November 15, 2012

Nourishing the Holiday Spirit

Whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah, it’s the tradition and ritual, the time spent with loved ones, the feelings of connectedness, the memories, the giving, the celebration of the human spirit that makes this time of year so magical.

To avoid the weight gain typical this time of year, we should think in terms of the spirit of this season, not pig outs and guilt. Granted, food is an important part of these festivities. Where we sometimes go wrong is mistaking food for the main event, rather than a means to an end. Mindlessly inhaling a third helping of stuffing won’t satisfy your soul and build memories like holding grandpa’s hand during the Super Bowl or the belly laughs with your sister in the kitchen. The key is to preserve the tradition and avoid the binge. That means putting food in its place.

Try some or all of the following non-food ways to spend more time with loved ones during the holidays:

  • a cruise through the neighborhood in search of the best holiday decorations.
  • a holiday movie, like “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  • sing hymns around the piano.
  • caroling, either at a nursing home or through the neighborhood.
  • sledding, tobogganing, skating, or cross country skiing.
  • a snowball fight, or a snowman or snow fort-building contest.
  • a tree-trimming or house decorating party, complete with stringing popcorn and cranberries, armfuls of holly, and mistle toe.
  • a wreath-making party with wire hoops, strips of wire, and lots of scotch pine, white pine, fir, cedar bows, holly, rhododendron, berries, pine cones, and fox wood.

Or, plan get-togethers around something  everyone has to do anyway, such as wrapping gifts or making holiday cards. Purchase a variety of crafts for making candles, wrapping paper, or ornaments that guests can use for presents. Craft magazines this time of year are loaded with imaginative ideas. Then, flood the senses with festive music, pine-scented candles or potpourri, and a crackling fire. Serve a platter of fresh fruit as a side to these festivities.

Happy, healthy  holidays!!

Wendy via Compfight
Jodi via Compfight

Just Do This Today: Simple Changes

1. Include at least 2 servings of a colorful fruit or vegetable at every meal.

2. Switch from refined grains like white bread, white rice, enriched pasta, and processed cereals to 100% whole grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and 100% whole grain cereals.

3. Have a bean-based meal today and at least four times this week.

4. Limit processed foods whenever and wherever possible.

5. Supplement responsibility to fill in the gaps on the days when you don’t eat perfectly.

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Soft Drinks: The New Tobacco: “I know of no other category of food whose elimination can produce weight loss in such a short period of time,” concludes researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital whose study found a direct and clear link between soda pop consumption and risk for obesity. In their study, overweight adolescents who consumed sugary beverages (on average 1.7 servings a day) were randomly assigned to one of two groups: The intervention group receive a year of education designed to decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, while the control group followed their normal eating and drinking habits. After one year, consumption of sugar beverages in the intervention group had dropped to zero, while the control group continued to consume these drinks. The increase in BMI during that period was significantly less in the intervention group, with no adverse side effects. Researchers conclude that, “The most effective single target for an intervention aimed at reducing obesity is sugary beverages.”

2. Who Thinks Up These Studies? This study is just too weird not to report. Researchers at Cornell University investigated the “last meal” requests of people on death row, which they said “…offers a window into one’s true consumption desires when one’s value of the future is discounted close to zero.” Hmmm. They found that the average last meal contains a whopping 2,756 calories on average, has 2.5 times the daily recommendation for protein and fat, and is heavy on meat, fried foods, desserts, and soft drinks. If you were faced with your last meal, what would you choose?

3. Fat Kids at Risk for Heart Disease: Overweight children as young as 6-years-old are at risk for adult diseases, such as heart disease, state researchers at Oxford University, U.K. More than 60 studies, that included 49,220 healthy children aged 5- to 15-years-old, were assessed for weight and disease risk. Results showed that compared to normal-weight children, overweight kids had higher blood pressure, blood lipids, fasting insulin and insulin resistance, and increased left ventricular mass. These adverse signs of advancing disease were seen in overweight and obese children as young as 6-years-old!

Bruce Martin via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip: Take Care of #1

A good friend of mine always complains how she eats well, munching mostly on veggies, so how could she be 30 pounds overweight?

I always suspected that something about my friend’s diet was amiss. No one gains weight on small servings of vegetables. So, I followed her throughout a typical day, writing down everything she ate. She was correct about her serving sizes being small, at least those that made it to the plate. However, she more than made up for lost calories by finishing her kids’ leftover eggs and buttered toast in the morning, putting cream in her coffee, and finishing off a bag of cookies. She consumed almost 400 calories by repeated tasting while making dinner,  then sat down for the meal. And, oops, it completely slipped her mind about the potato chips. (But the calories don’t count if you eat them standing up and straight out of the bag, right?)

My friend’s misconceptions about her diet are very normal. In fact, nine out of ten Americans think their diets are pretty healthy. Of the thousands of people I have talked with over the years about the importance of getting more fruits and vegetables into their diets, most said they already ate lots of produce. Almost all of them are delusional.

National nutrition surveys of American’s eating habits have found that only 1% of us meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet. According to a USDA study of people who rated their diets as excellent, less than 19% actually ate reasonably well. Our eating styles are more like an hour-glass than a pyramid. We gobble lots of sugar and fat from the top of the Food Pyramid and platters of refined grains from the bottom tier, but we are sorely lacking in the vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk products, and other nutritious foods in the middle of the Pyramid.

It’s not that we don’t know better. Nine out of ten people know it’s important to limit sugary and fatty foods, yet Americans are gobbling these foods in record amounts. Only a third of us meet the recommendations to limit saturated fat; in fact, fat intake is on the rise. The average whole grain consumption is less than one serving a day, we include 3 to 4, not the recommended 9, servings of fruits and vegetables into our diets, and we are much more likely to choose a pork chop over a bowl of beans at dinner.

OK, so most of us are in serious diet denial. The good news is it takes only a few minor changes in what we’re eating to produce big-time results. If people focused on increasing their colorful vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and minimizing refined grains and added fats, especially when eating out, they would be well on their way to taking care of their most important asset – their mental and physical health.

All of that is well worth the effort, since you will drop weight, lower the risk for all age-related diseases, reduce the likelihood of having to take medication, feel great, think more clearly, and live longer and healthier. Not a bad trade off, if you ask me!

soleiletoile © via Compfight
Lynn Szwalkiewicz via Compfight

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week

What is the most important diet tip for protecting skin from aging?
Pump up the antioxidants. The number one enemy of skin is the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight generate oxygen fragments called free radicals. These highly-reactive compounds pierce delicate cell membranes and attack the genetic code within skin cells, damaging underlying structures, such as collagen and elastic fibers.  Fortunately, the skin has an anti-free radical system comprised of antioxidants that protect the skin from free-radical damage. These antioxidants work as a team, so a combination is better than focusing on only one. That means focusing on the diet tip – Have an Antioxidant Orgy – in my book, Eat Your Way to Sexy. Load the plate at every meal and snack with colorful fruits and vegetables, from asparagus and broccoli to watermelon and zucchini.

Brian via Compfight

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Pumpkin Pie with Rum Whipped Cream
(From the Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

For the rich flavor of this traditional pie, there is no substitute for real whipped cream. The trick is to pack a small amount of whipped cream with extra flavor so a little goes a long way. You can make the crust ahead of time and refrigerate. For a variation, add finely-mince crystalized ginger or toasted chopped pecans to the filling. Lemon zest instead of orange zest can be used in the crust.

1 cup powdered pie crust mix (such as Krusteaz)
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons water

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
½ cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Splenda
2/3 cup fat-free half & half
2/3 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon rum extract
2 whole eggs
1 egg, separated into yolk and white

Whipped Cream:
½ pint carton of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon rum extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

1) In a medium bowl, place pie crust mix, orange zest, and water. Mix with a fork until dough is moistened. Pat together with hands to form a firm ball. Sprinkle a clean, flat surface with flour and roll dough into a circle, two inches larger than an inverted 9-inch pie pan. Fold dough in half, then into quarters. Place tip of folded sheet in center of pie pan and unfold. Press gently into pan and trim dough to 1-inch from edge of pie pan. Fold under and pinch to form fluted edges. Set aside.

2) In a large bowl, blend all filling ingredients from pumpkin puree through to rum extract.

3) Place 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk in a small bowl and whip. Add to pumpkin mixture and blend thoroughly.

4) Whip remaining egg white with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into pumpkin mixture until no white streaks remain. Pour pumpkin filling into pie pan and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat, and bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick inserted into middle of pie comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for at least 2 hours.

5) In a medium, deep bowl, whip cream with a mixer on high-speed. When cream begins to form peaks, add powdered sugar and extracts. Continue to whip until firm peaks form.  Dollop 1 tablespoon of cream on top of each piece of pie (with left-over whipped cream). Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving of pie: 208 Calories; 33 percent fat (7.6 grams); 2 grams saturated fat; 12 percent protein; 54 percent carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber.

Nutritional Analysis per tablespoon of whipped cream: 26 Calories; 89 percent fat (2.6 grams); 1.6 grams saturated fat; 2 percent protein; 9 percent carbohydrate; 0 grams.

Dennis Wilkinson via Compfight

Answers to “Do You Know?” From the Last Issue:

Do most people gain 7 pounds during the holiday season?
The average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Years is about one pound, not seven, according to a study from the University of Oklahoma. Even though enjoying delicious holiday fare might not increase your waistline by as much as you’d expect, calorie consciousness is still important, since another study from the same researchers found that while holiday weight gain was minimal, people tend to trade muscle for fat, ending up fatter despite a minimal change on the scale. In addition, people often don’t reverse their gains after the first of the year, so the poundage accumulates from year to year, contributing to substantial gains as people age. To avoid gaining that one holiday pound, sneak in extra activity every day and focus on small portions of your favorite holiday goodies, while avoiding the everyday stuff, like cookies and chips.

Stéphanie Kilgast via Compfight

Does turkey make you sleepy?
Turkey and other high-protein foods contain the amino acid, tryptophan, which is the building block for a  nerve chemical called serotonin that makes you feel relaxed and even drowsy. But, turkey does not raise serotonin levels. Only all-carb snacks can do that. It is the tryptophan already in the blood that boosts brain levels of serotonin, and a carb-rich snack, like popcorn or a slice of bread, aids in transferring this amino acid across the blood-brain barrier and into the brain, while protein-rich foods actually block serotonin production. The real reason why a nap is so appealing after a holiday feast is the large amount of energy required to digest it. During the process, blood is diverted from the brain to the digestive tract, where it is used to help breakdown food and absorb nutrients. You get drowsy as a result. To avoid the nap after a holiday meal, eat smaller portions and limit fatty foods.

tuchodi via Compfight

Do You Know?

1. Do holiday parties and festivities cause us to overeat?

2. Is it true that traditional holiday foods might taste great, but they are bad for your health?

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo – What is the Daily Value?

These figures provide a basis for determining how a serving of a certain food fits into your daily requirements for a few selected nutrients. For instance, an 8-ounce glass of milk supplies 30% of the Daily Value or DV for calcium, which is 1,000 milligrams. That means eight ounces of milk provides 300 milligrams of calcium, making it an excellent source of that nutrient. The % DV is the best estimate of how a serving of processed food helps satisfy daily nutrient needs.  The problem of course is that just because a highly processed energy bar supplies 45% of a nutrient, such as vitamin E, it still may be high in sugar or saturated fat, and low in the other 39+ nutrients. Since no DV has been set for any of the almost one million phytonutrients, they are completely ignored on the label.

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.

2 medium eggs, poached
2 slices whole wheat toast
1 medium tomato, chopped or sliced
1 cup pink grapefruit juice

Mid-Morning Snack:
1 /2 cantaloupe filled with 6 ounces low-fat lemon yogurt and topped with 1 Tbsp. lemon zest

Chicken sandwich: 3 ounces broiled chicken breast, 2 Tbsp. canned roasted red peppers, a dash of red pepper flakes, 1 Romaine lettuce leaf, and 2 slices whole wheat bread

Cole slaw: 1 cup preshredded cabbage, 1/4 cup pineapple chunks (canned in own juice and drained), 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. low-calorie mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste

1 medium apple
1 cup nonfat milk

3 ounces pork tenderloin, braised
1 cup couscous, prepared according to package with 1 tsp. olive oil and 3 clove garlic minced
1 cup peas and carrots, steamed
Tossed salad:1 cup mixed baby greens, 1 Tbsp. chopped green onion,  3 Tbsp. grated carrot,  ½ chopped medium pear, and 2 Tbsp. oil-based dressing

Evening Snack:
2 cups frozen blueberries

Nutritional Information: 2030 Calories, 58.6 grams fat (26 percent), 264 grams carbohydrate, 112 grams protein, 1,825 mg sodium, 953 mg calcium, 37 grams fiber.