nutrition advice

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Enjoy the Super Bowl Without Overeating

posted by Sean Kelley on January 31, 2012 10:13 AM


Americans eat more on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year except Thanksgiving. Here are four ways to keep from overeating at your Super Bowl party:

Eat before you go
Make yourself a healthy, filling meal before you go. You'll be less likely to graze.

Set a drink limit
Drinks aren't calorie free, and drinking, especially in social settings, can lead to overeating.

Skip the pizza
Look for healthy alternatives like carrots and other veggies. Or bring our low-cal salsa.

Make your own halftime show
Instead of sitting on the couch, go outside and toss a football.

Are you planning a Super Bowl party? Here are three dishes you can put out Sunday--guilt-free:

A Healthy Super Bowl Party Menu


Our 7-year-old, Elise, has been looking forward to summer camp for months. Though she had a choice of going to a horseback riding camp, a soccer camp and even the camp I attended at her age, she chose to go to cooking camp.

This was a surprise. Elise is obsessed with horses. Secretly, we're very pleased. Any of the other choices would have forced her to exercise. But she gets plenty of that through regular activities. Eating healthy, though, is a different challenge.

She's bombarded with unhealthy food messages—from brightly-colored cereal boxes to fast food restaurants that associate rewards with bad food. And her friends seem to subsist on potato chips, hot dogs and powdered donuts alone.

As parents, we compete against these trends constantly because we know poor eating habits can cause obesity in children, which can lead to all sorts of health problems: Asthma, diabetes, sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease, among others.

I'm also worried that lessons learned now will make it more difficult to combat chronic illness later on. If, for example, my daughter develops type 2 diabetes in her 20s, as I did, will she be able to manage it with diet and exercise? Could she avoid the disease altogether if she learns to love bell peppers and grilled peaches as much as she loves Happy Meals?

On her first day of cooking camp, which is at a local wellness facility and focuses on preparing healthy foods, Elise made yogurt parfaits with Greek yogurt, granola and blueberries. Her group also grilled vegetables and made quesadillas. Later we discussed what made each healthy while we cooked salmon and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden.

As parents, we have some influence of our children's eating habits. But that relationship is complicated. Telling our children to clean their plates, for example, can have unintended consequences. And our influence appears to wane as our children age.

But it's still worth the effort. Serving vegetables and fruits at every meal and trying inventive, kid-friendly recipes with healthy ingredients can help. So can growing your own vegetables.

In our case, we're filling our daughter's menu, so to speak, with lots of healthy opportunities. In addition to cooking camp, she gardens, she helps me in the kitchen and she picks out fruits and vegetables at the grocery store that we cook.

I may not be able to overwhelm the messages she gets from food manufacturers and friends, but at least I can be part of the conversation.

Related Links:

Get a personalized, daily food plan for your kids.

Download a sample healthy cooking class for kids plan from Cooking with Kids.


You've probably heard this before: Most Americans don't eat enough seafood. Most fish are loaded with heart-healthy omega 3 fats--which is why experts used to recommend you eat 6 ounces of fatty fish like salmon or shrimp a week.

Even if you're eating 6 ounces, you're not getting enough, according to the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Those recommendations call for 8 ounces or about half of what most Americans are eating now.

"Avoiding seafood increases your risk of dying from a heart attack," says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiovascular researcher and professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School. "There is a 10-fold higher risk of sudden death from heart disease. This is mind blowing."

Oily fish such as salmon (both wild and farmed), trout, mackerel, herring, anchovies and sardines are especially beneficial for heart health because of they are excellent sources of omega-3 fats, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

White fish such as cod, halibut and catfish are healthy too, but since they don't contain as much fish oil, you have to eat a lot more. It takes just two 3.5-ounces servings of salmon to average the 250 mg of EPA/DHA recommended per day. You have to eat four servings of halibut or 10 servings of cod.

Two numbers that may shift your interest in salmon and sardines compare fish with drugs.

"If you look at total risk reduction from cardiac death, fish oil consumption lowers risk by 36 percent," Mozaffarian says. "That's comparable to taking statin drugs which lower risk by 35 percent. Omega 3's from fish really should be the first line of treatment in primary prevention of cardiac deaths in the whole population."

If you love seafood, don't stop at eight ounces a week. "You can eat more to get even more benefits," Mozaffarian says.

Fish oil may even be more powerful than obesity. Research reported recently in the European Journal of Nutrition reports found that Eskimos in Alaska, who consume 20 times more fish-based omega 3's than the general US population, seem to be partly protected from the harmful cardiovascular side effects of overweight and obesity.

Research links to the heart are strong; but other associations for Omega 3's and health are just emerging including battling depression, improved immune function, joint health, brain development in children and age related eye health.

"Maybe those snake oil salesmen going from town to town in the old West were actually selling fish oil," Mozaffarian muses, "Their claims of a 'cure all' might not have been totally off base."

But before you reach for a bottle of Omega 3 pills note that eating fish will land you more than just fish oil on a plate. Fish and shellfish (exact amounts depend on species) are excellent sources of other nutrients including protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, selenium and iodine.

But What About the Mercury?

Mercury is a heavy metal that gets into fish from volcanic eruptions and industrial pollution. Some fish contain more mercury than others, especially older and larger fish because they've had more time to be exposed to mercury.

Pregnant women and young children are advised to limit canned albacore tuna to once a week and to avoid the top four mercury-containing fish: Tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

But there's no reason for the general population to avoid any of these fish because of their mercury content. "The benefits far outweigh the risk," Mozaffarian says.


It's hard to think of spring without green--from lawns sprouting soft new grass to body-conscious diners going green (think salads) to reach their summer bathing suit weights.

And since March is National Nutrition Month, the focus of which is adding colorful foods to your diet, I've got lots of inspiration to go green right now. Even my kitchen's painted two kinds of green. Anyone who has flipped through a color wheel when choosing the right shade to paint a wall knows that there's more than one tint. The same goes for the many shades of green in the food world and the nutrition each hue holds within.

From dark green kale to golden green avocado to light green celery, Dr. David Heber, author of What Color is Your Diet?, says green fruits and vegetables are important because they promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risk.

Here's a breakdown of the green foods you should add to your plate:

Yellowy Green.
These foods are rich sources of plant nutrients called carotenoids including the compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to eye health and reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Examples: Spinach and other greens, green peas and avocados.

Dark Green
These foods contain the healthy compounds sulforaphane, isothiocyanate and indoles, which Heber says break down cancer-causing chemicals.

Examples: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Bok Choy and kale.

Light Green.
These foods contain flavonoids that protect cell membranes.

Examples: Spring onions, celery, pears, endive, and chives.

When to Avoid Green
Never eat potatoes that are green below the skin. This green color indicates the presence of a bitter tasting toxin called solanine which is toxic even in small amounts and can cause nausea and headaches. Solanine, which is naturally in potatoes as the plant's defense against insects, increases in concentration when potatoes are stored in warm temperatures or exposed to light.

How Green is Your Menu?
The menu at Glenn's Kitchen, an Atlanta restaurant, teems with green--from fried green tomatoes to its Kitchen Sink Salad which tosses in chopped greens, celery, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and green peppers to its Farmer's Market Pasta with spinach and artichoke hearts. You can even order the green-themed Glenntini, which is made with cucumber-infused vodka, fresh mint and lime juice.

Here's the Glenn's Kitchen recipe for its Kitchen Sink Salad:

2 oz. Mixed greens, chopped
2 oz. Head lettuce, chopped
1 oz. Roasted shallot vinaigrette
1 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded
5 Cucumber slices, halved
1 oz. Carrot, julienne
1 oz. Grape tomato, halved
1 oz. Red onion, julienne
1 oz. Vidalia onion, julienne
1 oz. Celery, diced
1 oz. Corn kernels, roasted
1 oz. Red pepper, diced
1/8 Artichoke heart, cut into 6 pieces
5 Croutons

Mix all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

16 oz. champagne vinegar
32 oz. extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp. Dijon mustard
12 shallots, roasted and chopped
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 bunch fresh thyme, chopped
4 oz. honey

Puree all ingredients together with a hand blender except oil. Slowly emulsify with oil.

Roasted Shallots

12 shallots, peeled, stem removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. thyme, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss shallots with olive oil and herbs. Place on a half sheet pan stem side up, leaving 1-inch between each onion. Place pan in oven and roast for about 20 minutes, or until well caramelized and soft. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper. Cool immediately.

Tips for Eating Healthy When Flying

posted by Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD on December 15, 2010 9:06 AM

If you've flown recently you may have noticed your eating options are getting better. True, fewer airlines are serving free meals on board, but there are more healthier dining options before you board.


More airports have added concessions with menus reflecting consumer demand for more salads, whole-wheat bread and even grab-and-go prepackaged vegetable crudités.

At America's busiest hub—Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport—the convenience store-like set up at Z Market on T, A and B concourses features refrigerated selections of entree salads, fresh sandwiches, fruit and cheese combos. You can also pick up an apple or a banana.

The sandwich options are getting healthier, too. It used to be that the average airport coffee stand offered only sandwiches on white bread. But Starbucks now offers sandwiches made on whole-wheat bread and they even include nutrition information on their packages.

If you're planning to travel this holiday season, here are a few tips for healthier eating:

Eat before you go.
Time allowing, have a good breakfast or lunch before you head to the airport, including a lean protein choice such as eggs, turkey, chicken, roast beef or fish. Protein will keep your blood sugar on an even keel for a few hours and your appetite in check so you're not desperately hungry before takeoff.

Take food with you.
Did you know most food items are okay to take through security? Leave the beverages behind—you'll have to buy those on the concourses—but, save money, time and trouble by bringing your own sandwiches or healthy snacks such a nuts, dried fruit, whole-wheat crackers and hard cheese.

Note that the Transportation and Safety Administration provides a list of foods on its website that are not allowed, including creamy dips, soft spreadable cheeses and peanut butter. They fall into the disallowed category of "gel-like substances."

A special note on the TSA's website informs travelers: "You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening." Guess that's if the chocolate cake you're bringing to grandma's house looks especially delicious.

Related Links:

How to make healthy eating choices at the food court

Frequent flyer? Find healthier options on the road.

Vitamin D: How Much Should You Get?

posted by Andrea Kane on December 13, 2010 7:49 PM

How much vitamin D should you get every day: 200 units, 600 units or 2000 units? Confused? We're not surprised. New government guidelines have a lot of people scratching their heads.


The Institute of Medicine (an arm of the nonprofit National Academy of Sciences that, among other things, sets governmental nutrient levels) tripled the recommended amount of vitamin D most Americans should get every day to 600 international units (IUs)—that's up from 200 IUs set in 1997.

But many in health care advocate getting even more. Vitamin D (which is found in a few foods like salmon, but is mainly produced by the body through sun exposure) has been proven to help keep bones strong. Recent studies have also found links between low vitamin D levels and a host of other ills, including: certain cancers, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, depression and cognitive decline, and auto-immune disorders.

So, how much vitamin D do we really need? Sometimes it's hard teasing out hard-core science from trends and wishful thinking. Remember the oat-bran craze? And the antioxidant (vitamins C and E) craze? None of these turned out to be the so-called "magic pill" that would keep us healthy. Is vitamin D overrated, or should we really be getting more?

Everwell asked Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist, about getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals in general, and vitamin D in particular.

Question: What can the average person do when it comes to recommendations for daily allowances of vitamins and minerals?

Dr. Jampolis: I think the best approach for most is to take a complete daily multivitamin and eat a well balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, low fat dairy and whole grains.

We know that getting nutrients from food is the best—and it is getting easier to do so with vitamin D-fortified foods as well. The multi will ensure that you are getting minimum adequate amounts for disease prevention and the balanced diet will help you attain nutrients including vitamins and minerals, necessary for optimal health.

Q: With respect to vitamin D, did the Institute of Medicine (IOM) go far enough? Does policy lag behind science?

Dr. Jampolis: I was a bit surprised that they was not a bigger change since there is constantly emerging science on the numerous benefits of vitamin D and there appears to be minimal downside to supplementation, which is suggested by the fact that they increased the tolerable upper limit to 4000 IU per day.

The IOM felt that the data on chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease were not definitive and so they made their recommendations based solely on bone health. This is reasonable but it will take quite a while to do convincing long-term studies looking at the role of vitamin D in these diseases.

So in my opinion, if there is potential benefit, minimal risk, and it is not expensive, I'd rather go a bit higher, especially since we clearly avoid the sun more than we did 50 years ago due to skin concerns (leading to a clear potential drop in naturally-produced vitamin D in most people).

Q: What about people who promote taking megadoses of certain vitamins ? Is that safe? Wise? Helpful?

Dr. Jampolis: Megadosing is not a good idea in most cases. Vitamin E megadoses have actually been found to increase risk of death in some.

Vitamin C does not appear to increase risk of death but excess supplementation may not have any effect at all. It is really safest to get most of these things from foods because they come in packages with numerous other complementary and protective nutrients and it is virtually impossible to take in megadoses from food. It is important to understand that many nutrients work together so taking megadoses could lead to imbalances. This is particularly true with minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc.

To read more on the new government recommendations for vitamin D intake, visit the Institute of Medicine's website.

Celiac Disease Can Develop Later in Life

posted by Andrea Kane on October 15, 2010 9:02 PM

Not only is celiac disease on the rise, but a person can develop it later in life, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Celiac Research. Their study, published in the September issue of Annals of Medicine, debunks the myth that celiac disease begins in childhood.


"You're not necessarily born with celiac disease," says lead author Dr. Carlo Catassi, co-director of the Center for Celiac Research. "Our findings show that some people develop celiac disease quite late in life." Catassi, also of the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Italy, urges physicians to consider screening their elderly patients.

Celiac disease is an inherited, autoimmune condition that centers in the digestive tract. According to the National Institutes of Health, when someone with celiac disease ingests gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), his or her immune system responds by damaging or destroying villi —the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine that help the absorption of nutrients. Without working villi, a person becomes malnourished. Classic symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting and constipation.

In the study, Italian and American researchers tracked more than 3,500 adults using blood samples and found that the incidence of celiac disease jumped from 1 in 501 in 1974 to 1 in 219 in 1989. A 2003 study conducted by the celiac research center placed the number of people with celiac disease in the U.S. at one in 133.

The finding also contradicts the common wisdom that nothing can be done to prevent autoimmune disease. If individuals can tolerate gluten for many decades before developing celiac disease, some environmental factor or factors other than gluten must be in play, notes study co-author Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the University of Maryland's Mucosal Biology Research Center and the celiac research center. The key is finding those other triggers.

In a Wall Street Journal Health Blog, Fasano theorizes that changes in gut bacterial ignite the disease late in life. A person might be born with a genetic predisposition to celiac disease, but that for years those genes aren't turned on. Then the gut bacteria changes, perhaps as a result of infection, surgery or antibiotics, and those genes get flipped on.

The diagnosis of celiac disease can be difficult because many patients, especially adults, who test positive for the disease may not have the classic gastrointestinal symptoms. Atypical symptoms include joint pain, chronic fatigue, seizures, depression and even an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis. In the study, only 11 percent of the celiac patients had actually been diagnosed with the disease before the study.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, the only treatment is the lifelong adherence to the gluten-free diet. It means avoiding everything with wheat, barley and rye. But gluten can lurk in unexpected places: It may appear on food labels as modified food starch, preservatives or stabilizers. Gluten can also be present in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins and lip balms.

How to Build a Healthier Burger

posted by Carolyn O'Neil, MS, RD on October 14, 2010 2:03 PM

Getting stuffed on a big, greasy burger has never been easier. Big burgers are everywhere—and by big, I mean gargantuan-sized creations of beef and bun bursting with layers of fatty patties, bacon, cheese and all the trimmings. What's a nutrition-minded burger lover to do?


Happily there's a middle ground. "You don't need a half pound of beef," says registered dietitian Betsy Hornick, co-author of the Healthy Beef Cookbook. "Three to four ounces should be your goal."

Restaurant menus often list the uncooked weight: A half-pound burger is 6 ounces cooked, and a quarter-pound burger is 3 ounces cooked weight.

Beef gets a bad rap because it's high in cholesterol and saturated fat. If you're building your own burger, you can reduce the amount of both by choosing leaner beef. A 3-ounce burger made from 85 percent lean beef has around 13 g of total fat, 5 g of saturated fat. (For a 2,000-calorie diet, the American Heart Association recommends you consume only 16 g of saturated fat a day.

But the nutrition news isn't all bad for hamburgers. Beef can be a great source of protein as well as important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorous and choline, Hornick says.

And even the type of saturated fat in beef—called stearic acid—may not affect blood cholesterol, according to recent research. "We've learned that stearic acid has more a neutral effect on cholesterol," she says.

Here's some other ways to make your burger healthier:

Cook burgers on a grill instead of a griddle.
An open grill allows excess fat to drip off. "I recommend that half-inch thick patties be grilled over medium hot coals for 11 to 13 minutes to medium doneness until no longer pink in the center and juices show no pink color," Hornick says. "Turn just once so the burgers stay juicy."

Choose a healthier bun.
More restaurants are offering whole grain burger buns which are higher in fiber and add a few more nutrients. "Avoid burgers on croissants or huge overpowering buns. New, thinner sandwich bread-style burger buns and pita bread can be a good lower calorie choice, too."

Be choosey about cheese.
Each slice of cheese adds about 100 calories. If you must have cheese, Hornick suggests using a small amount of highly flavored cheeses such as aged cheddar, pepper jack or blue cheese crumbles.

Watch the extras.
Loading on the bacon, pork belly, fried eggs, pancetta, mayo and mayo-based sauces can add hundred of extra calories—and lots of fat—to a burger.

Accessorize smartly.
Mustards are marvelous with beef and very low in calories. Mushrooms and onions add great flavor to beef, but ask for them grilled instead of sautéed in butter. If you're making them at home, cook them in heart-healthy olive oil.

Ask to 'super size' the lettuce, tomato, raw onion, pickle and other fresh veggie garnish on your burger to boost nutrient content, add crunch, flavor with very few calories.

Hornick says the burger is a tasty vehicle for getting folks to eat more vegetables, "How about sliced zucchini or eggplant on your burger? Grilled vegetables are awesome on burgers or served on the side."

Travel the world.
Burgers may be an American comfort food, but more restaurant menus are offering an international take with Mexican, Italian, Greek and Asian flavor ideas. "It opens peoples imagination with all of these different toppings and sauces and there's a lot of great ones such as a Mediterranean burger with hummus," Hornick says.

"I like the Indian inspired cucumber and yogurt raita on a grilled burger or you can go tropical with grilled pineapple or a mango and black bean salsa on burgers."

Related Links:

How to raise your good cholesterol

Can eggs be part of a heart-healthy diet?

We're Still Not Listening to Mom or Health Science
Despite decades of motherly advice and good-for-us research results, Americans still refuse to eat enough vegetables. And we're not talking about kids.

A recent government study found that only 26 percent of adults had three or more servings of vegetables a day—despite all the good health benefits that come from eating foods loaded with nutrients. Here's why you should reconsider Mom's words: "Eat your veggies!"

Alcohol, Breast Cancer and Pink Washing
In this season of all things pink (October is Breast Cancer Awareness month), seeing pink umbrellas, pink underwear or pink jogging gear isn't all that surprising. But a bottle of pink booze? That caught us off guard, especially considering that drinking alcohol may increase the risk for breast cancer. Is this cause campaign by Mike's Hard Lemonade the worst form of pinkwashing?

Midriff Cheerleading Uniforms Nothing to Cheer About
As if cheerleaders didn't have enough to worry about, especially after their sport was declared a non-sport last month by a federal judge. Now they have to worry about whether their skimpy uniforms can cause eating disorders.

A small University of South Carolina study recently found overexposed cheerleaders—those whose uniforms show their midsection—are at greater risk for eating disorders.

Beach Bummer: Gulf Residents Face Declining Emotional Health
If seeing sea turtles bellying up on Gulf coast beaches during the oil spill this summer made you a little sad, imagine what it did to residents. A new Gallup poll indicates that residents of Gulf coast counties have seen their overall emotional health decline since the start of the Gulf oil spill last spring. Self-reported cases of clinical depression are up, too, according to the poll.

Ben & Jerry's Dropping 'All-Natural' Label
What's in a name? For Ben & Jerry's ice cream lovers, names say a lot. Consider popular flavors like Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, Dulce Delish, Chubby Hubby. The Vermont-based ice cream may still bear those signature names, but the colorful labels won't say "all natural" anymore. The company is dropping the term--which doesn't have much real meaning anyway--to avoid confusing its customers. There is no plan to change the ingredients.

Some Prostate Screening Guidance
It's one of the most difficult decisions in modern medicine: Should a man get a P.S.A. test and when? As Tara Parker-Pope writes in the New York Times , getting screened for early cancer detections seems simple enough. Except with a P.S.A, the blood test used to spot prostate cancer early, nothing is ever simple. Use of the test is widespread but it apparently saves few lives. But a new study may offer screening guidance to men 60 and older.

Who’s coming to dinner? Dr. Bruce Dan shows you that what’s on your plate could have a lot to do with who’s sitting at your table.

Dietitian Carolyn O’Neil comes to the rescue of a diabetic with a sweet tooth and a habit of eating out.