Archives for May 2014

Mediterranean Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

Most parents are emphatic about their role as the guardian and care giver of their children.

A parent puts their child in car seat to drive three blocks for a play date. They do exhaustive research and check the references of the local day care centers before making a choice to leave their child there. At home the cabinets are secured with safety latches, the fire detectors have working batteries, and a camera keeps an eye on babies and toddlers while they sleep.

The parent needs and wants to make sure that their children stay out of harms way.  But that’s not all. As a parent, your goal is to raise children to be healthy, active, productive adults.

If you’ve watched the Fed Up movie trailer and follow the trends on childhood obesity and diabetes you know that raising a healthy child is getting harder. Currently 17% of our children are overweight or obese. By 2020 that number is expected to rise to 25%. Each year nearly 4,000 children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Fed Up isn’t the first movie to make these claims.  The HBO documentary, The Weight Of The Nation tackles the same issues and presents a startling and scary look at what is happening to the health of our children. The Weight of The Nation says that unless you do something different than the average American your children will grow up to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that your child is probably not predestined for overweight, obesity or diabetes.  There is not an unstoppable force that you, as the parent and guardian of your children, can’t do something about. You can make sure that your child doesn’t becomes a statistic and it might be easier to do than you think.

Child eating fruit

Flickr photo by Bruce Tuten

Mediterranean-Style Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

A recent study suggests that adopting a Mediterranean eating style will help prevent overweight and obesity in children.  The study looked at the weight and eating habits of more than 9,000 children in eight countries for a two year period.  The children’s weight and body fat was measured at both the beginning and end of the study.

The study found that kids that followed a Mediterranean style diet were 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not follow that type of diet.

“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries,” the researchers said. “Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected.”

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria. Until then they’ve published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary.

Adopting a Mediterranean Lifestyle Can Help You Too

The Mediterranean diet was first publicized by Dr. Ancel Keys and became popular in the 1990s. The ‘diet’ is based on mimicking the eating patterns of the people that live in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea; Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, to name a few.

Along with a longer life expectancy, people that live in these areas are found to have lower rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. Ironically these are the same health conditions that are on the rise in the United States and Europe.

The Mediterranean Diet is similar to the Paleo plan in that it calls for eating whole or ‘real’ foods but does not go to the extreme of eliminating entire food groups.

The diet calls for eating an abundance of plant foods, fresh fruits, beans, nuts and whole grain cereals such as oats, barley, corn and brown rice. Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat. Cheese and yogurt (with no sugar added) are the main sources of dairy. Moderate amounts of fish and poultry are consumed. Eggs are limited, and so is read meat.

Below is a picture of the Mediterranean food pyramid that shows the foods that are to be eaten in quantity and those that are to be limited.

Mediterranean pyramid

Flickr photo by alenjandromercer

There’s nothing particularly epic about the eating plan. It is based on applying common sense to the way we eat so that most of the foods we consume are dense in nutrients and low in calories, sugar and fat. The diet also calls for healthy amounts of physical activity throughout the week.

Getting children started at a young age eating fruits and vegetables, lean sources of proteins, and whole grain cereals may be the best prevention there is to make sure they don’t become an overweight teen or young adult.

My call to action for you is to change the way you eat by starting a Mediterranean Project in your household. There’s no need to go it alone. Invite you friends and family join you!

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Changing Behavior By Taking The Smallest Possible Step

Changing A Behavior Is Easy.  Making it Stick?  Not So Much.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a man that has lost over 140 pounds. His story was amazing and we talked for awhile about how it did it, what strategies he used, and what he’s doing now to maintain the weight loss.

Maintaining the weight loss proves to be the most difficult part.  He says that the pounds are starting to creep back on and he is struggling to keep doing the behaviors that helped him lose the weight. He finds he’s slipping back into his old habits.

We talked about what that one thing might be that he could start doing today to get back in motion.  After talking to him I was reminded of this post that I wrote almost two years ago and is what I encouraged him to do. Just take one small step.

Start

Flickr photo by jackandlindsay

How long is it from the time you download a phone app to motivate you to track your calories, steps, carbs or whatever it is you feel you need help in controlling before you’re no longer using it?  Three months?  Six months?  Five weeks?  Two days? I’ve downloaded several apps that have helped me drink more water or deliver positive affirmations to get me through a rough spot but after a few months I stop using them.

The company I work for has made an investment to provide employees with a wellness web site where we can track nearly everything we do.  We get points for healthy behaviors and a cash payout at the end of the year if we acquire enough.  You’d think everyone would sign up, but the participation rate is about 10 percent.

People lose weight and gain it back, spend money on gym membership and not go, decide to give up fast food, admit how much better they feel without it, and then end up back at McDonalds.

This question of how to stay motivated, and to me even more important – how to keep other people motivated – is perplexing.  Is this back and forth, stop and start, inspired then uninspired cycle that most of us seem to go through the trade off for having a brain that is complex enough to be able to make choices? Certainly it does have to do with our ability as humans to participate in a decision making process above and beyond basic instinct.

Why And How People Change Health Behaviors

Several years ago the book “Why and How People Change Health Behaviors” attempted to reveal the secrets to successful behavior change.  The book is written by Joseph Leutzinger, PhD and John Harris, MEd, who decided to throw off their ‘scientific research hats’ and put on their ‘curious but not judgmental’ hats to seek out individuals who had been successful at changing one or more behaviors.  The book is a collection of stories gleaned from those interviews.

Leutzinger and Harris found there were some recurring themes in the stories they heard.  Here’s what the interviewees told them:

– Do what works for you
– Be well informed about the change you are making
– Be ready – don’t go in unprepared or lacking confidence
– Set SMART goals
– Make a total commitment
– Take it one day at a time
– Plan ahead for scenarios that you find threatening
– Control your environment
– Take small steps
– Seek support from others
– Realize that compliments from others are motivating
– Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success
– Know that one successful change leads to another
– Reward yourself for success

Pick One

That’s a good list with plenty of suggestions to help with adherence. But, if I had to pick the one most critical to successful behavior change it would be “Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success.”

This darn brain of ours allows us to make choices.  Sometimes they’re good choices, sometimes not so much.  Both can gain momentum.  Once we get started practicing a ‘good’ behavior – for example taking a thirty minute walk before work four days a week – we get in the pattern of doing that.  It feels easy to do and we enjoy the aftereffects of knowing that we’ve kept our commitment and met our goal.

Then the day comes when we decide to go for a couple of birthday drinks with friends after work.  The following day we don’t feel like getting up early to walk so we stay in bed.  The next day it’s raining.  We know there are rainy day options; at home work out DVDs or the stationary bike in the spare bedroom, but we sleep in instead.  Before you know it, two weeks have passed since our last early morning workout that made us feel good all day long.

Take The Smallest Possible Step Forward

I read an interesting blog post yesterday on Daily Blog Tips about procrastination.  The author, Daniel Scocco, was working on a software development project that was overwhelming to him.  It wasn’t that he had no interest in working on the project.  Just the opposite was true, but because of very specific guidelines he had to follow he was having trouble getting started.  Day after day he pushed the project around his desk but couldn’t bring himself to tackle it.

After a couple weeks of this he decided he would try a new strategy.  He would take one small step. He would type the title of the project on a blank page.  That was all.  After he typed the words of the project into the word processor, ideas started to flow and within a couple of hours he had written over 1,000 words.  Daniel says, “Taking that first step is the hardest part for most projects and things, so if you are procrastinating with something lately, simply take the smallest possible step forward, and the rest should start flowing more easily.”

The Law Of Motion

The difficulty we have getting started again once we’ve stopped is the basic law of motion.  The famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.”  It may take a little more effort to get the resting body back in motion, but it can be done.

Are you letting a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success?  What is the smallest possible step you can take to initiate the law of motion?  Take that step today!

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Sweet Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad with Lime Dressing

This recipe has been circulating lately so I decided to try it for the holiday weekend. I needed a new salad since I always seems to fall back on my favorites, broccoli salad, and corn and black bean salad.

This was delicious but I must confess that I did not grill the corn as the original recipe suggested.  I was in a rush and didn’t want to heat up the grill.  I had some delicious sweet corn that I boiled gently for about eight minutes then let it cool until I could hold onto the ear to cut the corn off of the cob.

This salad is excellent! The secret is to have quality sweet corn, semi-ripe avocados and tender cherry tomatoes.

Corn Avocado Salad Ingredients

Ingredients:

4 ears of sweet corn
Small carton of cherry tomatoes
2 medium avocados
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons Canola oil
Juice of one lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cilantro
Sea salt and coarse black pepper

Directions:

Grill or boil the corn until tender, then remove the kernels from the cob.
Halve cherry tomatoes (You can use as many as you like. I used about a cup and a half)
Peel, core and chop avocados
Dice onion and celery
Mix altogether in a large bowl

In a small bowl mix the lime juice, garlic, honey, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Salad Dressing

 

Toss the corn, avocado, tomato mixture with the dressing.

Corn Tomato and Avocado Salad

Delicious!

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Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone

“Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.” — Peter McWilliams
 

Human beings are the only species that deliberately sabotage their own best efforts to improve their life. We have the intellect to know that the behaviors we’re clinging to are holding us back from reaching our goals yet often times we can’t change.

You know that you need to lose weight and cut back on sugar yet you continue to order a large sweet tea at McDonald’s on your way to work each day.

You’ve promised yourself that you’ll get up and take a 20 minute walk before you start your day but when the alarm goes off you hit the snooze until it’s too late to go.

You’ve made a delicious salad and put it in the fridge at work, but when co-workers say they’re going to Pizza By The Pound for lunch you easily dismiss the salad and join them.

Why?

Comfort Zone

Flickr photo by Steve Heath

Is it because we are a bunch of pampered, lazy sloths that we can’t get motivated or tolerate any discomfort that might come from the process of changing the bad habits we’ve developed?

I don’t think so.

I’m not a psychologist. I’m a wellness coach and program administrator. If you know a psychologist, go ahead and ask them what they think.  Their answer might be different from mine.

I think people find it very hard to change their behaviors because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. And most of, fear of being uncomfortable, maybe even miserable, during the process.

I don’t think that, as a species, we’re a bunch of lazy sloths.  I do think that most of us like to be comfortable. We like routine. We avoid change. We are content with the status quo. We make excuses, procrastinate, and avoid.

As soon as you set a goal and realize what action steps you’re going to have to take to achieve it, the repetitive self-defeating thoughts inhabit your brain. It’s too hot or too cold.  You’re too tired. You don’t have enough time. You never see the results fast enough. You need a break. You’re burnt out. It doesn’t matter anyway. What difference does it make?

Get Comfortable With Discomfort

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy
 

What is it that you want to do but know that in order to achieve it you’re going to have to suffer a little?

Maybe you’d like to try the HiiT class at the Y but you’re afraid you’ll feel funny, look clumsy, or won’t be able to keep up. Being the new person in an exercise class is very uncomfortable.

Three months ago you signed up to run a 10K that’s now two weeks away. You haven’t kept up with the training program. You can probably get through the race but it won’t be as easy as you’d like. You’re going to suffer a little.

You just came home from your annual physical and the doctor pointed out that you’ve gained 10 pounds since she saw you last year. You know you need to lose weight but there are so many other things going on right now. You don’t have time for work on your diet and exercise. You need a magic wand to make this happen.

This behavior change stuff is hard work. There’s no easy way for it to happen. You have to do the work and you’re going to have to sacrifice and suffer. A little.

But on the other side of that discomfort, awkwardness, and misery is something special.  There’s a feeling of achievement and reward that’s waiting for you that is greater than all of those things that held you back. If you’re feeling too cushy, too comfortable, too settled into your routine it probably means you’re not reaching, growing, or moving towards your goals. It’s time for you to get uncomfortable.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

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Ten Easy Ways To Add More Fruits and Veggies To Your Diet

If you’re signed up for the #FedUpChallenge and have decided to get the sugar out of your diet – at least for the next 10 days – it will be easier for you if you have plenty of nutritious fruits and vegetables to eat. The nutrients in fruits and vegetables will help lower your sweet cravings and balance out your blood sugar.

When you’re at the grocery, purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you can make your own creative dishes that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that will fill you up.

Here are ten tips for getting more fruits and veggies in your diet:

1.  Keep It Simple – Cubed cucumbers, sliced cherry tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, parsley and a little salt and pepper go together to make a crunchy salad that you can put together in less than 10  minutes. Experiment with the fruits and vegetables that you have on hand to make winning combinations.

Cucumber Cherry Tomato Salad

2. Choose Kale and Spinach – Rather than buying iceberg or head lettuce, use kale and spinach as the base for your green salads.  These leafy greens will bump up the nutrition and the flavor.  Both are superfoods that have an abundance of vitamins, minerals and fiber. This Kale and Pomegranate Salad is tossed with a light dressing and feta cheese.  It is perfect for a quick side salad for your family and pretty enough for guests.

Kale and Pomagranate salad

3. Veggies + Quinoa + Shrimp = One-Dish Meal – I sauteed a mixture of veggies that I had on hand – mushrooms, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms and asparagus – in a skillet with olive oil and garlic. Then I added a few currants (raisins) for a little sweetness. (Remember naturally occurring sugars are okay.) Mixed with shrimp and quinoa, this is a hearty one-dish meal that packs a nutritious punch. Shrimp Quinoa is a family favorite:

Shrimp Quinoa Skillet

4.  Wrap It In Lettuce – You can reduce your overall carb intake by using lettuce as a wrap in place of a tortilla. If you’re like us, you’ll find that you like them better because the crispy lettuce leaves enhance the flavor of the other ingredients. Asian Lettuce Wraps can be made in a few minutes for a quick dinner or rolled as an appetizer for guests.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Asian Lettuce Wraps

5.   Holiday Salads – Memorial Day weekend is coming and you might be looking for a salad to take to a picnic.  This Edamame Salad is perfect.  It has black beans, corn, onion and lemon juice that blend together for a delicious combination.

Edamame Salad

Edamame Salad

6.  Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth – There are ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without indulging in processed sugar.  Sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, and fruit smoothies are all ways to get a sweet ‘fix’ without eating something that has three or four teaspoons of sugar.  This Butternut Squash Soup is sweet, creamy and filling and will satisfy your sweet craving.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

7. Try A Smoothie For Breakfast – Breakfast can be a challenge.  Think of all of the breakfast foods that are loaded with sugar.  Waffles, syrup, jelly, bagels, donuts, lattes, and on and on.  If you make your own fruit smoothie for breakfast you can get a full day’s worth of nutrition in a blender.  Greek yogurt, fruit, low-fat milk, and a handful of spinach makes this a breakfast meal that will keep you satisfied until lunch. Karen’s Low-Fat Green Smoothie is a super-food!

Green Fruit Smoothie in A Blender

Green Fruit Smoothie in A Blender

8.  Replace Sugary Desserts With Fruit – You can appeal to your sweet tooth with the sugar that is found naturally in fruit.  Summer and fall are the best time of the year to shop farmer’s markets and the local grocery for seasonal fruits that you might not be able to find at other times of the year.  Fresh berries, cherries, peaches and plums in a pretty glass or bowl can replace fully loaded sugary desserts like cookies and pastries.

Fruit Trifecta

9.  Try Something New – If you have a habit of buying broccoli, carrots and green beans every week at the store, take a look at some of the other, less popular veggies and give them a try.  Leafy greens like collard and bok choy are easy to prepare and supply nutrients that you’re probably not getting in the more common vegetables.

Stir fry in olive oil, garlic and ginger.

Stir fry in olive oil, garlic and ginger.

10.  Add Fruits and Vegetables To Water – Beyond adding citrus fruits to your water, you can toss in watermelon slices, berries, and cucumbers to give your water some zest along with added flavor and nutrition.  Cucumber water is one of my favorites.

Cucumber water

Cucumber water

Over To You

What tips do you have to cut back on sugar and add fruits and vegetables to your diet?

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Once You Know The Truth About Your Food You’ll Be Fed Up.

There are 600,000 items in the grocery. At least 80% of those have added sugar.  The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day or 150 pounds a year. The by-product of our high sugar consumption is a health crisis unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

Yet, in spite of the obesity epidemic and the increase in chronic disease that are associated with it, the food industry shamelessly continues to market sugary foods to both children and adults.

The movie Fed Up, a Stephanie Soechtig film produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, peels the layers off of our national health crisis.  Fed Up shows us how the food industry has been secretive about the amount of hidden sugar in foods, deliberately markets sugary foods to children, and continues to deny that the dramatic increase in sugar consumption over the last thirty years is to blame for many of our health problems.

Fed Up Movie Trailer

As our sugar consumption goes up so do our health problems. In line with the increase in sugar consumption are a rise in overweight, obesity and the chronic diseases that accompany these conditions.  And there seems to be no stopping the trend.

Today more than one-third (39%) of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. In two decades it will be 95%. Currently 17% of American children are obese. By 2050 that number is expected to rise to 25%.

It’s estimated that 25.8 million adults and children (8.3%) have a diagnosis of diabetes. By 2050, one-third of Americans will be diabetic.

All fingers point to sugar for the rise in these frightening trends.

Hidden Facts About Hidden Sugar

Excellent food label reading skills is something you need if you’re going to choose the healthiest foods. Food labels provide information about how much sodium, fat, sugar, protein, and other nutrients a product contains. But being fastidious about reading labels might not help you control your sugar intake. Here’s why.

The food label gives a PDV (% daily value) for each nutrient. PDV’s are based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet so the consumer has to learn to read the label and determine how much of each item they need in relationship to their total daily calorie intake.

Mysteriously, there are no PDVs listed on the label for sugar.  The amount of sugar is listed but not the percentage value to tell you what portion of your allowance you’re going to consume which makes it harder to track.

Milk Label

The truth is, if the food label were to display the PDV for sugar, many products would show that just one serving would be over 100% of the daily value and that’s not good for business.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons (24 grams) a day for women and nine teaspoons (36 grams) a day for men. A ‘healthy’ breakfast of a five ounce serving of fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt and an eight ounce glass of orange juice will put you at your daily limit if you’re a man and three teaspoons over if you’re a woman.  The yogurt has three teaspoons of sugar and the juice has six. Give this breakfast to a toddler and they’ve had enough sugar for the week!

Join The Fed Up Challenge

Fed Up Challenge

Prove that you’re serious about getting the sugar out of your diet by joining the Fed Up Challenge where you pledge to eliminate added sugar for 10 days. You’ll get daily e-mails from Katie Couric and are encouraged to post pictures of your healthy meals on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #FedUpChallenge for a chance to win prizes.

I’ve signed up for the challenge and plan to invite my co-workers to join me.  (It takes a village.) You can sign up for the challenge here and ‘like’ the Fed Up Challenge Facebook Page here.

Each of us need to do our part to raise awareness about what the food that is on the grocery store shelves is doing to our health and push the food industry to take some responsibility for the national health crisis that they’ve helped to create.

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What You Can Learn From Jonathon Walters: Quit Quitting

“Quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is a habit and almost impossible to break.” — Denzil John Walters

Eight months ago Jonathon Walters weighed 477 pounds had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and severe fatty liver disease. Today he weighs 270 pounds, runs 10 miles a day, lifts weights and works out at the gym.

Walters says that his weight loss was 100% natural with diet and exercise.  He didn’t have surgery, use pills or weight loss supplements.  How did he do it on his own?

He quit quitting.

Flickr photo by Christine

Flickr photo by Christine

Jonathon Walters was the ‘big kid’ in grade school.  At five years old he weighed 95 pounds. By the time he was a junior in high school he was over 300 pounds and was bullied every day. He says that high school was such a nightmare that he quit.

And that began a cycle of quitting. He quit school, quit jobs, and quit caring about his health. Then when his father, Denzil Walters, died at the age of 53 of a heart attack, his world collapsed and he hit bottom. He ate to numb the pain of losing his father and put on even more weight.

But Walters didn’t stay at rock bottom for long.  His father’s death was a wake-up call and the words that Denzil said to his son when he quit school stuck with him.  Denzil told Jonathon that “quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is a habit and almost impossible to break.”

Jonathon realized that if he didn’t make some changes he wouldn’t be around for long either.  He made up his mind to quit quitting and his 200 pound weight loss journey began.

Quit Quitting

Over the last six months he has gone from not being able to walk without getting winded to running a mile in under nine minutes. He typically runs about 10 miles a day and works out on machines at the gym.  He’s replaced his fast food favorites with fruits and vegetables. He’s lowered his carbohydrate intake, and increased protein. Fried foods and soda pop are no longer on the menu.

As a result, Walter’s has gone from a 58/60 pant size to 42. His blood pressure has dropped and his cholesterol has gone from 230 to 100.  Before his weight loss his resting heart rate was 116.  It is now around 65.

Most of all, he no longer calls himself a quitter.  He says he’s as determined as he’s ever been and uses his story to inspire and motivate others. He’s even created a Facebook Fan Page, JWALT Fitness.

This video that Walters created to provide motivation to his followers says it all:

What You Can Learn

I love writing articles for the What You Can Learn From tab. Because there are so many inspiring people in the world sometimes it’s hard to know who to write about, but Jonathon Walters stood out. We all have something that we can take from his experience.

If you have a story to share about yourself or someone else that we can learn from, please send me a link or an e-mail.

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The Weight Loss Tip No One Is Talking About

Every day my inbox fills up with Google Alerts that I’ve subscribed to so I can stay up-to-date on weight loss products [gimmicks], fitness tips and health and wellness news.

There’s not much new news in the weight loss alerts.  There are a lot of articles promoting garcinia cambogia. Recently John Janetzko’s personal testimony about how he lost 125 pounds but still feels fat has been popular.

And blogs giving tips to people that want to lose weight without dieting never lose their appeal. The tips are typically things that you’ve heard before like drink water before meals and use a smaller plate. All good stuff, but it would take a lot of these relatively mundane tips to add up to weight loss of any significance.

The one tip that would help people not only lose the weight, but keep it off, is missing. It doesn’t make the tip lists and isn’t trending in the alerts.

What’s the one weight loss tip that no one is talking about?

Home. Cooked. Meals.

Casserole

The biggest lifestyle change that you can make to lose weight and improve your overall health is to prepare your own meals 95 percent of the time.

Eating Out Leads To Weight Gain

The Keystone Forum, a panel funded by the FDA, studied the relationship between eating meals away from home and the increasing number of overweight Americans. The number of times the average American eats away from home has doubled over the past 25 years.  Americans now eat food not prepared at home more than four times a week. The biggest problem with eating out often is the food portions are bigger and are higher in fats and calories than home-cooked meals.

The Keystone Forum released a report from the study that made these observations:

  • Frequently eating foods prepared away from home is associated with obesity, higher body fat and a higher BMI.
  • Women who eat foods prepared outside the home more than five times per week consume about 290 more calories on average each day than women who eat these foods less often.
  • Eating more fast-food meals is linked to eating more calories, more saturated fat, fewer fruits and vegetables, and less milk.

The study also found that eating out has had an impact on the rising incidence of overweight and obesity in children and teens.

Prep, Planning and Basic Skills Are All You Need

There are plenty of reasons why people don’t cook their own meals.  Lack of time, interest or know-how are all factors. If your life is hectic with a job and family responsibilities, relying on take-out or eat-and-eat meals from the grocery might seem like the best option. But with some basic recipes and a little planning you can prepare healthy meals that your family will love.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Kalyn’s Kitchen.com is a home-cooking blog that has an index of healthy recipes with step-by-step instructions and pictorials. A few months ago I published The Top Ten Healthy Recipe Web Sites. This post that provides links to the best healthy recipe web sites for you to bookmark.

If culinary skills is what you’re lacking there are also plenty of resources on-line that can help you need prepare healthy, tasty dishes.  Check out the list of free online cooking classes at About.com. This page is full of links where you can go to learn the skills you need to be a cooking wizard in your own kitchen.

You may be able to find live cooking classses locally. Junior colleges, park districts, and food co-ops often offer healthy cooking classes to the community for a nominal fee.

The Weight Loss Tip That’s Not In Google

Weight loss is a popular topic and everyone that wants to lose weight is looking for pointers. A Google search for ‘weight loss tips’ provides 280,000,000 results.

Undeniably the fast food tidal wave that began in the 1970s giving us quick access to high calorie, low quality meals is largely to blame for our 21st century obesity problem.  The only way to fix the problem is to avoid what caused it to begin with.

When you do the cooking you control the ingredients, fat, sodium, calories and quality. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health.

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Superfood Salad With Kale and Cherry Tomatoes

Kale, cherry tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives and feta cheese make this delicious superfood salad. I used these beautiful, colorful Sangria tomatoes in my salad:

Sangria tomatoes

 Salad Ingredients:

5 cups of chopped kale
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cup of kalamata olives
1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 tablespoons of feta cheese

Dressing Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

In a large bowl combine the salad ingredients.  In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, sea salt, cider vinegar and dijon mustard together.

Right before serving, add the dressing to the salad for a delicious, nutritious, colorful salad.

Kale Salad

The options for add-ins to the salad are endless. You can add:

  • chopped kiwi
  • sliced mushrooms
  • slivered almonds
  • dried cranberries
  • chopped cucumbers
  • clementine slices
  • walnuts
  • sesame seeds
  • peas
  • edamame

Toss in whatever you have on hand that will add flavor and crunch!

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Controlling Hunger: One Milkshake, Two Results

A recent study has people wondering if we have more power over our hunger than we realize.

As a student, Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist who does research at the Columbia Business School in New York City, spent years studying the placebo effect.  She was fascinated with the way a placebo could physically alter the body if the person taking the placebo believed they were taking the real thing.

As a clinical psychologist she wanted to know if food labels could have a similar effect on our appetites and specifically on the hormone ghrelin.

Ghrelin is a hunger-stimulating hormone that is produced in the lining of the stomach. Ghrelin levels increase and metabolism decreases before meals putting us in search of food.  Once we’ve eaten a meal our ghrelin levels go back down and our metabolism goes up to burn the calories.

The Milkshake Study

Shake Pics

Milkshake pic by Sorveteria Ki Sabor @ Flickr.com

As Crum began to wonder whether or not reading food labels could influence ghrelin levels she came up with an experiment called The Milkshake Study.

For The Milkshake Study Crum made a large batch of milkshakes that were 300 calories each. Crum divided the milkshake concoction into two batches.

Half of the batch was put in bottles labeled as a low-calorie drink called Sensishake.  The Sensishake ‘label’ said that milkshake had zero percent fat, no added sugar as was only 140 calories. The remaining batch was put into bottles that were labeled as a rich treat called Indulgence with fat, sugar and 620 calories per serving.

Crum then recruited participants that she divided into to two groups. One group drank the Sensishake and the other drank Indulgence. All of the participants had their levels of ghrelin measured by nurses both before and after they drank the beverage.

The Indulgence drinkers had significantly steeper decline – up to three times more – in ghrelin after consuming their shake. Participants that drank the Sensishake produced a relatively flat ghrelin response. The study results reported that “participants’ satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed”.

What This Means For You

Crum’s study shows that if you think you are eating or drinking a high calorie, and therefore highly satisfying, food or drink your body reacts as though it has consumed more. The reverse is also true.  If you search out foods that are low in sugar, fat, sodium, and calories you may not feel as satisfied after you eat them. Your brain might be telling your stomach you’re being deprived and your stomach believes it.

Crum says we may have to rethink the calories-in-calories-out philosophy because there may be more to it than that.  We need to take into consideration that how we feel about the foods we eat affect not only our hunger, but our metabolism too.

The Milkshake Study shows that you may have more control over your own hunger and satiety than you realize.  A healthy dose of positive self-talk when you’re eating a salad or a low calorie meal could help you ‘trick’ your stomach into responding to it in the same way it would if you were indulging in a four-meat pizza or creamy chicken Alfredo.

Why not try it for a week and let me know if it works?

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