Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pack Healthy School Lunches With Super Foods

School has started or will soon be starting across the land.  How can you pack lunches that are not only healthy but contain some super foods?   Kaiser Permanente recently published, 8 Superfoods to Pack in Your Child's Lunch.  Why are these Super Foods?  For one, these foods are loaded with nutrients.  Thus, even a small serving packs a big nutrition boost.   Second, since they are packed with nutrients these foods fuel your child’s body and their brains.  So what are the 8 Super Foods?          
      1.  Berries – all berries are super healthy foods.  They are full of vitamins like vitamin C which can help fight off infections and they have a lot of antioxidants. 
  • Serve berries at breakfast by adding them to oatmeal, dry cereal, a smoothie.
  • Pack in a lunch box with some yogurt or in a container for your child to add to yogurt, a salad or to eat a handful with their lunch.   
      2. Eggs a great source of protein, the egg yolk provides iron and eggs provide lecithin which helps your child’s memory and helps them concentrate in class. 
  • Serve some scrambled eggs mixed with cheese for a protein and calcium boost at breakfast.
  • Pack a hard boiled egg in their lunch.    
3.       Whole grains – so many kids are not only lacking in whole grains, many are getting no whole grains at all.  Packing whole grains in a child’s lunch is a sure way to boost their nutrition.  Whole grains are rich source of B vitamins, many trace minerals and fiber.  Whole grains are a way to give your child lasting energy throughout the afternoon. 
  • Breakfast – serve some whole grain cereal like oatmeal, whole grain waffles, whole grain toast, whole grain English muffin.
  • Lunch – make a sandwich with whole grain bread, whole grain bagel, whole grain pita bread.  Include some whole grain crackers like Triscuits.  If your child likes chips, pack some whole grain chips like Sun Chips.                                  
  4.  Beans – although they are packed with nutrition, they may not be a favorite for your kids.  But many kids who won’t eat beans, will eat hummus.  Beans are loaded with protein, B vitamins, fiber and iron.  Iron is important for children’s brains and to help fight off infections.
  • Send some hummus with cut up vegetables   
5.       Avocados – people may not think of avocados as a super food but they are a great source of vitamins and the mineral, potassium.  They also have healthy fats which are good for hearts.
  • Include as a dip, add a slice to salads or sandwiches.  
6.       Nuts – the health fats in nuts promote brain development.  Check with your school to see what their policy is on nuts as some schools and lunch rooms are nut-free. 
  • Nuts – pack in a snack bag, pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or an almond butter sandwich.  
7.       Nonfat yogurt – yogurt provides protein, probiotics, and calcium for strong bones.  It doesn’t have to be Greek yogurt.  Find a flavor your child likes.
  • Pack a container of yogurt, use yogurt to make a smoothie, pack it for snack time.  
8.       Vegetables – Children should have at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and many are falling short.  Including vegetables in lunch is a great way to help your child get “5 A Day”.  Dark green and dark orange vegetables are loaded with Vitamin A (carotene) which is great for eyesight.  Vegetables are low in calories and provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Veggies are a great way to add color to your child’s lunch. 
  •  Carrot sticks, celery sticks, even green pepper, red pepper slices.  Add to salads, serve with low fat Ranch dressing.
 When packing your kid’s lunch this school year, add some Super Foods to their lunch bag.

School Lunch Box

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What do Olympic Athletes Eat?

Everyone is watching the Olympics.  What do Olympic athletes eat to stay in shape and have the energy to compete?  WebMD had a recent article, Eat Like an Olympian:  5 Nutrition Essentials.   How can you “eat like an Olympian”?
  1. Hydration – Olympic athletes stay hydrated.  A dehydrated body does not perform well.  One of the ways any athlete can improve performance is to stay hydrated.  A rule that WebMD recommends is to fill up with fluids equal to half your weight.  Thus, if you weigh 160 pounds, you want to take in 80 ounces of fluid.  Since there are 8 ounces in a cup, 80 ounces would be 10 cups of liquids a day.  But all liquids count – a glass of milk, a glass of ice tea and of course, water.
  2. Seafood – many health experts recommend eating seafood at least twice a week.  How does seafood help athletic performance?  Seafood has the omega-3 healthy fats including  EPA and DHA.     Omega-3 fats are important to athletes because they fight inflammation, aid in recovery from exercise.  Omega-3 fatty acids are also good for your health helping to protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  3. Carbs, Carbs, Carbs – it is a myth to avoid carbs.  To have energy, you want carbs in your diet.  A low carb diet is a low energy diet.  Olympic athletes are not avoiding their carbs.  To ensure you have energy throughout the day, you want to be eating 50-60% of your calories as carbs.  This is a surprise to most people, who are always “watching their carbs”.  But the type of carbs is important.  To ensure peak performance, athletes fuel up on good carbs and time eating their carbs for lasting energy.  What are “good” carbs?  Fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes.  You want carbs at every meal for peak performance and lasting energy throughout the day.
  4.  Protein – athletes know protein is important and protein isn’t usually lacking in an athlete’s diet.  But even athletes can be confused as to what foods provide high quality protein.  Protein is important especially to athletes as protein helps build up muscle after exercise.  To add high quality protein to your diet, focus on fish, seafood, eggs, milk, yogurt, poultry and beef.  Many people like Greek yogurt which is higher in protein than regular yogurt.  But women may want regular yogurt which provides them more calcium as women’s diets are often low in calcium.  After exercising you want to refuel with both protein and carbs and do so within 30-60 minutes of working out.  WebMD recommends Greek yogurt smoothie, half a turkey sandwich (whole wheat bread), or half a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread.
  5. Progress with exercise – many people start an exercise program and feel bad when they can’t keep up.  So many people come to the spinning (bicycle class) I am in each week, only to never return.  Why?  Probably many reasons but some are they try too hard.  Instead of doing 20-30 minutes of spinning, they stay for the hour and wear themselves out, never to return.  Start slow and know it takes time to build up endurance. 
  6.  Progress, not perfection – even Olympic athletes don’t eat healthy all day, every day.  Yes, it is important to eat healthy foods but there is room for indulgences.   If you go to MyPlate, you can find what your recommended intake of the five food groups is.  But you will also get the number of discretionary calories you can eat every day.  Discretionary means – you choose.  And you can choose desserts, cookies, candy, ice cream.  It is OK to treat yourself.  As WebMD notes, Even top athletes allow for occasional indulgences like sweets and fried foods. Most of your diet should be from the 5 food groups focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy.  But you can also enjoy some sweets and salty snacks. 

So while watching the Olympics, you can also try to “Eat Like an Olympian” this week.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

What are the Habits of Slim People?

We all know people who have been slim for life.  Those who never seem to pile on the pounds, never seem to gain the extra weight as they age.  So is it just genetics or do slim people have habits that we can learn from?  Many of you have read the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  So what are the highly effective habits of slim people?  To find out researchers at Cornell University have asked those who have been slim all their lives to volunteer to register at:  Cornell is compiling a registry of slim people to find out what are their habits that help keep them slim?  You can go to this registry to read more about what they have found out to date.  And if you are one of those people who have been slim for life, then you may be interested in volunteering to join this registry and participate in this research study. 
What do they ask these slim people?  They ask them about food preferences, dining habits, hobbies to see what are their tricks and secrets to staying slim. 
What are 4 healthy habits slim people have?
Habit 1:  Eat Breakfast
I always tell my students that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Now I can add that “eating breakfast keeps the pounds away”.  Apparently so, according to the habits of slim people.  The registry found that a whopping 96% of the registrants of slim people ate breakfast every day.  Not just any old foods but a healthy breakfast.  To get some good ideas on eating a healthy breakfast, visit some of my previous posts such as Eat Breakfast for Better Health from 5-22-16.    In general, avoid the refined carbs like doughnuts and choose whole grain cereals, whole grain rolls and add in some protein like milk, yogurt, or eggs.  Or, have a smoothie made with yogurt and fresh fruit.
Habit 2:  Eat More Whole Foods and less Processed Foods
So many people are eating fast food and highly processed foods all day, every day.  The closer the food is to the farm, orchard, the better.   Eating at home is healthier than eating at fast food restaurants.  Make your lunch and take it to work at least a few days a week for a healthier habit.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.   I always tell my students to aim for at least “5 A Day”, 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.  Eat some fruit at breakfast every day and fruit and vegetables at lunch and dinner every day.  The registry found that 657% of the skinnies eat vegetables at dinner every day.  And 35% have a salad at lunch.  Rather than some highly processed snack food like Cheetos, the skinnies are feasting on fruits and nuts.   My daughter often has a snack at work of hummus and carrots.  So very healthy. Plan ahead and pack ahead to eat healthier at work. 
Habit 3:  Aim for Physical Activity Every Day
The skinnies aren’t couch potatoes.  They exercise.  Many overweight people are jealous of those who have lost weight but they are not jealous of the effort many people make to lose the weight or keep it off.  Exercise is a very important component of getting slim and staying slim.  It doesn’t mean you are running a marathon but it does mean you need to make exercise a habit.  A walk at lunch, a walk before or after work.  Many gyms now offer short classes at lunch time to fit into your day or classes right after work.  My daughter often goes with a friend to the gym after work to take an aerobics class or a pumping iron class.  Almost 70% of the slim people on the registry reported participating in exercise at least 3 times and week and 50% reported participating in some form of exercise 5-7 days a week.
Habit 4:  No Deprivation
So many people who go on diets, focus on the negative and on depriving themselves.  I can’t have this cookie, this piece of cake will spoil my diet, I can’t eat out, I can’t have fast food.  Wow! Is it any wonder they don’t stick to the diet with all this deprivation?  The website has a great video on hints to eat out at restaurants.  I like Joyce Meyer’s saying, “eat the cookie, buy the shoes”.   You can eat a cookie but not the whole box of cookies.  So what diet are slim people on?  None – they aren’t going on the latest fad diet to lose weight.  Rather, they stop eating when they are full, not when the plate is empty.  They eat when they are hungry, not when they pass a bakery. 
Conclusion:  The website and habits of slim people provide an interesting resource and guide to a slimmer you. 

You can watch a short video about using these research tips when eating out at a restaurant. 

Tips for Eating Out

Eat Breakfast Every Day

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sit less and walk more for good health

Many people have jobs requiring them to sit for a long time, up to 8 hours or more a day.  The latest research indicates that you can help reverse the damage sitting does to your health by going on an hour-long walk.   This week, WTOP reported on:  To reverse damage of sitting, take a brisk, hour-long walk.

What are the health risks of sitting for long periods?
Norwegian scientists studied over  1 million people who sat for at least 8 hours a day.   According to the researchers, this much sitting is as harmful to your health as obesity or even smoking.  A number of studies have shown that prolonged sitting can increase your risk of heart disease, various types of cancer and even an earlier death.
But it isn’t just sitting at the job.  A new trend is binge TV watching, such as watching an entire Season of a show on Netflix.   Sitting for 5 hours or more watching TV is also bad for your health.  Add the sitting at work to coming home and sitting in front of the TV for hours on end, and even a 1 hour walk isn’t enough to reverse the health damage. 

What can be done to reverse the damage of sitting?
Exercise, exercise, exercise.   Sitting at work, then walk an hour at lunch.   Jog or walk before or after work.  The goal is at least an hour of exercise to reverse the health damage of sitting for 8 hours.   For years, I had a desk job that involved a lot of sitting all day.   But at lunch, I faithfully walked with 2 walking partners and we walked for an hour each day.   I knew this was a healthy habit but didn’t know at the time that this would actually reverse the health damage of a desk job. 
WTOP quoted one of the Norwegian researchers as saying, We cannot stress enough the importance of exercise, whether it’s getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work.

How much exercise is needed?
To help erase the effects of sitting for eight hours a day, researchers found that 60-75 minutes of exercise is needed and brisk exercise like a brisk walk.  For those who sit at desk jobs during the day and then go home and sit in front of the TV, even more exercise is needed to reverse the damage. The study authors noted that the World Health Organization recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.  But this would not be enough to reverse the damage of sitting for 8 or more hours a day.
Another interesting quote from the article was from Lars Bo Andersen who co-authored a commentary about the study.  He stated, If you are walking and can feel yourself getting a little warm and your breathing is a little heavier, that’s enough.  You don’t have to be sweaty and out of breath to get the benefits. 

Going to the gym is great. But even if you aren’t working out at the gym, you can still reverse the health damage of sitting by taking a brisk walk.  So this week, take your dog out for a brisk walk before or after work.  Find some friends to start walking with at lunch or after work. 
This article notes how you can walk yourself to better health.

Source:  To reverse damage of sitting, take a brisk, hour-long walk  Image Source:  walking
Walk more to reverse the damage of sitting

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ice water to stay cool

Hot weather is upon us.  How can one stay cooler in these hot temperatures?  How do you get in your outdoor exercise and stay hydrated?  A few weeks ago we went on a morning bike ride in Sonoma County, California.  Morning temps are cooler but by noon the temperature was in the 90’s.   The bicycle shop gave us a frozen water bottle and a thermal pouch to put it in.   Why was this ice water such a great idea for the hot temperatures?  What are other ways to try to stay cool when the outside temp is sizzling? The Berkeley Wellness Letter has a great article on Exercising Safely in the Heat.   A summary of their tips are noted below.
Cooling your body from the inside:

  • Ice water:  This morning when I bicycled, I filled up my water bottle with ice and water.  Cold or icy beverages have been proven to cool you down internally.  Cold beverages are helpful, but what works best is an icy drink as it has more cooling power.  But drinking too much, too fast can lead to abdominal problems or the “brain freeze” headache.  I usually just drink some icy water throughout the hour long bike ride to stay cool and to rehydrate.  You can also do what the bike shop did, and freeze a bottle of water to have to take with you on your walk or bike ride.

Cooling from the outside
1.  Icy cold cloths, towels – research has shown that applying a cold towel to your arms, neck, thighs, face for a few minutes (5-20 minutes) before exercising can cool down your body externally.  Take a small towel, dunk it in some ice water, or put a dampened towel in the freezer for a bit to get it nice and cold.  Before you run, walk or bike, apply the cold towel to your neck, arms, head. 
2.  Cold water – Just putting your hands and arms in cool or icy water can help you cool down externally.  But not too cold, about 50-68 degrees is fine.  Do this for about 10 minutes and you can help your body cool down.  Or, the Wellness Letter suggests “carrying a bottle of cold water in each hand.”  But not a real practical suggestion. 
3.   Choose loose-fitting, lightweight clothing – yoga pants may be in style for women but not the best choice when exercising in the heat outside.  Light colors are better than dark colors for staying cool as dark colors absorb heat.  Your choice as to fiber type.  I prefer cotton for staying cooler well other prefer the polyester that supposedly whisks away the sweat.  To me the polyester fabrics are like a heater as they don’t “breathe” but what every works for you.
4.   Wear a hat – when bicycling I wear the helmet.  Choosing a light color helmet with air vents can help you stay cooler.   When walking, I always wear a hat.   You want a 4 inch brim to keep the sun off of your face and neck.  If you can, dampen the hat with ice water or cool water.  The Wellness Letter noted, “a hat made of polyester in a twill weave trapped the best heat and humidity in people exercising under hot weather conditions.”  Choose a light colored hat that you will wear.

Other suggestions for exercising in the heat.  Acclimate yourself.  It can take up to two weeks to get your body used to the hotter weather.  So start off with less time outside and add more time as your body adjusts.  Exercise in early morning when it is cooler.  For more details on how to stay cool in hot weather, read the article, Exercising Safely in the Heat.  To prevent heat exhaustion see this short video at WebMD, The Basics:  Heat Exhaustion.

water on ice

Drink Ice water to stay cool in hot weather.