Sunday, December 30, 2018

Best Diets for Health 2019

What does “eating healthy” mean?  What are healthy diets to follow?  A diet not for weight loss or weight gain, but just a healthy eating pattern?  I just read that Chipotle is offering bowls for dieters.  Trouble is the “diets” they are offering aren’t the recommended ones for weight loss and good health.  Go to the gym or any restaurant and you hear people talking about diets.  Some are on a “cleanse”.  Some think they are eating healthy by following the Whole30 diet.  According to the Whole30 website, food groups like grains and dairy have a negative impact on health.  US News & World Report gives the Whole30 diet a poor rating and a low ranking.  Why?  The diet is quite restrictive and excludes grain (an important food group), legumes, even peanut butter, and dairy – another important food group.  Whole grains are hugely important in our diets for fiber, trace minerals and other nutrients.  Rather than excluding whole grains, Americans should be eating more whole grains.  Dairy foods shouldn’t be restricted as dairy foods contribute calcium and vitamin D which so many Americans are lacking in their diets.  Any diet that excludes a food group, excludes nutrients that the food group provides, is not a healthy diet.  So how do you decide what is a healthy diet? 

Each year, the US News & World Report evaluates the “Best Diets”.   For 2019, they evaluated 41 popular diets and determined which ones are best for your health and fitness.  What do they look for?  They use health experts to rank diets on a number of parameters including how nutritious the diet is, how safe it is and whether the diet protects against diseases like diabetes and heart disease.  Top spots for 2019 went to the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet. 

Three diets are ranked as the “Best Diets” for 2019
      1.   Mediterranean Diet – this diet moved to the top place for 2019 and has been written about extensively.  This diet is based on the foods people eat in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.  Not only is their diet rich in fruits and veggies, they lead an active lifestyle.  Many nutritionists and health experts recommend this pattern of healthy eating.  Rather than giving up a food group, this diets recommends foods from each food group – but healthy foods from each group.
a.       Why is this diet good for your health?  The Mediterranean diet is a good diet for disease prevention – prevention of cancer and diabetes.  It is diet for healthy hearts and a healthy brain.   And, you can use this diet for weight loss.  Basically, a healthier you.  To get started, try the 30-Day Mediterranean Diet Challenge at Eating Well.    
b.       Foods to enjoy:  fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fish.  
                                                               i.      Choose low-fat dairy – 2%, 1% or non-fat milk.  Choose low-fat yogurt.  Buy cheese that is made with low fat or skim milk like mozzarella cheese.
                                                             ii.      Whole grains – as noted in a previous blog, so many Americans have few or no whole grains in their day.  Find a way to add whole grains to your daily food intake and to your kid’s diet.  Starting the day with oatmeal or Cheerios is a good way to add whole grains to your day.
                                                           iii.      Fruit and Vegetables – 5 A Day is a start.  More than 5 A Day is even healthier.
                                                           iv.      Nuts – add a handful of nuts a day
                                                             v.      Olive oil – buy some extra virgin olive oil and use it in cooking.
c.       Foods to cut back on: red meat, foods with added sugar and foods high in saturated fat.  
       2.  DASH Diet – this diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, thus the acronym, DASH. Although it was designed to help lower blood pressure, the diet is good for your health.  U.S. News & World Report notes the diet is praised for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to control diabetes, and prevent and lower blood pressure.
a.       Nutrients – the diet emphasizes nutrients that help lower one’s blood pressure like potassium and calcium.  It encourages more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and dairy – but low fat dairy products. 
b.       Foods to limit are those higher in saturated fats like fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods, coconut oil, and foods high in salt.  Also, cutting back on added sugar but cutting back on sodas, sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets high in added sugar.
c.       To get more guidance on the DASH diet from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, get a 20 page guide, DASH Eating Plan or a 6 page guide at Lowering Blood Pressure with DASH. 
Although the DASH diet was designed for lowering high blood pressure, it is a good overall pattern of eating healthy.

       3.  Flexitarian Diet– still in third place again this year is the Flexitarian Diet.  This sounds like it would be a “quack” diet, but it is actually a diet that emphasizes many healthy foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein.  It is a diet that combines vegetarian eating and flexibility.  This diet has been around since 2009 and was popularized by Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D. in her book, “The Flextarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life”.  Well this is mostly a vegetarian diet, the flexibility comes in because you can still enjoy a burger, a steak and other meat – but on occasion. 
a.       You ADD 5 food groups to your diet:
      •   Plant-based protein = tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, eggs and seeds.
      •   Fruit – all kinds
      •   Vegetables
      • Whole grains
      • Sugar and spice – spices are super healthy so a good addition to any diet,
      •  pastries.  Oil – olive oil
      •  Protein – emphasis on fish and poultry
                b.       Foods to cut back on:  red meat, fried and fast food, butter, stick margarine (choose tub margarine) and foods with added sugar like sweets and soft drinks.

So rather than going on some crazy diet plan in an effort to eat healthier in 2019, choose one of the above diets to begin modeling your own eating after.  Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all the foods you like to eat, but adding some foods that promote good health like more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and more low-fat dairy to your day.  Rather than focusing on foods to cut from your diet to eat healthier, focus on what healthy foods you can add to your day.  

Some Health Resolutions to Add and Some to Take off your New Year’s List

Every year we make some New Year’s Resolutions.  Most aren’t kept for long.  In fact, about 75% of us last a week, less than half of us last 6 months.  But setting goals for yourself is a good idea.  Some nutritionists got together and came up with some New Year’s Resolutions you should not put on your list.  And they give some guidance of how to set some health goals for 2019 that are more likely to be successful. 
Setting goals – when setting goals for the coming year, make them very specific, small and ones you can measure.

     1.   Exercise:  a top resolution is “exercising more
  • Don’t say:  I will exercise more.
  • Do say:  I will go for a walk at lunch for 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Don’t say:  I will join a gym.
  • Do Say:  I will sign up for the yoga class that meets on Saturday morning at 9 AM and will go every Saturday for 10 weeks.
 2. Healthy Eating:  another top resolution is eating healthier food.  Sticking to 1-2 small changes that are realistic will lead to success.  Note what the change is and WHEN you will do it. Focus on adding healthy foods to your diet and not on deletions.
  • Don’t say:  I will eat healthier in 2019.
  • Do say:

    • I will pack my MyPlate lunch and bring to work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  I will eat out for lunch only on Fridays.
    • I will eat a piece of fruit at lunch every day.
    • I will bring some yogurt in my lunch every day to eat at lunch or as a snack.
    • I will drink a glass of 100% juice every day for breakfast.
Add some 100% juice to your day
   3.  Eating out
  • Don’t Say:  I won’t eat out anymore. 
  •  Do Say: 
    • When I eat out, I will share dessert.
    •  I will enjoy the bread basket.
    • When I eat out, I won’t order fried food, but roasted, broiled or baked. 
    • I won’t order sweetened tea or soda but unsweetened tea or just drink plain water.
Choose unsweetened tea 
The focus of your health goals for 2019 should be on lifestyle changes and not on fad diets or quickweight-loss schemes.  Make some small changes like the idea of eating fruit at lunch every day.  Choose changes that you can easily succeed at, yet goals that will lead to a healthier you.  For example, my sister was told by a health professional to add a vegetable to her lunch every day.  My sister did as it was an easy thing to do, but oh so good for her health.  What simple, easy health goals will you set for yourself in 2019?
Add fresh fruit to your lunch

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Some health rules you can ignore

Everywhere you turn there are people, articles, advertisements offering health advice.  Or as someone told me they turn to “Dr. Google” for health questions.  The health advice being offered may be scientifically based, well-researched advice.  But it also can be quack advice.  Just walking the other day, I heard a neighbor giving another neighbor some food and she said, “Don’t worry it is low-carb.”  Who wants low carb food for the holidays?  Not me.  I always eat plenty of carbs to ensure I get lots of energy and lots of nutrients that carbs provide.  How do you know the advice being provided is good, accurate advice?  Last week we talked about a number of reliable sources including the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control.  You can also look for reliable health information at websites that end with .org, .gov or educational institutions, which end in .edu.  

What are some “health rules” that registered dietitians say you can and should ignore?

  • Cut the sugar – well there is some sugar we should cut back on and that is “added” sugar.  There is the “added sugar” in various forms of sugar that manufacturers add to so many foods and add they do.  But we want to keep the sugar in our diets that is naturally present in foods such as the fructose in fruit, lactose in milk.  These are all healthy sugars and are in foods we need in our diet as these foods provide so many essential nutrients.  And the “added sugar” in yogurt, chocolate milk, pudding isn’t so bad as it is in foods that provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D to our day.  On the other hand, is the “added sugar” in sodas, energy drinks, the syrups added to coffees.  These “added sugars” are 100% calories and provide no nutritional benefits and are the carbs we should be cutting back on.
Add more fruits and vegetables to your day
  • Count those calories – counting calories can have benefits and many drawbacks.  I counted calories as a teenager and chose the cake instead of the glass of milk.  A stupid thing to do for a growing teenager who needed that calcium and vitamin D.  Counting calories while forgetting the nutrient content of the food is not a wise thing to do.  The dietitians noted that choosing ¼ of an avocado provides 80 calories and yes, some fat, but a heart-healthy fat.  Whereas a low-fat cookie may actually have plenty of added sugar and few nutrients and no fiber.  Focusing on meals that provide all the food groups would be a much wiser choice.  Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy instead of counting calories.
  • Too much protein and your kidneys – Americans aren’t lacking in protein.  Every time the students in my class analyze the amount of protein in their diets, no one is ever lacking in protein.  Some people should be adding more protein to their diets.  Protein helps you feel fuller longer so having some protein at each meal is a good choice.  As one gets older, they need protein to prevent loss of muscle mass.  And unless you have health issues, your kidneys can handle the extra protein.  Drink more water if you want your kidneys to process any extra protein you may be adding to your day.
  • Low-carb, high-fat diets are the best for weight loss – You should cut back on some carbs.  The Dietary Guidelines state, “consume an eating pattern low in added sugars.” So, cutting back on carbs with a lot of added sugar is a wise choice.  But cutting out carbs such as bread and grains is not a healthy choice.  Every meal should have some grains and half these grains should be whole grain.  I love bread at meals and to me a meal without bread or some grain is just not a complete meal.  Focusing on lifestyle changes like learning to eat healthy and exercising more is a much better way to lose those pounds than cutting out carbs.
Enjoy a balanced diet
Health myths are hard to escape as so many people believe these myths and many people seek out advice from unreliable sources.  And if you get your health advice from an unreliable website, the information you get will be unreliable.  Check out the websites listed here and try out some new websites like for more reliable health information.  

Follow the Dietary Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

Sunday, December 16, 2018

What are some reliable sources of health and diet advice?

Seems like everyone has some health advice to give.  Turn on the TV and there is an ad for some health product, diet fad, or food we should be purchasing.  The internet is full of good and not-so-good advice on diet and health.  Well, some registered dietitians got together and provided some health advice on reliable sources to go to for health and diet advice.  The go-to-sources we can all rely on for accurate, up-to-date and expert advice.  

What are some reliable sources of health and nutrition advice?

1.  American Heart Association have heart disease in your family?  Do you want to eat for a healthier heart and lower LDL and cholesterol levels?  This is the go-to-place for that information.  These are the experts that noted we can add some eggs back to our life.  But it isn’t the easiest website to navigate so here are some suggested links: 
a.       Healthy Eating for you heart:  a healthy heart starts with healthy food choices.  Click the links to find out more about fats, sugar, and sodium.
b.       Diet and Lifestyle Changes – what are the recommended diet and lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of heart disease? 
                                                               i.      Use up the calories you eat everyday unless you are trying to gain weight.
                                                             ii.      Increase your physical activity to 150 minutes a week – or 2.5 hours a week.
                                                           iii.      Eat all the food groups – so many people leave dairy or grains out of their meal.  Some leave out the fruit and the veggies.  For good health you need all 5 food groups.  Aim for at least 3 food groups at breakfast (grain, dairy, fruit) and all 5 food groups at lunch and dinner.
                                                           iv.      Eat less of the junk food – we don’t have to eliminate the junk food but cutting back on it is a healthy thing to do. 
Healthy Diet + Exercise
2.  American Diabetes Association – have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or are you pre-diabetic?  Do you have relatives that have developed type 2 diabetes?  Then check out the diet and health advice from the American Diabetes Association. 
a.       What can a person with diabetes eat?  The diabetes association notes you don’t have to feel deprived if you have diabetes or prediabetes.  There are many healthy options to choose from.
b.       Healthy Food Choices:  They provide guidance on healthy food choices such as less ADDED sugar and avoiding Trans fats.  How you can be sure to include grains, especially whole grains, in your diet and include fruit.
c.       Tips – this includes tip on eating out, healthy snacks, and even some quick meal ideas

3.  American Cancer Society  (ACS)– There are a number of cancer websites so be sure to go to this one.  You don’t have to have cancer. You may want to go to this site to learn more about healthy lifestyle and eating to lower your risk of getting cancer. 
a.       Healthy Choices – what are some healthier choices you can make to lower your risk of cancer.  Eating right, not smoking and staying active. 
b.       Eat Healthy and Get Active – ACS provides many ways to improve your nutrition and to stay physically active to lower your cancer risk.  The offer a lot of videos on healthy eating and how to become more active.  

4.  Centers for Disease Control – This is a site I always recommend to my students. It provides a wealth of information from articles like Sleep and Heart Health to Healthier Holidays.  Cooking for the holidays?  Don’t send your guests home with a food borne illness. Read about Food Safety at the CDC website.   Want to know more about recalled foods such as the Romaine lettuce recall?  Then CDC Food Safety is a reliable source.  Have a teenager at home or work with teenagers?  CDC provides information on Adolescent and School Health.

What are some of the commonalities of eating for good health?  To lower your risk of cancer, heart disease or diabetes focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein sources.   What is one lifestyle change all these websites recommend?  Sit less and move more.  It would be nice if more health professionals, doctors, nurses, physician assistants informed their patients of these websites so their patients can obtain reliable health and diet advice. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Move More – New Exercise Guidelines

Exercise.  Who has time to fit exercise into their day during the holiday season?  And what are the guidelines for how much exercise we should get each day?  A frequently asked question from my students is “How much exercise do I need each day?”  Well, recently, November 2018 to be precise, the federal guidelines on physical activity were updated.  So, what are the latest recommendations and who sets those guidelines anyway?

Who sets the guidelines for exercise?
The federal government sets guidelines for what we should eat at MyPlate.  A number of federal agencies worked together to update the physical activity guidelines including:  Centers for Disease Control, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, National Institutes of Health and the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.  The guidelines were first issued in 2008 and November, 2018 is the first time the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans have been updated. 

What is the theme of the new physical activity campaign?
“Move Your Way”.   Why the change and what does this “Move Your Way” mean?  Research found that only 1 in 5 adults and teenagers met the Physical Activity Guidelines.  So, the new guidelines provide “tips and strategies to help people fit more activity into their busy routines.”  I have always encouraged students and others who have no time for the gym to fit exercise into what they do every day.  One of my favorites is to park far away.  My car is almost always one of the furthest from the door.  One student worked the cash register at a retail store and said she had no time to exercise.  I asked if there was any way she could build some steps into her workday.  She thought about it and came to class and said she had over 10,000 steps.  She started to routinely volunteer to restock the items customers didn’t want and this gave her lots of steps walking around the store.

What are the current guidelines for physical activity?

Kids 6-17
Kids ages 6-17 need 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity.  This includes walking, running – things that make their hearts beat faster. 

Adults – also 60 minutes a day but to get the most health benefits:
  1. Aerobic – for healthy lungs and heart.
  • Vigorous aerobic (or as my students prefer to say, cardio) exercise 75 minutes a week or moderate aerobic exercise 150 minutes a week.   
      2.   Muscle strengthening – ladies may prefer to call it toning and yoga counts.   Guys may prefer   weight lifting, push ups and other muscle building exercises.  This is recommended twice a week 

What are the changes in the physical fitness guidelines?
The big change is we should count all our movement during the day.  Not just the trips to the gym, or the exercise classes but simple things like standing on the subway instead of sitting, standing up and walking around when you talk on the phone.   Researchers call this, NEAT for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  You rev up your system with by just moving more.  NIH reports that “even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially.” 
They advise not to give up going to the gym and working out or other forms of more intense physical activity.  By add in some of those NEAT activities during the day.  

What are some simple NEAT activities you can add to your day?
The Move Your Way campaign has fact sheets, handouts free to use for teachers, coaches, personal trainers and anyone interested in better health.  Whatever gets you moving is good for your health including:  raking, vacuuming, walking the dog, gardening, playing catch with your kid, dancing, pushing a kid in a stroller. Moving more for kids:  bicycling, skateboarding, walking the dog, hiking, dancing, swimming, climbing or swinging on monkey bars, jumping rope, basketball, soccer. 

What are some ways you can build some NEAT activities into your day to Move More and Sit Less?  Here is a short video with simple ways to add more movement to your day, Move Your Way:  Tips for Busy Days

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nutrition in the News: Double Dippers, Touch Screens

Some interesting nutrition articles in the news this week.  Last week we talked about avoiding sick days and how healthier habits can prevent getting sick this winter.  Well, here are some other habits to think about this week and this winter season.  

Touch screens and bacteria

Who doesn’t like to order food at those convenient touch screens?  So many fast food restaurants are adding these touch screens.  You can walk up to the screen, order what you want and your order begins to be processed.  Usually no line waiting to use the touch screen.  However, before you take your first bite into the food you ordered this way, you may want to wash your hands.  Or, use the handy hand sanitizer I recommended you take with you wherever you go.  

Researchers in London swabbed touch screen kiosks at eight different restaurants in the United Kingdom.  Unfortunately, they found bacteria on every kiosk.  A wide assortment of bacteria including Staphylococcus which is contagious and can cause illness.  They also found Enterococcus faecalis which causes infections.  Other germs were also found that can cause respiratory infections.   Not surprising really that one can pick up bacteria from touch screens as throughout the day you can also pick up bacteria from door knobs, elevator buttons, railings, shopping carts. 
Although the study was done in London, a repeat study in the U.S. would probably have similar findings.  So, order at the touch screen but before you chow down on your food, either wash your hands or use that hand sanitizer.
Keep handy when eating out
Double-Dipping and Food Safety

A pet peeve of many people is double-dipping.  Who hasn’t gone out to eat with a group or been at a party and there is the ONE person who doubles dips.  They take the chip, dip it into the salsa, bite it and then with the same chip they go back into the salsa bowl for another dip.  I have known people who order their own individual salsa or dip so that others don’t double dip and contaminate their dip.  My daughter calls the dipping bowl the “community trough”.  I wasn’t surprised that some researchers actually studied those “double-dippers”.  

What was the Double Dip study?  

Undergraduate researchers at Clemson University did a series of experiments on double-dipping.  Their goal was to find out if double dipping contaminated the dip with bacteria?  They went a bit farther and tested different types of dips to find if things like acidity of the dip affected bacterial contamination.  The dips in the experiment included hot salsa, Hershey’s syrup, and Cheddar Cheese Dip.  

What did the Double-Dip study find?  

No Double-Dipping:  not surprising, if you keep those double dippers away from your dip, the researchers found no detectable bacteria.  

Double-Dippers – Yep, those double-dippers are sharing more than dip as they are adding some bacteria to the dip.  “Once subjected to double-dipping, the salsa took on about five times more bacteria… than the chocolate and cheese dips.”   Interesting, if the salsa was left out for two hours the bacterial content was about the same in all three dips.  

Why the difference?  Salsa is not as thick so more of the salsa touches the cracker or chip so dip into the salsa and more of it falls back into the dipping bowl.  But when the salsa sits out for awhile the acidity of the salsa destroys some of the double-dippers bacteria.  

So, if you are going to parties this holiday season, or are going out with a group of friends or relatives, stay clear of those double-dippers.  If you like to dip, maybe ordering your own dipping bowl of salsa or other dip would be a good idea.  You can also see their video on The Hazards of Double Dipping.  Their recommendation:  “Don’t be a Double Dipper.” 

A few more ideas to try to stay healthy this winter.  Keep the hand sanitizer handy when ordering from touch screen kiosks.  And watch out for those double-dippers at parties and restaurants.