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Healthy Tip of the Week

Pathways to WellnessAllegheny General Hospital – Suburban Campus is dedicated to improving the health of the people in the communities it serves. Discover with us the Pathways to Wellness and take the first step to discover what healthier eating means for you!

Walk with us through the winter months into spring and explore the pathway to making healthier food choices. Increase your knowledge of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in antioxidants and fiber, and low in saturated fats and cholesterol, Explore simple diet and lifestyle modifications proven to lower hypertension (high blood pressure). Learn how to interpret food labels to identify the food choices that are best for you and to recognize marketing hype designed to trick you into thinking a product is a healthier choice. Become better informed about foods that have cancer-fighting properties and foods that seem to promote cancer formation. And just in time for spring, receive tips for planting an herb or vegetable garden.

Remain on the path with us, making small changes as you go, and emerge in May a healthier, happier you.

Healthy Tips

The following weekly tips have been comprised by the Pathways to Wellness health team. They are meant to complement Pathways to Wellness program discussions and are not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician or to replace physician office visits.

May 13, 2013

Time for ExercisingExercise Time

Not enough time is a common excuse for not exercising. Shortening the length of your workout, but not your results, is a solution.

Cardio (or aerobic exercise) is a major component of most exercise plans. It is great for burning fat and working on speed or endurance, but it can be time consuming. If burning calories is your main goal, you can effectively exercise in less time. The key to not losing effectiveness when cutting the length of your routine is to boost the intensity. By adding more intense bursts of cardio you can burn more calories in less time. After your warm up, sprint for a few seconds or walk uphill as hard and fast as you can for a bit, then slow down and catch your breath. Keep repeating this cycle of very intense periods (hard enough that you cannot speak in complete sentences) with slower periods and you can burn as many calories in much less time. Let’s say you walk for 45 minutes daily, by adding intensity bursts you might get the same results in about 20 minutes and feel like you had a harder workout.

Strength training is also crucial to losing weight; it builds metabolically active muscle. One pound of muscle takes up less space than one pound of fat. When lifting, rest one muscle group while working another instead of standing around waiting and resting. Immediately follow a set of chest presses with squats. Keep moving from muscle to muscle and you keep your heart rate up while shaving idle time from your time spent exercising. You can also do a heavier (more intense) workout with fewer reps.

Exercising does require a time commitment, but we can use our time wisely and get great results. Try a condensed workout with intensity bursts to save time and see faster results.

Remember if you are over 50 or have any medical conditions, you need to check with your doctor to make sure you are cleared for physical activity.

May 6, 2013

Brown Rice

Brown RiceInstant and quick-cooking varieties of brown rice have pre-cooked the brown rice for you, cutting your cook time to only five or ten minutes, with no addition of sodium or other unwelcome ingredients. In the case of brown rice, this is a good tradeoff because the nutritional sacrifice is minimal while the time-savings is maximal. However, use caution with new flavored or ready-in-seconds varieties of rice. While they are a quick and easy way to add whole grains to the diet, most of these super-quick sides are high in sodium.

April 29, 2013


Eating breakfast resets your metabolism and results in your body burning more calories. Breakfast provides fuel and nutrition for your body to perform efficiently. An ideal breakfast includes protein and fiber: a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread, a boiled egg with whole wheat toast, some nuts and fruit with yogurt, a bagel or whole wheat English muffin with melted cheese and a tomato.

April 22, 2013


Go for the unprocessed, old fashioned oatmeal. The soluble fiber contained in oats and other foods binds with and helps remove cholesterol that can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease. But for the healthiest oatmeal option, stick with the unprocessed oatmeal. The few minutes time that you save by using instant oatmeal isn’t worth the nutritional losses. Old fashioned oatmeal contains no sodium and only one gram of sugar, and has a little more protein and fiber. Instant oatmeal varieties contain about 300 milligrams of sodium and 13 grams of sugar (equivalent to about three teaspoons) and less protein and fiber. Instant oatmeal may cook in the microwave in 90 seconds, but old fashioned oatmeal only takes three minutes.

April 15, 2013

A word about salt

Table SaltSalt is a mineral, a naturally occurring substance.  We get it from evaporating salt water; blasting it out of mines, or flushing it out of the ground and boiling off the water.  The salt in our body is referred to as sodium.  Sodium is an electrolyte which conducts electricity.  Too much or too little sodium can have serious effects on our health.


  • Regulates water/fluid balance
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Assists with cooling our body
  • Allows nutrients to enter cells
  • Allows muscles to contract and relax
  • Allows nerve cells to fire appropriately

The average American probably eats 3400 mg of sodium each day. The 2005 American Dietary Guidelines recommended a limit of 2300 mg salt per day. The 2010 guidelines lowered the recommended amount for most Americans to 1500 mg. (This group includes anyone over 51, all African Americans, anyone with hypertension/high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.)

Salt occurs naturally in many foods but we get most of our salt from processed, packaged and restaurant foods, not from our salt shakers at home.

Look for salt in:

  • Condiments
  • Soups
  • Crackers/chips
  • Processed meats (bacon, deli meats, hotdogs)
  • Salad dressings
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cottage cheese
  • Restaurant foods

Tips for decreasing sodium:

  • Become aware of hidden sources of sodium.
  • If it comes in a can, a convenience package or is a pre-packaged dinner, check the label for sodium content.
  • Start reading labels. (Note – labels are still based on the 2300 mg recommendation, not the 1500 recommendation.)
  • You can adjust to eating less salt. It will take your taste buds 2-3 weeks before lower sodium foods will taste “normal” to you.
  • Cook for yourself.

April 8, 2013

Whole-Grain Foods

When the word “natural” is used on food packages it is a marketing word with no FDA regulated meaning. It is designed to make you think of healthy green pastures, but really has no such meaning.

The color of a food is not an indication that it is a whole-grain food. Foods labeled as “multi-grain,” “stone-ground,” 100 percent wheat,” “cracked wheat,” “seven-grain” or “bran” are usually not 100 percent whole-grain products and may not contain any whole grain. Check the label. Look for the word “whole.”

April 1, 2013

Cultivate friendships! Call a friend! Schedule a get together!

Friends and friendship can:

  • Exercising with a FriendDouble your chance of surviving cancer
  • Help you better cope with stress
  • Decrease you risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increase your chance of living longer by 50 percent
  • Help you fight a cold
  • Ease body aches and pains
  • Improve your coping skills
  • Energize you
  • Make you laugh
  • Boost your happiness
  • Let you feel connected, appreciated, and loved
  • Influence your eating and exercise habits (Which friend would help you improve your eating vs. encourage you to order another round of nachos? Which friend would take a walk/go to a Zumba class with you?

Studies find that being face to face with friends boosts the positive effects even more. Not having close friends can be as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 

March 25, 2013


Legumes – beans, peas and lentils – are rich in protein, high in fiber, low in calories and cholesterol free. They do not contain any fats that are harmful to the heart.

You do not have to rely solely on dried forms of legumes to get the heart-healthy benefits. Stock no-added-salt canned varieties for convenience and time savings. If you buy regular canned legumes, pour the legumes into a colander and rinse well with plenty of water to reduce the sodium content by about 40 percent. Most dry bean products – like pinto, navy, black, cranberry, kidney, lima, pink, small red, blackeye and great northern beans – are available both canned or dried. If the process of cooking dried beans doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, go for convenience and choose canned varieties instead.


March 18, 2013

Water – Your Nutritional Secret Weapon

Staying properly hydrated is one of the best choices you can make to improve your health. Resolve to work your way up to the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Give yourself some flavorful inspiration by adding cuts of citrus fruit to your water pitcher – or try adding cucumber slices for a fresh, tasty, calorie-free flavor boost.

Limes contain more natural antihistamines (bioflavonoids) than other citrus fruits. Add some to your water for allergy relief.

March 11, 2013

Balance and ExerciseFive Elements of a Good Fitness Program

  • Aerobic Fitness
  • Muscular Fitness
  • Stretching
  • Balance Training
  • Core Stability

Gains can be made in these areas at ANY age!

Aerobic Fitness will improve the ability of your heart and lungs to transport oxygen throughout the body. Aerobic fitness makes it easier to complete routine tasks and rise to unexpected challenges – like running to catch your bus. Aerobic fitness will decrease your risk of fall because you will be able to do more before you become fatigued. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days of the week. If necessary, break this up into smaller segments throughout the day. An aerobic activity is any activity that uses the large muscle groups and increases your heart rate to a modest level of intensity. Examples of aerobic activities are walking, jogging, biking, swimming, dancing and water aerobics.

Muscular Fitness through strengthening/resistance activities will help you to increase muscle mass and bone strength. Strong muscles will decrease your risk of fall. Examples of strengthening activities are resistance machines, free weights, medicine balls, homemade weights (such as plastic soft drink bottles filled with water or sand) and resistance bands. You can also use your own body weight to provide resistance. Muscle blasts fat; the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories for energy.

Stretching/Flexibility - Most aerobic and strengthening activities cause your muscles to contract and flex. It is important that you stretch those muscles. Stretching will improve the range of motion of your joints, maintain flexibility and promote better posture. Regular stretching can relieve stress. Yoga is a great stretching activity which relieves stress and increases flexibility. You should stretch after you exercise, when your muscles are warm. If you do not exercise regularly, try to stretch at least three times per week. You can warm up by walking or doing a favorite exercise at low intensity for 5-10 minutes.

Balance Training – You can be aerobically fit, strong, and flexible and still have poor balance. Balance tends to deteriorate with age. Increased balance will decrease your risk of fall. Tai chi is a great activity for balance, as well as stress relief. Yoga exercises can also help improve balance abilities.

Core Stability – The muscles in your abdomen, lower back and pelvis are your core muscles. Your core muscles help to protect your lower back and connect upper and lower body movements. Core exercises train the muscles to brace the spine. Core strengthening can reduce back pain. Core exercises are any exercise that uses the trunk of your body without support. Try sitting at your desk on a stability ball.

You have a greater chance of living longer (and healthier) if you have a strong grip, are able to rise from a chair quickly, walk fast and can balance on one leg.

You should always consult your physician prior to beginning any new exercise program if you are pregnant, are on medication, have had a surgery, or have any health issues. If you are new to exercise, it is helpful to join a structured gym or fitness center, at least initially. Exercise professionals can introduce you to a variety of options and can ensure that you are exercising safely and using good form. Exercises done incorrectly, are at best, ineffective and a waste of your time. At worst, exercises done incorrectly are harmful and can cause injury. Today, many health plans will subsidize gym fees.

March 4, 2013

Calories In - Calories Out

Calories In – Pay attention to the foods you eat and portion size.
Calories Out – Are you getting enough physical activity?

Results of decreased activity/movement

  • Increased fat mass
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Decreased aerobic capacity (ability of heart and lungs to function efficiently)
  • Decreased oxygen to vital organs
  • Decreased strength

Effects of exercise on your body

  • Improves performance of heart and lungs
  • Builds endurance
  • Increases metabolic rate, i.e. burns calories
  • Builds muscle
  • Results in the release of chemicals in the brain known as endorphins. Endorphins can improve your mood.
  • Develops strong bones.

Benefits of exercise

  • Reduces stress
  • Prevents weight gain
  • Maintains weight loss
  • Reduces risk of illness and disease
  • Improves mood
  • Improves muscle strength (strong muscles enable you to do more before you tire)
  • Builds endurance (enables you to do more before you tire)
  • Enables heart and lungs to work more efficiently
  • Boosts energy
  • Delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues
  • Promotes better sleep - helps you to fall asleep faster and to deepen your sleep
  • Improves your sex life. (Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women; men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who do not exercise.)
  • Gives you a chance to unwind.
  • Provides an opportunity to do something you enjoy.
  • Can provide an opportunity to connect with family or friends in a fun social setting.
  • Provides the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Leaves you feeling energized and looking better – increased self-esteem.

Feb. 25, 2013

Choosing Exercise that you Enjoy

Enjoying ExerciseThe key to developing a life-long exercise regime that works for you is to find something that you will enjoy and look forward to doing. Choosing activities that you enjoy will increase the likelihood that you will stick with your exercise program. Ask yourself – what did you like to do as a child? Think about your personality. Would you prefer to do something alone, with a friend, in a group, in a class with a leader or with a trainer? Do you prefer alone time or social time? Do you like to be indoors or outdoors? Do you like to compete with others or with yourself? Do you enjoy team or solo activities? Do you enjoy the water or are you more of a land lover? What are some activities that you might enjoy now?

Start small, but start today

Was there a time when you engaged in regular physical activity? Think about that place in time. Share the story of that time. What allowed this to happen? What did you enjoy about this? How did you feel? What benefit was this to you? Why was that important to you? In what way is this different than how you look/feel now? In what way would you benefit if you were to be more active now? Why is this important to you? What would have to happen/change in order for this to happen today? What changes do you have control over? What supports would you need (support of others, your environment)? What one, small first step would you be willing to commit to this week to move you toward your goal? What will you do to set yourself up for success this week? Write it down. Tell somebody about it. Post it where you will see it daily.

February 18

Stair WalkingExercise Strategies

  • Add little bits of exercise wherever you can (examples: take the stairs, park further away).
  • Find what works for you. What do you like? What did you enjoy doing as a kid?
  • Exercise with friends.
  • Can you incorporate a little exercise into your errand running?
  • Make a routine. Schedule your exercise time and have a plan B.
  • Think seriously about starting a walking program.
  • Live in a walkable community.
  • Train for something.
  • Get a dog.
  • Make a few small changes you can stick with, and build from there. If you can find some type of exercise that you enjoy doing regularly, you will look forward to it

Get close to your ideal weight and stay there.  A combination of changing your eating habits and exercise works best.  Diets are NOT the answer.  Make it a lifestyle change.

Feb. 11, 2013

Keep Your Metabolism Running

Eat enough calories:  When you cut way back on calories your body thinks it is starving and conserves energy, slowing down your metabolism, i.e. burning fewer calories for energy than it would otherwise.

Eat often enough:  When you skip meals you are starving your body so it slows down, burning fewer calories to conserve energy. Spread your daily calories more frequently throughout the day. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few healthy snacks throughout the day. Remember, a snack is less than 200 calories and meals do not exceed 500 calories.

Engage in regular aerobic / endurance exercise:  Aerobic or cardio activity increases your metabolism while you are working out. There are some studies showing that you continue to burn calories faster for a while after exercise, especially after higher intensity interval training. Aerobic activity is any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and increases your heart rate. When you are performing an aerobic activity, you should be breathing slightly harder than you would at rest. You should still be able to talk, but should be breathing a little faster than usual.

Build muscle:  Muscle blasts fat. Strength training increases your muscle mass which increases your metabolism overall. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and therefore burns more calories. One pound of fat burns about two calories per hour, one pound of muscle burns about 35-45 calories per day. As an added bonus, muscle takes up less room than fat.

Feb. 4, 2013


MetabolismMetabolism is the rate at which you burn calories (or convert food to energy for breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, etc ). If you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Thyroid disorders can slow your metabolism, but this is fairly rare. Usually, people who blame a slow metabolism for causing their weight problem eat too much. Overweight people may actually have a faster metabolism because it takes more energy to keep their larger systems running.

You may be curious about your metabolic rate. Here is a site that calculates your metabolic rate, factoring in your activity level. This will give you an idea of how many calories you burn daily; it is not exact. Calories Per Day Calculator

This number will be the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Generally don’t cut more than 500 calories and do not drop your total daily calories below 1200. Everyone’s metabolism is different; but you do have some control over your own metabolism, to a point. Rev it up by eating well, exercising and gaining muscle mass.

Jan. 28, 2013

What is a snack?

A snack is a small amount of nutritious food. Aim for 50-200 calories, more than that and you are getting closer to a meal. If there is no nutritional value, it is a treat, not a snack. Snacks should provide some protein, fiber, nutrients, and possibly a small amount of fat. Vending machine products are generally not good snacks. Try to carry small snacks with you, even if it means packing a cooler.

Snack Ideas:

  • Pistachio NutsA boiled egg
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • Pear with cheese
  • Apple with almonds
  • Pretzels with cheese
  • 1 slice lunchmeat rolled with 1 slice cheese
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Snap peas and ranch dressing for dipping
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Cucumbers slices with ham
  • Dried fruit with nuts
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Low fat or skim chocolate milk
  • Half bagel with cream cheese and tomato slices
  • Air popped popcorn with butter, parmesan cheese and chili powder
  • A small whole wheat tortilla with strawberry cream cheese and sliced strawberries
  • A smoothie of fruit and yogurt
  • A few pistachios or sunflower seeds
  • Broth based vegetable soup

Portion size is KEY with snacks. You are only tiding yourself over until the next meal. If you are left with no choice other than a vending machine, make the smartest choice possible and pay attention to how much you eat. It is generally better to eat a small amount of something rather than let yourself become ravenous and make really poor choices due to overwhelming hunger.

TIP: Take an hour or so on the weekend to make pre-packaged snacks for yourself to keep in the car, your purse, or desk at work.

Jan. 21, 2013

Belly Fat

Belly FatWhere you carry your weight affects your health. Carrying extra weight around your middle poses risks to your heart. A waist measurement greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men carries an increased risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol

To calculate your waist to hip ratio: measure your waist at your smallest part or over your belly button if you do not have a narrow part (do not lift up your belly and measure underneath it). Measure your hips at their widest or across your pubic bone if you do not have hip curves. Then divide your waist inches by your hip measurement (waist divided by hips).

Big bellies tend to be either jiggly or hard and firm. The saggy, jiggly, bellies most likely have subcutaneous fat which is fat just under the skin. The firm, basketball bellies, where you cannot “pinch an inch” have the more dangerous visceral fat. The fat is wrapped around and compresses the internal organs.

Belly fat compared to fat on the hips and thighs:

  • Secretes estrogen
  • Is associated with calcium build up in the arteries
  • Puts pressure on abdominal organs
  • Lowers the HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Decreases insulin sensitivity
  • Causes a fatty liver (affects insulin sensitivity)

Pear shapes (people who carry their weight on their hips and thighs) do not get off easy. While they do not have the same health hazards, they are more prone to varicose veins and cellulite. Belly fat is actually easier to lose than fat on the hips.

Jan. 14, 2013


Making healthier food choices does not mean you have to plan entirely new menus. For potato fans, choose sweet potatoes over regular potatoes. You can mash, bake or roast them just like the regular variety and get twice the nutrition out of it. Select brown rice over white rice and breads made with whole grains instead of traditional white. These small choices now will yield big health payouts later.

Jan. 7, 2013

Eating StrategiesEating Strategies

  • Stop eating trans-fats.
  • Stop eating modified sugars (high fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes). Modified sugars appear to stimulate appetite.
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Include some protein in every meal and snack.
  • Find healthy foods that you actually like.
  • Get grossed out about industrialized agriculture. (Try reading Fast Food Nation, for example.)
  • Aim for 5-9 fruits and/or vegetables per day.
  • Eat more plants, especially leaves.
  • The perfect plate: 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent protein, (maybe) 25 percent starch or another vegetable.
  • Eat more foods with omega-3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts, canola oil).
  • SLOW DOWN – take more time to eat. Don’t eat unless you are sitting down.
  • Lose the soda.
  • Eat like your great grandmother ate. Would she recognize your current foods?
  • When eating animal products, consider the diet of the animal. It matters.
  • Be cautious of eating things with unpronounceable or more than five ingredients. More than ten ingredients – don’t eat it.
  • Be cautious about eating the traditional western diet (processed and refined foods).
  • Shop the edges of the grocery store. The processed and refined foods are in the middle. So are the high calorie junk foods.
  • Organic junk food is still junk food. It is just organically grown fat and calories without much nutrition. Do not assume if you are in the “health aisle” or “health foods store” that every product is good for you.
  • Don’t buy your food at the same place you buy your gas.

Dec. 31, 2012


AvocadoFats are an important and essential part of our diets; they are needed for essential body functions, healthy cells and skin, vitamin absorption and the feeling of satiety. That said, some fats are healthier than others; monounsaturated (olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado) and polyunsaturated (vegetable oils) are healthy and can provide some heart healthy benefits. Saturated fats (found in meat and dairy products) can contribute to higher cholesterol levels, but in small amounts can be part of a healthy diet. Trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening, margarine) are the least healthy and should be limited.

Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.

When you see, smell or think about highly palatable foods (those with more sugar, fat and salt) your brain triggers a dopamine release which is a reward-seeking neurotransmitter.

Dec. 24, 2012


Think small when it comes to meat portions. Your body cannot store extra protein. Consuming more protein than your body needs will result in increased fat. Most Americans eat more protein than their body needs. Get the flavor you crave, but in a smaller portion. Make or order a smaller burger or a “petite” size steak. Saturated fats (found in meat and dairy products) can contribute to higher cholesterol levels. Make meat and poultry lean or low fat. Choose cuts of meat like round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 90 percent lean. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.

Dec. 17, 2012

About Proteins

Foods rich in protein include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds) sources. We all need protein. Vary your protein choices. Eat plant protein foods more often. Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black or white beans, split peas, chickpeas, hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

For sandwiches, consider turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter over meats like bologna and salami, which are high in fat and sodium. Choose cuts of meat and poultry that are lean or low fat, such as round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 90 percent lean. Remove skin from poultry. Cook using methods that do not add extra fat, such as grilling, broiling, roasting or baking. Avoid breading which adds calories. Cooking lean meats in a slow cooker will make them more tender.

Consider seafood in place of meat once or twice a week. Don’t be afraid to include eggs in your menu planning. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and saturated fat, so egg whites are a healthy choice. Check the nutrition label for sneaky sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods, including beans. Many processed meats, such as ham, hot dogs and sausage are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

Dec. 10, 2012

Eat Slowly and Mindfully!

Slow eaters consume fewer calories than fast eaters. It takes time for your brain to receive the message of fullness (approximately 20 minutes). Mindless eating leads to increased calories. Practice mindful eating. Mindfulness is being present and paying attention in the moment to the one thing which you are doing now. It is the opposite of multitasking because you use all of your senses and pay full attention to one process. When you eat mindfully, you sit down and really see the colors and textures of your food. You notice the aroma. When you put a bite into your mouth you notice the feel and flavors. You chew (28 times) and enjoy each bite. You think about where the food came from and appreciate what it took to bring it to your table. Eating mindfully means that you are not reading, watching TV or driving while you eat. When you eat slowly and mindfully, you appreciate and fully taste your food. You are aware of when you are full and do not over eat.

Dec. 3, 2012

About "Whole Grain"

Grain AnatomyWhole grains and foods made from whole grains consist of the entire grain kernel – the bran, the germ and the endosperm. A food is a “whole grain” if it contains all three components. It may be cracked, crushed or flaked, but it must retain the same proportions of bran, germ and endosperm to be called a “whole grain.” Check the product’s ingredient list for the word “whole” preceding the grain. Ideally, whole grain will be the first or second ingredient in the list, indicating that the product contains more whole grain than any other ingredient. (Ingredients are listed in order, from most to least, of the amount of the ingredient in the product). You can also look for the FDA-approved health claim that reads, “In a low-fat diet, whole grain foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancers.” This is found on whole grain products that contain at least 51 percent whole grain flour and are also low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Nov. 26, 2012

Whole Grains

Research has proven that whole grains promote good health and help prevent disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure and heart failure. The most recent dietary guidelines for Americans recommend making half of your grains whole and eating at least three servings of whole grain foods every day. Whole grains help decrease fasting and post-meal cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. Fiber, specifically the soluble type, plays a protective role against heart disease because it reduces the absorption of cholesterol and fats from the digestive tract. Whole grains (and other high fiber foods including fruits, vegetables and legumes) also tend to be rich sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and other micronutrients. Whole grains produce smaller fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels, which appear to protect against type 2 diabetes.

Refined flour and other grains do nothing to protect the heart. The refining process takes away the complex array of nutritional value and health benefit properties found in whole grains. When grains are refined, most of the bran and some of the germ are removed. The good things are removed as well – including dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants and other micronutrients.

Examples of whole grains include:

  • 100% whole wheat flour
  • 100% white whole wheat flour
  • 100% whole wheat pastry flour
  • Brown rice or wild rice
  • Whole oats/oatmeal
  • Whole corn
  • Buckwheat
  • Whole grain barley
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Whole rye
  • Millet

Quinoa is high in protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. Rinsing the quinoa very well before cooking eliminates its slightly bitter “green” taste.

Nov. 19, 2012

Whole Wheat Flour

Whole Wheat FlourFrom pancakes to breads, muffins, pizza or brownies, whole wheat flour can easily be substituted for all-purpose flour to add whole grain goodness to your baked goods. Whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour contain 100 percent of the wheat berry, giving you the full goodness of the bran and germ. Try substituting whole wheat flour for 25 to 30 percent of the all-purpose flour in your favorite recipe. Use whole wheat pastry flour in baked goods for a softer, more tender texture. White whole wheat flour works great in cookies, muffins, pancakes and quick breads, when substituted for the entire amount of all-purpose flour. It has a milder flavor and lighter color and produces baked goods that are just as enjoyable as the original, with the benefit of increased fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Homemade cookies/pies/cakes are better for you than store bought versions (fewer transfats, real eggs, fewer chemicals).

(Some people have sensitivities to wheat products or don’t digest wheat well. In that case, there are many other whole grains to choose from, such as oats, barley, quinoa and others. In a true gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, oats and barley may need to be avoided in addition to wheat.)

Nov. 12, 2012


CarbohydratesYour body uses carbohydrates (carbs) to make glucose which is the body’s main source of fuel. Your body can use glucose immediately, or if not needed, store it in your liver and muscles until it is needed. Any glucose your body does not use for fuel is converted to fat and stored in adipose tissue.

Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, and other grains, milk and milk products and foods containing added sugars (i.e. cookies, cakes and sugar-sweetened beverages). Grains include wheat, oats, corn, barley, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and others.

Healthier carbohydrates include ones that provide dietary fiber and whole grains as well as those without added sugars. It is recommended that you chose fiber-rich carbohydrate choices from the vegetable, fruit and grain groups and avoid added sugars. At least half of your daily grain choices should be whole grains.

Carbohydrates that contain large amounts of refined (white) flour and sugar are high in calories and offer little or no nutritional value. Be aware that some of these foods also contain saturated, trans-fats, and sodium (not heart healthy). Examples of these foods are sugary snacks, pastries, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, candy, cookies and greasy chips. Cut back on foods that contain the following ingredients.

  • Sucrose
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Maltose
  • Malt sugar
  • Syrup
  • Honey

Nov. 5, 2012

Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats

Food GroupsYour body’s building blocks are protein, carbohydrates and fats. They provide the energy you use (as measured by calories) for growth, maintenance and movement. Gram for gram carbohydrates and protein provide four calories of energy and fat provides nine calories. All three are important and essential to a healthy well-balanced diet. Many people need about 50-60 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates, 15-30 percent from protein, and 20-30 percent from fat. Carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables and grains. Protein includes meat, dairy and nuts. Fats are found in oils, nuts, olives, avocados and animal products.

Oct. 29, 2012

Cold and Flu Season

Germs for colds need to enter your body. They do not make you sick by sitting on intact skin. Most of us put germs into our bodies through our noses, mouths, and eyes (mucus membranes). When healthy, your body generally fights off any invading germs by firing up the immune system. When your body is overwhelmed and stressed, the germs win and you get sick. Exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and manage your stress to keep your immune system functioning at its best. When your immune system does its job, you do not even realize that anything miraculous has happened!

Probiotic YogurtCertain foods have been shown to help boost the disease-fighting functions of the immune system (and they have other healthy properties as well):

  • Probiotic foods—these contain “helpful bacteria” and include such things as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kefir drinks and kombucha drinks.
  • Oats and barley
  • Garlic, onions, green onions, leeks—all members of the allium family
  • Fish
  • Chicken soup
  • Tea—green and black
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms

Certain behaviors have also been shown to help your immune system work better to combat disease:

  • Get enough sleep—extremely important for the immune system to work properly.
  • Decrease your stress—listen to relaxation CDs, practice meditation, listen to music or find your own way to unwind and relax.
  • Maintain friendships and relationships—studies have shown that having more personal contacts is related to lower incidence of illness.
  • Practice gratitude and be positive—being thankful for what you have and having a sense of optimism about your life have been shown to be related to better health.
  • Express yourself—people who bottle their emotions have been linked in research studies to more frequent illnesses.
  • Laugh more—laughter has been shown in numerous studies to improve immune system function.
  • Exercise—also necessary for a healthy immune system.

Consider cleaning the following things that can trap germs:

  • Kitchen faucet screen and handle
  • Kitchen disposal flap
  • Welcome mat
  • Vacuum cleaner bag
  • Dish towel and sponges
  • Purse bottom
  • Cell phone, remotes, computer keyboard and mouse

Also consider bringing your own pen to the bank, restaurant, etc., as public pens carry other peoples’ germs.

CLEANSE YOUR HANDS! Hand cleansing is still the number one way to reduce the spread of germs. To wash hands effectively, use warm water and soap for 20 seconds (enough time for two verses of “Happy Birthday”) and then rinse and pat dry. If you are in a public restroom, avoid turning off the faucet or opening the door with your clean hands. Try to use your elbow or a paper towel instead. The sink faucet and restroom door handle are full of the germs of everyone who has not washed their hands! Keeping your own hand sanitizer available means you don’t need water or a sink, and in many instances hand sanitizer removes more germs than handwashing with water.

Oct. 22, 2012

SMART GoalsA good goal is a SMART goal. Smart goals are:

S = specific
M = measureable (how will you know if you met your goal)
A = actionable (what action will you take)
R = realistic
T = time lined

Example of a non-SMART goal - I will start to eat healthier lunches.
What constitutes healthy to you? What action are you going to take? When are you going to do this? How will you know you have met your goal?

Example of a SMART goal – I will pack my lunch on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, including one fruit or vegetable and a low fat snack of less than 100 calories and no added sugar.

This goal is specific, you know exactly when you are going to do this, what action you are planning to take and how you will measure your success. There is no grey area. You either packed a lunch including a fruit/vegetable and a low fat snack without added sugar on Tuesday and Thursday or you did not. When developing a new habit, selecting two days is more realistic than selecting “every day.”

Write your SMART goal down and post it where you will see it. Being accountable to someone can increase your chance of success from 40 percent up to 95 percent. Is there someone with whom you can share your goals who will help you stay on track?

Oct. 15, 2012 

A few rules of thumb when making lifestyle changes:

  • Know what you want to do and why you want to do it.
  • Start with one small change and build from there.
  • Avoid the “all or nothing trap.”
  • Set yourself up for success.
  • Enlist the support of others.
  • Commit –tell someone, write it down.
  • Have a plan A and a plan B.

If you would like to concentrate on moving from a diet of refined grains to whole grains, begin first by identifying whole grains. Start slowly by using 50 percent regular and 50 percent whole grain pasta in your spaghetti dinner until your family gets used to the different taste and texture. Experiment with different brands and varieties until you find one that you really enjoy. Grains include rice, oatmeal, wheat, barley, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, millet, amaranth and more.

Healthy Lunch

If you are in the habit of eating fast food for lunch every day and would like to reduce your consumption of these unhealthy foods, consider starting by committing to packing your lunch one day per week. Choose the day you will do this in advance and be sure to have items on hand to pack that you know you will enjoy. Otherwise, you may find yourself scurrying around the kitchen come Friday morning looking for something edible to pack! Enlist the support of others. Consider getting a co-worker to take the “fast food” challenge with you or offer to pack a lunch for your spouse one day if he/she packs a lunch for you another day.

Shaving off 100 calories a day can lead to a ten pound weight loss in one year. 100 calories = one tablespoon of peanut butter, or one tablespoon or butter/margarine, or two tablespoons of creamy salad dressing. What could you eliminate to shave just 100 calories? Conversely, adding 100 calories a day can add up to a ten pound weight gain in one year.

Three ten-minute walks a day still adds up to 30 minutes of increased physical activity. If you planned to walk outside during your lunch hour, what will you do if it rains? Don’t use this as an excuse not to exercise. Instead, always have a plan B. When you are watching TV, try getting up and moving during commercials, keep a hula hoop near your favorite TV watching chair. Consider parking your car a block away from work and walking one day a week, then two days, etc. Try taking the stairs for one floor before getting on the elevator. The following week, try taking the stairs for two floors before jumping on the elevator. Check with your doctor first if you are over 50 or have any medical conditions to make sure that you are cleared for physical activity.

When you have made your chosen lifestyle changes, how will your life be different than it is today? Why is this important to you?