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Top 3 Nutrition Headlines in 2012

Posted by Joan Salge Blake December 26, 2012 01:49 PM

Looking back on my blog postings over the last year, I have compiled the top three nutrition stories in 2012:

Kids and Obesity

With over 30% of Americans’ youth, ages 2 to 19, either overweight or obese, we are raising a generation that is on a trajectory to have a shorter lifespan than the generation before them.  The science is clear: being obese increases the risk of dying prematurely of heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.  The message sent from the White House with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign and the new federally mandated nutrition changes in school meals, all the way to your house, with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is the same:  the young (and old, for that matter) need to clean up their plates and log off from their sedentary, technology-driven ways and get up and move.

Source:  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Gluten-Free Fad

More than 2 million Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which they can’t tolerate specific proteins in grains, collectively called “gluten,” which are found in wheat, barley, and rye.  However, it is estimated that 1.6 millionpeople are on a gluten-free diet even though they don’t have the disease.  Why?  Gluten-free has become the year’s fad weight loss diet.  This popularity for gluten-free foods has fueled a $6 billion food industry producing everything from gluten-free breads to cookies, crackers, and candy, which are all being gobbled up by the public.  

Will a gluten-free diet keep you lean?   Probably not.  It’s the calories, not the gluten, in the diet that counts when it comes to managing your weight.   Interestingly, gluten-free foods may actually have more calories than the traditionally baked products, as extra fat is often added to compensate for the removed gluten in order for the product to be palatable.  Cost in another factor.  Gluten-free products can cost over 240 percent more than regular products.  Ouch. 

Source:  USDA
The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar

The banning or taxing of sugary beverages was the talk of the town in 2012.  First, New York City Mayor Bloomberg made headlines by proposing to restrict the sale of gigantic sizes of soda available in the Big Apple.  Then, the American Medical Association voted on a policy which recommended that if sweetened beverages were to be taxed that the levy should be used to fund anti-obesity programs and educational campaigns about the adverse health effects of overindulging these beverages.

While soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks collectively make up the largest category of contributors of added sugars in the American diet, they aren’t the sole source.  According to the USDA, the other major sugary culprits are grain-based desserts (cookies, cakes, pastries, pies, donuts) and fruit drinks (lemonade, fruit drinks).   With added sugars contributing an average of 16 percent, on average, of the total daily calories in our diets, Americans need to stop gulping sugary beverages as well as chowing down on the sweets and treats on a daily basis.

Here's to a Happy and Healthy 2013.

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

The Latest on Alcohol Intake: Just in Time for the Holidays

Posted by Joan Salge Blake December 18, 2012 01:13 PM

With holiday parties upon us, I thought these two studies were interesting this festive time of the year when there tends to be an abundance of alcohol flowing.  

The first study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research looked at the trend among some young adults called “predrinking “ or “frontloading.”  This is the practice of consuming alcohol before heading out for an evening of socializing.  For some, the rationale for doing this is to save money.  Let’s face it, wine, beer, and liquor are cheaper when you buy it by the bottle rather than paying a premium price per glass at nightclubs, bars, and sporting events.  At first glance, you may think that this practice would reduce the overall amount of alcohol consumed in a night.   Since money is tight among those who "predrink," they can't afford to drink a lot when socializing outside the home.  However, the answer may surprise you.  

In a study over 180 young adults (average age of 23), researchers tracked their weekend (Thursday through Saturday) consumption of alcohol.  Those who drank before leaving the house consumed an average of about 7 drinks nightly compared to about only 4 drinks for those who didn’t drink before going out.  In essence, predrinking lead to overdrinking when you couple it with socializing outside the home.  Not surprisingly, those who over-drank also reported adverse outcomes from their binging such as hangovers, blackouts, and increased violence.  

Another study suggests that American adults, on average, are consuming almost 100 calories a day (about 4 ounces of wine) from alcohol.  (A standard drink is considered 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.)  At the extreme, almost 20 percent of American men and 6 percent of women consume more than 300 calories daily from booze.  That’s more calories than some people eat at breakfast.  

While a four-ounce serving of wine may not seem like a lot of calories, keep in mind that many wine goblets that are being used nowadays hold 8 ounces or more of wine, escalating the calories per glass: 

                                         8 oz=100 calories    16oz-=200 calories    12 oz = 250 calories     
Based on these studies, these tips may help you minimize your alcohol and calorie consumption during this festive time of the year:  
  • Don’t drink at home prior to your social outing.  
  • Take inventory of your wine and beer glasses and measure how much fluid they actually hold.  If need be, shop around for smaller glasses to use when serving alcohol.
  •  If you want to drink, go for qualityover quantity.  Buy more expensive wine, beer, or liquor and savor one fine drink rather than several of a lower quality to help harness the calories but not the festivities. 
  • Drink alcohol in an one-to-one ratio. After consuming a glass of wine or beer, make the second "drink" a large glass of sparkling water.  Who may end up stopping after the second "drink" of water and eliminate that second glass of calorie-containing alcohol altogether.
For more tips on surviving the holidays, click here.

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

Study: Your Smartphone Can Help You Lose Weight

Posted by Joan Salge Blake December 10, 2012 08:30 PM

Source:  AND
According to a study published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, individuals in a structured, weight loss program who also used mobile technology (in this study, a personal digital assistant), which helped them monitor their daily food intake, weight, and physical activity lost an average of 9 pounds more than those in the same program but without the high tech monitoring system.  In this study of about 70 obese individuals, those who used the mobile technology monitored their daily food intake, weight, and physical activity and had to transmit their daily progress to a health coach.  The health coach in turn called the individual with personalized, supportive advice every two weeks. 

According to Bonnie Spring, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study, the mobile technology device enabled subjects to check their daily calorie intake and physical activity on-the-spot, which allowed them to obtain feedback and adjust their behaviors instantaneously.  The mobile technology was even more important during the maintenance phase of the study.  Those who continued going to the program and using the mobile device maintained significant weight loss at 12 months (even though the coaching calls had stopped), compared to those attending the program but not using the mobile device.    

“While smartphone apps have replaced the mobile device used in this study, the technology is the same.  It allows for monitoring and accountability as part of a supportive program,” claims Spring.  This isn’t anything new for Sarah Kreiger, a registered dietitian (RD) in private practice and  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Media Spokesperson.   She uses several apps,  such as MyFitness Pal, CalorieCounter, or Daily Burn, which are allfree, when she counsels her clients.  “My clients who use these apps, along with my personalized counseling and support, have more success meeting their weight loss goals than those who don’t use them.”    

Click here for of list of other free weight management apps reviewed by AND. Perhaps, your smartphone with some structured support may be a smart way to lose weight.

Have you used a mobile device to help manage your weight?  Please share below.  

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

5 Trendy Gifts for Foodies to Give (or Get) This Year

Posted by Joan Salge Blake December 4, 2012 05:01 PM

Are you stumped as to what to buy a person this holiday season that has “everything?”  In fact, are you one of those people who are a shopping nightmare for those who want to buy you a gift?  Make life easier for yourself and those who will be shopping for you by considering one of these trendy, healthy holiday gift ideas that are guaranteed to keep giving throughout the year:

Gift Idea: Fruit Infusion Natural Fruit Flavor Pitcher

Does someone on your list drink too many sugary beverages daily for their own good?   Since soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the diet of Americans, this gift will save any lucky recipient tons of sugar and money throughout the year.  Place sliced fruit or better yet, cucumbers, in the center infuser of the pitcher and pour in the water.  Keep the pitcher in the refrigerator for an unbelievable refreshing no-calorie and no-sugar added chilled beverage for less than $20.  Bonus:  You can say also “goodbye” to recycling all those soft drink bottles and cans.  With this beverage replacement,  you’ll never drink soft drinks, even diet sodas, again.  I promise.  Buy it online here.

Gift IdeaCooking Light The Food Lover's Healthy Habits Cookbook

The Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook by nutrition expert Janet Helm, MS, RD and the editors at Cooking Light proves that with the right tools, both delicious and healthy can happily coexist in any lifestyle. This unique collection of more than 250 road-tested recipes, tips and solutions has done all of the thinking for you. Each section dishes up brand-new secrets to living a healthier life, straight from more than 50 nutrition and fitness experts, bloggers, chefs and Cooking Light readers.  Click here to order it on Amazon.

Gift Idea:  A Cheese Plane and Microplane

For all the cheese lovers on your list, a cheese plane and a microplane are culinary must haves.  While they are yummy and creamy, whole milk cheese, such as Manchego, baby Swiss, Asaigo, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, is the No. 1 source of heart-unhealthy saturated fat in the diets of Americans.  An easy way to enjoy these cheeses, but not at the expense of your heart, is by using a cheese plane or microplane, which allow you to savor smaller portions.  Cheese lovers can use these nifty gadgets to slice their beloved delicacies paper thin for added flavor on a sandwich or grated to a fine dusting on entrées without adding tons of saturated fat.  Both the cheese plane and microplane can be ordered online for less than $15 each.

Gift Idea:  Progressive International Veggie Chopper

Many Americans are falling short of consuming the recommended minimum 2.5 cups of veggies daily and often cite the preparation involved as a barrier to consuming Mother Nature’s finest.  The Progressive International Veggie Chopper slices and dices veggies in seconds, which can then be added to soups, casseroles, salads, chili, and stews.  This veggie chopper is so easy-to-use that it is like having a prep chef helping in the kitchen.   At less than $25, it’s cheaper than a chef and can be purchased online here.

Gift Idea:  Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender

No matter the age of your gift recipient, fruit smoothies are loved by both young and old.  This hand blender allows you to whip together yogurt, slightly defrost frozen berries, and a splash of skim milk for 100% delicious fruit smoothies in minutes.  With this gadget around, it will be a snap to consume the minimum recommended 2 cups of fruit daily.  Buy it online here.

Do you have a favorite healthy gift idea?  Please share below.

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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