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March 2020 has been a unique month. Questions about the coronavirus remain. While those with preexisting conditions seem more susceptible, why are younger, seemingly healthy people dying? I don’t know the reason, but like all Americans, I remain hopeful scientists will soon have that answer.

In his article, “Americans Unfit to Fight a Pandemic,” Dr. Rami Bailony wrote in Medpage Today, “While the public health focus has been on isolation and sanitation to slow the spread of the [COVID-19] virus, one thing we are not talking about is how our baseline health as a country makes us more susceptible to not only getting the virus but also succumbing to it.” Why does he feel that way (and I agree)?

After viewing a picture sent to him from a Costco store, Dr. Bailony made several observations about what many Americans deemed as needed foods to keep them sequestered at home. Not only did standing in long lines exacerbate the contagion problem, but he was shocked by what filled people’s carts. “From cart to cart I saw boxes of soda, chips, candy bars, and a whole lot of frozen chicken wings.” He called it a bandage-based approach to health and disease. Below I have summarized the five foundational cracks he believes make the coronavirus more deadly.

  • Failure to address the obesity epidemic. With obesity approaching fifty percent of the population, we have opened the door to greater risks for infection. As Bailony points out, obesity increases risks for respiratory infections and unfortunately, the severity of those infections. During the H1N1 epidemic, sixty-one percent of individuals who died from that condition were categorized as obese (BMI ≥30). Bailony cited other studies which showed that “people who struggle with obesity have cellular defects in certain immune cells that contributed to higher mortality.”
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Only fifteen percent of us over age sixty-five are physically active. Moderate-intensity exercise improves immune function and has the potential to reduce the severity of respiratory viral infections.
  • Lack of enough whole fruits and vegetables. More and more scientists prove that Mom was right, “Eat your vegetables.” These foods enhance our immune response. Less than ten percent of our population eat the recommended daily intake of vegetables. Why? Like the many foods we eat that aren’t as healthy, much of it is a matter of habit. It’s also a matter of acquired taste. If you don’t like a vegetable prepared one way, try another. I have been surprised when vegetables I didn’t especially like became tasty delights when I prepared a different way.
  • Defeated by psychological stress. Some surveys indicate that on any given day, more than fifty percent of Americans suffer acute or chronic stress. Bailony states that “in 2018, a third of Americans visited a doctor for stress-related conditions.” Stress is a known risk factor for obesity. Also, it has been associated with decreased antibody response to influenza vaccine.
  • Preparing for the next epidemic. Check the news on any day since the outbreak of the coronavirus in America. Someone (or many) blame lack of preparedness from the government and the healthcare system. Meanwhile, way too many disregard guidelines given early on. Abuse and disregard of orders to stay home, practice social distancing, and wash hands has moved our nation into perilous times. We don’t listen, and sadly, many don’t care. Unfortunately, some of those same individuals have succumbed to the illness not to mention the many they may have infected that caused multiple deaths.

So, before we blame government and the healthcare system for unpreparedness, perhaps we should look in the mirror and determine if we are part of the problem based on weight, eating patterns, and lifestyle. Let’s stay safe and do our part in overcoming this pandemic.

Note. Readers may be unable to open the link without subscription to Medpage Today.

 

 

 

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As a registered dietitian nutritionist, we have our own special day. Celebrate with us. Click here to learn more about the role of a dietitian nutritionist.

The theme for National Nutrition Month 2020 is “EAT RIGHT BITE BY BITE.” That’s all it takes to become a healthier you. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends actions for each week in the month of March. Check it out and give them a try.

  • Eat a variety of tasty nutritious foods.
  • Plan weekly menus.
  • Learn needed skills for preparing healthy and safe meals.
  • Check with a registered dietitian nutritionist for meals to meet your unique personal and health needs.

Make this the year when you choose more nutritious foods as you “EAT RIGHT BITE BY BITE.”

 

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Is any one diet more effective than others? People with excessive weight extend well beyond borders of the United States. It is a worldwide dilemma. The purpose of World Obesity Day on October 11, 2019 is to draw attention to the need for all nations to address this escalating problem.

Many continue to look for the perfect plan to lose weight, and reading diet books has become an American pastime to find the secret. Numerous books promote special foods, meal plans, and food restrictions. Guidelines show authors’ viewpoints whether they are qualified to address the subject or not. Do they work? If all those directions are so good, why are multitudes in our society overweight or obese? Interestingly, most diet plans may work―for a short time.

The Christmas story about eight-year-old Virginia, the little girl who wrote the editor of the New York Sun, asked, “Is there a Santa Claus?” The answer reminds all of us “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and . . .  they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”  Yes, the perfect diet also exists, but we won’t find it on the best seller’s book list. The perfect diet for each of us is the one that keeps us well-nourished to maintain appropriate weight and remain active and healthy to give us “highest beauty and joy.”

My writings and blog posts address weight issues and our addiction to trying the latest fad or weight-loss potion. Recently, I published God’s Diet Plan: Seek Him First, my version of how to find our perfect diet. The foods we consume are personal and individual preferences―something each of us chooses. Nowhere does my book say to “eat this” or “don’t eat that.” We get to pick and choose the diet we want based on taste and the knowledge we gain about wise food choices. My book equips each of us to find the perfect diet for us with appropriate guidance in how to choose the healthiest foods and avoid overindulging.

 

You can find God’s Diet Plan: Seek Him First on Amazon/Kindle, Apple, and Nook by clicking the link or typing in the name of the book on each site. Read the preview and reviews on Amazon to consider if it may help you find the perfect diet. Let’s curb the worldwide obesity epidemic―one person at a time starting with each of us.

 

 

 

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As summer wanes, jazz up your menus with a new dinner salad. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a non-meat dish loaded with nutrients that promiMediterranean Quinoa Dinner Saladse fullness.

The tasty Mediterranean Quinoa Dinner Salad uses quinoa (pronounced Keen wah or ke NO ah), a grain crop grown primarily for its seed, as the basic ingredient. If you haven’t tried it, check it out. It’s gluten-free and packed with vitamins, minerals, and about six to eight grams of protein per serving. An added touch of black beans gives even more protein. Other ingredients add flavor, texture, and healthful choices.

Diets eaten in the Mediterranean part of the world include ample fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil plus servings of seafood, especially tuna and salmon. Choose this eating pattern to improve blood pressure and enhance heart-health. A recent study showed that those seemingly high-calorie nuts, olives, and oil had little effect on body weight or waist circumference when compared to those who ate a low-fat diet. So enjoy this economical, healthy, and tasty dish.

Mediterranean Quinoa Dinner Salad

1 cup                                      Mediterranean Herb Quinoa (uncooked)

2 to 3 tablespoons                   Black beans

5 or 6                                      Black olives

½ medium                              Tomato Wedges

½ large                                  Sliced cucumber

Pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds to taste

Feta cheese

Olive oil

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Layer ingredients on individual plates. Place ½ cup cooked quinoa on each plate.Top with  black beans, olives, feta cheese, and nuts. Arrange tomato wedges around the edge of plate. Place sliced cucumbers on one side. Drizzle all ingredients with olive oil.

The Lemon Gelatin Supreme, a nice blend of lemon gelatin, marshmallows, and bananas topped with a creamy pineapple sauce, shown here gives a tangy taste to the meal. Finish dinner with a rich chocolate pudding made with non-sugar sweetener and low-fat milk. Or if calories allow, enjoy a dish of your favorite chocolate ice cream.

Try this simple dinner salad and let me know what you think.

 

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The Paleo Diet, touted for weight loss, has a growing number of followers. What is this diet? Is it right for you? The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman Diet or Stone Age Diet, refers to foods available during the Paleolithic Age, when early ancestors weren’t farmers but hunters and gatherers. They depended on food caught or gathered from open fields and forests.

According to Paleo enthusiasts, the diet includes lean meats, shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and healthy oils (olive and coconut). Restricted foods include dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, salt, refined vegetable oils (such as canola), grains, and all processed foods.

A recent study of older women on this diet caught my attention. The study included thirty-five post-menopausal women who followed the diet for two years and lost significant weight. A researcher not involved in the study pointed out that those conducting the study veered from a true Paleo Diet to one that mimicked much of the Mediterranean Diet, an acceptable plan for healthy eating. A study of only thirty-five subjects concerned me.

What can we believe? In January 2016, the U. S. News & World Report listed scores of the most common diets based on a scale from 0 to 5. The Paleo diet had a 2.0 overall score. On weight loss, it scored 1.9. The score for healthy eating was 2.1, and the magazine ranked “ease to follow” at 1.7.

The magazine rated thirty-eight diets, divided into nine categories. How did the Paleo Diet fare? For Best Overall Diet, it ranked number thirty-six, tied for next to last place with the Dukan Diet, and came in last for Best Weight-loss Diet. Not only that, to follow this diet requires more home preparation, thus more kitchen time ― a sparse commodity for busy families. It also tends to cost more.

Supporters of this diet claim it leads to a healthier, fitter, disease-free life. In actuality, it fails to provide a number of needed nutrients. Exclusion of dairy makes it difficult to get recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D. Limited grains and pulses (legumes) restrict needed fiber in the diet.

Before we embark on any diet plan, it’s wise to learn the pros and cons. When tempted to follow popular diets whose claims sound too good to be true, think again. They probably are.

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Projected new cancer cases in 2016 will exceed 1.5 million. What can we do to avoid being oneWord cloud for Healthy Eating of those statistics? Excessive body weight is a definite link for increased risk of certain cancers. Two-thirds of U. S. adults are overweight or obese. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), one-third of all cancer cases hinge on three weight-related factors.

Eat Smart:    AICR recommends vegetables, fruits, and whole grains make up two-thirds of the meal. More than one-third of people surveyed by AICR claimed cost influenced their failure to eat healthy. The following include AICR suggestions to lower food costs plus my own thoughts.

  • Choose lower-cost fresh produce such as carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, oranges and foods in season. Many of these foods, especially vegetables, keep for longer periods of time so stockpile them when grocery stores run specials.
  • Stock up on canned foods. Canned fruits and vegetables are convenient and economical. Grocery stores also run specials on many canned items. To save on costs, choose store brands that in most cases are as nutritious as name brands.
  • Keep frozen foods on hand if space permits. Frozen foods are quick and easy to prepare and retain nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Move More:    Many claim a lack of time as their reason for failing to exercise. Easy ways to move more  include:

  • Take five-minute walking breaks. Sitting all day at work or at a desk is detrimental to health. Short breaks will improve physical well-being while giving your brain a break as well.
  • Include the family. Use TV commercial breaks for activity challenges for the entire family. Children often relate well to simple family games that involve movement.
  • Try new activities or resurrect old ones. Often sedentary past-times have replaced previously active ones. Find a family member or friend to join you in former active interests or join a class involving your favorite activity.

Maintain a Healthy Weight. Next to smoking, excessive weight is the single most important factor in lowering the risks of at least ten different kinds of cancers. In April 2016 the AICR released an updated report relating stomach cancer to extra body weight bringing that number to eleven. The report confirmed other food-related issues that also increased stomach cancer―consuming three or more alcoholic drinks per day and eating bacon, hot dogs and other processed meats.

More than half of the American population are unaware that weight is linked to their risk for cancer. Many find losing weight difficult and don’t know where to begin. The AICR “Cancer-Fighting Fridge” makes other recommendations in addition to those already stated.

  • Swap white processed grains for whole grains.
  • Make fruit and vegetables front and center
  • Replace sweetened drinks with water and unsweetened beverages
  • Keep easy-to-grab healthy snacks and meal options visible

May 8-14, 2016 is National Women’s Health Week. This is a great time to consider―not only for women but men as well― what you will do to lower your risk of cancer. Women can find additional age-related guidelines to help make more informed choices.

Knowing that too much weight leaves us more susceptible to unwanted cancer, why do we take losing weight so lightly (no pun intended)? Weight-loss is a challenge, but most of us can do it.

And one last suggestion from AICR worthy of note, support and encourage those making an effort to lose weight. Even small amounts of weight-loss benefit health. Don’t wait another day to begin the road to a healthier you and at the same time help others in their quest.

http://womenshealth.gov/nwhw/by-age/ (paste into browser if link fails to work)

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By now, most have set resolutions for 2014, and perhaps many have broken them already. We declared what we wanted to accomplish this year. Some were far-reaching goals that needed time and commitment. Others required a change in mind-set.

Last year I delineated five positive nutrition principles to focus on in 2013, (Forget Diet Resolutions—Focus on Positives). Briefly these included:

  • Everyone eats food—we can’t live without it.
  • Sugar doesn’t make us fat—just the excess, especially when accompanied with high fat.
  • Diet isn’t a bad word—everything we eat is a part of our diet.
  • Add instead of subtract—eat more fruits/veggies, nix the salt.
  • Watch portion size—bigger isn’t better.

How did you make out? Maybe it’s time to review, remember, and remedy. If you made diet resolutions again and have already faltered, take heart. Any time is a good time to improve healthy eating. Review food choices you made last year. Remember what situation or specific foods may have caused you to go astray. Consider some of the following to remedy or improve eating habits.

  • Post a list on the refrigerator of healthy foods you need daily. A constant reminder makes it easier to remember to make wise choices.
  • Write down foods to buy before shopping using your refrigerator list as a guide. If you purchase healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones, that’s what you will eat because they’re available.
  • Eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary. Concentrate on each food instead of diet.
  • Put away the salt shaker. Be more diligent in reading food labels. Remember processed foods contain a lot more sodium/salt than most home-prepared dishes. When possible, purchase reduced-salt products. If you use convenience foods when cooking, such as condensed soup, omit additional salt in the recipe.
  • Invest in a good set of measuring utensils and measure recommended portion sizes until you visually recognize that amount on your plate or in your bowl.

It’s still about simple changes. Just as bad habits form by doing the same thing over and over, repeating small changes becomes a habit for healthier eating. Hopefully, you made strides toward improved eating in 2013. If so, good job. Keep going. If not, it’s never too late. Focus on adjustments you want to make before 2015. Get going and make it a happy healthy year.

 

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Sometimes it’s important to get back to basics. My blog relates to nutrition and food events based on current research or newsworthy items. As a dietitian, I tend to believe everyone has heard of the foods we need daily for a healthy diet. Not true. With a plethora of information, people tend to forget the simple. Often advertising or false claims mislead people. How can we eat for optimum health and enjoy food without the hassle? Below is a brief summary of nutrients our bodies need plus those we may eat in access.

  • Calories: Our bodies need energy (fuel). We get that energy only from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. An ounce of fat provides more than twice as many calories as the same amount of carbohydrate or protein (which have about the same). The calories we need depend on age, activity, gender, and other factors. Healthy adult women of appropriate weight need about 2,000 calories a day. Men and very active women need more. In addition to calories, the body requires the following.
  • Vitamins: These nutrients help convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy, carry out body functions within the cells, and form bones, teeth, and tissue.
  • Minerals: Mineral elements help regulate enzymes, build body and bone tissue, and keep nerves and muscles healthy.
  • Water and Fiber: Drink ample fluids (six to eight glasses per day), especially water, and eat foods high in fiber to help eliminate waste from the body.

Sometimes our diets have too much or not enough of varied nutrients. While excess of some nutrients may be okay, others can harm health. Consider the following as you eat.

  • Sugar (carbohydrate): Many, if not most, Americans have a sweet tooth. A little is okay as long as you don’t over do it. Foods high in sugar, especially sweetened beverages, are responsible for much of the obesity in society. Sugar may also increase the risk for dental decay, especially in children.
  • Fats: The body needs fat for body fuel and other functions. Fat in the diet helps keep us from getting hungry as quickly. Some types of fats are good while others can increase risks of health problems. Saturated fats, found mostly in meats, may increase risks for heart disease. To consume less of these fats, trim fat from meats, remove skin from chicken, and switch to low-fat milk and milk products. Unsaturated fats, found in plant sources, may help decrease heart problems. Olive oil, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, is considered a healthier source of unsaturated fats. Use more vegetable oils in cooking (see post for 8/20/2013) and limit the use of trans fats.
  • Meats and Protein Foods (protein, fat, vitamins, minerals): About four ounces daily of a protein food is adequate. Legumes and nuts are healthy sources. For a healthier diet, choose skinless chicken and fish instead of red meat. While controversy lingers over the health value of eggs, they are excellent sources of protein and other nutrients.
  • Milk and milk products (carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals): Consume the equivalent of two to three servings a day. Milk, a natural source of calcium and other minerals and vitamins, is fortified with Vitamin D. Choose low-fat options for a healthier diet.
  • Breads, Cereals, Pasta (carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, fiber): Choose five to six servings a day with at least half from whole grain sources.
  • Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins): While Americans may get too many calories from carbohydrates and fats, most fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables. A healthful diet will include a variety of four to five vegetables and three to four fruits each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, or canned sources. Consider the following selections and others.
    • Fruits: apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, grapefruit, mangos, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, strawberries.
    • Vegetables: asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, green beans, green peas, kale, legumes (field peas/beans), mustard greens, okra, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips/turnip greens, pumpkin, zucchini. Choose one serving of a deep green or deep yellow fruit/vegetable at least three to four times per week.
  • Salt (the minerals sodium and chloride): Controversy continues about the amount of salt (actually the sodium) needed by healthy people. While the body needs salt, too much can damage health, especially for those with high blood pressure. With the increased consumption of prepared foods, snacks, and meals eaten away from home, it’s safe to say most American exceed the amount needed. To cut back on the amount in the diet, check sodium content of foods and avoid using extra salt at the table.

Sometimes we make eating the right foods way to difficult. Make your choices based on guidelines for a healthier diet without a lot of hassle.

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If women live long enough, all will experience menopause. Will what they eat affect their quality of life during this phase of the life cycle?

Each day about 6,000 women reach menopause. Some 80 percent will experience night sweats and vasomotor symptoms—better known as hot flashes. Up to half of those will have moderate to severe discomfort.

Women with larger body sizes, whether because of a higher body mass index or greater amounts of fatty tissue, tend to have more frequent or greater severity of symptoms. Likewise, as women gain weight or increase fat cells, they boost their chances of more problems.

A study reported in the journal Menopause supports evidence that weight loss can lessen symptoms. Nearly one-fourth of women who lost at least 10 pounds experienced fewer menopausal difficulties. The greatest relief occurred, however, in more than 50 percent of the participants who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight.

Some studies have indicated that a high-fiber, low-fat diet may reduce symptoms. In the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial, the women most likely to become symptom-free after one year were those who daily consumed a low-fat diet (20 percent or less of calories from fat) with five or more high-fiber servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole grains. They also lost more weight than the control group.

Questions remain as to whether the high-fiber, low-fat diet lessened symptoms or if improvement resulted from losing weight. Regardless, weight-loss made a difference in the quality of life. The results from these studies seem like a win-win situation for women plagued with unpleasant side-effects of menopause.

What have you got to lose—except weight and hot flashes.

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My Granddaughter misses out on a healthy and delicious treat. She’s allergic to tree nuts. For those who aren’t, not only are nuts tasty and packed with nutrients, now research confirms they may help with weight loss.

Tree nuts (pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts) provide excellent sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals (carotenoids, flavonoids, phytosterols, proanthocyanidins). Although often shunned by weight-watchers because of their calorie content from fat, the type of fat in nuts contributes to a healthy diet and to cardiovascular fitness.

Nutrients in nuts may curb appetite and contribute toward a sense of fullness. The monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, in nuts may contain an appetite suppressing compound. Additionally, protein and dietary fiber increase satiety.

In one study of over 30,000 people, a significant number lost weight when nut consumption increased to more than five servings per week compared to those who consumed less than one serving per month.

In another study of 645 subjects, those who consumed three ounces of almonds along with a moderate-fat diet with equal calories from protein and carbohydrate lost eighteen percent of body weight compared to eleven percent lost by those on a low-fat, complex carbohydrate diet. Other studies yielded similar results.

Portion control is important. What is a serving of nuts? A one-ounce serving or about one-fourth cup provides between 155 to 203 calories. Cashews have the lowest number of calories followed by pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, pecans, and macadamias at 203 calories. Equivalents for one serving include twenty-three almonds, eighteen cashews, nineteen pecan halves, and fourteen walnut halves.

Rather than go nuts trying to lose weight, grab a handful of those nuggets in place of high-carbohydrate foods and enjoy knowing they are a user-friendly way to help control weight.

Reference: Wien, M., Sabate, J., “Tree nut consumption and weight management: A scientific review of literature.”  Weight Management Matters. 9:1; Summer 2011.

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