Friday, April 30, 2010

How do we get our children to eat fruits and vegetables?

This is a paper that I wrote while working on my MS degree. I thought it was a nice follow up to Nancy's post last Friday; and my post on Monday. It is rather long for a blog post, so I bolded points of interest. You can kind of get the idea if you just read the bolded sections. However, if you feel like reading the whole thing, you can!

I. Epidemiological Background

Fruit and vegetable consumption in America is, unfortunately, much less than desirable. Consuming two to four fruits and three to five vegetables daily is imperative for optimal health; however, the majority of people in America rarely meet this goal. In 2005, it was found that the median percent of Americans who consumed at least five fruits and vegetables daily was 23.2% (USDHHS, 2007). In South Carolina, a mere 21.2% of residents consumed at least five fruits and vegetables daily (USDHHS, 2007). From this data, it is obvious that there is certainly a need for improvement as the lack of fruit and vegetable consumption puts individuals at risk for many diseases.

Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables is related to prevention of type II diabetes, obesity (Bazanno, 2006), and some cancers (Adams, Pelletier, Zive, & Sallis, 2005). “At least nine prospective cohort studies have been conducted relating intake of fruits and vegetables to risk of coronary heart disease (Bazzano, 2006, p. 1364). Of those, four found significant inverse associations, whereas five found inverse associations that trended toward but did not reach statistical significance after appropriate adjustment” (Bazzano, 2006, p. 1364). Studies have also supported that fruits and vegetables have a strong association with lower blood pressure and decreased risk for stroke (Bazzano, 2006).

Chronic diseases do not form over night; neither do eating habits. This is why it is so imperative that children are reached at a young age and taught about the delicious varieties of fruits and vegetables available to them. After all, obesity is nothing new to children, and chronic diseases are showing up in people much younger than in previous decades. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System in 2005, only 20.1% of all children consumed greater than or equal to five fruits and vegetables daily within a seven-day period (USDHHS, 2006). It is apparent that some intervention is needed to change this statistic.

II. Summary of Current Research and Intervention

Examining the current programs and evaluating which ones are successful is important in continuing the fight against poor nutrition. The first area of interest is to understand whether or not children will increase their fruit and vegetable consumption if it is simply more available.

A study was completed to find out if providing salad bars in schools rather than having pre-portioned servings would cause children to increase their intake (Adams et al., 2005). The results showed that the availability of the salad bars did not significantly increase children’s consumption (Adams et al., 2005). However, “fruit and vegetable consumption was positively related to the number of fruit and vegetable items offered at salad bars (P<.05), adjusting for sex and grade” (Adams et al., 2005, p. 1789). Schools that offered a larger variety of fruits and vegetables had a greater mean of consumption (Adams et al., 2005). It is possible that students were able to find items that that agreed with their particular tastes when the variety was larger, yielding a better outcome (Adams et al., 2005).

Pinellas county in Florida took a different approach to the same idea. They began offering prepackaged fruit and vegetable salads in the schools’ cafeterias (USDHHS, 2007). The difference with their tactic was that they did not stop at just offering these foods (USDHHS, 2007). Administrators and staff were educated about the advantages and importance of fruit and vegetable consumption (USDHHS, 2007). In addition, setting up a farmers’ market display kicked the program off each year so that children had the opportunity to see, taste, and touch the different fruits and vegetables (USDHHS, 2007). This program resulted in 3,750 students and staff members increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables (USDHHS, 2007). The program has now expanded to many other schools in the surrounding areas (USDHHS, 2007). Success is attributed to the evidence supporting the idea that offering healthier foods in cafeterias and vending machines is linked to increased intake of healthier foods in the student population (USDHHS, 2007).

From 1991 to 1994, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) provided grants to evaluate the effectiveness of the 5-A-Day promotion in many different venues, including schools (USDHHS, 2000). Through the evaluation, it was found that students in grades two through four ate significantly more fruits and vegetables when exposed to the promotion (USDHHS, 2000). The children also “had higher good nutrition knowledge scores and better attitudes towards the school lunch program than those who did not participate” (USDHHS, 2000).

A more involved, yet successful, study was complete in which garden-based nutrition education was evaluated (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). The study involved a control group and two treatment groups (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). The treatment groups consisted of a twelve-week nutrition education program and a garden-based nutrition education group (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). The children in the garden-based nutrition group helped to maintain gardens with in-season fruits, vegetables, and herbs (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). While maintaining the gardens, they learned proper care for the garden, ways to incorporate the produce into their diets, and a class cookbook was produced (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). Three, 24-hour food recalls were completed before and after the intervention to evaluate effectiveness (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). The children in the garden-based group significantly increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables whereas the students in the control and nutrition education groups experienced little to no improvement. (McAleese & Rankin, 2007)

During the 2002-2003 school year, the Nutrition Title of the 2002 Farm Act provided six-million dollars for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to start a Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program (FVPP) (USDA, 2003). Schools that participated were given free fruits and vegetables to provide to their students (USDA, 2003). During the pilot, it was reported that students consumed 93% percent of the fruits and vegetables provided in November; and 92% percent in December (USDA, 2003). Of the schools that participated, 93% offered nutrition education and promotion in conjunction with the free fruits and vegetables (USDA, 2003). “School staff believed that the pilot lessened the risk of obesity, increased attention in class, reduced consumption of less healthy food, reduced number of unhealthy snacks brought from home, increased students’ awareness and preference for a variety of fruits and vegetables, helped children who would otherwise be hungry get more food, and increased students’ consumption of fruits and vegetables at lunch.” (USDA, 2003, p. 4)

Schools are not the only places where children can learn to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. A study that examined intake for preschool-aged children living in more rural areas in Missouri where fruits and vegetables were homegrown showed that those children had higher intakes than other children living in areas where fruits and vegetables were not constantly available (Nanney, Johnson, Elliott, & Haire-Joshu, 2007). From this study one could theorize that if fruits and vegetables are made more readily available to children and their parents, children may consume higher amounts. Educating parents on the nearest farmers’ market and the need to have an abundance of fruits and vegetables available to children in their homes just may make a difference.

III. Recommendations for Future Health Programs/Interventions

Knowledge may be power, but it is not powerful enough. Most children know and understand that fruits and vegetables are good and important in any nutritious diet. Although they may not understand the long-term detriment of not including fruits and vegetables in their diet, they typically do understand that they are “good for you”.

From the research discussed in this paper, it can be concluded that children tend to respond well to hands-on activities. After examining the Nanney study, it was seen that when children’s families have home gardens, they tend to consume more fruits and vegetables (Nanney et al., 2007). Obviously, not every child is going to have the opportunity to have a home garden; however, that can be a reality in schools. It would be wise to implement activities in elementary schools where children learn to maintain a garden full of in-season fruits, vegetables, and herbs as was demonstrated in the McAleese study (McAleese & Rankin, 2007). Just as people are more likely to taste a dish that they have prepared in the kitchen, children are probably more likely to taste produce that they have grown and cared for.

With this activity sprouts many more opportunities. Children can be taught how to make easy snacks with their produce, and take home recipes to experiment with their parents. If this garden activity also takes place in middle and high schools, it would be a perfect opportunity to take the program to the next level by involving them in cooking classes that utilize their produce and herbs.

When children do reach high school-age, fruit and vegetable education should include long-term benefits of consuming a diet high in produce. Also, they should be made aware of the damaging effects and risks of excluding produce. With the practical skills from the garden activities and cooking classes, in addition to the knowledge gained from learning about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, we may be able to begin changing the diets of future generations. With these programs, fruits and vegetables can be made a part of life and hopefully, the incidence of type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer will be decreased as a result.

IV. References

Adams, M. A., Pelletier, R. L., Zive, M. M., & Sallis, J. F. (2005, November). Salad
bars and fruit and vegetable consumption in elementary schools: a plate waste
study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104(11), 1789-1792.

Bazzano, L. A. (2006, September). The high cost of not consuming fruits and
vegetables. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(9), 1364-1368.

McAleese, J. D. & Rankin, L. L. (2007, April). Garden-based nutrition education affects
fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents [Electronic version].
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107(4), 662-665.

Nanney, M. S., Johnson, S., Elliott, M., & Haire-Joshu, D. (2007, April). Frequency of
eating homegrown produce is associated with higher intake among parents and
their preschool-aged children in rural Missouri [Electronic version]. Journal of
the American Dietetic Association, 107(4), 577-584.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program.
(2003, May). Evaluation of the USDA fruit and vegetable pilot program:
report to Congress. Washington, District of Columbia: U.S. Department of
Agriculture. Retrieved September 19, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. (2007). Promoting fruits and vegetables in schools. Atlanta,
Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved September
19, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. (June 2006). Youth risk behavior surveillance – United States 2005.
Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved
September 19, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention & Health Promotion. (2007, April). Behavioral risk factor
surveillance system prevalence data. Atlanta, Georgia: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion. Retrieved September 19, 2007 from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and
Prevention. (2000). 5 a day for better health [Electronic version]. Chronic
Disease Notes and Reports, 13(1), 11-13.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fueling for endurance exercise Part II: Snack ideas

Here are some snack ideas when you are working through a long workout. Remember the tips from last week and know that all of these snacks aren’t necessarily complete. You will likely have to play around with these ideas, and some of your own, to make sure that you are getting plenty of potassium, sodium, carbohydrate and fluid.

1. Trail mix containing dried fruit, pretzels, and a few M&Ms. This snack gives you important electrolytes and carbohydrates.

2. Sports drink. Again, these contain electrolytes and carbohydrate.

3. Banana. Contains potassium and carbohydrate, but no sodium. If you go with this, you’ll want your next snack to contain sodium, or have a little bit of a sports drink with this.

4. Sports gummy bears. These and many other products on the market, such as sport jellybeans, typically contain plenty of carbohydrate and electrolytes. The downside of these is that they are rather expensive.

5. Half of a peanut butter sandwich. This contains electrolytes, carbohydrate, and some protein and fat which may keep you satisfied longer!

6. Raisins and peanuts. This contains electrolytes, protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

7. Rice Krispy Treat. This is definitely lacking in electrolytes, but definitely an easily digested carbohydrate.

8. Cheerios or another dry cereal. This is a great carbohydrate, but lacking electrolytes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Food Revolution

Over the last six weeks, I watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Jamie Oliver is a chef from England who traveled to Huntington, West Virginia to make changes in the way they and, ultimately, America eats. It was a very interesting series and if you want to check the shows out, you can view them here.

During the show, Jamie first started by trying to change the school lunches in Huntington. It is a tragedy that schools serve such processed foods, and count French fries as a vegetable. Of course, French fries are technically a vegetable; however, we all know that they carry very little nutritional value and are high in calories and saturated fat. Jamie also set up "Jamie's Kitchen" in Huntington to provide cooking lessons for all who wanted to learn. It was so refreshing to see so many people coming out to learn cooking basics. Cooking can be fun and a great skill for parents to share with their children. Without simple cooking skills, we most certainly will rely more and more on processed foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and calories.

My one negative criticism of Jamie's revolution is that I, naturally, believe that he should have a Registered Dietitian working with him. He obviously has the skills to cook up fantastic meals; however, a dietitian could help to be sure that all of the foods are nutritionally sound. For instance, I noticed that Jamie once served chicken with the skin. The skin of chicken is loaded with unhealthy, saturated fats. On another occasion, he served homemade ranch dressing. Homemade or store bought, ranch dressing is still loaded with unhealthy fats. An oil based dressing would have been much healthier.

Anyhow, I would like to encourage you all to sign Jamie's petition to keep this food revolution going throughout our nation. We need our children to be served better foods in school and we need to spread basic cooking skills to our citizens to improve the health of this nation! Please take a moment to sign the petition!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grow Your Garden This Summer

I am so thrilled that we have a guest post by a very knowledgeable and experienced gardner! Nancy holds degrees in Plant Science and Agricultural Education. Here is what she has to say....

I’m excited to offer a guest post to Erin’s great blog. As I sit at the kitchen table with the deck door open, thermometer reading 77 degrees at 7:10 PM in my midwestern city, I couldn’t be more ecstatic for spring to have arrived! Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I got outside and did some yard work, which included expanding the square footage of our vegetable garden. It wasn’t a lot, but I’ve been craving it for days or maybe weeks.

I started gardening at a young age. My parent’s garden is 2500 square feet! When mom finally said “Enough!” with four children and little time to can all which that entire garden could provide, it became a project for my sibling’s and I – raising and selling chrysanthemums. Now that the kids are out of the house, my mom and dad have returned to their fair share of vegetable gardening as have I.

Gardening at home or through a community garden serves many purposes such as healthy, fresh food choices; lowering your summer grocery cost; and (if you’re like me) stress relief. I’d like to offer a few thoughts to start or maintain a vegetable garden.

Start with the fundamentals. Observe your soil type. Is it made up of a lot of clay or sand? You may have to find/purchase some top soil or organic matter to incorporate into the soil to make it more nutrient rich and increase drainage.

Find a sunny location. Most all vegetables need full sun. If you have a number of trees, observe your yard at varying times of day to see what area receives the most sun. This also means you should plant your vegetables so they do not shade each other. If planting sweet corn, plant it on the side of your garden that will best allow all plants to enjoy the sun when full height.

Identify types of vegetables you and your family enjoy most. We grow tomatoes, peppers and many types of herbs as staples. Lettuces and broccoli-type varieties tend to grow best in spring and fall. You may be able to grow these during spring and fall while planting other plants during the summer months. Melons, cucumbers and squash are horizontal vine plants which require more space. Beans and tomatoes require supports such as cages that can be purchased at your hardware store. Follow the recommended planting distances for each type of plant.

Plant in stages. If you wish to plant a number of the same type of vegetable, consider planting them one week apart so that they mature at different times – spreading out the length of time when vegetables are ready. This also assures that some do not go to waste since you could be overloaded at once. If planting herbs, harvest regularly by snipping segments off each major branch. This will prevent the plant from blooming and going to seed (after which its flavor tends to fade).

Watch for small creatures. If your yard is like mine, squirrels, rabbits and my own dog put my garden at risk. You may need to put chicken wire or liquid scent deterrents down to protect your plants and vegetables. Deer and birds can also be a problem depending on where you live.

Consider container gardening. If you have limited lawn space, you might be best served with container gardens for tomatoes, strawberries and many types of herbs. They will still need sunlight and will require frequent watering.

Enjoy! There is nothing better than eating your home-grown vegetables. My personal favorite is making Caprese with fresh tomato and basil some mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fueling for endurance exercise. Part I: Fueling during the exercise

Whenever exercise lasts longer than 60 to 90 minutes, it is definitely wise and extremely helpful to fuel up during exercise. There are a lot of different points to consider; however, first and foremost, know that finding just the right combination of “fuel” depends on you. While there are general guidelines to follow, everyone tolerates liquids and foods differently during endurance exercise. For this reason, you must experiment! Once you have found one or several combinations that work for you, stick with those when it comes to the day of your event. You never want to try something new when you’re trying to perform your best!

1. After the first hour of exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends consuming 100 to 250 calories every hour. This snack should contain about 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate. The part that varies here is, a. what you eat, and b. how you spread it out during an hour. You don’t have to eat a snack all at once, but you can if you want! Also, this can be in the liquid form, i.e. Gatorade, Powerade, etc.

While extended exercise does lead to the breakdown of fat for energy, your body runs more efficiently on glucose. Consuming carbohydrate while exercising gives your body quick energy to improve performance and generally feel better. Come back next week for a list of ideas for snacks during endurance exercise

2. Although fueling is important, be very careful not to overdo it. Too much sugar can have a negative effect by slowing how quickly food leaves the stomach. Also, too much of anything during endurance exercise could cause gastrointestinal distress.

3. It is imperative to drink fluids during prolonged exercise. A couple of keys are:

a. You should be sipping throughout exercise, not gulping at the end. Taking small sips here and there keeps you hydrated and energized, while a large amount of water at one time can upset your stomach during or after exercise.

b. Sip moderately. Yes, it is true that you may not feel thirst until you’re already under hydrated, but be aware that you can over hydrate. This is extremely dangerous and can result in death. No need to be scared! Just don’t down more water than you are thirsty for. Listen to your body. This is also another reason to be eating snacks with electrolytes, which are important to “balance out” the water that you are drinking.

c. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every pound you have lost, you need to drink 16 ounces of fluid. This can be a guide for your next workout too if you’re unsure of how much you should be drinking.

d. Check your urine. A dark color can mean that you are still under hydrated.

For further reading, I highly recommend Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark, MS, RD. and Nancy Clark's Food Guide For Marathoners by Nancy Clark, MS, RD.

**Be sure to come back and visit on Friday! I am excited to bring you a post from a very special guest!**

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Unfortunate Truth about Fruit Juice!

Fruit juices and regular sodas can really stand between you and weight loss. Most of you are probably not surprised to hear that about sodas; however, how many of you were surprised to see fruit juices in that sentence? Here are some reasons why you’re better off crossing fruit juice from your grocery list.

Fruit juices…

1. are high in sugar. Even the juices with no added sugar still contain plenty of natural sugar. Have you ever made fresh squeezed orange juice? Think of how many oranges it takes to make a glass of juice. So, even if you don’t add sugar, you’re still getting several oranges worth of sugar.

2. lack fiber. Without the skin of the apple, pulp of the orange, and so on, you are missing out on all of the heart-healthy fiber found in a piece of fruit.

3. lack nutrients. Sure, manufacturers fortify fruit juices with vitamins and minerals, but those will never be the same as the natural form. In addition, you are missing out on many phytochemicals that are found in the whole fruit.

4. are high in calories. This leads to weight gain or the inability to lose weight. Four ounces of orange juice, although not the best choice, won’t kill you. However, if you’re drinking a lot of fruit juice, or some in addition to sodas and sweet teas, then those calories will really add up!

5. contribute to failure-to-thrive in very young children when fruit juice is consumed in excess. Sometimes, children will fill up on fruit juices and have no room left in their tiny tummies for nutrient dense foods. This is tragic and I’ve seen it happen many times!

6. contribute to cavities. All of that sugar isn’t good for your teeth!

7. will raise your blood sugar. For those of you who are diabetic, hopefully this caught your eye. Yes, anything with carbohydrate raises your blood sugar; however, sugar in fruit juice with no fiber, fat, or protein, will raise your blood sugar more rapidly.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Your Pre-Pregnancy Body Back

Whether you delivered your bundle of joy six weeks ago or six years ago, you may be looking to get that body back into shape! (There are just a few things in here that won't apply if you've given birth a while back!)

First, here are some points to consider:

1. Be sure to get clearance from your physician that you are healthy enough to begin exercising.

2. If you are breastfeeding, it is perfectly safe to exercise and lose weight. However, keep in mind that a healthy diet and plenty of fluids are necessary. If you are not getting these things, your milk supply will suffer.

3. Take it slow and steady. Just after giving birth, you need to ease back into your exercise routine. Also, aim to lose no more than one pound per week if you are breastfeeding.

4. Although you can lose weight and get back to normal, remember that sometimes pregnancy can alter your body shape a little bit. Accept this and consider it your badge of honor.

Now, let’s talk about getting that body back!

1. Breastfeed! On average, this requires an additional 500 calories per day. That is 200 more than when you were pregnant! Breastfeeding has so many benefits to mom and baby, including weight loss for mom.

2. Eat 5-6, small, well-balanced meals. That’s right, no crazy diets here! Eating plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein are important to fuel breastfeeding and help you to shed pounds.

3. After giving yourself some time to get used to exercising again, incorporate interval and repetition training. This method is helpful in burning a lot of calories and reducing abdominal fat.

4. Take your baby out for walks often. When you can’t get out for interval and repetition training, take your baby for a walk. Babies love fresh air and this is a great way for you to move more.

5. Strength-train the abdominal muscles 2-3 times each week. Do not do this every day because it will only cause injury in the long run. It is better to get a really good workout 2-3 times each week than to train a little bit each day. Switch up your abdominal moves to avoid a plateau. This training will not reduce fat on your abdomen. However, all of that stretching of the muscles while you were pregnant caused them to become extremely weak and unshapely; and this will really help to improve their appearance.

6. Don’t forget overall strength training and cardiovascular exercise. The ideas mentioned above are especially helpful, but you need to be getting plenty of regular cardiovascular exercise. Strength training all of the muscles in the body helps to increase your metabolic rate as well. Increasing your metabolic rate will definitely help with weight loss.

7. Don’t expect results over night. Your belly didn’t become enormous overnight when you found out you were pregnant. Your belly will also not shrink back to that washboard look overnight either. Good things are worth working and waiting for!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fueling Your Exercise

Fueling up with a snack is an important part of exercise. For those of you who are trying to lose weight, it may seem counterintuitive; however, it is actually quite helpful. You have to think about your body like a furnace. You must give it fuel if you want it to burn! People who have a snack before exercising tend to have more energy, so they work harder and sometimes longer. They also feel better during their session. The net calorie burn is usually even bigger after having a snack. So for those of you who are trying to lose weight, or just want a more powerful workout, don’t forget to grab your snack!

You may be thinking that you can’t eat before you workout because it causes an upset stomach. For this reason, you do have to experiment and see what works best for you. However, as a general rule, we are not talking about a five-course meal! Just a 100 to 250 calorie snack will do. To give you an idea, a banana has 110 calories. It really does not take much to meet that calorie goal.

The other part of this puzzle is to decide when to have your snack. Generally, it is recommended to have your pre-workout snack 30 minutes to 2 hours before you begin your session. A lot of the timing depends on how well you tolerate food before exercise, and how big your snack was. For me, a small snack about 30 minutes prior to my session works best. However, everyone is different so you have to experiment to find out what works best for you.

Good pre-workout snacks definitely contain carbohydrate. Shoot for about 30 grams of carbohydrate, or more if you plan on exercising for longer than an hour. A snack that contains protein or fat may be helpful to keep you satisfied longer, especially if you are eating your snack more than 30 minutes prior to exercise. Refer back to the post about healthy snacks for ideas.

So what is your favorite pre-workout snack?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let's Go On a Field Trip!

For a Tuesday extra, please check this out. I would like to sincerely thank John for being so kind to let me guest post on his blog. See you all on Wednesday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sugar Substitutes: Good or Evil?

Last week I attended a webinar focusing on calorie free sweeteners such as those found in diet drinks and other low calorie foods. The information was very informative, so I would like to pass along a brief overview of what I learned.

There has been some hype in the media over the past few years about these artificial sweeteners causing a host of problems. The good news is that you can safely enjoy products containing these sweeteners. I will go over the myths, but first, I just want to remind everyone of the damage that excess sugar can cause to a body. Sure, it would be great if everyone in the world only drank water and milk. However, let’s face it, that is never going to happen. We like sweets and honestly, we were born with an affinity toward sweet tasting foods. By rationalizing this situation, given that we have never found any evidence that these artificial sweeteners are harmful, yet we know that an excess of sugar is, I think its safe to say that we are all better off choosing Crystal Light over regular lemonade.


1. Sugar substitutes make you hungrier. Research has shown this to be false. In fact, it was found that drinking one of the many beverages that contain sugar substitutes would actually provide the same satiety as eating or drinking a sugary drink. However, this is only due to filling the stomach, so the effect will subside when the stomach empties.

2. They trick the body into overeating. Again, research has disproved this! The only factor that may cause overeating is the feeling that one can eat other “treats” due to saving calories with a sugar substitute.

3. They increase sweet cravings. Again, humans are born with an affinity toward sweet foods; and having sweets, real sugar or substitutes, does not increase cravings.

4. Sugar substitutes add to the obesity epidemic. This is impossible because they have no caloric value.

5. They cause an insulin response leading to storage of fat. This has been studied and disproved.

6. They cause cancer. Over 200 studies have been done that refute this idea and no substantial evidence has been found to show otherwise.

The moral of the story is that sugar substitutes are safe in moderation. The upper safety limits of these products are so high that it would be almost impossible for a human to consume that much. Pregnant women and children can also safely enjoy products with sugar substitutes. This was definitely a very brief overview. Do you have questions? Please leave them in the comment section and I will answer to the best of my ability!

Information taken from the presentation by Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D.: Understanding Americans’ Approach to Weight Management: The Role of Low-Calorie Sweeteners

Friday, April 9, 2010

Build a Better Barbeque This Summer!

It’s that time of year again for back yard barbeques! I don’t know about you guys, but I love it and I am so happy that the weather has been warmer. I want you all to enjoy this weather and spend time with your friends and family over some yummy summer-time cookouts, but here are some tips to build a better barbeque!

1. Aim for lean meats. Chicken, without the skin, is a great lean protein, but you can also grill burgers. Just be sure that you choose the ground beef with 7%, or less, fat. This will help you to avoid all of that yucky, saturated, artery clogging fat.

2. Serve whole grain buns. There are a lot of tasty whole grain buns out there, so give it a shot!

3. Pay attention to your sauce. Mayo is actually a healthy fat, but if you’re watching your calories, you may want to pass and try mustard instead. If you are diabetic, watch the sugar in your BBQ sauce.

4. Top your burger/sandwich with veggies! Yes, pile it high with lettuce, tomato, and any other vegetable that suits you. Avoid things like fried onion rings and cheese.

5. Consider kabobs! This can be a great option that is healthy and super delicious! Use vegetables such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, and potato wedges. Also, you could try orange slices or pineapple chunks. Uses meats such as shrimp, chicken, or lean beef. Try going to and look for a delicious and easy marinade. Your taste buds may just love the break from the traditional cheeseburger.

6. Throw together a colorful salad. Instead of potato salad, consider a spinach salad with walnuts and strawberries. Another option is to make a lovely fruit salad with berries that are now coming into season. No need to add any sugar or dressing to a fruit salad, the fruits are very sweet on their own!

7. Change the focus of your get-together. After everyone enjoys their food, put it away and enjoy some friendly sports together. Try soccer, badminton, volley ball, or flag football. Not only will this keep everyone from continuing to mindlessly eat, but everyone will get some exercise AND have fun spending time together.

8. Consider this BBQ makeover…

Happy barbequing!!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

All About Stretching

Here are some important points about stretching! I hope this will help to clear up any myths about stretching and answer other questions you may have about the subject.

1. Stretching does not prevent injury or soreness. I repeat, stretching does not prevent injury or soreness. Microscopic tears in the muscle cause muscles soreness and only time can heal those tears. Injury is injury. If you injure yourself, stretching will not reverse this.

2. According to research, stretching will not improve your performance in sport.

3. Stretching will improve and maintain flexibility. This is very important, because as we age, we tend to lose this important ability. Some elderly people have difficulty reaching into cabinets and performing simple tasks. This could be improved or prevented with stretching exercises.

4. Stretching should never be performed when your muscles are cold because this could result in injury. In other words, do not stretch before exercising! If you want to stretch after a warm-up, that is perfectly fine. Otherwise, save your stretching for post-exercise.

5. Stretching should not hurt. Yes, you may feel some discomfort, but not pain.

6. Some studies show that stretches should be held for a minimum of 10 seconds and others indicate 30 to 90 seconds. If you are just starting a stretching program, my advice is to start with 10 seconds and gradually increase to at least 30 seconds. There is not much benefit in holding it longer than 90 seconds.

7. You should perform 2 to 4 sets of each stretch.

8. Stretching should be done a minimum of 2 to 3 days per week; however, 5 to 7 days is ideal.

9. You do not have to stretch every muscle each day that you stretch. You can pick a few each time and rotate through different muscles on different days of the week.

10. There are many different types of stretching; however, static stretching is appropriate for most people. That means that you hold each stretch without movement.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Why Diets Don't Work!

You’ve seen the Weight Watchers commercial where they say their famous phrase about diets not working. Well, they’re right! I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it another 10 or 15 million times throughout my career. Technically, the word “diet” is just supposed to describe what you eat, good or bad. However, it has a completely different meaning in today’s world. Diets often mean deprivation, no treats, a lot of vegetables, calorie restriction, quick weight loss, and quick weight gain. That’s right, after all of that yucky stuff; dieters almost always gain the weight back. Studies show that weight loss really isn’t a problem for most people, but weight maintenance takes great skill. If you’re trying to lose weight, take a look at this list. If you find that any of these points describe your “diet”, rethink your direction and consider changing your approach.

Your diet….

1. is too calorically restrictive. Generally people want fast results so they often eat too few calories. Not only is this impossible to maintain forever, but it slows your metabolism.

2. restricts a particular food group. You should never swear off all protein, all carbs, or all fat. Each nutrient is vital to your organ systems, disease prevention, and well-being. A healthy diet, which can result in weight loss, includes all food groups.

3. requires you to skip meals. This is just like shooting yourself in the foot when you’re trying to lose weight. Frequent eating is important in order to keep your metabolism going. Also, people who skip meals often overeat at the next one.

4. includes drinking shakes. Any type of “magical” formula that promises to help you lose weight or is considered a “meal replacement” is not the way to go. Losing weight isn’t magic and at some point you’re going to want to eat normal food. Even if you do lose weight on one of these plans, chances are, you’ll gain it back when you eat normal food again.

5. includes weight-loss pills. Even the pills that are prescribed by a doctor typically don’t last on the market long. They often end up being deemed unsafe and are taken off the market. Do you really want to take your chances? Plus, they are, again, a short-term fix.

The only long-term fix is a lifestyle change. That means taking on new habits that you can live with. Yes, the process is longer; however, would you prefer to lose weight fast and gain it back five or six more times in the next 10 years, or lose it once and never see it again?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Building Muscle Strength and/or Size

Last week, one of my lovely readers asked a question about specifics for repetitions/sets for increasing strength or muscle size. This post will answer that question and hopefully generate more questions!

Before discussing the issue at hand, I want to quickly explain what a repetition and a set actually mean. Let’s say you’re doing bicep curls. The number of curls you do without stopping would be the number of repetitions, or reps. When you stop, take a little break, then resume, that would be a new set. So if you did 10 reps, took a break, and then completed another 10 reps, you would have completed two sets.

Now, what I am about to say will surprise most of you. Doing a high number of reps (10-15) actually causes hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle size. If you were to do a lower number of reps (5-8), you would be increasing your muscular strength. Both scenarios will increase muscle size and strength to a degree, but the results I just explained are the primary results that occur with that number of reps.

You may be thinking, from personal experience, that I am wrong because your results were different. Remember that whether you are doing low or high reps, you should be working to volitional fatigue. Simply, your muscles should be so tired that you couldn’t possibly produce one more rep. So if you are doing 15 reps, but could still do more, you need heavier weights. If you are wanting to focus more on your strength, you should use even heavier weights so that you can not do more than 8 reps. If you are not working to volitional fatigue, you will not achieve the results you are looking for.

For those of you who are looking for a well-rounded exercise routine, both of the above methods are good to include. Some days you may do higher reps, and others, lower reps. If you are female, don’t fear the hypertrophy. It is very unlikely that your muscles will become much larger than they are. Estrogen prevents hypertrophy and higher amounts of testosterone are necessary for muscle building.

For those of you who like to medicate with ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain after a workout, you may want to rethink that. Studies have found that NSAIDS, which include ibuprofen and naproxen, interrupt the process of muscle fiber damage and repair. This process is necessary for increases in muscle strength and size.