January 1, 2013

10 Super-Simple, No-Fail New Year’s Diet Resolutions

2013Most New Year’s resolutions come and go. We have great hopes and intentions to head off to the gym, start a new diet, lose weight, be healthier. By February, the gym shoes are at the back of the closet, the diet plan is history, and the weight is still haunting us. Here are 10 painless, super-simple, fool-proof resolutions from my book,” Eat Your Way to Happiness, that provide a big health or weight-loss punch for minimal effort.

1. Eat breakfast: It takes no more than 5 minutes to fix and eat a good breakfast, yet the benefits will last a lifetime. Breakfast eaters have more energy, think more clearly, perform better at school and work, and are less vulnerable to cravings throughout the day, therefore, they are more successful at weight loss and maintaining the loss over time. Follow my 1,2,3 Breakfast rules: 1) a whole grain, 2) a protein, and 3) one to two colorful fruits and vegetables, which is as easy as a bowl of whole grain cereal with milk and blueberries.

soup2. Start lunch (or dinner) with a bowl of soup: It’s the volume or weight of food that fills us up. If it takes a pound of food to feel satisfied, you can gobble a pound of French fries for a zillion calories or a pound of carrots for 50 calories. The best way to boost volume is to eat foods that have water and fiber in them. Vegetable soup is a perfect example. When people have a bowl of soup before a meal they consumed 200 calories less and still feel full and satisfied. So, add a bowl of chicken noodle or cream of tomato to your sandwich for lunch every day and you could lose up to two pounds a month. That’s 24 pounds by the end of 2013!!

nuts3. Eat more nuts: Not only are nuts a good source of protein, magnesium, vitamin E, and B vitamins, but a handful of nuts several times a week lowers heart disease by up to 35% and also drops cancer risk. The fat in nuts is heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, and while they may be high in fat, adding nuts to the daily diet actually helps with weight loss. A study from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that women on low-calorie diets that included nuts lost just as much weight as women on low-calorie, low-fat diets, but were more likely to keep the weight off long-term.

4. Cook in cast iron: Up to 80% of women during the childbearing years are iron deficient. They’re not so deficient that they are anemic, but the symptoms are the same: They’re tired, more susceptible to colds and infections, can’t think clearly, and might have sleep problems. Besides pumping up the iron content of your diet, throw out that expensive cookware and return to Grandma’s cast iron. The iron leaches out of the pot into the food, boosting iron content several fold, especially in acidic foods, such as spaghetti sauce.

5. Chew gum:  Do you taste test while cooking? Pop food scraps in your mouth as you load the dishwasher? Take a bite of the leftover lasagna while rummaging through the fridge for tonight’s dinner? That is called mindless eating, and it could be at the root of your weight problems, since every bite averages about 25 calories. Four mindless bites in a day and you’ve gained a pound in a month.  Instead, chew sugarless gum when cooking or in the kitchen to discourage putting anything else in your mouth.

Hill6.  Move more: While the likelihood of sticking with an hour vigorous workout at the gym is slim, you can boost activity and shed pounds by just adding more movement to your daily routine. Walk up the escalator or take the stairs instead of standing like a statue as the elevator and escalator work for you. Park at the end of the lot, rather than drive around for 15 minutes looking for a closer parking spot. Throw out the remote control and get up every time you want to change the TV station. Studies show that adding little 10 minute bursts of activity to your day add up to significant health benefits and even a few inches off the waistline.

7. Take a multi: Even if you think you eat right, take a moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral anyway. While up to 80% of Americans think they eat pretty well, only one in every 100 of us meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet. To hedge your bets…while you continue to try to eat better, of course…take a multi to fill in the gaps on days when you eat less-than-perfect.

8. Fill half the plate with fresh produce: From asparagus to watermelon, fruits and vegetables contain two of the three ingredients for weight loss: fiber and water (protein is the third). Not only will you lower your risk for all age-related diseases, but you’ll lose weight without feeling hungry.

9. Choose foods fortified with DHA: The omega-3 fat, DHA, improves mood and memory, and may even help with weight loss. So, when purchasing milk, eggs, soymilk, yogurt, tortillas, or other foods, select those that are fortified with a sustainable, algae-based DHA. Aim for at least 220 milligrams of DHA a day.

10. Read labels: Cut your sugar intake and you automatically boost mood and lose a few pounds. There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, so read labels and avoid any processed food with more than 3 teaspoons of sugar (12 grams) or any product that has sugar in the first three ingredients or multiple sugars within the ingredient list.

Photo credits: soup: gulizars via sxu.hu, nuts: davysupes via sxc.hu, stairs: Andreas Levers via Compfight, eggs: cobalt123 via Compfight

Just Do This Today

1. Follow three of the above no-fail diet tips.

2. Put your fork down between bites. Chew the food completely and wait before taking another bite.

3. Be grateful for all the good you have in your life.

Hot Off the Diet Press

orangetree1. Heart Attacks Don’t Grow on Trees: Women who consume diets packed with colorful fruits and vegetables significantly lower their risk for having a heart attack, state researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Food-frequency questionnaires and total antioxidant capacities were calculated on 32,561 women between the ages of 49- and 83-years-old. At the end of 10 years, results showed that those women who consumed at least seven servings daily of colorful produce and, as a result had the highest antioxidant levels, had a 20% lower risk of having a heart attack.

Rautiainen S, Levitan E, Orsini N, et al: Total antioxidant capacity from diet and risk of myocardial infarction. American Journal of Medicine 2012;125:974-980.

pizza2. Carbs Could Make You Infertile: The quality of a man’s sperm is a reflection of the quality of his diet, according to two recent studies. At Harvard School of Public Health, researchers analyzed diet patterns and semen quality in men aged 18- to 22-years-old. Two dietary patterns were identified: the Western pattern (high in red and processed meat, refined grains, pizza, snacks, high-energy beverages, and sweets) and the Prudent pattern (high in fish, chicken, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains). Results showed the Prudent pattern was associated with more than a 11% greater sperm motility compared to the Western diet. The researchers conclude that “…a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish, and whole grains may be an inexpensive and safe way to improve at least one measure of semen quality.” In a second study, excessive intake of calories from dairy and refined carbs was associated with poor sperm quality in men, possibly because of the link to obesity, stated researchers who reported their findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting in San Diego.

Gaskins A, Colaci D, Mendiola J, et al: Dietary patterns and semen quality in young men. Human Reproduction 2012;27:2899-2907.
Photo credit: BeverlyLR via sxc.hu

3. Antioxidants Against Arthritis: Many antioxidant-rich foods help lower inflammation and oxidation associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a review of the research from the National Research Centre in Cairo, Egypt. Researchers looked at foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as phenols, omega-3 fats, phytosterols, tocopherols, and carotenoids and compared these constituents with their effects on oxidative damage associated with RA. Results showed that many foods helped lower inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and oxidative stress, while improving antioxidant status and colonic microflora in RA patients. These foods included fish oil, primrose oil, fenugreek, coriander, tomato, carrot, sweet potato, broccoli, green tea, rosemary, walnuts, and wheat germ. The researchers conclude that, “Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutraceuticals may serve as complementary medicine for the management of RA.”

Al-Okbi S: Nutraceuticals of anti-inflammatory activity as complementary therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Toxicology and Industrial Health 2012;October 26th. Photo credit: jacki-dee via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip – Crave Control

You can’t will away food cravings. Brain chemicals, such as serotonin, NPY, and galanin, go bezerk when a person adopts a quick-weight loss diet. For example, rats placed on a calorie-restricted diet and then allowed to eat at will increase their consumption of fat from a typical 35% of calories to as much as 60% of calories. People who repeatedly gain and lose weight also crave sweet-fat foods more than people who maintain their weight. It is likely that restricting these foods raises NPY or galanin levels (or lowers serotonin and endorphin levels), which sets up a rebound effect and swings the eating pendulum from abstinence to binge. To work with, rather than against, this appetite chemistry:

1. Eat small, meals and snacks throughout the day that contain some high-quality carbs and some protein to keep NPY and serotonin levels in the normal range. Skipping breakfast only escalates NPY levels and increases cravings later in the morning.

2. Avoid fatty meals and snacks mid-day, since they may give galanin an extra boost and set you up for more fat cravings at night.

3. Take it slow. Gradually make dietary changes, including reducing fat, sugar, or calories, to allow time for the crave-control chemicals to adapt.

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week

Eat Your Way to Sexy, By Elizabeth SomerWhen it comes to sexy, attitude is everything. People with sunnier outlooks on life, also age well, live longer (more than 7 years on average according to a study from Yale), and have lower rates of disease throughout life. They recover from surgery faster, have lower heart disease risks, are in better physical health, have more vitality, and suffer less pain than do curmudgeons. Laughter also reduces inflammation and depression, and kick starts the immune system.

Upbeat thinking also begets more happiness. Every time you think positive, it changes brain chemistry, with higher levels of feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and the endorphins. An upward spiral results where the improved brain function further encourages a happier outlook.. (Negative thoughts have just the opposite effect, creating a spiral of negative thoughts that kill brain cells and squelch happiness and healing.) The health benefits are strong, but transient, so you must fuel the happiness fire with smiles and laughter throughout the day.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Herb-Roasted Chicken (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

My family loves roast chicken and it’s so simple to make. The extra benefit is that left-overs can be used to make chicken salad for sandwiches the next day. Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Portobelo Mushrooms and Walnuts, Roasted Gingered Vegetables, or Glazed Carrots are all great accompaniments to this dish. (Notice the difference in calories, fat, and saturated fat between chicken breast and dark meat. If you are watching your weight or cholesterol, choose chicken breast.)

5 pound chicken, giblets removed, rinsed inside and outside, patted dry
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1 /2 teaspoon ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh sage
1 /2 lemon, cut in half
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

1) Rub cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff with herbs, lemon, and garlic. Rub outside of bird with olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Tuck legs together (use string or tin foil) to make bird as compact as possible.

2) Place bird on rack in covered roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes or until thigh meat is 170 degrees and juices run clear. Baste every 15 minutes after first half hour. If bird browns too quickly, lower oven temperature to 400 degrees.

3) Let chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per 3-ounce serving of breast meat: 167 Calories; 36 percent fat (6.7 grams); 1.8 grams saturated fat; 64 percent protein; 0 percent carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber.

Nutritional Analysis per 3-ounce serving of dark meat: 210 Calories; 58 percent fat (13.5 grams); 3.7 grams saturated fat; 42 percent protein; 0 percent carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber.

Photo credit: jules via Compfight

Answers to “Do You Know?” From Last Issue

 As long as you exercise, you can eat whatever you want.
It is true that your weight is a direct reflection of how many calories you take in versus how many you burn off in exercise. The more you exercise, the more you can eat. However, a string of big meals can stretch your stomach, which means if you pig out too often, it will take more food to fill you up, which means more and more hours at the gym to burn off the excess calories.

Photo credit: lu_lu via Compfight

Thanksgiving SpreadIf you gobble a truck-size load of turkey and stuffing at a holiday meal you’ll gain up to 5 pounds.
It is very unlikely you will even gain a pound after a glut-fest, since it takes an extra 3,500 calories over and above what you need to maintain your current weight – or about 5,500 calories total in a day for the average woman – to pack on one pound of body fat. Granted, when you get on the scale the next morning, you could weigh more than you did the day before, but the extra weight is mostly water, not fat. Excess food means excess sodium intake, which causes the body to retain water. The added carbs from mashed potatoes and rolls is stored as glycogen and every ounce of that storage carb is packaged with three ounces of water. Within a day or two, the water weight will disappear as you burn the glycogen during workouts and excrete the retained fluids.

Photo credit: David Goehring via Compfight

Do You Know?

There is no such thing as a “bad” food only bad diets.

While everyone can improve their diets, most people eat pretty well in this country.

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo – Health Claims

The package says “low in cholesterol” or “high in fiber.” Does that mean it’s good for you? Absolutely NOT! Don’t believe anything you read on the front of a label. Just because a food company has added fiber (or worse yet, some processed fiber-like product) to an otherwise highly processed food does not give it a real health halo. It still can be high in fat, sugar, salt, refined grains, additives, and/or low in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and more. Always turn the package over and read both the nutritional profile and the ingredients list.

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks  if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.


1 /2 100% whole wheat bagel toasted and topped with 2 Tbsp. low-fat cream cheese and 1/4 cup fresh or canned pineapple chunks
1 cup low-fat 2% milk (warm and flavor with almond extract, if desired)
1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew chunks
1 cup decaf tea or coffee, sweetened with Splenda (optional)

Peanut Butter ‘n Honey Sandwich: Mix 2 Tbsp. peanut butter, 2 Tbsp. toasted wheat germ, and 2 Tbsp. honey. Spread between 2 slices of whole wheat bread
10 baby carrots
Sparkling water

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 cup mixed fresh fruit salad
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

1 serving Herb-Roasted Chicken (white meat only)
6-ounce baked potato topped with 2 Tbsp. each fat-free sour cream and diced green onions
1 cup peas & carrots
Spinach salad: 3 cups bagged baby spinach, 1/4 cup canned and drained mandarin oranges, 2 Tbsp. diced red onion, and 2 Tbsp. salad dressing

Evening Snack:
1 cup hot cocoa made with nonfat milk
2 cups air-popped popcorn

Nutrition Analysis: 2,002 Calories, 30 % fat (67 g: 22 g saturated), 51 % carbs (255 g), 19 % protein (95 g), 36 g fiber, 1,035 mg calcium, 676 mcg folate, 250 mg vitamin C, 19.7 mg iron