peaches, plums, radishes, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Eating a variety of these foods will not only provide you with great sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, it will also add some festive colors to your plate.
Here are some ideas on how to incorporate seasonal produce into both sweet and savory dishes:
- Corn and summer veggie sauté
- Cucumber salad
- Fruit kebabs with melon
- Summer squash pizza
- Stone fruit salad
- Summer veggie omelet
- Fruit smoothie with berries
- Pasta with tomato and eggplant
- Frozen melon pops
- Tomato and corn salsa
- Peach ice cream
- Chicken with blueberry sauce
- Zucchini muffins
- Water infused with strawberry and mint
For more creative fruit and vegetable ideas check out Fruits & Veggies More Matters.
Special thanks to dietetic intern Megan Fobar, MS for her contributions to this post.
March is National Nutrition Month (NNM) and this year the theme is Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.
The goal of NNM is to incorporate food choices and physical activity that promote consumption of fewer calories, make informed food choices about food, and exercise daily to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Some tips to put into practice this NNM include:
- Fill half of your plate with variety of colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal
- When you eat grains, make half of them whole, including quinoa, oats, and whole wheat
- Choose lean protein meats and poultry (or other protein sources like beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds)
- If you consume dairy, try lowfat or nonfat versions of your favorites
- Limit foods that contain added sugars, fats, and salt
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day (adults and children should exercise for 60 minutes each day)
A Registered Dietitian can help provide simple, fun, and nutritious information.
Registered Dietitians (RD or RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) are food and nutrition experts who practice evidence-based nutrition information making them a reliable source for your health. They work in a wide variety of settings revolving around food including but not limited to hospitals, corporations, foodservice, education, food and nutrition promotion, and research.
To become an RD/RDN a person must:
- Minimum of a bachelor’s degree from a US regionally accredited university whose coursework is approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Complete 1200 hours of an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program in a health-care facility, community agency, and foodservice corporation.
- Pass the RD/RDN national exam
- Continue to complete professional education requirements.
You can find a Registered Dietitian in your area to help you with your food and nutrition goals by clicking here.
To learn more about becoming a Registered Dietitian visit: http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/career/become-an-rdn-or-dtr and have a happy and healthy National Nutrition Month!
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is here. This year’s theme is, “I Had No IDEA”.
Among the things you may have had “NO IDEA” are that:
- Bullying can trigger an eating disorder
- My quest for health was making me sick
- My passion had become a problem
- Eating disorders don’t discriminate
- Eating disorders are often overlooked or misdiagnosed
- Eating disorders aren’t just “a phase”
- The perfect images I see every day are digital illusions
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders will impact 30 million people at some point in their life regardless of their sex, age, size, or ethnic background in the US alone. Even worse, is that many of these people will suffer silently.
With appearance standards being defined in the media, athletes emphasizing a certain physique, and bullying on the rise it is easy to understand that body image concerns and even diets can begin as early as age 9.
Confusion is rampant from the plethora of information available. Deeming some foods as “good” and others as “bad” is bewildering and leads to mixed message in regards to health. The diet industry who may unintentionally promote eating disorders have seen profits upwards of $60 billion due to the disarray.
Recognizing early signs of eating disorders can help stop progression of these devastating conditions. Warning signs and symptoms could be understated and include:
- Excessive exercise
- Feeling self-conscious when eating in public
- Dramatic weight loss
- Over emphasis on weight related appearance
If you are concerned that someone you care about is suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to remain calm and keep the conversation open. You can check out suggested information on how to help a friend with eating disorders on this page, or these tips may help:
- Have the conversation in a comfortable and safe place
- Use “I” statements, including “I care about you” or “I’m worried about you.”
- Remain unbiased, condescending, and judgmental
Recovery from an eating disorder is definitely possible. With early intervention the risks of a full-scale disorder developing are greatly minimized. With the right support from loved ones and a qualified eating disorder specialist team, many individuals can recover and end the silent pain.
For more information visit:
Special thanks to dietetic student Briana Rodriquez for her contributions to this post.
Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth this Valentine’s day but don’t want to blow your calorie budget? Check out these easy treats that are both delicious and (relatively) nutritious:
Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds:
- Grab a handful of dark chocolate almonds and leave the butter creams in their box!
- Almonds contain vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium; they are also a significant source of protein and fiber
- Look for dark chocolate covered almonds, which contain phytochemicals that may aid in the prevention of heart disease and may decrease the effects of sugar on your teeth
- Enjoy these guys in moderation though as calories do add up!
Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries:
- Get yourself a bowl of fresh strawberries and melt up some dark chocolate for dipping!
- Strawberries contain vitamin C, which boosts immunity and helps your body use iron
- Strawberries also contain phytonutrients, including quercetin, ellagic acid, anthocyanins and kaempferol that have been shown to have potential health benefits against cancer, aging, inflammation and neurological diseases
- All of this for only 36 calories in 10 strawberries…before you add the chocolate!
- Raise a glass to your health! Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart
- Resveratrol in red wine also might be a key ingredient that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and prevents blood clots
- If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation; drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity and certain types of cancer
- No more than one drink a day for women and two for men are the current recommendations for “moderate” alcohol intake
Berries and Whipped Cream:
- Indulge your sweet tooth with fresh raspberries, blueberries and/or blackberries topped with a dollop of whip cream for a delicious guilt free dessert
- Berries are packed with antioxidants, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C. Anthocyanins give berries their vibrant color, reduce inflammation, and may help prevent and manage arthritis. Anthocyanins work together with quercetin to help slow age-related memory-loss. Quercetin may also decrease the inflammatory effects of chemicals in the synovial fluid of the joints for people with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
- The fat in the cream can help absorb the valuable fat soluble vitamins found in many types of fruits and vegetables
- Sprinkle cinnamon over homemade popcorn for a sweet treat that won’t pack on the calories!
- Cinnamon is a natural sweetener that is a great alternative for those with diabetes; it may help improve glucose and lipids levels in patients with type 2 diabetes
- The spice has also been shown to slow stomach emptying, which curbs the sharp rise in blood sugar following meals, and improves the effectiveness, or sensitivity of insulin
For more ways to love your health, check out the CDC’s page on Valentine’s Day.
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Jenny Legrand for her contributions to this post.