Friday, November 30, 2012

The GIft of Health

As November closes and the December countdown begins, many of us feel as if life gets more hectic by the moment. "To Do" lists get longer and longer with all the extra things that need to get done like decorating, shopping, baking, writing letters, sending cards, and parties to get ready for. These are on top of everything else we normally have to do like work, taking care of kids, cleaning house, grocery shopping, and doing laundry. The sweet music of the season seems to change into unwanted discord.

The time usually spent taking care of yourself gets pushed way down the priority list, sometimes disappearing entirely. Who really has time to sleep enough, shop for healthy foods, cook meals, and exercise when there's so much to do? It often seems easier to reach for the sugary treats that have invaded our lives or grab fast food to eat in the car as you drive to the next errand. 

This season seems to create what I call the Internal Cycle of Chaos: increased stress, irritability, disrupted sleep, eating unhealthy foods with less control, and avoidance of exercise. As this cycle continues, it really effects your body. In addition to dark circles under the eyes and shorter temper, your immune system is weakened. It's easier to get sick. And, you can become more accident prone. Just ask my mom who's recovering from an elbow replacement after slipping on ice 3 weeks ago. She was wondering how in the world she was going to get everything done that week. That fall really took care of her list. As Simon & Garfunkel sang, "Slow down, you're moving too fast..."

It's time to give yourself the gift of health. Taking care of your health is a priority. If you don't, who will? Even in these hectic, busy days, schedule time to walk, choose healthy foods, eat mindfully, relax, breathe, and sleep. And, do some things that really make you happy, nurture your soul and bring joy into your life. Whether it's spending time with someone you love, listening to music, painting, writing, or volunteering, it's an important part of your health. As you make your list and check it twice, make sure you're number one!

What's on your list for self care this week?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Focus

Thanksgiving is all about turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pie. Right? Some people think so. This year, in addition to food, I challenge all of us to focus on the "Thanks" part of Thanksgiving. Gratitude. 

Tomorrow and every evening throughout this holiday season, try writing down 5 things that you are thankful for. Perhaps a beautiful, sunny day, your health, a bird you saw at the feeder, a smile, a kind word, or even a day free of pain. It's amazing how the practice of gratitude changes your attitude. And an attitude adjustment is often just what we need to keep our motivation going to keep working toward a healthier you!

Try to focus on mindful eating tomorrow. Slow down. Sit. Breathe. Look. Smell. Taste. Evaluate. Chew. Think about which foods really taste good to you and those that aren't. You deserve to savor every bite and totally enjoy your Thanksgiving meal!

Thanksgiving Foods
Turkey, white meat, 3 oz                       134              3               3 protein

Turkey, dark meat, 3 oz                         168              3               3 protein
Stuffing, 1/2 cup                                    177              3 1/2
Mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup                       120             2
Gravy, 1/4 cup                                         30              1
Butter, 1/2 Tbsp                                       50              1
Roll                                                        120              2 1/2
Cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup                       110              2
Winter squash, 1/2 cup                            40              1                1 vegetable
Sweet potato, baked, 1                          102               2                2 vegetables
Mixed green salad, 1 cup                        10               0                1 vegetable
Green beans, 1/2 cup                              20               0                1 vegetable
Vinaigrette, 2 Tbsp                                  80              2                2 healthy fat
Wine, 4 oz                                               88              2
Pecan Pie, 1/8                                        460              9
Cherry Pie, 1/8                                      304               6 
Apple Pie, 1/8                                        277              6 
Pumpkin Pie, 1/8                                   265               5
Whipped cream, 3 Tbsp                          30               1

Just for You On Thanksgiving!

       Twas The Night of Thanksgiving                            

Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn't sleep,
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned - the dark meat and white,
But I fought off the temptation with all of my might.

I tossed and I turned with sweet anticipation,
As the thought of a snack became infatuation.
So I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
'Til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees...
Happy eating to all! Pass the cranberries, please!

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes & gravy have nary a lump,
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize, 

May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs!          
author unknown

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eliminating Wheat

A reader asked: "My husband heard someone on TV say they lost weight by cutting wheat out of their diet. Just what I wanted him to hear, I'm still trying to sell him on whole grain pasta! It can't be healthy to cut out wheat (unless you have an allergy) can it?" 

Eliminating wheat is the current rage. Wheat Belly, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, by Dr.William Davis, is a New York Times best seller. People diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergies certainly need to eliminate wheat consumption to maintain their health. Many others are climbing aboard the wheat-free express hoping they'll lose weight, prevent heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, auto-immune diseases, and cataracts. Miraculous cures always sell. Unfortunately, if it seems to good to be true, it usually is.

In Wheat Belly, Davis declares that wheat is the main cause of the U.S.obesity epidemic. This statement, as with most of his suppositions, has no scientific evidence to back it up. In reality, at the start of the 1900's, people consumed far more bread and wheat products than they do today. Americans have actually decreased per capita wheat consumption since 2000, and yet the rise in obesity has not declined. Unquestionably, the obesity problem in our country is influenced by many factors, including higher calorie consumption, more sedentary lifestyles, and an increase in added sugar in both beverages and processed foods. 

What about all the testimonials from people on TV and mentioned by Davis, who have lost weight cutting out wheat? Doesn't that offer evidence that eliminating wheat works for weight loss? No. Anecdotal evidence does not add up to proof. If you ask a group of people to cut out wheat or any major food group for that matter, weight loss invariable follows. Why? Because they simply consume fewer calories...initially. Once other grains or foods are found to fill the spot no longer filled by wheat products, weight loss stops and is most often regained. In a way, the no-wheat diet is just a low-carb diet in disguise. And, it's difficult to adhere to for life-style changes.

Why do some people see health benefits when going wheat free? When weight loss occurs for any reason, blood sugar, triglyceride and blood lipid levels tend to drop, and in turn, reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. No scientific evidence supports the claim that eliminating wheat has any impact on these risk factors.

In fact, many evidence-based scientific studies have shown higher intakes of whole grains (including wheat) are linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, blood sugar control and blood pressure. Studies have recently shown that choosing whole grains can help with loss of weight and body fat, especially when used in place of refined products. A double win.

Grains provide important nutrients, including rich sources of niacin, thiamine, foliate, selenium, and magnesium. Whole grains provide a much needed source of fiber, which aids in elimination, reduces risk of diverticulitis, provides a sense of satiety and helps stabilize blood sugar. Because grains offer such important nutrients, iwheat is removed from your diet, other whole grains should be included. Whether you are a wheat eater or not, try adding a little variety in your life and give oats, barley, brown rice, corn, quinoa, forro, or even kamut a try! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Buying Healthier Foods

Even when you try to buy and make foods that are healthier, sometimes the changes simply don't make the grade. Here are three of my favorite products and a few ideas for their use:

You and your family loves JIF peanut butter. Every time you've tried to find a healthier version, you're really turned off from all the oil that separates out and rises to the top.Many have sugar and salt added for flavor and hydrogenated oil to prevent oil separation. And that's exactly what we grew up eating, so that's what we like. Even the "Natural" peanut butters can have added palm oil, a highly saturated fat that is solid at room temperature. Yes, it keeps the oil from rising to the top, but it also adds heart unhealthy fat.  Try to find peanut butter with one ingredient: peanuts. Then keep it in the refrigerator upside down. Result: a creamy spread rich in heart healthy fat!

Now what do added to that peanut butter sandwich for a little sweet taste. Jam, jelly, and preserves are both high sugar, which you are try to cut down on. Either use a smaller amount of the jam you love, or try a product like
Simply Fruit, which is just that: fruit. No added sugar. Another option would be to find a jam made with artificial sweeteners. Both of these are great stirred into plain yogurt, providing that fruity taste you love without the added calories from sugar. Better yet, reach for fresh fruit, and slice a banana on the peanut butter sandwich for a PBF or into your yogurt---yum!

If you are a health-conscious Cream of Wheat lover, you are probably sadly aware that your favorite farina is not a whole grain. I found the whole grain variety! Unfortunately, it's not carried in many stores yet. I have written to two area grocery stores requesting that they carry it, so keep your fingers crossed. Always reach find the manager or email the company to ask for those healthier options. The more people who ask, the more likely those stores will carry them. There's always power in numbers.

What some of your favorite healthier foods?