Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"First Comes Love, Then Comes Obesity?"

I lovingly borrowed the title of this blog entry from today's American Dietetic Association Daily News. I couldn't have come up with anything more clever myself...wise people those ADA'ers.

It is wedding season, and yay for marriage!! I am a May 2009 bride and so now... I'm a married old hag myself. Turns out, my life may be over...or at least ending sooner than anticipated now that I'm in a romantic partnership for life.

Published in April 2009 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (ew..) was a study performed on adult obesity in relationships [1]. What the study results revealed is that individuals in relationships with overweight individuals are more likely to become overweight themselves. BMI, thus, is correlated between spouses [2]. Worse yet, one's chances of becoming obese double after just a few short years of matrimony [1]. And if you think you're in the clear for living (in sin - kidding) with your boyfriend/girlfriend, you're wrong. The study showed that those living with their significant others are also at risk for packing on "some excess lbs" [1].

While a woman's risk of weight gain is incremental after year one, men's weight gain spikes only between years one and two of cohabiting [1]. Gee, that sounds fair.

The study looked at dating, cohabiting, and married adult couples. Concordance of outcomes observed included obesity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, screen time by romantic partnerships, and duration of time living with romantic partner. Negative obesity-related behaviors were most predominant in married couples while dating couples not cohabiting were less likely than cohabiting and married couples to become obese [2].

But...I guess I can see where the mistakes begin: wedding night. Forgive the RD...it was a rough job being the bride. You know what they say, be sure to eat. ....Check!
[1] Rochman, Bonnie. First Comes Love, Then Comes Obesity? Time. 2009.
[2] Gordon-Larson, Penny.
Entry into Romantic Partnership Associated with Obesity. Obesity. Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. April 9, 2009.

Monday, June 29, 2009


If your healthy habits aren't habitual, train and trick yourself into making healthier food choices. Here's my top 10 recommendations:

10. If you're going to a restaurant which lists the nutrition facts online (consult websites such as thedailyplate.com or fitday.com) or in print, pick what you'll order
before you walk in the doors. Don't even look at the menu. Stick with the plan! P.S. I love the thedailyplate.com -- check it out!

9. Pack your lunch! And when you pack it, make sure there's
at least one truly satisfying item so that you look forward to your lunch and aren't (as) tempted to head out with your co-workers to the nearest burger joint.

8. ...when you pack your lunch, cut up and/or peel your fruit and vegetables ahead of time. That apple will be brown tomorrow, so you'd better not waste it.

7. If you go to a buffet, picnic, or place of infinite choices, survey your options before making your selection. Further, try not to let foods touch one another so you'll pack less on a plate. If you must go back for second helpings, limit yourself to 1 item. Two items, tops.

6. In scenarios such as the above, use the "plate method" of serving yourself. Aim for 1/2 fruits/vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbohydrates. This will keep your calories down and ensure you're eating a balanced meal.

5. At parties or restaurants (think chips and salsa on the table or the bread basket), sit AWAY from the appetizers and snack foods. They're nothing but trouble!

4. If you have a craving (gyros come to mind for me), take a friend you can share with (as in half-and-half, not the infamous "80-20" plan) . Scratch the itch, but don't draw blood...if you know what I'm sayin'.

3. Add fruit and vegetables to some of your favorite foods -- zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions go great on a quesadilla (made with low-fat cheese and high-fiber wheat tortillas) while berries and bananas go great in your morning cereal or oatmeal.

2. Keep a piece of fruit in your car or office at all times. When the healthy stuff is easily accessible, you're more likely to eat it. Further, if you're finding it difficult to eat all your F&V's, commit to having 2 snacks a day and making at least one a fruit or veggie. Another great idea is having a cut-up veggie tray with hummus or low-fat dip in your fridge at all times. If hunger is striking the second you walk in from work, the veggies can stave off hunger long enough to get dinner on the table without racking up the calories.

1. Bite it, write it. Keeping a food journal is the tried and true best method of keeping your intake in check. Keep a small journal or notebook with you and commit to writing down
everything you eat. When you're accountable for writing it, you typically always think twice before eating it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Food for Sex

Last night I co-hosted a friend's bachelorette party (bride on the right there). I was the first of my friends to get married, so this was all new to me. My co-hostess did some local research and we decided to book a "For Ladies Only" (AKA "FLO") party. You know...lingerie, toys, lubes...the works. After seeing and reading some of the representative's profiles online, I got
scared. "WHAT did we do? WHO is this stranger coming to give us a sex toy presentation?" My last thought, "NO ONE is going to buy anything!" Luckily, it was a busy week and I didn't give much thought to the event.

We got this rep.
Clearly, we landed ourselves a good one.

To my very pleasant surprise, we had a BLAST! Mixing a bride, friends, booze, and justified sex talk is just bound to be inappropriately fabulous, and doubly memorable. And it surely was. Our FLO rep ended up being a saint...and nearly 7 hours later, she was finally heading out with her suitcases of "product". That last thought about people not buying stuff...couldn't have been more wrong! Apparently her estimated 45-minute "presentation" (ours lasting 2 1/2 hours) and 1-hour order-taking (ours lasting over 4 hours), was a bit underestimated. Like I said, inappropriately fabulous...and doubly memorable.

So here I am sipping my cappuccino this morning recalling the happenings of last evening thinking, "Is there something edible besides champagne and strawberries that can 'turn people on'?" (FYI: there were lots of strawberry and dessert-flavored edibles in the FLO rep's stash).

Dear friend Google and I discovered some stuff that I found undoubtedly worth sharing with blog nation!

We've all heard that sex is great exercise, and I think most would agree. (Virgins and prudes, hit the treadmill...sorry!) Moreover, keeping a healthy diet heightens a positive attitude towards sharing your body and new experiences with your partner, says Lou Paget, author of "The Great Lover Playbook". Surely that's a great reason to tweak your diet, right? Better news yet, Paget claims that attitudes towards sexual experiences improve immediately when the diet is improved [1]. No waiting games or scale torture to endure in order to be sexually rewarded. Double bonus.

Lynn Edlen-Nezin, clinical health psychologist, states, "What's good for your heart is good for the genitals." In her book entitled, "Great Food, Great Sex: The Three Food Factors for Sexual Fitness", she explains that eating right and keeping a healthy heart enhances sensations in the genitals, creating more pleasureable sexual experiences. Elden-Nezin, along with the
International Journal of Cardiovasulcar Interventions, supports argenine supplementation* to aid in both male and female sexual arrousal. Nitric oxide (NO) being the culprit in the reaction. NO has been studied in regards to improved blood flow in coronary arteries [1].

All supplements aside, Elden-Nezin suggests the inclusion of "Staminators" in the diet for prolonged sexual arrousal. Such foods (high in arginine) include: almonds, walnuts, halibut, cod, and salmon [1]. Preparing the
right meal for your sweetie could have dual arrousal factors: being catered to and naturally "drugged" for top performane! Suckers, they'll never know...

Until my goodies arrive next week from the FLO rep, I'll be cooking heavily with fish and nuts!

*I have not personally, to date, read any credible research on argenine and CVD and/or sexual stimulation. I am not recommending argine supplementation for said purposes or verifying this information.
[1] Frankel, Valerie.
Spice Up Your Love Life with the Great Sex Diet. MSNBC. March 3, 2008.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

May I have that to go?

No, not my food. My soft drink. "May I please take my soft drink to go?" ::blink:: Congratulations, on a new means of complete and utter gluttony, Oklahoma.

Oklahomans know how to do one thing right: eat and drink. I've never heard of beverage "to-go" cups before moving here...and it pains me to great lengths that
my husband is a to-go cup convert. Sigh.

Mark and I were out to lunch yesterday at a local Mexican restaurant and at the end of our meal... asked the waiter for a "to-go" cup for his (diet) Coke. "Sure, no problem!" said the waiter, as he ran off for the Styrofoam cup, plastic lid, and new straw to-go (at no cost to the customer). I was in shock. That's
my husband that just asked that? Disbelief! Disappointment, even. Sure, I understand the convenience factor, but I see a few issues with the whole ordeal.

Firstly, cost (and waste). It's more common than not that restaurant servers here will ask the customer, "Would you like a to-go cup?". As an establishment in search of a
profit, this is a huge financial mistake. Whatever, their loss, right? Second, I'd imagine that here in Oklahoma, most restaurant patrons are taking one of two beverages to-go: Coke or sweet tea. Roll your eyes at that stereotypical comment all you want, but I can nearly guarantee that as a fact. Thus, patrons are taking home or for the road, an additional 150-350 calories...after consuming a meal and however many other servings of liquid cavities while dining-in. Clearly unnecessary, to say the least. Lastly, this whole to-go cup offer is not only at the local Mexican restaurant, but at the chains like Chili's and Olive Garden. Chain restaurants condone this? It seems so...tacky to me! I surely wouldn't go into a 4-star restaurant and ask for my water to-go, know what I mean? Again, I'm at a loss as to the logic here, Chili's. Get it together, I thought you were classier than that!

When my groom asked for that cup, I about crawled under the table in embarrassment...after shooting him a quick death stare. Oklahomans ought to learn: there's a reason they're the 5th fattest state in the US. Liquid calories to-go have no place in the diet...especially during a sedentary drive to their next destination. And this could be yet another reason Oklahoma is ranked #50 in terms of fruit and vegetable consumption, as well. You know what they say...high-fructose corn syrup is nearly crack.

Man, there's work to be done in the OK! Sign me up for the challenge!

Disclaimer: While other regions may be guilty, I can only
judge based on what I know of Oklahoma.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fire up the grill!

It's officially summer in Tulsa, and I hear the north is getting a steady dose of summer heat, as well. Mom informed me last night that their air-conditioning has been running all week. Translation: it's blazin' in Chicago. And summertime surely means one thing: grilling, cookouts, barbecue, and so on!

There's a few grilling safety tips you should consider before enjoying your next nearly-charcoal burger, however. While grilling offers a quick and healthy cooking method, it can also produce carcinogenic foods (i.e. cancer-causing). You should avoid eating charred, blackened, or burned meats. The high temperatures of grilling can make cooking foods thoroughly a challenge, but the alternative just isn't safe.

These cancer-causing compounds come in two forms: HCA's and PAH's. Heterocyclic amines (HCA's) are produced when red meat, poultry, and fish are cooked at ultra-high temperatures. PAH's, or "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons", are produced when fat drips from cooking meat into the grill producing a smoke. This smoke unsafely contaminates the food. These nasty PAH compounds are also produced when flames physically touch cooking food, causing it to blacken and char [1].

Some ways to make grilling safer and healthier include [1]:
- cooking leaner meats vs. high-fat and highly processed hot dogs, sausages, and bratwursts
- grill smaller cuts of meat to reduce cooking time and temperature
- remove all visible fat before grilling - this will cut down on the fat drippings which cause that harmful PAH compound production
- keep the grill grates and racks clean (you can use cooking spray to make cleaning easier)
- marinade meat before grilling -- the antioxidants in herbs and spices* which are found in marinades can reduce the production of HCA's
- red meat requires longer grilling time than poultry and fish, so opt for the latter
- use tin foil on grill grates and racks to provide a barrier between flames and food
- grill at lower temperatures and check internal temperatures for safety
- grill in the center of the grill, placing the charcoal on the edges of the grill to decrease PAH contamination
- remove charred and blackened portions of meat before eating
- add sauces at the end of grilling to avoid burning

And as always, vegetables come out on top. Grilling vegetables does not produce carcinogenic compounds...load up!

As pictured, shish-kabobs are a low-fat, balanced meal made on the grill. Marinade meat and vegetables (separately) in a teriyaki flavor, grill up, and serve over brown rice with low-sodium soy sauce. Delicious!

And for all you carnivores, choose red meat that is 93% lean or higher. My old timer parents made the switch so you can, too! For burgers, add chopped onion, seasoning salt, and pepper to your ground beef patties to enhance the flavor...sans the fat. I assure you, you'll love that burger more when you know it's a leaner choice!

P.S. Don't forget the 100% whole wheat buns!

* marindaes containing thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil and parsley are highest in antioxidants
[1] Bankard, Lisa. Monday Medical: Summer Calls for Health Grilling. Steamboat Pilot & Today. June 22, 2009.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A glass a day keeps the doctor away?

Quite possibly.

Red wine contains a potent antioxidant called resveratrol. It is found in highest concentrations in the skin of the grape to protect the fruit from bacterial and fungal invaders. Resveratrol is also found in peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries, however the skin of the grape and long fermentation process of red wine produce the highest concentrations of resveratrol [1].

It was suggested by top Harvard biochemists that this antioxidant can extend life by activating the "longevity" gene (sirtuin), slowing the body's aging process and prolonging the development of chronic disease [2]. Research still in the works on those guys at Harvard...

Is red wine the ticket to eternal youth? I'm sure Dr. 90210 has something to say to the contrary. But, what does Mayo have to say?

Mayo Clinic supports the role of red wine in the reduction of LDL cholesterol (recall, this is the "bad" stuff), while protecting arterial walls of the heart. However, their stance on
resveratrol's role on this matter remains up for dibs. There are studies out there suggestion resveratrol as the ingredient to thank, and others suggesting red wine providing no increased benefit to that of spirits or beer. Hmm...

Research confirms the role of alcohol (not just red wine) in the diet to 1) raise HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind), 2) lower LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind), and 3) reduce the incidence of blood clots [1].

To keep things in perspective, research is performed on those with "moderate" alcohol consumption. "Moderate" consumption would be defined as 1 serving of alcohol a day for women, and 2 a day for men. Professionals
do not encourage the intiation of alcohol in the diet if one abstains. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, obesity, liver damage, increased risk of certain cancers, and accidents [1].

Additionally, resveratol studies have been performed on animals and the dose used to produce desired health benefits would require the consumption of 100 to 1,000 bottles of red wine to produce similar results. So, as you can imagine, resveratrol supplements were produced as to offer the public highly concentrated doses. Mayo Clinic stated in March 2009 that more research is needed to support the role and required dosing to confirm suspected health benefits of the antioxidant. But, they do state that the evidence looks good for red wine! [1]

What we know:

1. If you drink alcohol, consuming a "moderate" amoung each day may provide health benefits.
2. When you drink alcohol, red wine may be your best alternative health-wise.
3. If you don't drink, don't start for health reasons.

All good news here for this vino lover!

I suggest:
Ruffino Chianti (approx. $8-15/bottle)
Collazzi Chianti Classico ($20/bottle)
Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva ($16/bottle)

...Just for you, Mary! Salute!

1. http://mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/HB00089/NSECTIONGROUP=2
2. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/25/60minutes/main4752082.shtml

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Go Greek!


Surprisingly, I'm not talking about gyros or saganaki, but rather, a study on the Mediterranean diet performed by the Medical School at the University of Athens, Greece. We've all likely heard of the Mediterranean Diet, but let's refresh. Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include:

- plentiful exercise and meal times shared with family and friends

- consuming many fruits and vegetables daily
- including healthy oils in the diet such as olive and canola oils
- eating nuts (in small portions)
- the option of moderate red wine consumption
- marginal red meat consumption
- the incorporation of seafood and fish into the diet, at least twice weekly
- low dairy consumption

The Mediterranean "diet" is a
lifestyle for Europeans residing in Greece, Italy, and Spain most respectively. It is true that these countries consume an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, fish, oils, and in moderation, wine and alcohol. The positive health benefits of this Mediterranean diet were discovered over 30 years ago and have been a topic of much interest ever since.

During mine and my husband's stint in Italy, we quickly learned that meal time was a sacred family time. The focus was not simply eating, but cooking, relaxation, and socialization. Wine was commonly consumed, even in places of business! At Mark's work, there was a bar in the lobby serving alcoholic beverages, as well as cafes, espressos, and cappuccinos. Wine was served at restaurants for prices totaling less than water by volume at times. The abundance, selection, and freshness of produce found at stands street-side, as well as in the "lunga's" (grocery store) far exceeded that found in America. And while fast food restaurants are not omit from European cities, they are not found on every street corner, but are spotted in places of heavy tourist traffic. But, of course.

Greece we found to be very similar. In Athens, moderate alcohol consumption and fruits and vegetables were staple items in most meals, along with lots of seafood and olive oil. Delicious!

Pictured on the left, fresh catch of the day coming in to the port of Poros. On the right, I give a BIG 2 thumbs up to fresh octopus! Yumm!

You can't forget the pistachios in Greece -- the best!

Greeks also have excellent taste in canines. We had to stop and say hi to the fellow bully and bully owner. : )

Mark and I in Athens at the Acropolis and the island of Poros

So what is it, specifically, in this Mediterranean diet that produces the proven health benefits? Is it the exercise? The healthy oils? The omega-3's found in fish? Athens found out.

Published just last week in the
British Medical Journal were the results of a large-scale study aimed at revealing the relative importance of each component of the Mediterranean Diet. There were 23,349 Greek study participants ranging in age between 20 and 86. Their diet was recorded over an average span of 8.5 years. Both demographics and anthropometrics of the study participants were accounted for. Results showed that overall, those who consumed a Mediterranean diet were healthier as their mortality rate was decreased. A positive (although not statistically significantly) correlation was found between healthfulness and high fruit and vegetable consumption as well as high nut, legume, and oil consumption. An inverse relationship between healthfulness and meat consumption was found (though not statistically significant, either).

However..........there was a statistically significant positive health correlation seen with moderate ethanol consumption. Alcohol alone accounted for 24% of the overall health benefits seen with the Mediterranean diet. Alcohol consumption was most frequently noted to be wine consumed during meal times.

Moral of the study: wine does the body good!

Tomorrow, we'll look into what it is about wine that provides all those health benefits...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I'm crossing my fingers Hy-Vee capitalizes where TJ's cannot. In a recent blog I discussed the inability of Trader Joe's to open stores in Oklahoma due to restrictive liquor laws. However, I'd surely settle for a Hy-Vee.

With more than 220 stores in the Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, and Nebraska, Hy-Vee offers a unique shopping and online experience to their clientele. Though I am yet to shop in a Hy-Vee, I can learn a lot from their website which is heavily focused on health and nutrition education.

When you log-on to www.hy-vee.com you'll see their slogan, "Making lives easier, healthier, happier". With an entire web section devoted to health, Hy-Vee offers some great information to their online audience. Of highest value, obviously, is section devoted to dietitians. Here, by typing in your location, you can find your nearest Hy-Vee Dietitian. The RD's offer free "personal shopping assistance" aiding customers in purchasing nutritious foods, as well as assistance with meal prep ideas and recipes. What a great service to offer!

The dietitians also post free online recipes, budget-friendly meal ideas, weekly suggested menus, and send free email newsletters including nutrition tips, recipes, and more. The recipe database The HealthNotes tab provides information on food selection and preparation, such as how to buy and prepare meats and poultry.

Most impressively, Hi-Vee has opted to lead the way in implementing a system entitled "NuVal". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2qRFmMGNpo. Created by nutrition and medical professionals, the "NuVal" system (short for "Nutritional Value") assigns a number, 1 to 100, assessing the nutritional value of a particular food item. The higher the number, the more nutritious the food. It's that simple. These "NuVal" numbers are displayed next to food items as to allow customers a much easier comparison of nutrition among similar food products. Food labels may be a thing of the past for the health-conscious. Should you buy this wheat bread, or that wheat bread? That cut of beef, or this cut of beef? This is valuable consumer information as consumers repeatedly report cost and confusing food labels as the top two barriers to healthy eating!

What I do hope to see in this NuVal system is the "reward" of higher numbers to more
on the website includes hundreds of free, nutritious recipes. You can even search by category: course (i.e. appetizers), therapeutic diet appropriate (i.e. low-sodium), main ingredient, theme (i.e. kid-friendly), seasonal, and ethnic (i.e. Asian). Bookmark that one, people!wholesome foods. Many times the foods lowest in calories are foods with little to no nutritional value as they are loaded with preservatives more than food product. Time will tell!

NuVal is also available in select Price Chopper and Meijer store locations in the US. NuVal is expected to show up in super markets near you during 2009 and 2010. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Easy on the S-bombs!

"S" is for "salad" in the diet world, right? Leafy greens, a few random chopped vegetables, and a tablespoon or so of fat-free dressing or worst yet...vinegar. Sound familiar? Sounds like
eating dew-dusted grass and weeds to me and I choose not to partake.

For those of you with an appetite requiring only a mere "dieter's" salad, congrats...I guess. But let's discuss this further and see if you don't see the light, both for your mental health and overall health.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather eat raw mackerel every day for lunch than a "dieter's" salad. Now, I love vegetables as much as a dietitian should, but a plain'ol salad aint suppressing this appetite.

Firstly, let's remove fat-free dressing from our inventory. I'm a huge advocate for the low-fat versions, and I'll tell you why. So many of vitamins in your lettuce, greens, and vegetables are fat-soluble, meaning that in order to be synthesized in the body, require fat*. Fat is good. Second, the fat is in fat-free dressings is replaced with simple sugars (i.e. carbohydrates) with little to no nutritional value, versus a mono or polyunsaturated fat**-rich oil found in many salad dressings. Lastly, the texture and flavor just aren't good!

We should also consider the addition of protein to a salad in order to make it tasty, filling, and nutrient rich. Try adding chicken, seafood, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, tofu, and other lean meats or meat substitutes. Beans are also a great fiber and protein-rich food that can be added to salads. Specifically, try black beans and garbanzo beans on salads. Adding a dairy product to salads can balance out the meal. Cheese and cottage cheese are great additions to a salad. Opt for the low-fat or fat-free versions of these products as they are calorie-dense. Try something new and add some fruit: apples, oranges, grapes, pineapple, berries, etc. Lastly, I challenge you to also try some nuts and seeds for additional vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy fats. Watch your portions on these items as a little goes a long way (nutritionally and calorically!). By adding a fruit, protein, and a cheese to your average salad, you have a complete, balanced meal.

Don't forget to change things up and try new combinations. Even the most colorful and flavorful salads will become old hat. Don't choose a salad every day, but incorporate them into lunch and dinner choices as to not "burn out". When done properly, your average "dieter's" salad will surely become a long-lost torture in your healthy lifestyle.

Here's a current salad in my "save" pile:

Mango Pecan Salad with Chicken

8 cups torn Romaine lettuce
1 ripe mango, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp fat-free chicken broth
1 Tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lbs cooked boneless, skinless chicken, diced
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Wisk together lime juice, broth, honey, garlic, and mustard. Slowly add olive oil, whisking to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss over all vegetables, add chicken and pecans.

Serves: 4
Per serving: 362 calories, 15 g. fat (2 g. saturated fat), 29 g. carbohydrates, 30 g. protein, 7 g. dietary fiber, 115 mg. sodium

Bon apatite!

* The fat required to utilized fat-soluble vitamins in a salad (or other meal) does not need to be consumed with any particular food item in a meal. Fat can come for any number of sources and so long as the fat is consumed within close proximity to the consumption of the vitamins, the nutrients are able to be synthesized properly.

** Mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFA's and PUFA's for sanity's sake) are what the diet world refers to as some "good fats". MUFA's and PUFA's are found in several common oils including: olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and flax seed oil. Choose these oils above others for heart-protective benefits.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Precious Z's

According to my recent poll, sixty-six percent of you reading my blog (and responding to the poll...) wanted to lose between 15 and 30 pounds. Well, listen up!

I returned from my honeymoon last night. Husband and I spent 7 days in beautiful Puerto Vallarta at the Dreams all-inclusive resort and spa. Red flag: all-inclusive. Or, as I consider it: (nearly) guaranteed diet failure.

The mini bar...stocked with juice, beer, and sodas. Included. The restaurants on the resort...ohhh the restaurants. Five in total serving from 8 am to 11 pm. Included. Before or after that...you, my friend, were ordering room service. At any hour of the day you can order room service (full menu). Included. If this wasn't enough, the "preferred club" tower of rooms offered varying arrays of food and beverages throughout the day...in case picking up the phone and/or walking to a restaurant was a bit too much to bear. Included. Did I mention the beach and pool service? Forgive me. Included. There was that, too. About every 15 minutes, like clockwork, a resort staff member would approach you offering you a beverage of your choice: pina coladas, mojitos, daquiris, beer, dirty monkey, soda...you get the point. The calories flowed without cessation 24/7.

While I dug deep for dietitian self-control, I often found it difficult myself (especailly since we all know that when in Mexico, don't drink the water*!). When we arrived back home, I somewhat feared stepping on the scale. Though I didn't look or feel any bigger, I imagined that a diet so far fetched from my norm had to have caught up with me. To my pleasant surprise, the scale barely budged!

I got to thinking how this could be. While I wasn't inhaling the buffets or drinking the bar dry, I thought a few fellers would've surely stuck around to torture me. It wasn't until we picked up our new puppy that I thought maybe there was something in Puerto Vallarta working in my favor to ward off vacation weight......sleep!

While I embrace meeting the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep each night, husband and I surely exceeded this each night while on our honeymoon. Our room was just ten stories above the "adult only" pool on the resort, which was constantly occupied by a myriad of crunked adults. I actually heard one couple (from Canada, if that matters) state their disappointment in the swim-up bar not being in the adult-only pool. Let's just say I can count my lucky stars that it was not, as I'm sure our twelve-hour sack sessions (give or take) would've been interrupted with even more drunken debauhery.

Similarly, Lily, our bulldog, sleeps constantly. And when you're sleeping, typically you aren't eating. When she's not sleeping, however, she has the appetite of a cow in green pastures and can consume an obscene amount of food for such a lil peanut. If she weren't a bulldog, I'd think something was truly wrong with her. I swear, she defies puppyhood in my book. We got on our webcam tonight to show Mark's parents their new grandchild, and she wouldn't even open her eyes. She was curled up in her princess bed sighing at the disturbance. We're such a bother, didn't you know?

Lesson learned: sleeping does the diet good. And surely the same goes for the ill-mannered bulldogs out there.

* Take my advice (along with the millions of other unlucky and/or wise guys) and don't drink the water in Mexico. Swine may not hold a candle to what Mark and I experienced one evening while honeymooning.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

“Breaded and baked is the new fried.”

...so says White House Assistant Chef, Sam Kass. And I concur.

We've all heard the term trans fat, right? That's definitely the bad stuff and has no place in any diet. The stuff is so bad there's been legal action suggesting the banning of trans fat. Not only does trans fat raise your LDL (low-density lipoprotein, i.e. the "bad cholesterol"), but also lowers your HDL (high-density lipoprotein, i.e. the "good cholesterol")! Bad deal.

Trans fats are not found in food, they're put into food through an industrial process which adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid. Those french fries wouldn't taste the same without the trans fat, that's for sure. The chemistry doesn't much matter, but the danger of them is loud and clear: steer clear.

This RD loves a good french fry as much as anyone, but there's simple and enjoyable ways to enjoy the foods we love, without causing detriment to our health.

A favorite dinner in my house is "fried" chicken. Yep, that's right! My "fried" chicken is crunchy, baked, and great with BBQ sauce. While I can't take credit for the recipe, we can thank Bob Harper from the
Biggest Loser for passing it along. Thanks, Bob!

Biggest Loser "Fried" Chicken

2 lbs chicken tenders
1 qt. low-fat buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp seasoning salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 large pinch Cayenne pepper
4 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
Pam cooking spray

Soak chicken tenders in buttermilk 6 hours, or overnight. Drain and blot chicken tenders to remove excess buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Lay breadcrumbs on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Bake 40 minutes or until brown. This can be done ahead of time.

Increase oven temperature to 450 F. Combine cornstarch, paprika, seasoning salt, black pepper, and Cayenne pepper in a large Pyrex dish, mixing well.

Dredge chicken in seasoned starch. Next, coat dredged chicken thoroughly with egg whites. Last, dip the chicken into toasted breadcrumbs to fully coat.

Place chicken on a foil-lined, non-stick sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray tops of chicken with Pam to add crunch. Lightly season with salt, if desired. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until outside is crispy and chicken is cooked and juicy

Serves: 8
Per serving: 270 calories, 4 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat, 65 mg. cholesterol, 210 mg. sodium, 27 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. dietary fiber, 4 g. sugar, 28 g. protein.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Just one more reason to hate "three-two" beer

I live in Oklahoma. ::slight shudder:: Yeah, yeah....it's not that bad. Actually, I'll even confess to enjoying it here. However, Oklahoma's liquor laws cause me some serious angst.

When we first arrived in Oklahoma my husband's work friends cued us in. Here you cannot buy alcohol on Sundays or after 9pm on any day, all beer sold in liquor stores is room temperature, you cannot buy liquor or wine anywhere but a liquor store, beer in grocery stores is no more than 3.2% ABV (your standard domestics run between 4.2% and 5.0% ABV), and most everything served in a restaurant, sporting event, etc. is "three-two". You can, however, find imports (at room temperature) that contain their proper alcohol content (typically 4.8%-5.6% ABV) in liquor stores. Call me a Yankee, Yupee, whatever...but I want to be drinking the
real deal when I choose to partake.

My better half would get embarrassed when I narrowed my beverage selection at a restaurant by asking, "What's NOT 'three-two'?" It'll be a long life with that attitude, baby. Give credit where credit is due - I haven't made the 45-minute commute to Arkansas for the real stuff. Yet.

But the dietitian in me got to thinking...there's gotta be something good about this "three-two" stuff (one source actually reported 70% of alcohol-related deaths being attributed to the consumption of three-two beer!). Anyways, I deduced that because there's alcohol missing, this beer must be lower in calories compared to its domestic brothers and sisters made right. Logical, si?


For the record, my bachelor's is in "FOOD Science and Human Nutrition", not "Food and Beverage Science and Human Nutrition". Luckily, too. The latter wouldn't sound as impressive on a resume. (Although, my undeclared minor was certainly beverage-related
coughcough). Anyways...

What makes a light beer lighter is not the (large) reduction in alcohol content, but rather the carbohydrate content. While my logical side thinks, "But how many more carbs can you take out of a Miller Lite containing a mere 3.2 grams of carbohydrates in a 12-ounce serving?". No wonder Bud Light wins my vote. It comes in at 6.6 grams of carbs per serving, doubling its archrival Miller Lite. Dammit! At least
Bud Light has drinkability. Moving on...

A standard 12-ounce bottle contains 355 ml. If a domestic beer serving is typically 15 ml of "alcohol" (1/2 ounce), a "three-two"beer has 11.4 ml of "alcohol" (juuussst shy of 2/5ths ounce). Not a huge difference despite it's "three-two" contents. If you don't believe me, Google "milliliter".

At least we're not the only deprived ones -- Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, and Utah are in this with us. In all seriousness, true source of all my angst surrounding this issue revolves around the fact that until Oklahoma liquor laws change, there will be no Trader Joe's in our new home state.

Gotta jet - off to Arkansas.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No $h*t, Sherlock!

Admittedly, this rant is biased...but also commonsensical.

In Medical News Today, an article was written discussing the importance of nutrition in the prevention of chronic disease. Well, duh. Unfortunately for me and my fellow RD's, we're S.O.L. until legislation changes.

But really, is it an over-sight? Are U.S. officials sitting back just hoping and praying that obesity will max itself out, and annual health care costs for chronic disease treatment and management secondary to obesity will eventually start to drop? Baaaaaahahhaa. I assure you, that's not the case.

Thanks, Doc.

Ninety-six percent of U.S. primary care physicians feel more emphasis needs to be placed on nutrition to treat, manage, and prevent chronic disease. However, M.D.'s cannot do it all. Only 12% of doctors are believed to present nutrition as a means of chronic disease management to their patients. Further, 80% of doctors reported "lack of reimbursement" as one of the top reasons providing nutrition services is not routine [1].

Keeping America alive and "well" (let's use that term loosely) has reached costs that we cannot entertain affording. Yet, we continue to superficially treat our people with "chronic disease management", spending trillions of dollars annual. Of our $2+ trillion in annual health care costs, 75% can be attributed to chronic disease management, according to the CDC [2]. Unless you are a renal disease patient (not receiving dialysis) or a diagnosed diabetic, you will receive NO insurance coverage for medical nutrition therapy as indicated by Medicare Part B [3]. Your insurance scoffs at the gravity of your BMI of 60 (a BMI falling into the 7th tier of "obesity"...if there should ever be such a thing ::hint hint:: -- doesn't "7th tier obese" sound a bit harsher than just "obese"??)...and rather than supplementing the cost to see a dietitian, would rather buy themselves a few years and then cover the costs of your bariatric surgeries, hospital stays, anesthesia, ambulance costs, [insert laundry list here]....

Nutrition is an over-sight in some ways, however, as other areas of health care have figured out that prevention is key!

According to the CDC [3]:
- For every $1 spent on water fluoridation, $38 is saved in dental restorative treatment costs
- A mammogram every 2 years for women aged 50-69 costs only $9,000 per year of every life saved
- For every $1 spend on the Safer Choice Program (a school-based HIV, other STD, and pregnancy prevention program), about $2.65 is saved on medical and social costs
- Implementing the Arthritis Safe-Help Course among 10,000 individuals with arthritis will yield a net savings of more than $2.5 million while simultaneously reducing pain by 18%

Glad I'm an eternal optimist, things are grim for the fatties.

"Change we can believe in" -- hook us up, Obama! Please?

What does ADA have to say about MNT reimbursement for weight management? Find out here.

[1] More Than 9 in 10 Primary Care Physicians Say U.S. Health Care Systems Should Place Greater Emphasis on Nutrition to Manage Chronic Disease, American Dietetic Association (2009).

[2] Chronic Disease Overview
[3] medical nutrition therapy: the assessment of the nutritional status of patients with a condition, illness or injury that puts them at risk. This includes review and analysis of medical and diet history, laboratory values, and anthropometric measurements. Based on the assessment, nutrition modalities most appropriate to manage the condition or treat the injury are chosen and implemented by the patient and nutrition professional.

"Taste the rainbow!"

Forget the Skittles for just a second and let's talk antioxidants...

Don't get defensive, now...but we all have lots of bad guys in our bodies that are produced from the every day toxins we ingest, inhale, absorb, etc. -- everything from gas emissions to cigarette smoke to alcohol. And as health-conscious adults, we ought to aim to reduce bad guys as the development of cancer only takes ONE of them. One way to do this includes eating antioxidant-rich foods.

What is an antioxidant? A naturally-produced substance that fights the bad guys (i.e. free radicals) that can damage our cells, leading to conditions such as cancer and heart disease over time. Antioxidant research constitutes a large portion of today's oncology research as both animal and human studies of antioxidants have results supporting the prevention of cancer! This is big stuff, people! Cancer is a leading cause of death world-wide according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and the second leading cause of death in America according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Until recently, stroke checked in as the second leading cause of death - cancer rates are on the rise. Sadly, the World Cancer Report confirms this trend. In 2008, they projected cancer to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. by 2010 [1]. Um, that's 6 months away, folks.

We all know Oprah and her bff Dr. Oz - they love to chat about these antioxidant fellers. Let's see how we can get some, too.

Dr. Oz's "Anti-Aging" checklist
Dr. Oz's "favorite" anti-oxidant: blueberries. But, let's diversify some as not every antioxidant is found in a blueberry, Dr. Oz.

Lycopene. Prostate cancer and heart health are the biggies here. Lots of research and strong, strong evidence supporting the red stuff.

- Sources: tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, blood oranges, and tomato products.

Beta-carotene. In addition to cancer prevention, orange/yellow beta-carotene is an immuno-enhancer and has been linked to eye health.

-Sources: carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin, squash, mango, and apricots.

Lutein. Think greens and leafy vegetables for cancer prevention and healthy eyes.

-Sources: spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, etc.

Anthocyanin. You're welcome Dr. Oz. You can find anthocyanin in dark fruits and vegetables in the blue/purple family.

Sources: blueberries, eggplant, purple grapes, blackberries, cherries, and acai (but more on that last one later).

Contrary to Oz, my favorite antioxidant: resveratrol. This, my friends, can be found in red wine. Hey, hey, hey! More on this soon!

I focused heavily on F&V's (fruits and vegetables, for you slower folks) in this blog, however, antioxidants are also found in nuts, grains, and some meat, poultry and fish.

[1] Mulcahy, N. 2008. Medscape Medical News. Cancer to Become Leading Cause of Death Worldwide by 2010.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Holy pizza!

Mark LOVES pizza. Quite possibly more than Lily, and certainly more than me. ;) I can be cooking up a meal of fresh chicken fajitas with homemade pico de gallo and guacamole...and he'll be wanting Papa Johns. I've learned to not take it all too personally.

I, on the other hand, am very indifferent towards pizza (I'm the anti-Chi towner...I know, I know). That is unless, of course, it's Italian pizza. Most everyone reading my blog knows that I spent many a week-long trips in Italy (as well as a summer...not to rub it in or anything...) with Mark while he was working in Varese for 2 years. And one of the many valuable life lessons learned while in Italy: what REAL pizza looks like, tastes like, consists of, etc.

The Italians know their pizza better than they know Gucci, perhaps. Your pizza will arrive with a diameter easily spanning 20+ inches and be made with the freshest of ingredients including tomatoes, arugula and bresaola* (my personal favorite toppings), speck, prosciutto, olives, artichoke hearts, and so on and so forth. These pizza crusts are paper-thin and are loaded with the non-dairy toppings making them much more healthy ...and balanced in many cases. I had acquired a serious respect for the Italian pizza, until Mark discovered THIS:

Could he LOOK any happier? The above is my husband with a pizza topped with pepperoni ("salami piccante") and FRENCH FRIES. Oh, and also some mystery white sauce. WHAT a tragedy! Blasphemy on this pizza!

...of all the 2,394,802,324,921 photos we took all over Europe in those years...THIS picture had more comments on Facebook than any of the others. And we WONDER why we're obese (or if you're bitter like me, wonder why HE'S not at least a little chubby...yet).

Side note: Mark went on to eat many pizzas in Italy topped with pepperoni and french fries. He's my hopeless pizza fiend.

* Bresaola is a cured meat that is virtually fat-free - 23 calories and 5 grams of protein per ounce. It is heavy preserved in natural seawater and is consumed as a luncheon meat, pizza topping, primi piatti meat served with melon, etc. It is fantastic!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fit over fat?

I'd like to discuss the below excerpts from a Forbes article by Lacey Rose and Leah Hoffmann, as I strongly agree with the underlying health claims within.

"Joanne Ikeda, a nutritionist at the University of California at Berkeley, 'It's not about how we can help people lose weight; it's about how we can help them be healthier.' Despite popular diets' one-size-fits-all claims, she says there is not one single way to be healthy."

"Lean unfit people actually had a higher risk of death than the 'overfat' physically fit people," says Dr. Andrew Jackson, professor at the University of Houston and one of the study's authors."

In today's society we peg people as skinny (healthy) and overweight/fat (unhealthy), and this generalization is certainly incorrect in many, many instances. American's, as we well know, are under an immense amount of pressure to achieve and maintain a thin, attractive appearance...but health goes far beyond aesthetic preferences and social acceptance. While I took slight offense to my husband regarding my body as that of a "softball player" while out on a hike recently...I simply picked up my pace as if to say, "what's your point?!". And for the record, it's a hockey player's body, my dear.

I am not suggesting that 500-lb Smack-Jack is at a significantly lower risk of Metabolic Syndrome [1] because he swims laps five times a week...absolutely not. However, a shout-out goes out to all you adults who maintain a weight within or close to within BMI suggestive guidelines [2] while maintaining an active lifestyle (moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 consecutive minutes most days of the week). Lighten up about the scale already and rejoice in knowing your next workout, and every workout, is duly noted by each and every of the billions and trillions of cells involved in your overall health and well-being.

[1] Metabolic Syndrome is defined as a group of metabolic risk factors: central/abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, hypertension, prothrombotic state, and/or a pro-inflammatory state (source: American Heart Association).

[2] A BMI (body mass index) between 18.5 and 24.9 is classified as "normal", a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is classified as "overweight", and a BMI over 30 is classified as "obese". To find out your BMI, click here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

First blog: The "80-20"

My first blog should obviously endorse my theory of the "80-20" lifestyle. While my theory isn't designed for optimal* health, it's designed with practicality and the "every-day dieter" in mind. Further, the "80-20" is aimed at reducing the ever-so-popular yo-yo dieting us Americans seem to fall for at least once a year. Early January, anyone? No wonder everyone hates the holidays!

The 80-20 allows flexibility and variety, while encouraging nutrient-dense (and thus lower calorie and lower fat) foods. This theory proposes that 80%+ of your days/meals (that's 24 days a month or 72 out of 90 meals a month) be spot-on with nutrition. This means that your "healthy" meals should include a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat while including at least 4 of the 6 major food groups (those being 'grains', 'vegetables', 'fruits', 'oils', 'milk', 'meat and beans'). Yes, people, there are 6 food groups. Please also note that "discretionary calories" are not included in the MyPyramid any longer, as these food items are not essential to optimal health. They may, however, be essential for optimal sanity...leading us to that beloved '20' portion of the program.

Here's the relief! As proposed above, 20% (or less) of your days/meals (6 days a month or 18 of 90 meals a month) allow for a less structured intake regimen. While this 20% (or less) allows some flexibility and "freedom", for lack of a better term...let's please remember: everything in moderation! This 20% (or less) is intended to curb cravings, prevent "diet" sabotage (no one is perfect!), and keep your metabolism in high-gear, while enabling you to enjoy social situations without feeling deprived.

To expand further, the intention of the '20' portion of the program is to encourage self-control and self-moderation over time. We all know that consuming high-fat, caloric-dense foods decreases the rate at which we lose weight and increases our chances of developing hypertension, high blood pressure, etc. The hope is that over time, your need/desire/want to go completely over-board during your '20' days/meals will be lessened, and you will learn to want less. Hence my emphasis on '20' (OR LESS).

While this is my first time publicly advertising the '80-20', many of my friends and family are well-aware of this theory of mine as I practice it myself. While weight-loss is not my main concern (though, dropping 10 lbs would be fabulous!), I feel that living the '80-20' enables me to stay focused and positive about proper nutrition as a lifestyle, while allowing me to enjoy life's simple pleasures...such as toffee and ice cream (yes, the real deal!). Until next time, go practice your '80' -- I know you've got the '20' down pat!

* "Optimal" health can be reached by following perfected diet and exercise regimens, individualized by a professional (i.e. Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer), recorded with complete accuracy, and designed with disease-prevention in mind.