Author Archive for: ‘smeyer’

Obesity Myths & Facts Explained

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Many of us are guilty of making assumptions about people’s lifestyle behaviors based on their weight.  No matter the assumption, the truth of the matter is the development of obesity is very complex, hence the countless studies looking for a cause and cure.  Despite extensive research into the etiology of this disease there are still many myths that exist. I found this article to be very informative, sorting out the fact from fiction when it comes to obesity.

 

6 Obesity Myths & Facts Explained

Claim #1: Assessing stage of change, or “readiness to diet,” is important in helping patients who pursue weight loss treatment to lose weight.
This is the fancy way of saying that a person will only lose weight if he wants to lose it. While the researchers offer evidence refuting this as a major issue, Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D.N, says it does play into the mind of registered dietitians when they issue diet plans, despite researchers branding this one as a myth. “There is often an assumption among clients that simply showing up for a consultation will magically make them lose weight,” she says. “I wish it were that simple!” Since dieting isn’t a miracle pill, it’s totally based on a person’s willingness to stick to the plan and exercise—and if a person doesn’t have the time or energy to follow a new regimen, logically, it may fail. Still, since it is hard to study something this subjective, don’t discount this as a total myth. If you want to lose weight, you have to commit to a lifestyle change. “It is a major part of the behavior-change process,” London says. Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #2: Regularly eating vs. skipping breakfast is protective against obesity.
If you’re eating a Big Breakfast from McDonald’s instead of a healthy bowl of oatmeal every morning, you’ll probably see the scale creep up—which is why researchers call this presumption into question, and suggest more research. It matters what you eat just as much as when you eat—but you should eat. “We do already have substantial research to support the claim that breakfast intake is linked with lower BMI,” says London. “Many people think that skipping breakfast is an easy way to cut calories, but the habit typically leads to an increased energy intake throughout the day, making people susceptible to overdoing it at other meals.” So here’s the takeaway: eat healthy, but still eat. Greek yogurt and fruit, almond butter on an English muffin, or whole-grain cereal—there are tons of quick, healthy options. Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #3: Eating close to bedtime contributes to weight gain.
Don’t eat after 8 p.m.! At least that’s what common weight-loss wisdom proclaims, but London says it is mostly myth—although studies support both sides of the clam. People tend to believe this old adage, for a couple reasons. “First, much current research links people with fewer hours of sleep per night to a higher risk of overweight obesity, and eating too close to bedtime can frequently be associated with disrupted sleep,” she says. “Second, eating close to bedtime could lead to waking up ‘too full’ to eat breakfast, leading to meal skipping and then binging later on—another inhibitor of weight loss.” Overall intake of calories is more important than timing, though, says London, as the researchers suggest. As long as you’re not skipping meals, focus on hitting your goals, no matter the time. Verdict: Mostly Myth

Claim #4: Eating more fruits and vegetables will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of whether one intentionally makes any other changes to one’s behavior or environment.
Sadly, simply amping up fruit and veggie intake will not necessarily cause your waist to shrink—but eating more can help. Here’s why: “Fruits and veggies aren’t magic weight loss pills, but they do have the power to impact our intake overall due to their high water-volume and high-fiber content,” says London. “increasing intake of fruits and vegetables can displace other calories from less nutrient-dense sources, like processed foods, and is typically the ‘first line of defense’ when it comes to weight loss.” Which is why dieticians push for it. Eating too much of anything can lead to weight gain, but filling up on fruits and veggies should make you less hungry for the cake and cookies. Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #5: Snacking contributes to weight gain and obesity.
“This is another one that is both true and untrue,” says London, insisting that you have to snack right. “Skipping meals can lead to binging at your next meal, so very often, it’s beneficial to recommend choosing healthy, fiber and protein-rich, 150- to 200-calorie snacks to decrease total energy intake for the day.” However, snacking can backfire if you’re downing processed foods or not keeping tabs on exactly what you’re consuming—or how much. “It’s really the mindless snacking and grazing—a handful here, a handful there. That’s where we see problems with clients who can’t seem to lose weight,” London says. “Those extra calories all add up.” Verdict: Mostly Fact

Claim #6: Drinking more water will reduce energy intake and will lead to weight loss or less weight gain, regardless of other changes.
Water is often hyped as a major component in feeling full and flushing bloat, which will help you lose weight. Here’s why this one isn’t entirely true, though, as the researchers suggest: “Yes, it’s true that a lot of people are not as in touch with their ‘thirst’ mechanism or satiety cues as we’d like—it’s not easy and it is definitely the case that we often see people who mistake hunger for thirst,” says London. “That said, I think it’s difficult to say that this is totally true for everyone, not to mention the fact that fluid and hydration needs are different for everyone, based on age, sex, weight, height and physical-activity level.” Drink up and hydrate consistently with (on average) eight glasses a day, but don’t expect water to be a weight-loss miracle drink. Verdict: Mostly Myth

 

Source: 6 Obesity Myths & Facts Explained

Chocolate & Zucchini

Chocolate-&-Zucchini

I have blogged in the past about my garden success and failures, but zucchini is a standby that proliferates in any garden (ours included).  A few years ago, I stumbled across the aptly named blog chocolateandzucchini. And since I have been making this cake from her blog & it never fails to impress.  I have modified the cake slightly, but if you are interested, here is the link to the original recipe and a video in which you can watch the author prepare the recipe in French, no less. Bon Appétit!

 

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

 

1/2-cup canola oil

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1-cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tbsp cooled coffee

2 large eggs

1 egg white

2 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini

1-cup good-quality bittersweet chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar or melted bittersweet chocolate (optional)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 10-inch pan with butter or oil (I used a 9-inch pan)

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a food processor, process the sugar and butter until creamy (you can also do this by hand, armed with a sturdy spatula). Add the vanilla, coffee granules, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

3. Reserve a cup of the flour mixture and add the rest to the egg mixture. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick.

4. Add the zucchini and chocolate chips to the reserved flour mixture and toss to coat. Fold into the batter and blend with a wooden spoon—don’t over mix. Pour into the prepared cake pan and level the surface with a spatula.

5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen the cake, and unclasp the sides of the pan. Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, glaze with melted chocolate, or leave plain.  This cake is also good with plain Greek yogurt.

Are you a Gadget Junkie?

Paderno

It was the middle of winter when summer squash was only a dream, but when the ad from William Sonoma popped up in my Inbox I knew I was about to make a purchase.  Although I am not a huge kitchen gadget junkie, there are certain items that I cannot live without (my Kitchen Aid Mixer & Vitamix to name a few).  Although I knew I certainly couldn’t classify the Paderno spiralizer as a necessity, this blog sealed the deal for me and the spiralizer has become my newest kitchen gadget.  I think this is the best way to avoid burn out with one of my favorite summer vegetables, after all variety is key.

The School Lunch Debate

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When my son Oliver started public school this year, I told myself I was going to keep an open mind about the lunchroom offerings.  Sadly, my preconceived notions about the food were right on target.  Admittedly there is some healthy food to be had; it is just not prepared in an appealing manner.  Furthermore, my son is only eager to buy on the most unhealthful days of the week, hot dogs, prepackaged peanut butter and jelly (really) & of course chicken fingers.

Granted, I don’t want to appear to be the food police, but I consider these foods to be “fun” and not ones I am happy to see on the regular lunch rotation.  Though I believe in food choice, my almost 7 year old would happily eat M & M’s for dinner, washed down with a cup of Gatorade.  So how can my son make proper food choices at school if there are so many more appealing, yet very unhealthy options?  Is it possible for schools to offer more healthy appealing choices and stay within their budget? I recently read a very insightful column by Mark Bittman discussing these issues.  Click the link to read.

Save Our Children

The Doctor’s Always Right, Right?!

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Recently I had the privilege of hearing a very well respected physician speak on the topic of health and nutrition.  However, when this physician started quoting Dr. Oz, my inner skeptic went on overdrive.  All credibility was lost on me when this speaker began quoting NYT reporter (and major propagandist) Gary Taubes.

Sensationalism. That is the word I think of when I hear Gary Taubes (not a physician by the way), Dr Oz and other “experts” speak about nutrition and weight loss.  The quick fixes, the pills, the supplements, no sugar, no gluten, no grains, no wheat, hey how about no food!

Not to say that these physicians and reporters don’t give us something to think about; science is ever changing and these “experts” certainly give us food for thought.  However, no matter the credentials a practitioner has we need to be skeptics of the quick fixes and promises that simply do not work.

For a very enlightened view on this topic, check out Drop it and Eat by credible health & nutrition expert Walter Willett.

Internet Nutrition Information is Often Misleading—or Worse

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Recently I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.  One theme that kept popping up was the endless amount of nutrition misinformation on the Internet.  Do a Google search on the latest nutrition hot topic and you will find an extraordinary amount of “expert” information which in reality is simply a layperson giving their opinion.  Next time you conduct a health related search remind yourself that anyone can create a blog or website with a catchy name.  Follow these helpful tips by true nutrition experts from Appetite for Health to find the most reliable and evidence (i.e. science based) health & nutrition information.

 

Five ways to Get Better Internet-Based Nutrition Information

 

Look for peer-reviewed references:  Almost every nutrition article we write on our blog, we provide the references and links to the abstracts or full research articles, when available. Of course, there’s a big difference in the quality of research with human clinical trials being the gold standard while animal studies or laboratory analyses don’t carry the same clout.

Check the writer’s bio:  A quick search about the writer can turn up all kinds of useful information. You can see if she/he holds a research or clinical position at a hospital or university; or you can see if they have degrees that make them qualified to be able to provide the most accurate information. You can also see the relationships the writer may have with corporations that may influence his or her point of views on various nutrition issues. For example, a writer who consults with Monsanto or DuPont may have a strong pro-GMO stance.

Use .gov sites:  We have a lot of wonderful government resources on the Internet that have accurate information, so use them.  As a dietitian, I turn to Health and Human Services, FDA, USDA and many other government-based sites when I’m researching topics.

One study or source isn’t enough:  Credible, peer-reviewed science needs to be replicated several times–and from various research labs–before you change eating habits based on the results.  Often times, Internet stories fail to note that the study was preliminary or the results have only been found from one laboratory.  Unless there is consistency in results with several studies, it’s probably not worth making changes based on the results.

Be a healthy skeptic:  Probably the best piece of nutrition advice I can give to anyone is to be a critical thinker and if something sounds too good to be true, know that it’s 99% likely to be a sham. The Internet today is full of modern-day charlatans that may have degrees or even TV shows, but they too can have hidden agendas, and may have a financial incentive to mislead consumers.

Does Willpower Equal Weight Loss?

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Given the topic of my previous blog I thought it was fitting that I stumbled upon this article. Many of us (falsely) believe if only we had better willpower we would surely eat less, and then surely we will be “bikini body” ready or weigh the same we did in high school (20 years later).
Statements that really stuck with me from this article:

 “Many people go through life believing that they can’t stick to a diet because they have no willpower. They believe that some innate force is keeping them from resisting food temptations,” The truth is that the ability to stick to a weight loss diet has little to do with will — and everything to do with changing the way we think about food.


Believing that willpower is at work only serves to make you feel less in control of your eating habits, experts say.


 One of the best ways to avoid eating too much of the foods you don’t want, is, ironically enough, to allow yourself to eat them. “The more you deny yourself what you want, the weaker you will feel when you’re around it, and the harder it will be to resist.”

 

This last statement is one I firmly believe. Before you go another day (or minute for that matter) berating yourself about your lack of willpower to avoid eating that brownie, I encourage you to read this article and re-frame your thoughts about willpower.

 

Ways to Love Your Body

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Though you wouldn’t know it by the weather, summer will be upon us in the next few months.  The change of season is evident by the bombardment of articles promising to get you a “bikini body” in just a few months. Though my deliveries from the mailman have dropped significantly in the electronic age, I still manage to get obscure catalogs featuring scantily clad women on the beach.

Normally I don’t think much about these marketing ploys, but since I have had the opportunity to work one on one with college students, my eyes have been opened to the world of body dissatisfaction. I have seen young females in all shapes & sizes; the one thing they have in common is they are not happy with the way they look.  Focus on the flaws seems to be the mantra.

Although it is easier said than done, I want to spread the word that we should focus on the strengths of our body.  Rather than worrying whether the food we eat will add pounds, shouldn’t we be concerned that the food we eat is healthy and benefits our bodies in the long-term?

 

In honor of the upcoming “bikini season” I am including some adapted tips on Ways to Love your Body.

1.    Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Rest when you are tired.

2.    Change the messages you are giving yourself. Identify the negative ways that you speak to yourself and make a decision to replace that self-talk with more realistic, loving, and positive statements.

3.    The number on the scale does not determine your worth. You are much more than a number on a scale. Instead focus on the most important things about yourself like your unique talents, qualities, skills, and characteristics.

4.    Think of your body as an instrument instead of as an ornament. Be thankful every day for all of the wonderful things you can do in your body such as dance, play, run, and enjoy good food.

5.    Exercise to feel good and be healthy, not to lose weight or punish your body. Find fun ways to add more physical activity in your life.

6.    Walk with your head held high. If you act like someone with a healthy body image and good self-confidence, the “act” will eventually become reality.

7.    Wear comfortable clothes that fit. Clothes that are too large or too small tend to create physical discomfort and may make you feel even worse about your body. Clothes that fit you well are designed to complement your figure.

8.    Question ads that perpetuate unrealistic standards for our bodies. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with me,” say, “What’s wrong with this ad?” Set your own standards instead of letting the media set them for you.

9.    Surround yourself with people who are supportive of you and your body, not critical.

10.  Every day tell yourself, “I am worthy.”

Adapted from: Judy Lightstone, RD. “Improving Body Image”

Diet vs Exercise…what is better for weight loss?

Weekly Wisdom
  • If you really want to see the scale number drop, what you put in your mouth matters most
  • Active lifestyles may not protect against obesity if people continue to consume a “Western” Diet (i.e. high in sugars, salts & processed foods)
  • Exercisers, however, are more successful keeping the extra weight off than non-exercising couterparts

Source: Michael Pollan Food Rules

Food Label Makeover

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By now you have probably heard that the FDA has recently revamped the food label. A long overdue makeover (far from perfect) but it is a start. Ideally, we wouldn’t need food labels if all our food came directly from our garden & local farmer, but alas, in today’s world this is not always possible. So, what to make of the new food labels?

 

First, marketers are geniuses at creating misleading health claims that lure consumers into buying products that they perceive as healthy, so buyer beware.  The best remedy for this deception, look at the Nutrition Facts label.

 

When reviewing the label, here are a few things to consider: (source What to Look for on Food Labels)

Calories: Consider how the food fits in your daily calorie budget and compare with similar products. Pay attention to serving size.

Fats: While the focus is no longer on the amount of fat, check out the type of fat. The goal for saturated fat is less than 7 percent of your calories, generally around 15-20 grams. How much does this food contribute to your saturated fat intake? Does it contain trans fat? Best advice is to avoid buying if it contains trans fat (otherwise know as partially hydrogenated oils).

Sodium: The goal for sodium is to keep under 2,000 milligrams per day and that’s probably the biggest eye opener when looking at labels. If you choose a food that contains a fair amount of sodium, make sure the rest of your daily intake is lower. Often you will find a big variation in sodium content among brands.

Fiber: Fiber is beneficial for heart health and digestive function, so choose foods with higher fiber content. This generally comes from whole grains, legumes and beans, and fresh fruit and vegetables, so favor these to meet the goal of greater than 20 (ideally 25-35) grams of fiber per day.


Things to be aware of on food labels:

Gluten-free: It’s the current buzzword and it is essential that you avoid gluten if you have celiac disease, but don’t assume gluten free means healthier as some options are highly processed.

Natural: This tends to be popular for marketing purposes, but has no formal definition. Natural chips or beer don’t necessarily have any added nutritional benefit.

A green label: Yes, it is a selling point as people assume foods are healthier when the label is green as opposed to other colors. (not true)

Low fat: By definition, the product must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving, but keep in mind that it can still be high in sugar, sodium or calories.

Whole grain versus multigrain: Choose 100 percent whole grain to be assured it truly is whole grain. The “multi” label means that the product contains more than one grain, however, all of them can be refined.

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