Monday, November 8, 2010

Surviving Thanksgiving

Just a note that blogs may be hit-or-miss for a little while. I will try to post as often as possible; however, we have a big event happening in our family so I will be spending a lot of my time and energy with that for a while.

Here are some tips for getting through Thanksgiving dinner without spoiling your weight loss!

1. Remember that its just one day, so don't be too hard on yourself if you overdo it a little bit. Just remember to get back to healthier eating the next day.

2. Remember that Christmas, and many events leading up to it, will provide you with a chance to eat goodies. So, don't go overboard thinking that this is food you'll NEVER see again!

3. Consider reconstructing some of your recipes to make them a little healthier.

4. Pick a few family favorites, but don't go overboard with cooking. The more choices you have to select from, the more you'll eat!

5. Don't deprive yourself of a holiday favorite, but take a small portion and enjoy it. Consider freezing left overs and savor it throughout the season.

6. Take a morning walk if you're a morning person! Otherwise, consider taking an after-dinner walk. You won't burn all of the calories you ate, but you'll burn some! Also, if you're diabetic, it will help with your blood sugar.

7. If you're attending Thanksgiving dinner at someone else's house, let them know that you don't want to come empty handed and would like to bring a dish. Bring something that is healthy and you enjoy. This way you know you'll have at least one healthy dish.

8. Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. Don't starve yourself until dinner because you're likely to just go overboard.

9. Drink plenty of water. Some people overeat due to thirst! It may sound funny, but its true!

10. When you finish your plate, take a break and enjoy everyone's company. Ask yourself if you're really hungry for more, or satisfied before running back for seconds.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Breakfast...It is important!

I won't say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it is really equally as important as all other meals. Leaving out any meal is a bad idea; it's just that we hear a lot about breakfast because so many people gloss over it. So, don't leave out any meals, but today we'll focus on breakfast.

Breakfast is very important because it "wakes-up" your metabolism, if you will. After a night's rest, when caloric needs were low, eating breakfast gets your metabolism back to work for the day. Eating breakfast also helps you to perform better at whatever your task may be. I also like to think of breakfast as a way to set the tone for my day. I always start off with a healthy breakfast because it gives me energy and just makes me feel ready to tackle a day's work. Even on a special occasion (i.e. Christmas) when I may plan to have a treat, I still make sure to eat something wholesome first.

The National Weight Loss Control Registry, a research study that examines the habits of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of a year, reported that 78 percent of the people in their study eat breakfast daily!

So you say you're not a "breakfast person"? Well, that is because you trained yourself to skip breakfast. Retrain yourself! Start by having a very small amount of food such as half of a banana, a piece of bread, half of a whole grain granola bar, dry Cheerios, or whatever you feel comfortable with. As you start to get used to that, increase the amount you are eating. Remember that breakfast does not have to be traditional breakfast foods! You could eat leftovers from last night's dinner if that suits you. Half of a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with a banana and a glass of milk is another nice option.

If you feel that you don't have time for breakfast, consider how long it would actually take you to eat something. Do you think ten minutes is enough to eat a small breakfast? Do you think you could jump out of bed ten minutes early? Or, consider deciding what you will eat the night before and "grab and go" in the morning.

Make less excuses, make more solutions!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rest Before Race

If you are a runner, you have probably read or heard about tapering your activity in the week before a race. However, you may be wondering exactly how much to taper and when to start. It is not a perfect science and probably varies from person to person and with the length of the race. Here is my two cents based on research that I have read and personal experience.

First of all, when it comes to strength training, if I do lower body at all the week of the race, it would be Sunday or Monday at the latest (given that the race is Saturday morning). In addition to making it early in the week, I take it easy and just lift for maintenance. You won't find me trying to squat my all-time best that week! Taking a rest that week with strength training isn't a bad idea either. You don't want to risk injuries or sore muscles.

As far as cardiovascular exercise, I have tried several different methods and it really does depend on the length of the race. For a marathon, I would start tapering two weeks in advance. However, for the purposes of this particular post, let's say you're running a half-marathon or less. It is probably best to complete your last long training run two weeks before the half-marathon. After that, you can still run, but keep it to 5-6 miles at the most. In the week leading up to your race, consider shorter runs with the same intensity you plan to run your race. (As an aside, I think you'll always run faster in a race, thanks to adrenaline, but my point is that you should be running at a speed that you would be happy with during your race.) Some research suggests that people who run shorter distances, but with "race speed" do better on race day than those who run higher mileage at a more relaxed pace in the week leading up to the race. This may mean that during this week, you're only running 2 miles at a time, but with gusto. For the rest of your workout, cross-train or walk. Consider doing an easy workout on the elliptical or stationary bike.

Don't forget about rest! Rest is an integral part to any exercise or training regimen. I would suggest taking one to two days off before a race to allow your muscles rest. This doesn't mean you have to sit on the couch for two days straight, but keep your exercise to easy walking or the activities that are part of your normal day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Temptations

Halloween is coming, kicking off the beginning of all the over-eating that takes place at the end of the year. How will you keep from eating your bucket of candy before all of the trick-or-treaters swing by your house? How will you ignore all of those left-overs? Here are some ideas to consider...

Don't even open the bag of candy until Halloween night so that you're not snacking on the treats before the date arrives.

Buy treats that don't really appeal to you so that you don't have to worry about self-control.

Consider buying treats that are a little less sugary and full of fat, such as mini-bags of pretzels. This isn't a bad idea for the sake of the kids either!

Don't go overboard when you buy your candy. Try to have enough, but don't worry if you run out early. Running out early wouldn't be the end of the world, and that way you won't end up with tons of left-overs to tempt you.

Allow yourself a small treat at the end of the trick-or-treating so that you have that to look forward to and you aren't snacking all night.

Stay away from the break-room the next day at work! I've noticed that a lot of people bring in their left-over candy to work the next day just so they won't be tempted. Make plans to eat at your desk or somewhere else the next day.

Happy Halloween!

Motivational Monday:

I'm not going to overeat candy on Halloween because it just isn't worth undoing all of the calorie-burn from my exercise today!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Could you be undoing your hard work at the gym?

It is certainly not uncommon for athletes to pop a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) after a hard workout, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. However, recent research tells us that this may be hindering the healing process in the muscle; therefore, degating your hard workout.

Basically, when you perform the eccentric phase (lengthening of a muscle) of any weight lifting activity, you are inducing damage to your muscles. When the muscle fibers heal, they essentially become stronger. So, it is in the healing process that actually makes your muscles stronger. NSAIDs suppress prostaglandin synthesis, which is necessary for protein synthesis. Without protein synthesis, your muscles cannot become stronger.

In summary, think twice before popping a pill to mask some muscle soreness. Instead, take it easy, give your muscles time to heal, and consider the soreness a workout well done!

There are some cases in which you may need an NSAID; and this should be discussed with your doctor.

Just a few research articles...

Effect of ibuprofen and acetaminophen on postexercise muscle protein synthesis.

Skeletal muscle PGF(2)(alpha) and PGE(2) in response to eccentric resistance exercise: influence of ibuprofen acetaminophen.

Motivational Monday:

I strength train to keep my bones from becoming brittle and prevent osteoporosis.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sorry No Post!

Hello everyone!
I'm sorry that there was no post yesterday! I am recovering from a very yucky bug and was unable to sit down at the computer. Check back next Monday!

Monday, September 27, 2010

School Lunch

In the recent years, many professionals, parents, and teachers have started voicing concern about school lunches. I have to say that I am definitely one of the people concerned. Many schools offer pizza, french fries, and chicken nuggets as a daily staple. What is wrong with this picture? There is an exception to every rule, but most children will choose this type of food over the salad bar if they are given a choice. If children go to school to learn, then why aren't we not only teaching them healthy eating, but showing them how to do it? Lunches should be given to children to help nuture their bodies and teach them proper nutrition. We cannot control what children are eating at home, but from a public health standpoint, we should be sure that they are getting healthy meals at school.

Whether or not this issue has bothered you in the past or present, you shouldn't feel helpless. Speak up! Let your voice be heard at your child's school, by the school board, or anyone who will listen. People often think they can't make an impact, but that is just not the case. I have brought up banning smoking in a couple of areas that I frequent, and so far, that has brought on changes. I'm just one person and it didn't take much more than attending a meeting to make these changes. I know that changing school lunches may not be quite as easy, but small changes lead to big results. We have to start somewhere!

Parents magazine recently published an article on this topic and recommended three websites:

The Lunch Box

Food Politics

CSPI School Foods Tool Kit

I'd love to hear your feedback! Please share any thoughts you have or if you are doing anything in your school system to help with change.

Motivational Monday:

I want our children to eat healthy meals because it means that they'll be more focused, do better in school, and live healthier lives.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Avoid Running Injuries

A few ways to make running a little safer:

1. Visit a reputable shoe store that specializes in running. Let them watch you run/walk and give you advice on the best shoe for you. People who work in these stores are runners and have a lot of experience with shoes and their proper fit.

2. Change your shoes every 300-500 miles. Keep track of your mileage on a calendar or with a device such as the Nike+ sensor. After 300-500 miles, you have worn down the cushioning/support and raise your risk for injuries.

3. Only wear your running shoes for running. This will help you to make your shoes last longer. Think of all of the miles that you walk in your shoes, which cause the shoe to wear down quicker. Consider retiring your running shoes to walking shoes every time you buy new running shoes. That way you always have a pair of shoes to walk and to run in.

4. Cross-train. The constant stress of running may lead to overuse injuries. By varying your program, you work muscles in different ways and give your joints a break from impact.

5. Strength train. Overall strength training is important for a number of reasons, but specifically training the lower body can really help with running. Not only will it aid you in performance, but will also help to decrease injuries due to increased muscle mass and strength; and increased bone density.

6. Slowly increase mileage. Increasing mileage too quickly is an easy way to hurt yourself and land a spot on the couch instead of the road.

Motivational Monday:
I run because I know that if a bad guy is every chasing me, I could outrun him :).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Classroom Treats

This fall, the children are back in school. I don’t have a school-aged child yet; however, I know that children are often treated for every birthday, holiday, etc with sugary treats. I am certainly not against the occasional treat, but I do have a problem with kids getting a sugary treat to celebrate every single special occasion. It seems that there is always something to celebrate; and in America, we tend to celebrate with food. So, I wanted to get everyone thinking about fun and healthy treats for school children on these occasions. You may be in charge of providing one this year or may have some influence on what the children are snacking on in the classroom. Let’s make at least some of them a little on the healthier side! Here’s to teaching our children that good food doesn’t have to be pure sugar!

Here are a few ideas I thought of. They are mainly just foods that tend to be accepted by children, but are on the sweeter side. Please respond with your ideas or some good ideas that you have seen!

1. Apple bran muffins and flavored milk.
2. 1 oatmeal cookie and apple slices.
3. Cooked apples with cinnamon and oatmeal on top.
4. Ants on a log: top celery with peanut butter (if allowed in your classroom) and place raisins on top of the peanut butter.
5. Apple slices with cheese.
6. Banana bread.

Motivational Monday:

I want my children to eat healthy now so that they don’t have to struggle with their weight as adults.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Into Exercise!

I don't know about you guys, but where I live, its starting to cool off a little bit. What a relief because I could barely look out my window without sweating this summer! I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who has been shying away from exercise because of the heat to GET TO IT! Particularly in my region, there aren't many months that just feel great outside, so why let them pass you by without taking advantage of great weather!

Try walking in your neighborhood and notice the colorful leaves or fall decorations that people have displayed. Find a nearby park or lake to walk/run around for some variety. Sign up for a 5K in your area as these really go into full swing in the fall.

The moral of the story is, don't find another excuse to miss exercise, just get out and enjoy the fall air! It is a great way to spend time with your children, have some "me time", lower your stress level, and appreciate nature.

Happy Fall! I'd love to hear what kind of physical activity you're going to be getting this fall!

Motivational Monday:

I love to exercise because there is nothing like breathing fresh air after a day stuck in the office!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gaining Weight the Healthy Way

I know it is hard to believe, but there are some people who are in need of gaining weight. If you’re not one of them, you may know one of them, so hopefully this post will be helpful! When one is trying to gain weight, it may seem like donuts and big burgers are the way to go; however, in order to keep your risk low for chronic disease, there is a proper way to go about gaining weight. In this post, you will find two lists. The first list contains ideas for weight gain that you should use when trying to gain a moderate amount of weight, but are watching your cholesterol/triglyceride levels. The second list contains ideas for gaining weight when your need for gaining weight outweighs concerns about heart disease, diabetes, etc; or if there is a need for fast weight gain. Some examples for the second list may include patients with Cystic Fibrosis, Failure to Thrive, pregnant women carrying multiple babies, or Cancer Cachexia.

List One

1. Add olive oil to a variety of foods. Examples: sauté vegetables, toss vegetables and add seasoning, sauté fish, drizzle over baked meats, dip whole grain bread in olive oil plus your favorite seasonings.

2. Use mayo on your sandwiches. Contrary to popular belief, this is a pretty healthy fat.

3. Have peanut butter (or other nut butter) with bread or fruit. You can also mix peanut butter into your oatmeal. Yes, natural peanut butter is the best, but full fat peanut butter is fine. Do not buy reduced fat peanut butter because, although total fat is reduced, some of it is replaced with trans fat.

4. Snack on nuts. You can have a trail mix or just nuts…whatever makes you happy!

5. Top salad with nuts and an oil based dressing.

6. Add avocado to anything that sounds good such as salads, sandwiches, crackers, etc.

7. You can consider adding a protein powder to foods or drinks, such as Procel or Propass. Check with a Registered Dietitian first to decide if this is appropriate for you.

8. A supplement drink such as Ensure, Glucerna, Boost, or Carnation Instant Breakfast. Beware of the sugar content in these drinks.

List Two

1. Everything from list one!

2. Milk shakes.

3. Find places to add cheeses, such as on top of meats, sandwiches, breads, etc.

4. Fruit smoothies with full-fat yogurt and protein powder.

5. Be sure to have a protein serving with each meal, such as eggs, chicken, beef, or fish.

Motivational Monday:

I aim to include healthy fats in my diet because it lowers my risk of Alzheimer's Disease!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Overtraining Syndrome: Knowing the Symptoms

Are you working hard, but instead of feeling that energetic spark that you’re supposed to get from exercise, you’re feeling tired and drained? Do you feel like you’ve hit a wall with your progress and you can’t seem to run any faster or do any better? In fact, do you feel like your athletic abilities are waning? Maybe it is time to consider the possibility that you are overtraining. This can happen to anyone when you are just working your body too hard. You may be very surprised that by taking an extra day of rest or scaling back on the intensity or duration of a few workouts each week your performance improves. Resting is an integral part of any training/exercise program that must be observed to achieve optimal performance and health benefits. Here are some signs to let you know if you are experiencing Overtraining Syndrome. This list is brought to you by ACSM’s Resource Manual For Guidelines For Exercise Testing and Prescription, 5th edition.

Functional Indicators:
1. Decline in physical performance and early onset of fatigue.
2. Decreased desire to train or decreased enjoyment from training or competition.
3. Loss of muscle strength, coordination, and maximal working capacity,
4. Increased submaximal heart rate. (This means that your heart rate is becoming higher at rest and during moderate exercise)
5. Prolonged recovery from typical training sessions or competitive events.
6. Presence of tenderness and soreness in muscles and joints.
7. Overuse injuries.

Metabolic and Psychologic Indicators:
1. Loss of appetite and body weight loss.
2. GI disturbances; occasional nausea.
3. Increased susceptibility to upper respiratory infections (altered immune function).
4. Emotional instability characterized by general fatigue, apathy, depression, and irritability.
5. Sleep disturbances.

Motivational Monday:
I exercise because it gives me more energy to get through the day!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sneak More Vegetables Into Your Day

1. Pile your sandwich high with lettuce tomato and other favorites.
2. Top a boring salad with strawberries and walnuts.
3. Finely chop spinach and add it to casseroles such as lasagna.
4. Toss peas, asparagus, carrots, or other vegetables into your pasta dish.
5. Snack on carrots or green peppers dipped in hummus.
6. Top your pizza with your favorite vegetables (go light on the cheese!).
7. Grill vegetable kabobs.
8. Add salsa to your omelet.
9. Try eating your vegetables at the beginning of your meal so that you're not too full after the main course.
10. Decide when and how you will get your 3-5 vegetable servings in the morning, then stick with your plan all day!

Motivational Monday:

I eat at least 3 servings of vegetables daily because they are full of phytochemicals which help to lower my risk for cancer...I'll never get that from a vitamin supplement!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Is Exercise the New Anti-Aging Medicine?

A recent study showed that exercise just might be your ticket to anti-aging! While this news is exciting, remember these results need to be replicated several times before we can really call exercise an “anti-aging fix”.

Two groups of runners were studied, one group being an average age of 20.4 years and the other being 51.1 years. The older group had about 35 years of training history and averaged about 50 miles of running each week. The younger group averaged about 45 miles of running weekly. Two more groups containing inactive, age-matched individuals were also examined.

Because much is already known about changes in cells as we age researchers were able to identify ant-aging markers. More specifically, we know that telomere length is shortened, as we grow older. However, this study found that the active middle-aged group had only a slight, and insignificant, shortening of telomeres when compared to the younger groups. Of course, both active and inactive subjects in the younger groups had no significant difference in their telomere lengths, as they have not aged. The inactive, middle-aged group had significant shortening of their telomeres, signifying aging.

What does this mean for you and me? Well, we don’t really know yet. I am a very active person, but I do not average 45 or 50 miles of running each week! While running is my main mode of exercise, I enjoy biking and other types of exercise. Is the anti-aging effect the same with all activities? What is the minimum weekly exercise needed to achieve this effect? What is the minimum intensity? These are all questions that stem from this research, and I am sure that researchers will be jumping on these questions quickly! Let’s also keep in mind that this research did not include a large number of subjects. I can’t wait to see where this study leads us!

Motivational Monday:

Whether or not exercise will keep me from aging, I do it because I want to be stronger and more energetic as I age.

Monday, August 2, 2010

How Much Water Do You Really Need?

Most people have probably heard the old rule that you should drink 8, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Just as many other old rules, this one did not arise from scientific evidence. If you already knew that the 64-ounce rule was more of a rough guideline than a fact, you’re probably wondering how much water you really need.

If you check with different people and associations such as the Mayo Clinic, Institute of Medicine, and the American Dietetic Association, you’ll probably get some slightly different advice each time. The reason for these mixed messages is that there really is no perfect formula proven to decide exactly how much fluid a human needs each day. Most of these “mixed” messages all have the same meaning when you get down to it.

In general, if you follow the 64-ounce guideline, that is probably okay given that you are a healthy adult who does not engage in daily rigorous activities. However, you can basically trust your own instincts when it comes to fluid intake. Drink when you are thirsty. When you feel satisfied, you don’t need to keep drinking just to reach a daily ounce requirement. Another checkpoint is to check your urine aiming for a light yellow to clear color. Darker colors often signify dehydration. Remember that any fluid contributes to your body’s fluid requirements. Yes, this includes coffee and soda. Water is always the best, but it all counts. You also receive about 20% of your daily fluid from foods, on average.

Most people are certainly not in danger of this occurring; however, I want to warn everyone that it is indeed possible to die from too much water. This happens when you ingest much more water than electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride) and your fluid to electrolyte ratio becomes imbalanced. This is extremely serious and mostly affects athletes who over hydrate without replacing electrolytes.

Here are some conditions that may increase your fluid needs:

Exercise/physical activity
Spending time outdoors in the heat
Increased fiber intake

Here are some conditions that may decrease your fluid needs:

Congestive heart failure
Kidney (renal) failure

For more personalized information about exactly how much water you should be ingesting, it is best to speak with your health care provider or a registered dietitian.

Motivational Monday:

I avoid sugary drinks! The fact that one sugary drink daily could lead to about a 15 pound weight gain in a year, if I don't burn all of those calories off, is so not worth it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Exercise is Medicine

If your doctor were to tell you that you needed to go home and start an exercise routine, would you do it? Would you keep doing it?

If your doctor handed you a prescription for a medication that you needed in order to manage a disease or control a health problem, would you fill it and take it? Would you keep taking it?

These are serious questions to ask yourself. Most of us would fill a prescription given to us by our doctor, especially if it were to control a problem that we were having noticeable symptoms from. However, if your doctor prescribed exercise because it would have the same effect as a pill, if not a better effect with fewer side effects, would you take him or her seriously?

The truth is, exercise is truly medicine and its about time doctors start using their prescription pad to dole out this powerful medicine. While I was working on my MS degree in Exercise Science, I was continuously wowed by the power of exercise. Obviously I was already a believer, or I wouldn't have been there. However, it is just amazing to see the studies proving that exercise can make impacts (depending on the particular population, dose, and severity of the problem) on arthritis, triglycerides, blood pressure, etc that are far more significant than a pill.

On June 17, 2010, the US Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, made a plea that everyone join the Exercise is Medicine initiative. Here is an excerpt from her speech:

As health professionals, we should remember that patients are more likely to change their behavior if they have a meaningful reward -- something more than reaching a certain weight or dress size. The reward has to be something that each person can feel, enjoy, and celebrate. The reward is optimal health that allows people to embrace each day and live their lives to the fullest -- without disease, disability, or lost productivity. I hope you will join the Exercise is Medicine initiative. Together, America can become a Healthy and Fit Nation.

Please take this as food for thought and consider the importance of your exercise! Hold your exercise to the same importance as your morning and evening pills!

Motivational Monday:
I exercise because it allows me to take a lower dose of my medication!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fighting Boredom for Runners/Walkers

My first tip is to cross-train! However, if you don’t have a bike, access to a gym, or access to a pool, it can be difficult to find a lot of different ways to exercise. Here are some ideas for fighting boredom on your runs; and this can also be applied to walkers!

Switch up the type of run you are doing on a regular basis. Some days do a tempo run, and others do interval training. Of course you’ll also want to have days where you just run leisurely.

Download some new running music to listen to. If you need ideas, ask your friends what they’re listening to or look in fitness magazines for ideas. Shape magazine often has music ideas for different types of workouts.

Find a new place to run. Check online for hot running spots or call your local running store for suggestions.

Run your route backwards. No, face the right way, but just start at your normal end and end at your normal start!

Get a running buddy! This can be difficult because you want to find someone who is at your level or higher and who has a similar schedule as you. If you find someone, don’t let him or her go because this can be a great motivator.

Join a running club or meet up with local runners who go on group runs. Even a lot of smaller cities have these. Check online or with your local running store for suggestions.

Consider taking a little bit of time off if you think you may be over training. Sometimes we all need a little break and reviving. This doesn’t mean to sit on the couch for six weeks! However, taking a few days off to relax and recuperate may make you appreciate running when you get back to it.

Any other tips or ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Motivational Monday:

I run/walk because it gives me time to myself!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can chewing gum suppress your appetite?

Before I begin today's post, I just wanted to let everyone know that I have decided to only post once each week. I love being able to blog three times each week; however, with recent increased demands in my life, I think it will fit my schedule better. For now, I will post every Monday! Please enjoy today's post and come back next Monday for more!

A reader brought this question to me and I thought it was a good one to explore. First, I will say that I really think we are talking more about suppressing the desire to eat when we aren’t hungry. We obviously need food and don’t want to take in less than necessary to sustain health; however, it is very easy to over-eat because we’re bored, tired, anxious, or see food that just looks good. I believe this is really what we’re aiming to prevent.

My first thought was that chewing gum probably does prevent this type of eating. First of all, your mouth is busy chewing, so you may not be focusing on the fact that you could be noshing on a bag of chips. Second, if you love that mint taste, or whatever your flavor of gum, you probably don’t want to screw that up with food in your teeth. Third, I imagine it is a lot like finding something for your hands to do when you’re trying to quit smoking. The actual act of chewing gum takes care of your need to chew food; but with much less calories!

After looking around at the research, I found that there wasn’t much! However, there is a lot of positive speculation that points to gum chewing being effective in reducing caloric intake. One study did, in fact, find that gum chewers ingested less calories than non-gum chewers (Hetherington M & Boyland E (2007). Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite. Appetite, DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.109.001.). What this study did not examine was the long-term effect. Sure, maybe those people ate less calories one day, but did that continue over time leading to weight loss? Did those people maintain their weight loss? Did this lead to better health outcomes?

Another study is in the works to be performed and it looks like they will be looking for participants soon. The researchers suspect that gum chewing will be an advantage; however, more so for lean individuals than obese. This may not come as good news to some if it is true. My thought is that some obese individuals may have more issues to overcome with food that cannot be solved by simply chewing a piece of gum.

The research will be interesting as it unfolds. When all is said and done, I believe that this gum-chewing tactic is like many others. It really just depends on what works for you! If you feel that chewing gum helps you to stave off mindless snacking, then you are a great candidate for gum-chewing! It often takes a lot of experimenting to find exactly what helps you to lose those last few pounds or stay healthier by avoiding a lot of junk food.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

Motivational Monday:
I want to lose weight so that I never end up needing two tickets, just for myself, to ride on an airplane!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Gadget For Runners and Walkers: The Nike +

If you’re a runner or a walker and you would like to track your mileage, pace, time, and more, then the Nike + might be for you! With a touch of a button, this device can give you your current distance, time, and pace at any point during your walk/run. Also, it stores all of your workouts, which can be transferred to your computer. The Nike + website will show you all kinds of stats such as your overall total miles, overall average pace, how many miles you run each week, month, and year, and much more.

The website is a great way to track your progress! It rewards you when you reach certain milestones and allows you to join and create challenges. I have found that the challenges can be quite motivating and they can be completed against strangers or friends.

The Nike+ transmitter can be attached to your Ipod; however, you don’t have to have an Ipod to use this cool gadget. Nike now sells a wristband that will do the same job. However, having an Ipod can make this toy even more fun! Not only can you listen to your preprogrammed folder of running/walking music while you record your stats, but you can also program a “power song” to get you through a tough spot in your walk/run or carry you through your finish.

The Nike+ sensor can be worn inside your Nike+ shoes; however, this is totally unnecessary and I have never done this. I bought a little sensor pouch off of It is small and laces right into any shoe. Beware; the sensor has about 1000 hours of battery life. Every time the sensor is moved, it “wakes up” and begins the ticking clock. Ideally, if you are a runner, you should only be running in your running shoes anyway. That is another topic for discussion, but if you are following that rule, you’ll only be “waking up” your sensor when you’re going for a run. If you won’t be running for a while and will be wearing your shoes, remove the sensor and put it away so that it will not run down the battery life. Sensors can be replaced, but they cost around $20.

I will say I have had some problems with my Nike+. My biggest problem was that my miles/hour were being grossly underestimated and it took me (actually my husband) quite some time to figure it out. After a lot of googling, my husband determined that my sensor needed to be placed on my shoe more parallel to the floor. He changed the position on my shoelace and things have been better ever since. Also, do not expect this gadget to perfectly report your mileage. It will not be exact, but it should be pretty darn close. When I ran a marathon with mine, it ended up congratulating me on my “finish” about a half-mile before I actually finished. With 26.2 miles to cover, I thought being a half-mile off wasn’t all that bad!

Any other criticisms good or bad are welcome!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Benefits to the Babies of Pregnant Mothers Who Exercise

Babies are less stressed throughout the contractions in labor. 3

Significant decrease in the incidence of cord entaglement. 3

Decrease in the incidence of meconium during labor. 3

Babies more readily respond to stimuli in their environment and self-quiet during times when they are disturbed. 51, 52

A study that looked at children at five years of age showed that children of exercising mothers were less fat and scored higher on intelligence and oral language skills than those children whose mothers did not exercise throughout pregnancy. 55

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pros and Cons of Counting Calories for Weight Loss


It can help you to get a reality check of how many calories you are actually eating.

It may help you to identify a problem area so that you can move past a plateau.

Some people may find that this regimented style helps to keep them on track.

Using a computer/internet program to log your food and calories will usually also give you a breakdown of other nutrients that you are ingesting. This could help you to identify areas where you are lacking and areas where you are overdoing it.


Calorie counting can be very time consuming.

It can be too regimented making the process of eating a very negative experience.

It makes you rely more on numbers and less on your natural instincts of hunger and fullness.

Unless you are taking the time to focus on what those calories mean (ie how full/hungry you feel, what the portions look like on your plate, etc), calorie counting will not teach you anything in the long run. However, paying attention to those items can make it a great learning experience.

Does anyone else have any pros and cons they would like to add to the list?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tips For Staying Accountable With Weight Loss and Healthy Living

It can be difficult to stay on track when trying to lose weight or fight chronic disease. Sometimes it can take people decades to find a method that works for them and that they can stick to. Hopefully everyone who is reading this has already found their method, or will find it very soon! Here are just a few ideas that may be right for you. Remember that everyone is different and sometimes you have to assimilate many ideas to find just the right fit.

Keep a food journal. You don’t have to share this with anyone, but it may keep you from eating a larger portion or from eating a certain food all together. It is a lot less appealing to see a list of non-nutritious food on your journal than to actually eat them. Food journals can also be eye opening to see what you really ate all day and be helpful in determining weight loss blunders.

Take a picture of everything you eat. That’s right, in this crazy, technologically advanced world; most of us have a camera with us at all times. Do they even make cell phones that don’t contain a camera anymore? A lot of people have found success in this because they take the picture of what they will eat, and then it keeps them from eating more because they don’t want to take a picture of more food after finishing their meal. Also, it’s a quick way to have a “picture food journal”.

See a dietitian regularly.
Of course I promote this because I am a Registered Dietitian and feel that it can be a great learning experience. However, this can be an expensive option. You may be able to get a “packaged deal” where you pay a lower rate for a certain number of visits. This will often allow you the option of checking-in with email too. Remember that this option can be equal to, or cheaper than a personal trainer.

Stay accountable to a friend. This could be very helpful or disastrous. The results of this really just depend on the dynamics of the friendship. Sometimes ill feelings may surface if one friend is doing better than the other with weight loss, or one friend may be an enabler to break the rules and go back to old eating habits. If the dynamics are favorable, this just may be the ticket for some people to stay on track with exercise and healthy diet.

Log everything you eat on a website that calculates nutrients. There are many websites and software that allow you to log everything you eat and give you a breakdown of all the nutrients that you are getting. I have mixed feelings about this approach, but wouldn’t count it out if it might be your key to success. Look for a post in the near future about the pros and cons to this approach. Also, many of the sites allow you to log your exercise as well. Here are a few to check out if you are interested:

Calorie King
Spark People this one is FREE
My Food Diary
My Calorie Counter
Fit Day contains some FREE services
Weight Watchers

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Benefits of Exercise

Here are just a few benefits to exercise. Whenever you’re thinking about skipping a session, remember some of these!


Prevents bone loss and osteoporosis.

Prevents Type II Diabetes.

Improves energy.

Boosts mood.

Helps to prevent dementia.

Prevents some types of cancers.

Prevents muscle loss that is inevitable with age if strength training isn’t performed.

Helps with weight maintenance.

Prevents heart disease.

Improves blood pressure.

Improves sleep.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Division of Responsibility: Feeding Your Children

As a dietitian, my specialized area is not in pediatric nutrition; however, when I became pregnant for the first time, I knew I needed to start learning more. I bought a book called Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, CICSW, BCD. This book was a great investment and has been a great source of knowledge for me. Today I am going to talk about one of Ellyn’s philosophies, which is the division of responsibility.

The division of responsibility simply states that parents are responsible for the WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE their children will eat. Children are responsible for HOW MUCH and WHETHER they will eat at all. In a lot of ways it really takes the pressure off of the parents when you practice this philosphy. If you’re anything like me, you have probably worried from time to time if your child was getting enough of what he/she needs nutritionally speaking. It is time to go back the basics and trust children to know when they are hungry. Know that children are just like us in that they are sometimes ravenously hungry, and other times they just aren’t that hungry at all. This is normal!

Although we do have to trust our children more, we also need to remember that new foods are “weird” to children. It takes them time to adjust and explore the new food. Going back to the division of responsibility, there is no need to pressure a child to eat a new food or make a big deal out of how they “don’t know what their missing”. (By the way, don’t feel bad if you have done this! I think most of us have, but it takes time to remember to refrain from these types of phrases.) Remember that you may have to offer a particular food more than a dozen times before it becomes an accepted food, so don’t give up.

Here are a few tips to help you make this work:

Relax! Mealtime should be fun and relaxing. If you have provided the food, you have done your job.

Offer snacks and meals on a regular basis. If your little one decides to go on strike at a meal, you don’t have to worry that he/she will starve because you know more food is coming in a few hours.

Always serve at least one familiar and accepted food at each meal and snack. This way you know that your child has something to eat and his/her plate won’t look so foreign.

Remember that not everyone can have his or her favorite dish at every meal.

Know that you will be tested. My son screamed through lunch a few weeks ago because he wanted cheerios instead of what I served him. I’m pretty sure most children have these episodes!

Don’t give up. Keep bringing back foods whether your child accepted them or not. It takes time for children to explore and accept new flavors and textures.

Don’t make a big deal out of your child not eating a particular food or any food. This is counterproductive.

Motivational Monday

I exercise because it can help to prevent dementia! I want a strong mind to go with my strong body as I age!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guest Blog Post: Snacks for your Plane Trip

For today's post, please check out Fly Gracefully! I am honored and thankful that Grace allowed me to submit a guest blog post to her very informative site!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting Started With a Running Routine

There are many right ways to start a running routine and many wrong ways! This post will just give you some suggestions of possible ways to get started. Also, you may want to read about getting started with an exercise routine if you don’t already have one.

Set one or more long-term goals. My suggestion would be to sign up for a 5K. Don’t wait around to see if you can run far enough by the time the 5K arrives, just sign up. By doing this, you’ll commit yourself to training. If after the 5K you decide that running isn’t for you, move on to something else. If you are already fit, but not a runner, 3 months should be plenty of time to train. If you are not regularly exercising already, you’ll need more time. You may want to start a walking routine and engage in other activities as well. After you feel good enough to add in some running, then you can plan to do a 5K run in 3 months.

Set short-term goals. Decide what you would like to accomplish in the coming week. Each week you will want to come up with new goals. Make sure that they are challenging, yet attainable.

Now that you know what you’re goals are, it is time to begin! If you have not been exercising regularly, start slow with brisk walking or other activities you feel comfortable with. If you have already been active, here is an example of how you can get started!

Here is an example of how you might start to sprinkle jogging/running into your routine slowly to avoid injuries.

Day 1:
Brisk walking 5 minutes
Jog 1 min
Brisk walking 3 min
Jog 1.5 min
Brisk walking 3 min
Jog 2 min
Brisk walking 3 min
Jog 2 min
Brisk walking 5 min
Jog 2 min
Walking 3 min

Day 2:
Weight training

Day 3: Repeat Day 1

Day 4: REST!

Day 5: Weight training

Day 6: Cross-train (bike, walk, elliptical, swim, etc)

Day 7: Repeat Day 1

On subsequent weeks, follow this schedule, but increase your running time. Here is an example:

Brisk walking 5 min
Jog 1 min
Brisk walking 2 min
Jog 1.5 min
Brisk walking 2 min
Jog 2 min
Brisk walking 2 min
Jog 2.5 min
Brisk walking 2 min
Jog 2.5 min
Brisk walking 5 min
Jog 2.5 min
Walk 3-5 min

Each week, lengthen the jogging intervals and even add in some short, fast, running intervals. As you progress, also add in some jogging/running intervals where you just run as long as you can before walking. This is my very simple guide to starting a running routine. I feel that the walk-run technique really helps to ease you into a routine and eventually you will get to point where you can run the entire time.

If you are running outdoors, you will want to clock your run to see how far it is. That way you can be sure that you are covering enough distance to train for your 5K. If you are running on a treadmill, be sure to set your incline at 1% to simulate a flat road outdoors. You may even want to vary your incline for a more realistic “outdoor run”. Do not hold on to the handlebars unless you fear falling off, and in that case I question if you should be on the treadmill. Holding on to the handlebars significantly decreases your effort.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Milk Recommendations for Children 12 to 24 months

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended whole milk for children starting at the age of 12 months and continuing until 24 months. This all changed after research was evaluated and discussed among the AAP.

In July 2008, the AAP changed its stance to recommend that some children should start with 2% milk at the age of 12 months. However, of course those children still receiving breast milk should continue as long as mommy is up for it! Children who are candidates for this new recommendation are those who have a family history of:


Dyslipidemia (elevated cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, low HDL-cholesterol, or elevated triglycerides)


Cardiovascular Disease

Don’t children need fat for brain development?

Absolutely! However, research found no difference in the growth and development of children who drank low fat milk versus children who drank whole milk.

How can I supplement fat so that I know my child is getting enough?

Cook with olive oil, serve avocado, and serve hummus dip with whole grain crackers. Look for foods high in unsaturated fats.

Why do experts keep changing their minds?

Research, research, research! Every topic imaginable has not been studied so some recommendations are based on speculation or inferences from other research. As research develops and we get more detailed in our techniques, we learn more and more. Recommendations and position statements change based on evolving research. If recommendations never changed, I would wonder why we fund research.

So what should I do?

First, take a look at your child’s family history. Does your child have obesity, dyslipidemia, or cardiovascular disease in his/her family history? If so, discuss options with your pediatrician.

Motivational Monday
I exercise so that when I’m older, I’ll have the strength to take care of myself!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Slash Your Diaper Spending in Half!

Okay, so this doesn’t have anything to do with fitness or nutrition. However, if you think about it, saving so much money on diapers allows more money for fresh produce, lean meats, a gym membership, or piece of exercise gear/equipment. I have just been horrified with the cost of diapers and how much I used to spend on them. I have always clipped coupons and have never bought any diapers without a coupon; however, little did I know I was NOT getting the best deals. Even if you don’t have a baby or grandchild, think about all of the cheap diapers you can buy for baby showers! Again, I have to credit for teaching me all of this valuable information!!

I buy my diapers at CVS. That’s right! I know you are all gasping at the thought of buying diapers at a drugstore where everything is marked up. Well, keep reading if I have sparked your interest. Although I’ll be discussing CVS, Walgreens and other drugstores have similar rewards programs that you can utilize.

Here is how it works. First, you must get a CVS card. This card will allow you to take advantage of sales and earn Extra Care Bucks (ECBs). ECBs are credits that you earn in the store and are tied to your CVS card. They work like real money at CVS allowing you to buy anything in the store. For all prescriptions, you earn 1 ECB, and for everything else in the store you earn 2% of your total spent. At the end of each quarter, you will get these ECBs back so that you can use them at CVS.

The next thing you need to know is that every time you walk into the store, you need to head straight to the computer that checks prices for you. Scan your CVS card and watch coupons pop out. Sometimes these coupons are totally useless to me, and other times they are awesome!

Here is where you really need to pay attention! Each week CVS features certain items that are not only on sale, but have extra ECBs tied to them. So, for instance, there may be a deal on pampers. A jumbo pack (around 36 diapers) is marked down to $8.49 and you automatically get a printout of 3 ECBs at the register! These deals do not add up over the quarter, you get them back immediately. So, let’s say you have a store coupon for $1 off pampers and a manufacturer’s coupon for $2 off pampers. That brings your price down to $5.49 and you get 3 ECBs to use on your next purchase. Let’s say that this deal allows 2 per customer. So after you make your first purchase, you decide to start another transaction. You have another $1 off manufacturer’s coupon and you use the 3 ECBs that you just earned. That brings your price to $4.49 for your 36 diapers! That is 12 cents per diaper; whereas, at Wal-Mart, if you bought a box of pampers, you would pay almost 20 cents per diaper.

Here are the morals of my story:

1.Don’t buy your diapers at Wal-Mart anymore!

2.Use store coupons + manufacturer coupons whenever you can!

3.Get started with your ECBs and NEVER pay more than 12 cents per diaper. My goal is to pay 10 cents or less, but I will NEVER pay more than 12 cents!

4.Buying diapers in bulk (the big boxes) is definitely not always the cheapest way to go!

4.Always calculate how much your paying PER DIAPER because prices and so-called “sales” may not actually be a deal at all!

5.Try to stick with items at CVS (or another drug store) that offer the ECBs (or other incentive) so that you’re always earning store credit for your next purchase.

Does anyone else have any tips or suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Also note that this ECB idea can be used on many other items such as contact solution, peanut butter, paper towels, and many more products. Go ahead, save some money and use it to buy that produce that you feel is too expensive!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Benefits of Exercise for the Pregnant Woman

(Be sure to obtain clearance from your physician first! While exercise is healthy for most pregnant women, it is not appropriate for all!)

1. Less fat deposition during pregnancy and less fat retention post-partum (3).

2. Women who exercise during pregnancy experience less discomfort throughout their pregnancy (3, 29).

3. Studies have found that exercising during pregnancy leads to better moods, more energy, less fatigue, and a better body image (3, 29).

4. Labor is often shorter in women who exercise (3, 40, 41).

5. Lower risk of complications, including cesarean delivery in first-time mothers (43).

6. Faster emotional and physical recovery after pregnancy when exercise is continued post-partum (3, 29).

7. Quicker return to normal urinary control post-partum (3, 29).

8. It is speculated, but not studied, that pregnant women who exercise experience a lower incidence of colds, flu, sinusitis, and bronchitis (3).

9. The risk of gestational diabetes is reduced with exercise throughout pregnancy (29, 44).

10.Decreased risk of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (preeclampsia) (27, 28, 29).

11. Maximum aerobic capacity has been found to increase between 5 to 10% during the year following birth; whereas those who do not exercise during pregnancy experience a decline of 10% (3, 20).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Examples of Recipe Reconstruction

Here are two examples of how I reconstructed recipes and the results were crowd pleasers! Please note that these recipes aren't necessarily the healthiest recipes; however, it allows you to have a little indulgence with less saturated fat, calories, and sugar.

Original Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 quart half/half
1 pint whipping cream
1 cup chocolate syrup
1 T vanilla extract
3 cups milk

Beat eggs with electric mixer at medium speed until frothy. Gradually add sugar, beating until thick. Add next 4 ingredients; mix well. Pour mixture into freezer can of a 1-gallon hand-turned or electric freezer.
Add enough milk to fill can about three-fourths full, or up to the line on inside of freezer container. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Let ripen at least 1 hour in freezer.
Yield: About 1 gallon

Chocolate Ice Cream Made-Over

¾ cup egg substitute
1 cup splenda
½ Q fat free half/half
½ Q reg half/half
1 pt whipping cream
1 Cup chocolate syrup
1 T vanilla extract
3 cups skim milk

Mexican Chicken

6 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom
½ cup chicken broth
1 small onion chopped
½ cup shredded cheddar
1 sm bag of doritos crushed
1 can tomatoes diced

Boil chicken breast and debone. Combine all ingredients except chicken, cheese and chips. Layer chips in bottom of greased casserole dish, put chicken in next, then sauce, and top with shredded cheese, Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min. Goes well with rice.

Mexican Chicken Made-Over

Remove fat and skin from chicken
2 cans healthy request cream of chicken
½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
Cheddar cheese made with 2% milk
Baked doritos
Use nonstick spray
Use whole grain rice

Motivational Monday
I exercise because I want my clothes to fit!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tips for Staying on Track During Your Summer Vacation

You may have a nice little vacation planned for this summer, but how will you be sure to come back from your vacation the same size you left? Here are a few tips for enjoying your time, but not blowing your hard work!

Indulge, but not for every meal. Bring along plenty of fruits and vegetables, if possible, for easy snacks. Savor the flavors of all of the delicious summer produce. If you feel like splurging at dinnertime, don’t be afraid. However, know your limits and plan on not cleaning your plate. Focus on savoring each bite, not on scarfing down every crumb.

Be cautious about alcohol. Drinking a lot of alcoholic beverages on each day of your trip will surely add a lot of calories. Pace yourself, drink water between alcoholic drinks, and choose low calorie drinks.

Do something active that is also fun! Think about walks on the beach, beach volleyball, jumping the waves, chasing your children, etc. The more you are on your feet, the more calories you will burn, but make it fun!

If it’s not worth the calories, skip it. Have you ever eaten a piece of cake that really wasn’t that great? I know I have. Then, I wondered, why did I eat that? If you are the average person on a vacation, you’ll surely take in more calories than typical. So, if you encounter food at a restaurant, party, or other event that isn’t that great, don’t eat it! Find something that does taste good and put those taste buds to good use!

Know your plan for getting back on course when you return home. It is okay to splurge a little here and there, within reason. The best way to make sure a vacation doesn’t totally derail you is to have a plan for eating better and exercising when you return. Stick to it! You’ll be glad you did!

Happy vacationing!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Borg's Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

This scale was created to help people gauge their level of exertion and to use it in exercise testing when heart rates are unreliable or unable to be obtained. You may have seen a copy of the category-ratio scale in your local gym or favorite fitness magazine. This is most widely used in fitness classes and the like to help participants figure out how hard they should be working. As mentioned in the article about exercise and pregnancy, the RPE scale is a great tool for gauging exertion level as heart rate has not been shown to be the best indicator. Here are the two scales.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Reconstruct Your Recipes

If you have a few family favorites in your recipe box that aren’t as healthy as you would like them, but still want to be able to serve them from time to time, this blog is for you! Many very high calorie/high fat/high sugar recipes can be transformed into healthier versions without losing all of the taste. From experience, I will tell you that you can alter many recipes without your family or guests even having a clue; however, this won’t always be the case. Some recipes will have to be altered more than once before you strike a good balance of improved nutritional quality and superb taste. The following list will give you some ideas of how to alter recipes. Give some or all of them a try!

1. Flour: Use whole wheat instead of white or use half whole wheat and half white for a comporomise.

2. Butter: Will olive or canola oil work? If so, use it! If not, try using a variety such as Smart Balance that is very low in trans fat and low in saturated fat. Also consider reducing the amount of butter used in the recipe.

3. Sugar: Reduce the amount being used, use half splenda and half sugar, or use all splenda.

4. Eggs: Throw out all but one yolk when cooking with eggs, or use egg substitute.

5. Cheeses: Use cheese made with part-skim or 2% milk. When cream cheese is called for, many recipes work well with fat free or reduced fat.

6. Dairy: Most recipes work well with skim milk and low fat/fat free sour cream or yogurt.

A few extra thoughts:

Use fresh herbs to flavor foods instead of butter and salt.
Add vegetables to stir-fries and casseroles for extra fiber and nutrients.

Stay tuned next week for a few examples of recipes that I have reconstructed!
Motivational Monday!
Eating healthy sets a great example for my children!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Meal Planning

Everyone’s lives are busy, whether you have a demanding job, young children, other major commitments, or all of the above! The key to having a healthy, delicious dinner on the table each night is simple…plan ahead. It is definitely okay to have a left-over night or sandwich night here and there too. You don’t need to feel like every night has to be “gourmet”! Here are some tips to decrease the times you’ll say “what are we going to have for dinner tonight?? Pizza??”

1. Sit down once each week to plan your meals. Yes, this will take some time, but not as much as you think. By doing this, you’ll never be scrounging at the last minute to figure out what to cook and trying to see if you have the ingredients. In fact, the first person to return home can start cooking the meal if you post your plan on the refrigerator. The other plus is that you’re more likely to have balanced and healthy meals because you took the time to plan them when you weren’t rushed and hungry.

2. Make your grocery list after planning your meals and go to the store only once each week. If you are a sale shopper like me, you may do this a little differently. I make most of my meals center around the foods I already have and what is on sale. The main idea here is that if you plan your meals and make your grocery list, you will save several trips to the store each week. If you are crunched for time, the time you spend planning will actually save time.

3. Make a game plan to fit your busy schedule. I can’t tell you exactly how to get your dinner on the table in a timely fashion because everyone’s schedule is different. I’ll give you an example of how I manage. I take the meat out of the freezer that I plan to cook and place it in the refrigerator the night before. To my surprise, after being a working mom for a while, I realized that getting dinner on the table is just as hard when you’re a stay-at-home-mom! To cope, I do a lot of preparation while my son naps. The idea is that when its time to start cooking, I can just bake it, sauté it, grill it, etc. Sometimes I even make a marinade or do some preparation the night before after my son goes to bed. This really makes my life easier at dinner time.

4. Enlist other family members in this process. If your children are old enough, have them each choose a recipe to cook each week. Your spouse is certainly old enough, so he or she can take a night too! With each person planning and cooking one night of the week, the burden can be lifted off of one person and everyone does less work overall.

5. Just remember to plan, plan, plan! If you are not resistant to thinking ahead, your life will really be easier and you will spend less time stressing over what to feed your family when everyone is hungry and tired from the day.

What special strategies do you and your family have in order to get a healthy dinner on your table each night? Please share your ideas!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Quick Tips for Pregnant Women Who Wish to Exercise

Get your doctor's approval. While it is absolutely safe for the majority of pregnant women to exercise throughout their pregnancies, there are some situations in which the opposite is true.

Do not get overheated. Be smart about this! You know when you are uncomfortably hot, so take appropriate measures right away when you feel that you are approaching this state. Drink plenty of cold fluids, exercise indoors when it is hot and humid, use a fan, and do not over exert yourself. (30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38)

Avoid isometric exercises. Isometric exercises have a large effect on blood pressure, more so than other strength moves. (3, 39)

Avoid very heavy weights when strength training. Focus more on endurance by lifting weights light enough that you are able to complete at least 12 repetitions. (3, 39)

Avoid exercises completed in the supine position. This puts pressure on the vena cava restricting blood flow. (39)

Be aware of joint pain. While scientific evidence shows no concerns with pregnant women engaging in high impact activities, you may notice more stress on your joints as weight gain progresses. If this becomes a problem, switch to activities such as stationary cycling, swimming, and others that have less impact. (3, 39, 64, 65, 66)

Avoid activities that could result in falling. This includes riding a bike that is not stationary, horse back riding, and gymnastics. (39)

As long as your doctor has approved you for exercise, guidelines are exactly the same for pregnant women as they are for everyone else. These recommendations are five days of moderate activity for 30 minutes or three days of vigorous activity for 20 minutes.
Also, at least 2 days of strength training. (3, 67, 68)

Judge your appropriate intensity level based on how you feel. If you are familiar with Borg’s Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) (look for a future blog on this), you can aim for a rating of 12 to 14. If you are not familiar, the best thing to do is to be sensible. You shouldn’t work so hard that you are completely breathless and at the point of exhaustion. Aim for an intensity that allows you to speak in sentences and feel good throughout your activity. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no conclusion on a safe heart rate zone. No heart rate has actually been found to have a negative impact on mom or baby. If your doctor tells you that you should keep your heart rate below 140 bpm, ask another doctor’s opinion. That advice is completely arbitrary and has zero scientific evidence. In fact, one of the leading physicians in prenatal exercise research, Raul Artal, M.D., has written articles cautioning doctors about giving this advice to their patients. (3, 15, 39, 68)

For more information, stay tuned for other articles on this subject. Also, these books are easy reads written by leading researchers/physicians in prenatal exercise that give a lot of great information. Although both books are great, the first is a little older and doesn’t include some of the more recent research.

Artal, R. & Subak-Sharpe, G.J. Pregnancy & Exercise. New York, New York: Delacorte Press: 1992.

Clapp, J.F. Exercising through your pregnancy. Omaha, Nebraska: Addicus: 2002.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

References for all blogs about Exercise and Pregnancy

1. American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, 5th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins: 2006.

2.Clapp, J.F. The effects of maternal exercise on early pregnancy outcome. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1989; 161: 1453-7.

3.Clapp, J.F. Exercising through your pregnancy. Omaha, Nebraska: Addicus: 2002.

4.Cohen, G.C., Prior, J.C., Vigna, Y., & Pride, S.M. Intense exercise during the first two trimesters of unapparent pregnancy. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 1989; 17: 87-94.

5.Jarrett, J.C. & Spellacy, W.N. Jogging during pregnancy: an improved outcome? Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1984; 61: 705-709.

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36.Clapp, J.F. The changing thermal response to endurance exercise during pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1991; 165: 1684-1689.

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Monday, May 31, 2010

Vitamin D, are you deficient?

Before I begin today's post, I just want to inform you of something new I'm going to add to my blog. Every Monday will be "Motivational Monday!" So at the bottom of every Monday post, you will find a phrase or sentence that gives you another reason to lead a healthy life. My hope is that you will find these to be good reasons to exercise and eat better; and use them to help motivate you through your week (and weekend!). I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have any!!

Recently, there has been a lot of research centering around vitamin D deficiency and how it impacts our health. If you’ve been wondering what the deal is, this will give you a general idea of what is going on and what you should do to make sure you’re not missing out on a vital nutrient!

Vitamin D deficiency is real and affects many Americans. According to the NHANES III study, when men, women, white Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics were evaluated and compared, it was found that the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency was at least 40% for all groups. African Americans in the age group of 20-39 years old had the highest prevalence nearing 100%. White Americans in the same age category had the lowest prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, which was about 40%. (Martins D, et al. Arch Intern Med 2007 June;167:1159-1165)

So why are we having such a problem with vitamin D deficiency? There are many factors to blame. One difference between our culture today and our culture 50 years ago is that we use sunscreen, and a lot of it! I am not saying that is a bad thing! I am no expert on this subject, but I definitely believe that wearing sunscreen is a smart move. Vitamin deficient or not, I want my family’s skin protected! Other factors are air pollution, skin tone, less time spent outside, and poor diet. Many other factors can play into vitamin D deficiency, but they are more specific to some diseases.

Being deficient in vitamin D isn’t just something to fluff off and not worry about. Individuals who are deficient are more likely to die of heart failure or sudden cardiac death. Also, adequate vitamin D is thought to protect against hypertension (high blood pressure).

Ameri P, Ronco D, Casu M, Denegri A, Bovio M, Menoni S, Ferone D, Murialdo G. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its association with left ventricular dilation: An echocardiography study in elderly patients with chronic heart failure. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2010 Apr 14.)

Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, Drechsler C, Dekker JM, März W. Vitamin D deficiency and myocardial diseases. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Mar 29.

Vitamin D deficiency also increases cancer risk, particularly colon, breast, and prostate. Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, in addition to metabolic disorders are also more likely to occur in those who are deficient. Insulin-dependent diabetes falls into the category of autoimmune diseases.

Peterlik, M., Cross, H.S.. Vitamin D and calcium deficits predispose for multiple chronic diseases. European Jour of Clin Invest, 2005 Apr 28.

Vieth, Bischoff-Ferrari, Boucher, Dawson-Hughes, Garland, Heaney, et al. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. Am J of Clin Nut, 85(3), 643-650: 2007.

The first thing you should do if you have not had your vitamin D level tested is to speak with your doctor. Your serum level of vitamin D can be easily tested and your doctor can then advise you on the next step. Your level may be fine! However, if it is not, you may need to take a supplement in order to achieve a safe level. If your doctor prescribes some time in the sun unprotected, I would encourage you to speak with your dermatologist to get his or her opinion on such a plan. Do not begin taking any kind of supplement without getting your level tested and being advised by a doctor!

Some food sources of vitamin D are wild salmon, canned tuna or mackerel, shitake mushrooms, cod liver oil, and fortified cheeses and milk.

Staying fit gives me the energy I need to play with my children/grandchildren!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Feeding Your Baby.....Jarred or Homemade Food?

To make your baby food at home, or buy it in a jar…that is the question! Both options are ultimately fine choices, but there are pros and cons to both sides. Keep reading for a discussion about your options.

Jarred baby food bought at the store is not overly inferior to homemade baby food, although it is probably not quite as rich in some vitamins and minerals. This is due to the heating of jars, possible over-cooking and sitting on a shelf for some time. So, your baby may not get quite as much nutrition from the jarred food, but there isn’t a detrimental difference in homemade food and jarred. You shouldn’t feel that your baby is being deprived if you don’t have the time to cook your own food at home. If you do have time to steam fruits/veggies and puree them, which is not as time consuming as it seems, you may feel good about the fact that you are probably putting a more nutrient dense food on your child’s spoon.

Often times, making baby food is significantly cheaper than buying food in a jar. You can buy an inexpensive sweet potato and make a couple of weeks worth of baby food, freeze it, and pull it out, as you need it. When I did this, I always liked to calculate exactly how much I was saving because that always made me happy! However, I recently realized that you could also purchase baby food at very cheap prices, sometimes free! If you purchase baby food when it is on sale and use coupons, you’ll be amazed at the deals you get.

A definite con when it comes to store-bought baby food happens when you start your baby on stage 2 and 3 foods. I was really disappointed when I saw things like “Turkey and Green Beans”; however, I found something very different on the ingredient label. I would often see “sweet potatoes” as the first and most abundant ingredient. Sometimes the vegetable listed on the front of the jar, was the very last ingredient on the list! If I see the words “turkey” and “green beans” on a label, I expect those to be the prime ingredients. Instead, the mixture is sweetened so that we can continue to teach our children to only enjoy sweet foods. It is important for children to get a taste of vegetables and meat so that they can learn to enjoy those flavors as well.

On another note, while I found it very easy to turn fruits and vegetables into yummy foods for my baby, I didn’t have the same luck with meats. Whenever I made chicken, it turned into a crumb that my child wasn’t ready for. He really needed something smoother that he didn’t have to chew.

With all of these pros and cons, what should you do? It is really up to you! However, I'll tell you what I did. For my child, I served a mix of homemade baby food and some store-bought. I really enjoyed and felt good about cooking his foods fresh in my own kitchen. However, when I was able to get jarred food at a great price, I stocked up on meats that were mixed with whole grains. I typically stayed away from the meats mixed with a conglomerate of fruits and vegetables, unless I saw that the vegetable that I was looking for was at the top of the ingredient list. I found that when we were out and about, sometimes the jarred food was very convenient. However, I also put my homemade food in a little container and brought it with us on occasions.

If you’re wanting to start making your own baby food, but are unsure of where to begin, I recommend “Cooking For Baby” published by William Sonoma. It has great recipes for babies and toddlers. The toddler recipes are great for the whole family too! Just beware that you should follow your pediatrician or registered dietitian’s advice about when to introduce foods. Do not go by the advice of any cookbook or book that is not written by an appropriate health professional!