Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Close to Perfect Day

A wet nose bumped my arm this morning a little past seven. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a lab?  After grabbing a fresh cup of coffee to go, my husband and I took our dog to a local park for a 2 mile walk on the wooded trails.  It was bright, clear morning, sunny and cool and the mosquitoes weren't even up yet.

This was fun. He had taken a day off from work and I had pushed back mine. It really felt like a vacation in the middle of the week--what a treat!  After our walk, I went off to meet a special friend for skinny lattes and whole grain bagels. Then we zipped around doing a little leg work as we shopped, talking the entire time. A perfect way to catch up with a friend a burn a few calories, too.

When I got  home, my husband had finished grading finals and submitting final grades (OK, so he wasn't really taking an entire day off,) and he was in the kitchen preparing fresh egg salad (light mayo, mustard and dill pickle) sandwiches on whole wheat. So, so good.  We enjoyed them out on on the deck along with big bowl of fresh cherries, which is the perfect place to eat on a day like today.  Cherries.  Nothing quite compares to that deep, rich sweet flavor.  I do wish they'd be that tasty and affordable year round. But then, maybe they wouldn't seem so special.

Right after a little trip to the dentist, I met my husband at the outdoor pool. I'm a Pisces.  Does it make a difference?  I don't know what it is exactly,  but the water is just a wonderful place for me.  I love the way my body feels as I pull it through that clear fluid, stroke by stroke.  Floating, sculling,'s all so right. But, I digress. I got in a mile swim, and my husband did more than that.

After our 2 hours of fun in the sun, it was home for an easy dinner.  He grilled a couple of chicken breasts as I concocted a light summer dinner salad.  Mixed greens, cucumber slices, fresh sliced strawberries, grapes, red onion and toasted walnuts, all topped off with sliced grilled chicken and drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette. Served with a whole grain baguette and glass of wine on the side.  Cool, light, totally delicious! It photographed pretty well, don't you think?

I felt great all day a healthy lifestyle.

It was an absolutely wonderful, close to perfect, day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Clean Plate Club, Part II

In The Clean Plate Club, Part I, we figured out that forcing a child to finish all the food on the plate is not a good idea. As parents, we really do want what's best for our kids, and we want them to learn to eat healthy foods so they can grow strong and healthy. So, what's a parent supposed to do?

There is no one easy answer. All kids are not alike and no one parent has the same parenting style.  Even my three kids were different.  It would have been nice if they came with instruction manuals when they were born!  That being said, there are a few things that we all can do as we feed the next generation of kids:
  1. Sit down at the table to eat meals and snacks, even if there are only 1 or 2 of you there.  Our lifestyles have gotten so hectic and crazy that many of us feed the kids on the run, or simply place food in front of them while they watch TV. Both feeding styles encourage mindless eating, which can create many eating issues. Eating on the run should be a rare occasion.  
  2. Fix the same meal for the entire family.  Don't get started as a short order cook! 
  3. Serve pretty, fun fruits and veggies at every meal.  Don't get stuck in the canned bean mode. Try all sorts of fruits cut up into bite-size chunks served on a platter in the middle of the table. Give each person a tooth pick to eat with.  Better yet, a fancy tooth picks with the fancy colored plastic stuff on top. My kids loved melons and strawberries served like that-they still do.  Prep raw cauliflower or broccoli bits and call them "trees" and serve them with low-fat dips. Be creative.
  4. Allow the child who is old enough to serve themselves. Encourage everyone to learn to start with small portions. They can always have more if their tummies are still hungry. Focus on the stomach hunger.  
  5. Place healthy, whole grain bread or rolls on the table.
  6. Allow the child to eat as much as they wish to eat. No comments about amount the child should eat. Period. If you try to get a heavier child to eat less, the message they receive from you will almost always backfire.  I know you mean well, but what do they hear?  "You think I'm fat.  You don't like me as I am.  I'm not good enough."  You don't even want to start going there!!
  7. No forcing a child to eat anything.  See yesterday's blog.
  8. Encourage them to listen to their tummy/stomach:  eat when you're hungry, stop when full, but don't harp on it.  Model this behavior yourself.  Tell the family, "My stomach's full, I've had enough." Then put down your fork and enjoy visiting with them while they eat.  
  9. Place a kid's size portion of dessert a every person's plate right along with the main meal, if you are a dessert eating family. I love this suggestion from Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, LCSW, BCD, in "Your Child's Weight, Helping Without Harming, Birth Through Adolescence," (check the My Favorites List.) Let everyone eat the mini dessert whenever they want during the meal.  Result?  The dessert is not longer controlling the meal.  Even if the child eats it first, they'll still reach for more food on the table---they won't be full yet!
  10. Serve a protein at every meal.  Not enough time for "real meat"?  What about lean deli meats rolled up into little logs held in place by a pretzel stick or a cute tooth pick.  Add a slice of cheese or roll the meat around a piece of string cheese. Peanut butter is always a great back up, too, with heart healthy fat and protein, too.
  11. Serve milk at every meal.  Ban soda pop at the meal, even the diet variety.  Learning to reach for water or milk will serve a family well.
  12. Smile, relax, try to make it as happy, positive family time as possible. Yes, I know it won't always be.  Remember?  I raised 3 kids!  I know, things won't always go perfectly, you won't always do things "right," but just keep trying to do your best.  And that's just fine!
If you know things need to change for you and/or your kids:
If you always do what you always done, you'll always get 
    what you've always got (Anthony Robbins.)
Moral:  Positive change is a good thing.

To your children's health and to yours!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Clean Plate Club, Part I

Were you a member of the infamous Clean Your Plate Club when you were a child? Are you still a member?  Though its numbers are dwindling, it was once a very populated club, and most kids were not members by their own choosing. If you were raised to think you always need to clean your plate, that mindset tends to follow with you forever, which can interfere with your ability to eat mindfully and manage your own food intake.

I've worked over two decades with people struggling with eating issues, it's interesting that many them were raised in this way.  In most families, the rules were firm:
  1. You had to finish all food on your plate.  No ands ifs or buts.  Most were made to sit at that table until every bite of food that was placed on the plate was eaten. Some have told me stories of having the same food repeatedly served to them at subsequent meals until they finally would eat it. There would often be punishments if the food was not eaten, or worse yet, guilt.  My husband remembers being told by his Grandma that children in China were dying of starvation.  The implication was clear to him.  If he didn't finish all of his mashed potatoes, he felt like he'd be responsible for their deaths. Many people have told me similar stories.  Some kids learned at this point to hide food and lie about eating it. Force, punishment, guilt, coercion, lying...none of this is good.
  2. Once you finished all the food on your plate, you got to have dessert!  Yeah! Pie, ice cream, know, the sweet stuff!
What's wrong with "the clean plate club?"
  1. It teaches a child to ignore his/her own hunger cues. It doesn't matter if you are hungry or full. Eat. Eat it all. Wrong lesson!  It's vitally important to allow a child to learn to connect with their  sense of true physical hunger and fullness. When you're filling the gas tank in your car, there's an automatic shut off switch that stops filling when the tanks full--pretty cool. Human brains also have a control mechanism in place, though many of us have learned to override it. We need to allow children to learn to listen to it.  Tummy hungry?  Eat.  Stomach full? Stop eating. Quite a lesson to teach a child of any age. 
  2. A reward is given if the child eats all the food on the plate.  Rewards should never be given for eating or for not eating. In this case, it's reinforcing a child to ignore their own internal hunger cues and pay attention to the plate instead.  This develops into an unhealthy habit which is tough to change. 
  3. Food should never be used as a reward.  Expecting food for a job well done may set a person on a path of lifelong struggles if they constantly want to reward themselves for everything they do with food.  Not a good way to lead a healthy life.
  4. The food reward is a sweet DESSERT!!  Wow!  If I clean my plate, stuff my face, make my mom/dad happy, I get to have a reward, and it's not whole grain bread, it's chocolate cake with fudge icing and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  I only get to have it if I've been good and clean my plate.  This puts cake on a pedestal, an all powerful reward that only the best kids can achieve. Chocolate cake now has power.  Some people develop an overwhelming obsession with that cake just because it was place on that pedestal.  We want to eat it because it makes us feel like we were good.  Or, we want to sneak around and hide the fact that we've eaten it, since we don't feel like we have earned such a reward---too much head stuff tied up into dessert for some of us.
I don't want any of you telling your parents they really screwed up.  Your parents did the best they could with the information they had. Many were influenced by the depression, lack of food or money, and the way their parents raised them.  As they say, no use crying over spilt milk. We need to accept they way we are now, learn from the way we were raised, and make a difference in the way the next generation is being raised (more on this in tomorrow's post.)

Ditch the clean plate club.  Encourage children of all ages to eat until their tummies are full and then stop.  It takes awhile to learn but it's worth it.  If food waste is a problem, encourage them to start taking smaller portions.  We all should be doing that anyway.

  • Take small portions when hungry.
  • Take a bite.
  • Chew.
  • Taste the flavors.
  • Notice the textures.
  • Enjoy the food.
  • Repeat if still hungry.
  • Stop when full.

Stay tuned in for tomorrow's,  Clean Plate Club, Part II.  We'll be talking about how to provide family snacks and meal times for healthy kids of all ages!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And Remember to Sleep...

I am so jealous of the dog in this photo. Sleep.  It seems so natural and easy for dogs, but it just didn't happen very well for me last night.  At first, I couldn't get to sleep.  My mind kept thinking about everything that was happening with my family. Then,  I moved on to worrying about things.  Are my parents really OK?  Did I lock the doors?  Shut the garage door?  Is the moving van ever going to bring the furniture to my son and daughter-in-law, or will it be held hostage forever? I couldn't seem to shut down my brain.  I did fall asleep at some point, but then I kept waking up.  I think I must have seen the clock at every hour.

Have you every had nights like that?  An occasional night like that is just part of life, and won't do much harm to our bodies.  But, if you don't get enough sleep over a period of time, it can have an impact on your health. 

Many of us are so busy and so stressed trying to get everything done, that we often cut out one of the most important aspects of our lives:  restorative sleep. Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night, though many of us miss that mark by 2 hours and more. Many people are sure they are doing just fine on 5 hours a night---they're catching up on work at home, doing housework, paying bills, cooking, shopping, taking care of the kids, trying to organize everything...oh, and the dog needs to be walked.  It often seems like the easiest way to find time to get things done is to stay up later, get up earlier, or both.  No one notices except our bodies.

Why We Need Sleep:
  • Sleep builds and strengthens your immune system. When people are sleep deprived for long periods of time, they are at higher risk for illness. I know of many people who have gone through days or weeks of stress and sleep deprivation to achieve a big goal.  When the deadline is over, they ended up really sick.  
  • Sleep organizes memories, solidifies learning and increases concentration. All you students out there: all-nighters are not a good idea.  Go through your material, study, and then sleep to get the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Sleep regulates mood. Too little sleep = cranky and irritable you.  'Nuff said.
  • Sleep maximizes motor skills.  Physical performance suffers when don't get enough zzz's. Many people are clumsier---I dropped and broke my favorite water mug this morning, not a surprise. You can bet athletes put sleep as a top priority!  Sleep deprivation has also been shown to be just as detrimental to driving as some levels of alcohol intake.  
  • Sleep enables better decision making. When you are short of sleep your ability to make good judgements can be impaired.
  • Sleep repairs brain cells. Whoa, we really need to think about this one!
Are You Getting Enough Sleep to Promote Your Good Health?
  • Preschoolers need 11 hours of sleep each night, on the average.
  • School age children, 10 hours.
  • Teens, 9 hours.
  • Adults, 7-8 hours.
When adults sleep much more or less than the recommended 7-8 hours, studies have shown the mortality rates increase and they don't perform as well on mental tasks. As adults grow older, sleep tends to be lighter and they awaken more frequently, though the actual need for sleep does not go down.

To Help You Sleep Better:
  • Put sleep on your daily schedule.  Try not to scrimp on it to get other things done!
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages past mid afternoon.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, but not within an hour or two before bed, as elevated adrenaline levels may keep you from falling asleep.
  • Stick to a regular "going-to-bed" routine. Make it relaxing, slowing your mind and body. Read or do crossword or sodoku puzzles.  Teach your body the routine of relaxing before sleep.
  • Machines off.  It's best to keep TV's off and computers or any electronic devices that may glow or emit sounds out of the bedroom.  
  • White noise.  Quiet fans, white noise machines, or air cleaners work well for many people, including me.
  • No big meal before bed, but some may choose to have a very light snack. Try a small low-fat yogurt or a graham cracker and low fat milk. 
  • Talk to your doctor if you need more help with sleep. Over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies have been shown to be ineffective on insomnia.  Melatonin may be helpful for some experiencing jet lag, but beware. Some supplements can interfere with other meds you may take, or can be down right dangerous, so be sure to talk with your doctor first.
What can we take from this conversation? 
Sleep is vital to your health!  Make it a priority in your life, and your body and mind will thank you for it.

To your health!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Salsa's a Vegetable

Salsa is a vegetable! It's true. Made with all sorts of wonderful things like tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro and parsley, salsa is packed with vitamin C, beta carotene, fiber, and the disease fighting antioxidant lycopene.  Every half cup that you eat counts toward the minimum of 5 fruits and veggies you need everyday. The only problem comes with what we dip into the salsa. Be careful when you're eating regular tortilla chips, since they're loaded with fat calories, and we can munch a bunch of calories very quickly. Baked chips are a good possibility. Veggies such as raw broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower would make really healthy dippers.  If you have the time, I highly recommend making your own chips. They are so good, and so much better for you.  Marcia asked for my favorite baked tortilla chip recipe, so here it is:

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Soft Corn Tortillas (4-6")
     cut into 6 pie shaped wedges
Spray with Cooking Spray
Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired (sea salt works great, since you can use less to get the salt taste)

Bake for 8 minutes. Turn over.  Bake another 7 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.
Serve and enjoy!

*Trader Joe's has really good corn tortillas with no preservatives at all.  Just be sure to store them in the freezer if you aren't going to use them quickly.

Have it your way. Have fun trying out a variety of salsas and experiment with using them.  Try salsa verde (green tomato salsa,) corn salsa, black bean salsa, fruit salsas...there are just so many out there.  Salsa is great on top of a couple of scrambled eggs or as a dipping side for a grilled cheese on whole wheat sandwich. Marinade chicken, pork loin, or lean beef cuts with salsa or a blend of salsa and light Italian dressing before you grill.  It's great!

Try Some Salsa Twists...

Corn and Black Bean Salsa:

1 cup of your favorite salsa
1/4 cup corn, drained
1/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

Spicy Refried Beans:

1 cup fat-free refried beans (black are my favorite)
1/4 - 1/3 cup salsa

Mix together.  Serve hot.

Black Bean Soup:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
*Salsa (fill bean can with salsa)

Heat until hot.  Top with a dollop of light sour cream, diced cilantro, diced fresh tomatoes, and a light sprinkle of reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese.

*Use milder salsa for this unless you really love spicy food---this one really zips.  If you want really mild soup, fill half the can with canned tomatoes, then the other half with salsa.

What are your favorite salsa recipes?  Favorite salsas? Let us know!

Remember:  Salsa as a dip is a 5 star nutritional powerhouse,  just watch what you dip in!

To your health!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Don't WANT To Exercise!

I was chatting with a friend yesterday who has been struggling with her weight.  She has had so much crazy stuff in her life going on that stress has been a major hindrance to her progress lately. To get herself back into the right mode, she shared with me the wonderful plan she had written down of healthy foods choices for the day.  She was on a great roll! I was very proud of her---sometimes we need to stop and celebrate the minutes we stay in control of our eating. It looked like she was all set for success for the entire day.  When I checked back in with her later in the afternoon, the food was still on track, but her head wasn't.  The blah's had struck and she didn't feel like going home and exercising---her sofa sounded much more inviting at that point.  Can you relate to her?  

What should we do when we just don't want to exercise? Do the couch potatoes have it right? You know they don't!  They are just lying there, slowly losing muscle mass, gaining body fat, and letting their arteries clog up as they watch NCIS reruns.  We are NOT going to let ourselves go down that path.  We are going to take action and do something about our health!

To Motivate A Friend (or Yourself) Into ACTION:
  • Just Do It!  Nike has it right with that logo.  Don't allow yourself to engage in a conversation about whether or not you're going to exercise.  You're just going to do it (unless you are injured or ill!) Treat it just as you do brushing your teeth or hair--it's part of good self care. The only discussion allowed is how you will do it for the day: mow the lawn, yoga, walk, run, swim, or is it a gentle stretching day...
  • Visualize.  Practice first.  See yourself going home, starting dinner, putting on your exercise clothes, and jumping onto the elliptical machine.  Imagine yourself smiling as you sweat---it's good stuff!  See yourself done with the workout and smiling even bigger.  Imagine how GREAT you feel!
  • Awesome After.  If you keep thinking about not feeling like exercise, STOP.  Focus instead on how you are going to feel when you are done.  You're going to feel wonderful when it's done!  Refreshed,  awesome, powerful, virtuous...rock star status.  Use that feeling to help lift you off your duff and start moving!  
  • Get Support.  Call a friend, explain the problem and ask for help getting motivated to workout. Don't call the friend who will talk you into going out for ice cream or a beer after work instead, though! 
  • Buddy System. Sometimes having an exercise date all set with a friend works so well that you aren't tempted to ditch that walk. Walking with a friend is a great way to both exercise and talk out all those frustrations causing you stress.
  • Keep trying.  Repeat.  Don't give up on yourself.  If the sofa wins one day, so be it.  It could be you needed a little rest, just don't make it a habit.  Just keep trying until the new habit is getting that body of yours in motion and truly loving it that way!
And my friend?  I am very happy to say, she just did it!  She grabbed the motivation I tried to give her, visualized as she drove home, started dinner, worked out, and felt really great about herself at the end of the day. And I'm very proud of her, too.  

Moral of this story?  Keep on kicking, don't you ever give up! 

Friday, June 4, 2010

Time for an Ice Cream Cone?

Ice Cream.  There's something about it: cold, creamy, rich and sweet.  I like mine best in a sugar cone, licking it up in little laps. That's the way it was meant to be---perfect. It's takes me back to childhood.  Of course, my dad was an Extension Specialist and Professor in dairy nutrition, so we always had plenty around! Always loved that about growing up.

A reader asked for a little guidance in selecting ice cream treats at take out shops for her summer splurges, which is an excellent request for the start of our hot weather season.

Fat content is key! A quick lesson in ice creams:  regular ice cream is 10% butterfat by weight, premium ice cream is 16% fat,  ice milk is 2-7% fat,  whole milk frozen yogurt is 3-4% fat, while fat free frozen yogurt is... you guessed it,  0% fat!  Frozen yogurt seems like it would always be the healthier choice, but not always.  Make sure it's a fat-free variety, because some have more fat and calories than regular ice creams.  As a rule, frozen yogurt has more calcium than ice creams, but only about half the amount of calcium than regular yogurt, which really bums out many of the people I work with. (They'd like to count is as a full serving of milk :)  Regular yogurt has about 20 mg. (20%) calcium in a half cup serving (4 oz.) while frozen yogurt only comes in at 10 mg.  It still is a fairly rich source, but not as rich as the real stuff!  The same is true for it's protein content.  So, when you can, choose fat-free frozen yogurt, or ice milk (a.k.a. low fat ice cream.)

Watch your portion! Go small if you want your waist to be small. The typical small is a 4 oz. serving.  That's only a half cup, or half the size of your fist. Measure that out at home some time and really examine how big (small?) that is. Watch out for servers who love to scoop BIG.  That will mean your portion now has lots more calories, too.  Maybe she's not really doing you a favor!

Don't go hungry.  Seriously.  Go after dinner or after lunch.  Don't go for lunch or you'll end up ordering weigh too much!

A quick rundown on a few Ice Cream Shops:

                                      calories        fat (g.)    sat. fat (g.)
    small cone                                230            7             4
    small heath blizzard                    600          25           16
    large heath blizzard*                  1260          57           35
McDonald's cone                           150            5             3
Baskin-Robbins (4 oz.)          
    FF vanilla yogurt                        150            0             0
    lemon sorbet                            130            0             0
    van/pomegranate parfait yogurt   240            8             6
    no sugar/lowfat berry banana      150            6             3.5
    lite cappuccino chip                    220            8             4.5
    pralines 'n cream                       280           14            8
TCBY (4 oz.)                                110             0            0
Culver's frozen custard
    vanilla, 1 scoop                         320           14            0
               2 scoops                       592           27           17

* (This should come with a coupon to the local E.R.!)

Today, my husband and I enjoyed walking a 4.2 mile loop around a nearby lake.  Great day for it:  not too hot with a gentle breeze.  Our route just happens to end up at a soft serve ice cream shop!  Our choice? A small vanilla cone for each of us.  Perfect! We felt "righteous" (my husband's word) for our exercise, time together and our small treat choice!

Message for today?  Enjoy an occasional ice cream treat, but do it with mindfulness.  Think before you lick, and then enjoy every frozen minute of it!

Fire up!  You can do this!!