October 1, 2012

Avoiding the “Freshman 15″

Every college student has heard the term: the Freshman 15. In other words, head for college and expect to gain 15 pounds the first year. At college, you’ll be faced with a smorgasbord in the dormitory or sorority dining hall and at the student union cafeteria. Coupled with the stress of being on your own for the first time, this unlimited access to food can put on the pounds, especially if you use food to sooth emotional, not hunger, needs.

Fortunately, the skills for managing your weight are well-known and are not just a matter of eating less. If you’re serious about maintaining or attaining a realistic weight, then Commitment must become your middle name.

First, there’s a saying that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” No where does that apply more than with weight management. Young adults faced with college life who successfully manage their weight have learned how to set realistic expectations and limits on themselves. Plan your meals, your daily exercise, and how you will handle personal high-risk situations from stress, parties, and tight class schedules to eating in the dorm dining hall, loneliness, and boredom. Anticipate problems and go into battle well-armed with a plan. For example, if you notice you overeat in the dining hall, then plan to serve yourself modest portions of four items and don’t go back for seconds. Even have a plan for when you slip off your plans. Leave little to chance.

Second, monitor your progress by keeping a food journal. Record what, how much, when, and where you eat, as well as your hunger level and mood before and after the meal. From your food records, you’ll identify high-risk situations. Write them down and develop plans for handling these situations. Revise your plans as needed. Record keeping boosts self awareness, keeps you focused on your goals, provides invaluable feedback, and is the critical first step in designing strategies. Most importantly, develop the habit of checking your feelings at least five times during the day by asking yourself ‘how do I feel’ and ‘what do I need.’ If you are hungry, then eat. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Food isn’t the answer to emotional problems or the need for a hug or a nap. Find a non-food way to solve these issues, such as calling a friend to talk when lonely, exercising during your boredom-prone time of day, or taking a nap if you’re tired.

A bowl of salad Third, keep moving. People who avoid  the Freshman 15 are the ones who exercise regularly. Then combine daily activity with choosing low-fat, high-fiber foods from the dorm dining hall or student union. That means loading the plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans, with two to three servings daily of nonfat milk products and extra-lean meat. At the salad bar, load up on lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, but go light on the dressing, pasta or potato salad, and avocados.  Avoid the casseroles, meat with sauces and gravies, butter on the bread, dishes with cheese, and high-calorie desserts.

Finally, never say “never” or “always.” Successful weight managers give themselves permission to be imperfect.  They allow themselves treat foods. Labeling foods “bad” or “forbidden” only makes food more desirable; when your resistance breaks down, you’ll overeat the very foods you worked so hard to avoid. The secret is not to let one day of missed exercise or one piece of chocolate cake undo all your efforts. If you go overboard, then pick yourself  up and start over again at the next meal or the next day.

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Just Do This Today

Reaching your weight goals might not be as challenging as you might think. All you must do to lose a pound a month is cut your daily intake by 100 calories. That can be as simple as using a butter substitute rather than a tablespoon of butter on your baked potato or eating two egg rolls with your Chinese stir fry instead of three. Or,

1. Cut 1 tablespoon of oil, butter, or mayonnaise out of your daily diet, which means 2 poached eggs instead of 2 fried eggs, putting mustard instead mayo on your sandwich, grill a cheese sandwich using nonstick spray instead of a tablespoon of margarine, or steam asparagus, rather than saute it in 1 Tbsp. of butter/oil.

2. Want your hamburger, but not the calories? Simply swap a burger made from regular ground beef for a lean ground turkey-breast burger (280 vs 170 calories/ 4 ounces respectively)  allowing you to shed more than 100 calories and still have a great tasting burger.

3.  Toss out the croutons on your salad and you will save 130 calories.

4. Have your baked potato but skip the sour cream. (6 ounce baked potato = 185 calories, with sour cream = 277 calories)

5. Dip your chips in ½ cup of salsa (26 calories), rather than ½ cup of guacamole made with avocado and tomato (128 calories).

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Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Organic on the Hot Seat: Organic produce and meat is no more nutritious than conventional foods, according to researchers at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. More than 200 studies that compared either the health of people who ate organic versus conventional foods or compared the nutrient and contaminant levels in those two varieties of foods were analyzed in this review. Results showed that the vitamin and nutrient content was similar in organic and conventional produce and meats, although the organic produce had slightly higher levels of phosphorus. The organic produce had lower levels of pesticide residues (7% of organic produce showed pesticide levels compared to 33% of conventional produce) and 33% of organic chicken and pork had lower levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It was rare for either organic or conventional foods to exceed the allowable limits for pesticides. A few studies showed organic meat also might have slightly higher levels of omega-3s. The researchers conclude that it is “premature” to conclude that organic meat and produce is healthier than conventional foods. http://1.usa.gov/QT9uaj

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2. More Berries, Please! Polyphenolic compounds,  called proanthocyanidins, in berries and grapes might help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Supplementation with these polyphenolic compounds improved cognitive function in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, the polyphenolic compound called epicatechin in monomeric reached and accumulated in the brain and promoted basal synaptic transmission and improved synaptic plasticity in the brains of mice, thus promoting learning and memory.  http://1.usa.gov/USDeHR

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3. Omega-3 Improves Reading Skills in Children: As if lowering the risk for heart disease, depression, dementia, and more wasn’t enough, now researchers at Oxford University in England report that the omega-3 fat DHA also improves reading and behavior in school-age children.  Healthy children between the ages of 7- and 9-years-old who were underperforming in reading were given either placebos or 600mg of DHA (as algal oil) a day for six months. Results showed significant improvements in reading (up to a 50% improvement) in the children whose initial reading performance was in the 10- to 20th percentiles. Parent-rated behavior problems also were significantly reduced in the DHA-supplemented group, with no side effects. The researchers conclude that, “ DHA supplementation appears to offer a safe and effective way to improve reading and behavior in healthy, but underperforming, children from mainstream schools.” http://1.usa.gov/VFmp2n

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Food & Mood Tip – The Brain-Boosting Diet

Your brain is your hungriest tissue. Many vitamins and minerals, such as the B vitamins, iron, and zinc, are essential for the proper function of cells, their components, and nerve chemicals. For example, by lowering a compound in the blood called homocysteine, vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid protect against injury to small blood vessels that supply oxygen to brain cells, prevent scar tissue that interferes with nerve function, and help maintain well-functioning brain cells. Compounds in soy also might help prevent age-related memory loss.

On the other hand, poor diets not only fail to provide these essential brain protectors, but add insult to injury by flooding the brain with harmful substances. For example, saturated fat clogs blood vessels, which are then less able to transport oxygen to the brain. High-saturated fat diets also cause tiny brain lesions and blood clots that lead to depression, reduced reaction times, and poor memory.   It’s no wonder that people who shun vegetables and eat lots of meat, fast foods, and other fatty items are most prone to depression, memory loss, and poor concentration, while people with the sharpest minds typically eat little saturated fat and cholesterol, but feast on fruits, vegetables, and the nutrients in these foods, such as vitamin C, beta carotene, and folic acid.

Don’t get me wrong. Your brain needs fat, but the right kind. While saturated fats  in red meats and fatty dairy products, and trans fats in processed foods made with hydrogenated oils muddle your mind, the omega-3 fats in fish and moderate amounts of the monounsaturated fats in olive and canola oils are essential building blocks for brain cell membranes.

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week

Berries: Mother Nature’s Aphrodisiacs
In France, strawberries are considered an aphrodisiac and are served at weddings. The antioxidant mix in berries is so powerful that they rank right along with greens as the most nutritious foods in the diet. A half cup of blueberries has the antioxidants of five apples. Phytonutrients, such as anthocyanins, resveratrol, ellagic acid, carotenoids, and polyphenols, protect healthy cells throughout the body, preventing aging from head to groin. They lower risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, vision loss, urinary tract infections, inflammation, erectile dysfunction, periodontal disease, and kidney stones. Ellagic acid in berries is a youth elixir for skin, increasing elastin fibers and inhibiting collagenase, an enzyme that otherwise breaks down collagen in the skin. Berries ability to protect your mind is so amazing that some call them “brain berries.”  Berries also are rich in fiber, folate, vitamin C, and potassium. You need at least a cup a day, most days of the week. The antioxidant power is directly proportional to the color, so select the darkest berries that are richly hued from skin to core.  No quick fix here. You can’t get any of the benefits of berries in a pill. In fact, one study found that of hundreds of berry supplements studied, about half had no active ingredients at all.

Eat More: Eat plain, or use in sauces, salads, smoothies, desserts, muffins, tarts, and as toppings.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Posole Soup
(From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

Prepare yourself for a real treat if you haven’t discovered this traditional Mexican soup.  In addition to regular canned tomatoes, use Mexican stewed tomatoes. This soup screams with authentic flavor and the aroma is to die for. Simple and quick to make.  For a vegetarian meal, leave out the chicken!

2 15-1 /2 ounce cans Great Northern beans, undrained
1 15-1 /2 ounce can Hominy, undrained
2 14-1 /2 ounce cans Mexican stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 28-ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes, undrained
1 11-ounce can whole kernel yellow corn, undrained
1 7-ounce can diced green chilies
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon fresh orange rind, grated
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 /2 cup orange juice
2 bay leaves
2 cups of water
2 cups white chicken meat, diced or shredded
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1) Combine all ingredients except cilantro in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Discard bay leaves.

2) Add cilantro, stir to mix.  Add more water or tomatoes if too thick.

3) Ladle into bowls. Makes 10 (Approximately 1 1 /2 cups) servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 245 Calories; 8 percent fat (2.2 grams); < 0.5 gram saturated fat; 25 percent protein; 67 percent carbohydrate; 11 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do You Know?” from Last Issue:

Whether or not drinking a glass of water before a meal helps fill you up?

Fact: Water does curb appetite, but only if it is incorporated into food, not drunk from a glass. Several studies from Pennsylvania State University found that only water in soups, thick beverages like V8 juice or a smoothie, and other liquid foods fills us up. In one study, women were given a snack of chicken rice casserole with a glass of water or a chicken rice soup that contained the same amount of water as broth. Results showed that the soup was more filling even though it contained 27% fewer calories than the casserole. The reason why water bound to food is filling, while a glass of water is not, is unclear, but it could be that the bound water slows digestion, whereas a glass of water just passes right through.

Whether or not late night eating causes more weight gain than eating at other times of the day?

This belief is pretty much false. This myth  might have originated from a two decade-old study that found that “diet-induced thermogenesis” or DIT (the extra calories it takes to digest and assimilate foods) was higher after breakfast than after lunch, and higher after lunch than after dinner (at least in men). These results suggested that more calories are used up and so are not stored as fat when consumed earlier in the day. No research since has added credence to the theory.  There probably is a slight fat-storing effect when a person eats a large dinner or evening snack and then sits around all night compared to eating a large breakfast followed by an active day, but the effect is too small to make any difference in a person’s weight. What is a problem is that people tend to eat too much, and of all the wrong stuff, in the evening. But that habit would cause weight gain no matter what time of day!

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Do You Know

1. Whether the occasional fat feast –burger and fries– will or won’t kill you?

2. Which is healthier for you, red or white wine?

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo – Hormone-Free: What Does That Mean?

Technically speaking, all meat contains hormones, since all animals produce hormones. The U.S. government does not allow the use of hormones in poultry and pork. So,  if a supplier uses the words “hormone free” on the label for poultry or pork, they also must add that the “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” For beef, the label can read, “No hormones administered” if the USDA was supplied documentation that proves the animals were not given hormones. There is no evidence at this time that these meats are any more nutritious than conventional meats, or that they are lower in saturated fats associated with heart disease, dementia, and colon cancer.

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the evening snack  if you want to cut an additional 200 calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 3-ounce whole wheat bran muffinPineapple chunks topped with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 /2 cup fresh or canned pineapple chunks
1 cup soymilk, steamed and flavored with cinnamon and sugar substitute

Zesty Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Grill the following sandwich using vegetable spray: 2 slices 100% whole wheat bread, 1 ounce low-fat cheddar cheese, 1 large canned and drained green chili, 1 medium sliced tomato.

1 serving Posole soup

Carrot Salad made with 2/3 cup grated carrots,  1 tablespoon raisins,  2 tablespoon fat-free mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon  lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces low-fat milk w/ DHA

Mango Chutney Chicken: Top a 4-ounce grilled chicken breast with a mixture of 3 tablespoons  Major Grey’s Chutney and 1/4 cup diced mango
1 /2 cup steamed fresh green beans
1 cup tossed salad with 1 tablespoon  low-calorie dressing
1 small slice angel food cake topped with 1 /2 cup fresh strawberries [A little something sweet can boost levels of endorphins, the same feel-good chemicals that produce the runner’s high.]

Evening Snack:
1 cup air-popped popcorn flavored with a dash of hot pepper sauce.
1 papaya, seeded and drizzled with 1 teaspoon  fresh lime juice

Nutritional Information with snack: 1,806 Calories, 24% fat (48 g fat, 16 g saturated), 18% protein (81 g), 58% carbs (262 g), 37 g fiber, 1,174 mg calcium, 428 mcg folate, 4,024 mg sodium.

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