Friday, September 30, 2011

What Does Active Aging Mean to You?

This week is Active Aging Week, an annual event initiated by the International Council on Active Aging.  It is a great time to try new activities that will help you stay energetic and healthy as you age.    

By the way, aging isn’t just for older people.  Aging is something we’re all doing every minute, whether we’re 5 or 85 years old.  Have you thought about physical activities that you’d enjoy but haven’t yet started?  Why not have some fun and do something today?  It can be as easy as grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk or taking those dance lessons you’ve been considering.

This year’s theme for Active Aging Week is Expand Your Experience.  It encourages you to try something new.  “Active Aging Week is a great time to connect with other people and activities,” advises Colin Milner, CEO of International Council on Active Aging. “The week’s focus is on what older adults CAN do, not on what they cannot or ‘should not’ do. By expanding their experiences, participants find the activities that have meaning for them, and maintain their health so they can pursue their avocations.”

What new physical activities will you begin this fall to reduce your stress, keep you vital, and help you stay healthy?  For more ideas check out the Be Active Your Way Tip Sheet.

Yours in joy and health!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fast Food is Cheaper?

Krakow, 2011

I just can’t help but highlight Mark Bittman’s insightful New York Times article published this Sunday, “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”  The short answer is no.  Generally speaking he said, processed foods are more expensive than food cooked at home.  He showed that a meal for 4 persons at McDonald's is more expensive than 2 other meals prepared at home. Two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, 6 pieces of chicken McNuggets, 2 medium and 2 small fries, and 2 medium and 2 small sodas cost $28. Contrast the fast food meal with a home cooked roast chicken and vegetable dinner with salad and milk that cost about $14 or a home made meal of canned rice and beans flavored with bacon, green peppers, and onions along with milk at about $9.

True enough, one has to make wise choices when buying foods on a budget to cook at home.  But the food is not only cheaper as Mark Bittman observed, but it usually tastes better and can be prepared quickly. 

And as Mr. Bittman so aptly pointed out, the argument that persons on a budget need a cheap source of calories is wrong when more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. These Americans need fewer rather than more calories!  Overeating also is costly in medical terms. The more than 40 diseases and conditions that are obesity-related cost an estimated $147 billion per year.  Now that’s expensive!

Check out the New York Times article for a thorough debunking of the myth that fast food is cheaper than real food.

What are your favorite low cost meals that you prepare at home?

Yours in Joy and Health!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup, a Harvest Recipe for Weight Management

As fall begins and the weather cools, vegetable soup is warming and a terrific filling food that you can eat to help support your weight management goals. 

In the next few weeks, I’ll feature some of my favorite soup recipes starting with Butternut Squash soup.  I often make this recipe for dinner guests who often say how much they love the taste.

Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

The original recipe is a bit spicy and calls for chilies.  These can be omitted for a milder soup.

2 T       Olive oil
2          Medium onions, chopped
2          Carrots, chopped
2          Cloves garlic, chopped
2          Fresh hot jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 cup    Tomato puree
2 ½ lb  Butternut squash, peeled and cubed*
5 cups  Low-sodium chicken broth (remove fat)
Pepper to taste
Lime wedges

In a large non-aluminum saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Stir in onions, carrots, and garlic.  Cook for 3 minutes and then cover the pan.  Lower heat and cook for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.  Stir in the tomato puree, chilies, squash, and chicken broth.  Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Mash squash with a potato masher or back of a spoon.  The soup does not need to be completely smooth.  Serve with lime wedges to be squeezed into each bowl of soup.  Serve with cornbread.

This recipe was adapted from the Healthy Hispanic Recipe booklet, published by the National Cancer Institute.  Original recipe entitled Winter Squash Soup is from Paraguay.

What is your favorite fall soup?

Yours in joy and health!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Losing Weight to Reduce Your Risk for Diabetes

What a shocker to read that 79 million Americans aged 20 and older are likely to get diabetes (because they have pre-diabetes).  These are whopping numbers!  It's a sobering fact that 35 percent of adults 20 years old and older and 50 percent of persons 65 years or older are at risk. 

On Thursday I attended The Ultimate One-Day Diabetes Course seminar in Columbia, Maryland on trends in diabetes prevention and treatment.  I was even more thunderstruck when I heard that 1 in 4 Americans have diabetes when persons at risk are included. 

Why find out what your chances are of developing diabetes?  You'll lower your likelihood of having heart disease, stroke, and the other complications of diabetes by taking steps to prevent the disease.

How can you find out if you are at risk?  Take the Diabetes Risk Test.

Lose just a small amount of weight and lower your chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes (or delay its onset) if you're at risk.  All that is needed is to lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight. 

Here’s how:

  • Get 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 days a week; and
  • Reduce the number of calories you eat a day to lose weight.  How? Eat a variety of foods low in fat and calories.
Please find out whether you are at risk of having Type 2 diabetes and share this information with a loved one.  Learn more about how to reduce your risk at the National Diabetes Program Web site.

What are you doing to find whether you're likely to develop diabetes?

Yours in joy and health!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Go Green AND Lose Weight

Fruit and Vegetable Market, 2011 

Making choices that are environmentally friendly can help you lose weight—if you keep in mind that portion sizes and total calories still count. 

I’ve been doing quite a bit of research lately on the food supply and global warming. I was astounded to learn that the food system may be responsible for almost 30 percent of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions generated by the consumer economy in industrialized countries. 

Did you know that the contribution of the food system to global warming is so large that making more environmentally friendly food substitutions can make as much difference in one’s carbon footprint as driving a super efficient hybrid car? 

Here are my top 7 tips for persons who are interested both in losing weight and in protecting the planet. 

  1. Double the amount of low-calorie fruits and vegetables you eat (unless you already eat way more than most Americans).

  1. Eat red meat from cattle, sheep, and goats less often.  Substitute fish, seafood, poultry and eggs, or choose meatless protein foods like legumes. Eat smaller amounts:  3 – 4 ounces cooked.
  1. Eat more whole grains.

  1. Eat what you buy to avoid waste. 

  1. Store foods in an energy efficient refrigerator.

  1. Eat fewer foods that are heavily processed and packaged.

  1. Buy and eat less food. Burn off more calories doing physical activity with a purpose.  How’s that? Walk to the grocery store for a few items.

Some diets are more environmentally friendly than others.  What are your thoughts about choosing a weight loss diet that is environmentally friendly?  Would you do it?  Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Big Potato Fight

Yes, the Center for Science in the Public Interest makes a good point that French fries shouldn’t be served everyday for school lunch and that other vegetables deserve a chance.  So true! Yes, it’s also undoubtedly a fact that many of us eat too many fries and potato chips. 

But really, the potato itself isn’t to blame.  White potatoes are getting a bad rap.  The real white potato as nature made it offers a number of key nutrients.  The problem begins when a potato is loaded with salt and fat (especially saturated fat).  Food manufacturing turns a respectable real food into an industrialized product designed to hyper-stimulate our taste buds, as David Kessler discussed in his book, The End of Overeating.

In June a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that eating potatoes is responsible for weight gain. Chemist Joe Vinson, made an interesting observation on the NPR blog, Can Potatoes Give Your Heart a Boost:  A Chemist Thinks So. Vinson claimed that this study unfairly combined fried versions and other potatoes.  

There are plenty of other places to look for the excess calories Americans consume.  For Americans (Ages 2+), the 10 top sources of calories don’t include potatoes at all.  Instead these foods top the list:

  1. Desserts (grain based)
  2. Yeast breads
  3. Chicken and chicken mixed dishes
  4. Soda/energy/sports drinks
  5. Pizza
  6. Alcoholic beverages
  7. Pasta and pasta dishes
  8. Tortillas, burritos, tacos
  9. Beef and beef mixed dishes
  10. Dairy desserts     
Yes, I may be biased because I was raised in Idaho, the Famous Potatoes state.  Or maybe it’s that I like the taste of unadorned potatoes.  At home, we just microwave new potatoes and eat them plain or splashed with a bit of vinegar. 

Still, as a nutritionist, I believe we’re looking in the wrong place by bashing specific foods in their natural state instead of industrialized versions of foods in general.  We eat too many food products that are high in sugar, salt, and fat and compound the problem with hours of passive screen time each day.

What’s your take on the role potatoes play in weight gain?

Yours in joy and health!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Can Physical Activity Make A Difference?

The scale finally budged.  I’ve lost three pounds.  Weighing and measuring almost everything I eat has been a wake up call.  And I’ve bumped up the amount of vigorous physical activity I’m doing.  I’ve added 15 minutes on most days. 

Did you hear the news, that a bout of 45 minutes of vigorous physical activity can boost the amount of energy you burn for up to 14 hours according to a study published by the American College of Sports Medicine?  

Seems like doing 45 minutes of vigorous physical activity a day is doing this body good. Now the challenge is to keep up the momentum!

Tip:  Check out ways your can increase your physical activity using the Be Active Your Way Tips widget.

Please share your insights in the comment box on ways you’ve added physical activity to your life and the results.

Yours in joy and health!