Friday, April 29, 2011

Moving More and Sitting Less is Critical for Health

We all know we're supposed to exercise 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes.  Hitting at least that moderate level of exercise intensity is critical for our heart health.  It decreases blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and the risk of developing diabetes and cancer. Exercise also helps us maintain a heathy weight. But, it turns out, there's more to the story than just exercise...

Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, has been studying N.E.A.T., or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, for over 20 years, and talks about our population suffering from "sitting disease."  In one study, he used motion sensing underwear and found leaner people moved 150 minutes more per day than the overweight subjects, burning more 350 calories.

P.T. Katzmarzyk studied over 17,000 Canadians and found that sitting is an independent risk factor of exercise. As the amount of sitting increased, so did the risk of cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and overall mortality from all causes. For every 2 hours of sitting, the risk for developing diabetes increases by 7%, along with heart disease and depression. Sitting still for long periods of time tells the muscle fibers to chill out, metabolic rate goes down, and fat burning enzymes such as lipoprotein lipase start switching off.  Sitting all day can reduce fat burning by 50%.  So, even if you are exercising 5 days each week, if you are sitting still the rest of the time, these risk factors still creep up. Ouch.

Our lives in this ever-evolving efficiency of the electronic age are to blame. We sit and work at computer keyboards all day long.  We shop online, push a button to open the garage, use the drive thru windows for food and banking, email co-workers two cubicles away, change the TV channels with the remote while reclined, call for take out instead of cooking, and our kids play endless hours of video games. Our muscles are asked to do less and less every year in our daily activities. We are too efficient for our health.

It's time to get those muscle fibers in motion. Dr. Toni Yancy from UCLA, recommends that those of us in sedentary jobs get up every hour and move for 10 minutes. Sit on an exercise ball or a ball chair instead of a desk chair (which I am doing right now!) An Australian study found that even 1 minute breaks can improve our triglyceride levels, blood sugar, cholesterol and waist size. Standing and walking workstations are now available, and may be a great option for you, too.

The message is clear:  keep up with your regular exercise routine, but start sitting less throughout the day.  Fidget, bounce, rock, walk.  Every motion you make is a positive one for your health.

What ideas do you have for moving more throughout the day?
Fire UP! You can do it!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Creed to Live By

As we work to develop the new, vital behaviors that are necessary to help us reach our health goals, sometimes the
path gets a little rough. Here's a wonderful, inspirational poem that is sure to help...

A Creed to Live By

Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others,
It is because we are different that each of us is special.

Don't set your goals by what other people deem important,
Only you know what is best for you.

Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart
Cling to that as you would your life, for without them life is meaningless.

Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or the future.
By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life.

Don't give up when you still have something to give
Nothing is really over … until the moment you stop trying.

Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect,
It is the fragile thread that binds us to each other.

Don't be afraid to encounter risks,
It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find.
The quickest way to receive love is to give love.

The fastest way to lose love is to hold on too tightly,
And the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

Don't dismiss your Dreams. 
To be without dreams is to be without hope.
To be without hope 
is to be without purpose.

Don't run through life so fast that you forget where you've been,
But also know where you're going.

Life is not a race,
 but a journey to be savored every step of the way...
    Author Unknown

...and so it is with your journey toward a healthier you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Overwhelmed and Recovering

We're smack dab in the middle of the Passover and Easter holidays, which are wonderful times for many of us.  But, sometimes these occasions bring on extra stress and anxiety with unending lists of things to get done, a flurry of "I need to do's," and worry about family and friends.

I found myself feeling overwhelmed this week as I worked my way through all of the things I wanted to get done: cleaning, shopping, meetings, appointments, writing, laundry, volunteering, and trying to make decisions on lots of things. And for some reason, many of the people in my life have needed extra care lately:  I've been listening, encouraging, and trying to be there for them.  I love helping other people, especially those I love. I want to be there for them. But this week, it was starting to get overwhelming. My headaches were not going away.  I started to feel like I've been balancing everyone's cares on my shoulders and I wasn't strong enough to keep from crumbling down. I knew I needed to take a good look at what was happening.

Wednesday night, I declared it was time to take care of me. I sent out a late night email letting people know I was not going to go to an early morning meeting the next day. I wanted to be there, developing my coaching skills. But, I needed rest. I was the priority this time as I worked to pull the stress down a few notches. After an appointment in the morning, I came home.  My house needed some serious de-cluttering and cleaning, and lots of laundry needed to be done, but I curled up and watched TV with my daughter for awhile instead.  Later, called my husband and had him meet for a walk in the park, enjoying the sunshine.  I chose to walk slower than I usually do. This was self care for my head, and it felt right not to push my body any faster.  After the hour walk, I felt better, and my headache was actually gone.

I want you to take a good look at what's happening with you and your life.  How are you doing with balance?  Don't let yourself crumble under the stress and anxiety of life like I started to this week. Remember, if we don't take care of ourselves, we aren't going to be there to do the things we really want to do and take care of the people we want to be there for. It's important to prioritize time to take care of yourself each day.  Where are you going to put in your "me" time?  Are you eating right?  Exercising?  Sleeping? Resting?

If my house doesn't get cleaned, oh, well.  Life will go on.  What I was very clearly reminded of this week was that I'm worth taking care of, and so are you!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

My husband always talked about the macaroni and cheese his grandmother made for Easter dinner when he was growing up. For him, ham and macaroni and cheese are simply made to be served together.  It's important for many of us to prepare these recipes and continue on with some family traditions.  The trouble with so many of these original recipes is that they tend to be loaded with extra unhealthy fat and sugar.

Though I never had the original recipe (indeed, it sounds like she just made it without one!) I created a more healthy, light version of mac and cheese years ago.  My husband really loves it and I thought it would be perfect to share for this week.

Barb's Macaroni and Cheese                        

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
Cook according to package directions (without adding salt):
      6 oz. whole grain macaroni (choose your favorite shape)
Drain well.
In a saucepan, while still cold, whisk together until smooth (no lumps!)
      1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
      2 cups non-fat milk
      1/4 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp ground pepper
      1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Cook over medium heat until thickened.
Add and stir until melted:
      4 oz. grated low-fat sharp cheddar cheese
      4 oz. low-fat American cheese
Mix together macaroni and cheese sauce.

Blend together in a little bowl:
      2 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs
      1 Tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
      1 tsp. olive oil
Sprinkle crumbs on top of macaroni and cheese.

Pour into prepared casserole.
Bake for at 40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Nutritional Data:
1/6 of dish (about 1-1/2 cup)
           213 calories
            4 g. fat
          430 mg. sodium
            3 g. fiber
           29 g. carbohydrate
           16 g. protein
Exchanges:  1 1/2 starch, 1 dairy
It's an easy dish to prepare and so, so good!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's New With Vitamin D?

Vitamin D remains a hot topic in the world of science and medicine.  At this point, most doctors are checking vitamin D levels in patients, finding that many are below the recommended minimum of 20 ng/ml.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical for the absorption of calcium and plays a major role in the regulation of blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. In this way, it's vital to bone strength and growth.  Newer research is finding that vitamin D is also a key player in regulating cell growth, inflammation, neuromuscular and immune function, all of which can be directly correlated to many diseases.

Vitamin D is called the "Sunshine Vitamin" because the body uses the sun's ultraviolet B rays absorbed by the skin to make vitamin D.  Northern latitudes, winter months, darker skin and the use of sunscreen decrease the amount of sunlight that can be absorbed, creating a risk for low levels of vitamin D.  Excess body fat and aging reduce the production of vitamin D, creating a need for obtaining vitamin D from other sources.  Keep in mind, dermatologist definitely still want us to use sunscreen! They recommend that we get vitamin D from food and supplements instead of relying on the damaging effects of the sun.

Naturally occurring food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines,) cod liver oil, and egg yolks.  Many foods are now fortified with vitamin D including milk and cereals and sometimes yogurt and juices.

Food Sources                              IU
Cod liver oil, 1 Tbsp                     1,360
Salmon, 3 oz                                 447
Mackerel, 3 oz                               388
Tuna, 3 oz                                     154
Milk, fortified, 8 oz.                  115-124
Orange juice, fortified, 8 oz             100
Yogurt, fortified, 6 oz.                       80
Margarine, fortified, 1 Tbsp.              60
Liver, 3.5 oz.                                   49
Sardines, 2                                      46
Egg, 1                                             41
Cereal, fortified, 1 serving                 40

Vitamin D is essential for bone health. When vitamin D levels are too low during growth, children can develop the bone malformation disease Rickets.  Chronic low levels in adults can result in osteomalacia, a softening of the bones and muscles, while adequate vitamin D intake reduces the risk for osteoporosis.

Newer research is providing evidence that vitamin D may play an even greater disease fighting role than previously thought. One blind study done in Japan found that children who were given vitamin D supplements had 40% fewer incidences of type A influenza.  In laboratory studies, vitamin D has shown an ability to reduce cancer cell growth.  Low vitamin D levels may be a risk factor for developing heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, depression, SAD (seasonal affectiveness disorder), asthma, cancer, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases.  Even overall mortality--dying for any reason-- seems to be higher in people with low vitamin D.  While it's clear that adequate levels are necessary for health, will more vitamin D actually reduce our risk of disease even more?

After reviewing the bodies of current research showing the importance of vitamin D, the recommended intakes were upped in November 30, 2010, by the Institute of Medicine:

                                     Adequate Intake     Upper Tolerable Level
Ages 0-6 months                    400 IU                    1000 IU
         6-12 months                  400                          1500
         1-3 years                       400                          2500
         4-8 years                       400                          3000
         9-70 years                     600                          4000
            71+ years                   800                          4000

Some experts in the medical field question whether the new recommendations were raised high enough to promote good health.  While waiting for more research to provide more definitive answers, many doctors and experts are recommending a daily vitamin D supplement of 800-1000 IU.  Vitamin D comes in 2 forms: D2 and D3.  Most experts recommend choosing D3 for supplements, since it is the form that is actually made in your body and appears to be better utilized. Talk to your doctors about your blood level of vitamin D and ask if supplements are appropriate for you.

Be Healthy With D!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Whole Grain Corn Sticks

My husband has made two wonderful batches of corn sticks in the last couple of weeks.  This recipe combines two sources of whole grains: corn meal and white whole grain flour.  If you don't have the white whole grain flour, use 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup whole grain flour.  (You can use all white flour, but the nutrient density will be a bit lower.)

Whole Grain Corn Sticks

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Coat corn stick pans or 9" X 9" square pan with cooking spray.
Whisk together in a bowl:
     1 cup cornmeal
     1 cup white whole wheat flour
            (or 1/2 c whole wheat
             flour+1/2 c white flour)
     1 Tbsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, blend:
    2 eggs
    1 cup non-fat milk
    3 Tbsp canola oil
    3 Tbsp honey or brown sugar
Pour liquids into the dry ingredients.
     Stir until just blended.  (Over stirring will create a tougher bread.)
For corn sticks:
     Fill molds 2/3 full with batter
     Bake for 12 - 15 minutes
     Makes 16 sticks
For corn bread:
     Pour into prepared square pan.
     Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.
     Cut into 16 pieces.

For Double Corn Sticks:
     Stir 1 cup corn kernels into batter just before pouring into pan.

Nutritional Data:
     1 stick or 1 piece:
         135 calories
             6 g. fat
            16 g. carbohydrate
              1 g. fiber
              6 g. protein
     Exchanges:  1 starch + 1 fat



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Little Bit More About What I Eat...

Wow! I certainly received lots of email and comments after posting what I ate last week. I'm really glad to hear that many of you found it very helpful, though it sounds like I need to clarify a few things about my food record.

First of all,  I was trying to be perfectly honest with what I ate; my goal was not to simply put down a week's worth of menus that all of us should eat. Remember, I am all about persistence, not perfection!

One MM groupie was wondering whether or not I had enough variety in the fruits I was eating.  Great question; I am impressed that she was thinking about how important it is to incorporate a wide variety of fruits, veggies, and all healthy foods to assure good nutrition. Let's take a look:  apples, bananas, dried cherries, blueberries, strawberries, orange juice. Yes, a wider variety would have been given me an even better chance at getting even more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than those found only in the foods I ate.  On the other hand, if any of you rotate through 6 fruits throughout the week, that's so much better than the average American!  I'd say you are doing just fine. For me this week, fresh pineapple and pears are in my refrigerator along with the others---it varies each time I shop.

Another comment was that I didn't seem to have enough vegetables. I absolutely love the fact that someone was worried about me eating my veggies!!  Rest assured, for dinner each night, I have at least 3 servings of veggies---I love them!  What I failed to do was to make note of every time I ate a some red pepper, baby carrot, cucumber, or grape tomatoes throughout the day. I do eat plenty of veggies,  5 or 6 servings each day. I like to have them ready to eat to snack on, so don't worry!

Popcorn for lunch?  Really?  Yes!  It would have been a healthier choice if I had used air popped popcorn,  but I had the Boy Scout microwave popcorn on hand. That choice is higher in sodium, which we should all be going light on. If I had gone with the air popped, I would have added much less salt.  Popcorn is a whole grain and a great source of fiber.  It's a starch exchange just like bread, potatoes, pasta, tortilla, crackers, or a bagel. And, I love to make that popcorn/nut/dried fruit trail mix when I just want to munch for lunch.  It gives me something so easy and satisfying to chomp into...It works for me!

"You sure eat alot of yogurt and nuts!" Yes I do, and that is a conscious choice.  I am trying to get lots of calcium to strengthen my bones. Yogurt is not only a great source of calcium, but it also delivers all those great probiotics---and I love it!  The nuts are incredibly satisfying to me.  They bring protein, fiber, and lots of very heart healthy fats. As long as I don't start going overboard,  they'll remain are one of my "go-to" foods.

You may have noticed that I put amounts down for some foods and not for others.  That is interesting. I measure out serving sizes of almost every breakfast I eat, a habit that I developed while losing weight, and it feels right to me to keep doing that.  For the rest of the day, I estimate my portions and that seems to be working well for me to I maintain a healthy weight. I try to listen to my body for cues when I have had enough to eat and stop.

Several of you mentioned that by reading this food log, you started to realize that this was regular food that you could easily eat. Ah, hah! Now, that's exactly what I am trying to help everyone realize!

To your health!

Monday, April 4, 2011

What Did I Eat?

Last week Teresa, one of our MM groupies, put in a request:  she wants to know everything I eat in a week. No one had ever asked me that before, but I was definitely up for the challenge! Maybe my food journal can help someone by providing an example of what to eat for healthy living.  Keep in mind, there is nothing fancy in the food I prepare, and we don't eat out very often.

Barb's Food Journal
                1 c. plain non-fat yogurt
                 1 cup frozen blueberries
                 6 walnuts
                 1/4 cup oats
                  2 mini-bags light popcorn
                  1 oz. almonds
                  large apple
     snack---Greek yogurt & pear
     Dinner---scrambled eggs
                  V-8 juice
                  whole grain toast with soft
                        canola-butter spread
     snack---light yogurt (pineapple upside down cake!)
     Walked the dog 1 1/2 miles
     Breakfast---Panera's whole grain bagel
                  light cream cheese
                  non-fat sugar free vanilla latte
     Lunch--light popcorn
                  1 oz. roasted almonds, unsalted
                  2 tbsp. dried cherries
                  1/2 cucumber
     Snack---Greek yogurt, apple
     Dinner--Italian Chicken & Sausage (post 3/30/11)
                  Whole grain linguini
                  Arugula Salad with cucumber and tomatoes,
                           balsamic vinegar and olive oil
      snack---small soft-serve ice cream cone
      Activity: Walked the dog 1 1/2 miles
                     Ran 3 miles
     snack before I walked--- orange juice, 1 slice whole grain toast
     Breakfast (mid-morning)
                 plain fat-free yogurt
                 1/4 cup dried old-fashioned oats
                 6 walnuts
     Lunch--Peanut Butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat
                  baby carrots
                  V-8 juice
     snack---Greek yogurt
     Dinner--Talapia pan-fried in 2 tsp olive oil
                          seasoned with salt, pepper and
                          cayenne pepper
                   Kamut (chewy, unique grain)
                           made with sauteed onions and white wine
                   whole grain bread
     snack---dark chocolate, Greek yogurt
     Walked the dog 1 1/2 miles & Lake Lansing (4 miles??)
                 1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
                 2 Tbsp dried cherries
                 1/4 cup oats
                 6 walnuts
     Lunch--light popcorn
                 1 oz. almonds
                 2 tbsp. dried cherries
                 cucumber and carrots
     snack---Greek yogurt
     Dinner--roasted pork tenderloin
                   rubbed with garlic,
                      pepper and basil
                   Roasted Potatoes,
                        carrots, celery,
                        peppers, tossed with 2 tsp olive oil,
                         garlic, salt, pepper
                   Arugula Salad with balsamic vinaigrette
                   1 small glass wine
      snack---dark chocolate
      pre-run snack: toast with soft butter/canola spread
                   1/2 cup orange juice
      Breakfast---whole grain cream of wheat
                   made with 1/2 non-fat milk
      Lunch---leftover pork and veggies
      snack---Greek yogurt
     Dinner---Chili (my recipe)
                    Homemade cornsticks
      Snack---Edy's light ice cream
      Ran 3 miles, stretched
      Breakfast---old fashioned oatmeal
                   1 tbsp. brown sugar, 6 walnuts, cinnamon
      Lunch---leftover chili
                    corn stick
      snack---Greek yogurt
                   mini bag popcorn
      Dinner---Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Warm Apple Slaw
                     (The Food You Crave, Ellie Krieger)
                   small glass wine
       snack---Edy's light ice cream
       Activity: Walked dog 1 1/2 miles, exercise ball
          1 c. Greek yogurt
          1 c. strawberries
          1/2 tsp soft butter
      snack---1/4 oz. almonds
           non-fat plain yogurt
          1 no-bake granola bar,
              crushed (post 3/10/11)
          1 c. fresh strawberries
          1 small banana

     ....I am planning to have:
       snack---veggies dipped
                    in hummus
       Dinner---Salmon with Sweet and Spicy Rub
                    (The Food You Crave)
                    Winter squash
                    Salad with walnuts and dried cherries,
                         raspberry vinaigrette
       Activity:  ran 3 miles
And, that's it for the week!
Let me know if this food diary helps you at all, and if it does, how?

To Your Health!