Dieting: What Works, What Doesn’t

Friday, March 22, 2013 9:45 AM comments (0)

There seems to be a diet out these days to appeal to everyone trying to trim down. And, with the barrage of different diets in the media, it's hard to know which diets work and which fall short.

What's important in a safe and healthy approach to weight loss? Before starting a diet be sure that your plan includes the following:

It’s balanced. By excluding food groups, your body is at risk of being deprived of the nutrients it needs to function. For example, the popular Atkins Diet drastically reduces carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for the cells of the body and also are a main source of your daily fiber needs.

It focuses on portion control. Have you ever seen the MyPlate icon? MyPlate focuses on portion control and balanced meals by dividing a standard dinner plate into four food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein, with a side of dairy. Portion control is important to avoid overeating and can help reduce caloric intake.

It teaches lifelong, healthy eating habits. Longevity is impossible with impractical fad diets like The Hollywood Cookie Diet and The Grapefruit Diet, which severely restrict calories and lack the nutrition (not to mention the variety) that your taste buds crave. By eating balanced meals and controlling portions, weight loss is achievable and can be maintained throughout your entire life without having to crash diet.

For a healthy, balanced diet with controlled portions always remember to:

  • Load up on fruits and veggies
  • Eat whole grains
  • Choose fat-free and low-fat dairy products
  • Pick lean sources of protein
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Make exercise part of your daily routine


Which diet approaches have worked for you?

This article was submitted by Lindsay Sankovsky, Dietetic Intern, and reviewed by Kimberly Hammon, MS, RD, LDN.

Go Green: Your Colon (and Body) Will Thank You

Wednesday, March 06, 2013 1:52 PM comments (0)


ColonCancerAs the old adage goes, “You are what you eat.” When it comes to your health, this saying is true — eating healthier foods will make you feel better, have more energy and help you maintain your weight.

Many of the foods we eat—as tasty as they are—aren’t always the easiest for our system to digest. This is true for highly processed foods, and foods high in sodium, sugar, saturated fats and cholesterol. It’s not to say that, in moderation, we can’t enjoy some of these foods, but research has proven that a diet high in fresh food, especially green vegetables, may help prevent colon cancer.

Considering colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in men and women, it’s nice to know that a balanced, healthy diet may be the first step toward disease prevention. Yolandra Johnson, MD, Gastroenterologist at NorthShore, provides easy ways to work more greens and other vegetables into your daily diet:

  • Add chopped vegetables to your pasta sauces. Add chopped or shredded zucchini, carrot, peas, spinach or eggplant into either homemade or store-bought sauces. You’ll be adding extra flavor and more nutrients.
  • Blend it up. Smoothies don’t have to be made with only fruit. Consider mixing a more savory blend by adding in vegetables. Spinach is a great addition to fruit smoothies.
  • Eat a side salad with lunch or dinner. A salad is a great way to get an extra serving of vegetables, plus it will help fill you up before the main course. That’s good for your diet and for your waistline!
  • Choose ready-made options if you’re short on time. Canned and frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh ones. If you have limited time to prepare meals, go for prepared salads,  pre-chopped veggies, canned goods or frozen items. Remember, there’s no wrong way to add vegetables to your diet.
  • Snack on fresh vegetables instead of chips and other junk foods. Cucumbers, peapods, carrots, peppers and celery all make great snack items. Prepare small bags of these veggies for the week so they’re easy to grab and go.

What are some of your favorite dishes that include vegetables? What are some of your tricks for including veggies in your diet?

 

A Sugar High – Knowing When Too Much is Too Much

Thursday, January 03, 2013 11:01 AM comments (0)

It’s hard to avoid the temptation of having something sweet—whether it’s an after- dinner treat, a mid-afternoon snack or something you indulge in to reward yourself for a hard day’s work. Like most things, in moderation, sugar shouldn’t lead to any long-term health concerns. However, when consumed in excess—both in its natural form and processed form—sugar can lead to some very serious health conditions.

Mary Bennett, RD, LDN, CDE, a diabetes educator at NorthShore, identifies some of the health concerns that excess sugar can lead to:

  • Obesity – Sugary foods are usually higher in calories and can leave you not feeling full. A diet high in sugar can lead to excess daily calories, and if not burned off through exercise can lead to increased weight.
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease – A diet high in sugar doesn’t necessarily lead to the onset of diabetes, but it can increase your odds. The same holds true for developing heart conditions, as a diet high in sugar can often increase cholesterol and fat levels (triglycerides) in the blood.
  • Added calories – Sugar adds calories and displaces nutritious foods. It is important to note that there is no difference between honey, maple syrup and molasses. Sugar is sugar.

The American Heart Association has set a limit for consumer consumption of sugar, which includes:

  • 9 teaspoons daily (150 calories) for men  
  • 6 teaspoons daily (100 calories) for women

How do you control your cravings for something sweet? What is your favorite alternative snack?

Eating for Exercise – Fueling and Replenishing Your Body

Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:50 AM comments (0)

Author: April Williams, MS, RCEP Exercise Physiologist

Workout-SnackEating before you exercise is like fueling up your gas tank to get you from Point A to Point B. It allows you to get through your workout from start to finish with enough energy. A pre-exercise meal serves a variety of purposes, including:

  1. Helps prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and its symptoms of lightheadedness , needless fatigue, blurred vision and indecisiveness.
  2. Helps settle your stomach, absorb gastric juices and ward off hunger. 
  3. Fuels your muscles and feeds your brain. Any carbohydrates you eat far enough in advance of working out will help to release stored glycogen and carbohydrate into your blood stream to keep you going.
  4. Gives you peace of mind in knowing that your body is well fueled.

What to Eat Before Working Out
What you should eat prior to working out will vary from person to person. It will be trial and error to determine what works for you and your routine. As a rule of thumb, you should look for foods that are easily digestible, and often high in carbohydrates and low in fat, such as: toast, bananas, dried cereal, crackers, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, fig bars, and/or small servings of peanut butter, jam or honey.

What to Avoid Eating Before Working Out
There are many foods that should be avoided before you exercise. You will want to limit high-fat sources of protein, such as greasy foods like fries and cheeseburgers. Instead, choose smaller portions of turkey, hard-boiled eggs or low-fat milk. Be careful with sugary foods and beverages as they can give you a sugar high prior to exercise and may leave you without the necessary energy to finish your routine. Stay away from anything that is high in fiber, as this type of food could cause gastric upset during your activity.

What to Eat After Working Out
Eating after you exercise can help you recover faster from your workouts. Chocolate milk or yogurt is a perfect post-workout option because each contains carbohydrates and protein. The protein will help build and repair muscle, and the carbohydrates will help replenish glycogen stores that were used in your workouts.  Some other options to help refuel your tank could include: fruit smoothies made with yogurt or milk and a handful of pretzels, juice with string cheese and some crackers, or bowl of your favorite cereal and a banana.

What are some of your favorite snacks for before and after workouts?

Holiday Eating – Plan Your Portions

Thursday, November 22, 2012 10:23 AM comments (0)

All of the holiday treats and temptations on the table can make for a difficult time managing your weight and portion control. While it’s okay to indulge from time to time, it’s important to make smart choices to help keep your plate balanced.

According to the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, half of your plate should consist of fruit and vegetables, accompanied by grains, protein and dairy. You may find it hard to have this much balance on your plate during the holidays, but planning in advance and thinking through your meal choices can be a huge help for keeping your plate (and waistline!) in check.

Goutham Rao, MD, gives his insight on how to plan your portions and still be able to enjoy the holidays:

  • Be selective about what you put on your plate. There is no need to deprive yourself of holiday treats, but be sure to watch your portion size. You also want to make sure that you are including plenty of fruits and vegetables on your plate. You can enjoy a smaller slice of pie just as much as a full slice.
  • Don’t be afraid to adapt recipes to include more healthy additions. Finding ways to remove salt, sugar and fat from recipes can help keep the calorie count down.
  • Watch what you’re drinking. Alcoholic beverages can contain just as many calories as the main course. Try to keep it light and drink in moderation. Avoid other high-calorie drinks such as regular soda pop, milkshakes and fruit juices.
  • Make physical activity part of your holiday routine. This can be something simple such as taking a walk every evening after dinner.

What is your favorite holiday treat? What do you do to resist temptation and overeating?

Managing Diabetes and Enjoying the Holidays

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 10:07 AM comments (0)

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s hard not to be tempted by flavorful sides, festive drinks and decadent desserts. For those with diabetes, the struggle to avoid some of these foods may be a challenge, especially with many planned family dinners and holiday parties.

However, diabetics don’t have to completely deprive themselves from the traditional foods and meals that the season brings. Romy Block, MD, a NorthShore endocrinologist, gives the following tips for managing diabetes during the holidays:

  • Pay attention to what you are eating. Choose quality over quantity. Rather than having a whole slice of pie, have a smaller portion. When you know you’ll be tempted by sweets, eat a salad or lean protein for dinner. This way you won’t already be raising your sugars and can enjoy a dessert without feeling guilty.
  • Drink lots of water. While it can be hard to reign in your portions during the holidays, you should be monitoring your sugar levels frequently. In fact, you may need to do so more often given the abundance of sweets available. Water can help balance out sugar levels.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per hour and no more than two drinks per evening. When you do drink, be sure you are always doing so with food.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep helps the body’s regulatory system and weight loss. If you can, try to get eight hours a night.
  • Don’t stress out! Relaxing can help to reduce your sugar levels. Instead of worrying too much about what the season will bring, try to set aside time each day for exercise and engaging in activities that you enjoy.

It’s important to note that these tips shouldn’t just apply to the holidays. Managing your diabetes is a process and making small changes can really help to make a big difference.

What ways have you found success in managing diabetes during the holidays? What holiday foods are the hardest for you to avoid?

Salt – When Too Much is Too Much

Monday, November 12, 2012 2:11 PM comments (0)

A dash of salt here and there for flavoring can’t hurt, right? While moderate amounts of sodium in your daily diet are fine, it’s often easy to eat more than necessary. Look on any label – especially those of pre-packaged and more-processed foods—and sodium is almost certain to be one of the ingredients.

The American Heart Association recommends 2,300 mg daily as the highest daily acceptable level, and if you are over 51 years, African American or have heart disease including high blood pressure, the recommendation is 1,500 mg.

Too much salt can lead to health problems, including cardiovascular disease particularly hypertension. For this reason, it’s never a bad idea to learn some quick ways to pass on the salt.

Mary Bennett, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, offers the following tips to help reduce your daily sodium intake:

  • Read the label. Before purchasing and consuming food, read the label. If the total sodium value on the label is more than 5% of the recommended daily value of sodium, you may want to reconsider purchasing or at least limit your portion size.
  • Pass on passing the salt shaker. Maybe the easiest way to avoid eating too much salt is to not have the shaker on the table during mealtimes. If you are looking to add additional flavors to a dish, use herbs and spices. There are also sodium-free mixes available that can provide lots of flavor without the sodium.
  • Eat in, not out. More often than not when you eat out – especially at fast food restaurants—more sodium will be added than what you would typically use at home. The best way to reduce your salt intake when you’re out to eat is to avoid adding additional garnishes (pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) to your meal and to watch your portion size.
  • Opt for the low- or reduced-sodium choices at the grocery store. If you can, choose natural ingredients and skip the frozen, processed and packaged food options.

What do you do to limit your sodium consumption? What is one salty food you couldn’t live without?

Fruit Juice – A Healthy Substitute for Your Kids or Not?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 11:17 AM comments (0)

Many juices are advertised as being nutritious, and kids love juice, so parents happily provide it, believing it is a healthy choice. However, juice does not provide the same nutrition as a piece of whole fruit, and has been linked to obesity and tooth decay.  Juice should be given in moderation and should not be thought of as a substitute for healthier choices like whole fruit, milk or water.

If you choose to give your child juice, Sara Wiemer, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, offers the following suggestions for maximizing its nutritional value:

  • Read labels carefully. Many juices are high in calories and sugar, and low in nutritional value – no better than a can of soda!  Avoid juice from concentrate and juice with a lot of additives.
  • Opt for a serving of fruit instead of juice whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, try to select a 100% fruit juice with pulp. While 100% fruit juice does provide some of the vitamins and nutrients present in the fruit itself, it often lacks fiber and other nutrients,  and can have unhealthy additives.
  • Use a cup, not a bottle, when giving juice to small children and restrict its use to meal or snack times. If a child is “nursing” a bottle of juice over a long period of time, or falls asleep with it in the mouth, the sugars sit on the teeth and will lead to tooth decay.
  • Juice is filling and decreases your child’s appetite for more nutritional foods – be sure to offer healthier choices first.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following servings of juice:

  • Under six months – Not recommended
  • Ages one to six years– No more than 4 to 6 ounces are recommended per day
  • Ages seven to eighteen years – Limit juice to 8 to 12 ounces per day

 

Guest Post: Melissa Dobbins, MS, RD, CDE – Controlling Your Sweet Tooth over the Holidays

Friday, October 26, 2012 11:41 AM comments (0)

With Halloween “creeping” up and followed closely by Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are a lot of treats to contend with. 

Here are the strategies that seem to work best for my family:

  1. Give your will power a break: Avoid temptation by not keeping your favorite sweets around the house.  I know I can’t have chocolate around the house without overindulging, so I buy other types of candy for trick or treating (because you know you’re going to sneak into that stash, right?)
  2. Have your cake and eat it too: Don’t try to avoid sweets altogether (or expect your children to) – that will just set you up to binge and feel bad.  Plan for small indulgences throughout the week.  This way you can incorporate the treats into a well-balanced diet and when you “cheat” you won’t feel like you failed and end up throwing your healthy diet out the window.
  3. Play favorites: Be choosy about your choices and don’t have dessert just because it’s there.  I don’t have weaknesses for pie or ice cream, but watch out if there are brownies around!  Save your calories for what you really want or take the opportunity to have a small serving.  It’s not that difficult if you remind yourself there are so many more ‘sweet’ opportunities around the corner.
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