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Healthy for the Holidays: 5 Strategies to Battle Seasonal Bulge

Posted by | December 4, 2013.

With tables sagging beneath a 20-pound roasted turkey, creamy mounds of mashed potatoes and numerous delicious pies, the holidays are a dangerous time of year for the health conscious. Beginning with those first bites of Halloween candy and lasting through the last piece of pumpkin pie, it’s tough to endure the holiday season without packing on a few pounds. Fortunately, there are strategies to reduce temptation and stick to healthy eating habits this year.

Look for Fruits and Veggies

Although turkey and butter-laden desserts often epitomize Thanksgiving dinner, most families include at least a few vegetable side dishes. Remember that Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration. If you’re bringing a side dish, consider mashed sweet potatoes, a broccoli salad, fresh fruit salad or vegetarian stuffing. Keep fruits and vegetables in mind when building your plate. Try to fill 70 percent with fruits, vegetables or whole grains; leave the turkey, stuffing and other unhealthy foods to the other 30 percent.

Watch Your Beverage Consumption

A glass of eggnog here…a few glasses of wine there. After a while, your holiday beverage calories and fat can really add up. For example, a regular 8-ounce glass of eggnog contains a whopping 360 calories, according to USA Today. Similarly, popular espresso drinks are not lean, such as a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, which has 410 calories and 15 grams of fat. To reduce your caloric intake from beverages, stick to water with a lemon wedge or a cup of tea if you’re in the mood for something hot. Of course, a single glass of wine or a small serving of hot cider doesn’t bust your overall diet; just beware of drinking several glasses of calorie-laden beverages.

Pay Attention to Portion Sizes

Sure, you didn’t intend to grab quite so much of every dish, but there were just too many options that your plate is now overflowing. To fight the holiday bulge, keep portion sizes in check when the potatoes and gravy make their way around the table. Take a small amount of each item, or limit yourself to three or four types of dishes. The average holiday meal contains a whopping 3,000 calories, according to Marie Claire.

To keep your portions in check, carefully consider the plate you use. Today’s dinner plates often span 12 inches or more, which allows diners to heap on the calories. Instead, grab a salad plate or smaller dinner plate to reduce the amount of food you take. If you’re hosting the holiday celebration, consider investing in new dinnerware to improve portion control. For example, Macy’s offers a variety of plates that come in smaller sizes, making it easier to watch calories.

Don’t Skip Meals

When watching what you eat, it’s tempting to skip breakfast on Christmas morning so you have plenty of room to indulge at dinner. However, skipping meals is a poor diet strategy. By the time dinner rolls around, you’ll be so hungry that you’ll want to eat everything in sight. Furthermore, eating breakfast each day jump-starts your metabolism, causing you to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day.

Allow Yourself to Indulge

Restricting yourself from all bad eating habits is a surefire way for a diet plan to fail. Instead, allow yourself to indulge occasionally. Grab a small slice of pecan pie, or pour a few tablespoons of gravy over your mashed potatoes. To ensure that this indulgence doesn’t get out of control, think beforehand about your favorite holiday foods. Choose one or two “special” foods that are high in fat or calories. Then, simply take a smaller portion and slowly savor your treat. With this strategy, you won’t feel deprived of the foods you love but will still be able to maintain a healthy eating plan all day.

Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day with IBD

Posted by | March 17, 2013.

Happy National Nutrition Month®!  This year’s message is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day”. That is such an important message for people with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)!

Diet is an important part of your IBD treatment plan and should be used in conjunction with medications. Proper nutrition plays a critical role in managing IBD.  Eating healthfully and in appropriate amounts will improve IBD symptoms, contribute to age-appropriate growth, and decrease risk of anemia, poor bone density, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies.  It can also increase effectiveness of IBD medications.

No one diet has been proven to prevent IBD and flare ups, although several diet books and plans have claimed to “cure IBD”.  Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence to prove that these diet plans, such as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the Guts and Glory Program, are effective, and most of these plans avoid entire food groups, which can then lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and poor weight gain.

I often get asked what foods are safe for people with IBD, and creating a diet plan for you is often trial and error.  You may react to foods that others with IBD can tolerate, and vice versa.  The best diet plan is one that includes all food groups (proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and oils) and in appropriate portions for your age, weight, and physical activity level.  There are foods within each food group that may be better tolerated than other foods during flare ups.  For example, eating low fiber fruits, vegetables and grains may decrease IBD symptoms during a flare up, but when feeling well, higher fiber foods are preferred for proper nutrition.   If gas, bloating, and diarrhea are among your symptoms, lactose free dairy products may be better tolerated.

So what IS the best diet for IBD?  The United States Department of Agriculture’s food guidance system, My Plate, is the appropriate diet plan for you (see for details).  Once on their website, you can determine the appropriate calorie intake for your age, sex, weight, height, and activity level.  The plan will advise you on the right number of servings (and what counts as a serving size) that are best for you from each food group.  I often recommend that individuals with IBD keep a food journal to track symptoms and associations with foods consumed, and the SuperTracker within the ChooseMyPlate website (see can help you track what you eat each day, and how your diet measures up to the recommended diet for you.

General guidelines for individuals with IBD are to choose foods from all food groups; limit fried/fatty foods, caffeine and spicy foods if these foods worsen symptoms of IBD; drink fluids at each meal to maintain hydration; consume a multivitamin daily to aid nutrient absorption; and to consume small frequent meals (eat every 2-3 hours while awake) if volume of foods at a meal is an issue. Some people may also benefit from reducing processed sugars (concentrated sweets, like sugary candy and cereals, donuts, juices).

To help you develop the best meal plan for your age and IBD, ask your IBD physician to connect you with a Registered Dietitian (RD or nutrition expert).  If your IBD center does not have an RD on staff or if they are unable to refer you to an RD in your area, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietitians can help you find one in your area (see for details).

Eating Right (by following the My Plate guidelines), Your Way (by avoiding trigger foods), Every Day (as much as possible!) can truly help your manage your IBD.

Good Hearing Health Linked to Good Cardiovascular Health

Posted by | October 9, 2012.

Guest Post by John O’Conner

Recent studies show a relationship between good hearing health and a healthy cardiovascular system. People who are concerned about hearing health and a healthy cardiovascular system should focus on consuming whole foods. Whole foods consist of fruits, vegetables, nuts, virgin olive oil and vegetable juices.  Processed foods such as vegetable oils, margarine and genetically modified products should be avoided.

To boost the immune system, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B, fish oil, garlic, folic acid, Zinc and Ginkgo Biloba, Coenzyme Q10, melatonin, alpha-lipoic acid and DHEA are all recommended as supplements. Regular exercise is recommended for good heart health and good hearing health. A good cardiovascular system seems to aid in good hearing health also.

Physicians are strongly recommending daily exercise and proper eating habits. These habits will prevent the onset of premature hearing loss. Furthermore, the body’s immune system in general will be able to fight free-radicals in the body that are responsible for numerous ailments including heart disease. Although age is a common culprit for hearing loss, studies have shown that keeping the immune system healthy through exercise and nutrition is a viable prevention strategy.

What Nutritional supplements are Recommended

Vitamin B12 and folic acid are important in hearing health and cardiovascular health. People with vitamin B12 deficiencies can have hearing impairment by as much as 39 percent in many instances. Folic acid deficiencies may result in high-frequency hearing loss.  A deficiency in vitamin B12 or folic acid may affect the both the vascular system and the nervous system. Damage in the vascular system or the nervous system may cause damage on the coating of the cochlear nerve. This type of damage may lead to hearing loss.

Many physicians recommend vitamin B12, omega 3s, vitamin A and folic acid to fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are more likely to increase when the immune system is down or when a person is exposed to stress, pollutants or other non-ideal conditions. Every person should have a diet rich in antioxidants to help to fight against ototoxicity.

Hearing Aids and Healthy Living

Despite our best efforts to remain healthy, exercise daily and eat properly, hearing loss may occur and hearing aids may be necessary. Depending upon the needs of the patient, hearing aids can range from removal external hearing aids to cochlear implants. A physician can work with patients to determine the proper hearing aid for each patient’s particular needs.

Consider These Simple Tips to Improve Hearing and Cardiovascular Health

Every person wanting to improve their cardiovascular and hearing health should focus on diet and exercise. A healthy diet is the foundation for proper function of every system in the body. When people do not eat properly, they tend to get sick and their health is compromised. Every aging person should focus on both hearing health and heart health as both of these systems tend to deteriorate with age without proper exercise and nutrients. Incorporate the nutritional tips and exercise for improved hearing and heart health.


Diets that Help in Lowering High Triglycerides

Posted by | December 29, 2010.

Diets that Help in Lowering High Triglycerides

High triglycerides are highly perilous as there is a great jeopardy associated with them. There is a high possibility of developing cardiovascular diseases and eventually in stroke and heart attacks. To keep the triglycerides at permissible limits you need to watch your diet so that you can stay away from the risks that are associated with them.

High triglycerides are mainly derived from the junk food that one craves for most. A low fat high protein diet is one of the best ways that can help in preventing the levels of triglycerides from soaring. The levels of the high triglyceride must be maintained upto 199 mg/dl.

  • The most important thing that is to be kept in mind is that the levels of carbohydrates in the diet must be restricted. Though there is a need of carbohydrates for deriving energy, the amounts must be checked. Most of the popular diets like the South Beach, Atkins recommends a diet that is highly devoid of carbohydrates as it activates the conversion of glucose into high triglycerides that are harmful.
  • Some of the researches have it that the intake of Omega 3 fatty acids along with a low carbohydrate diet leads to great reduction in the high triglyceride level.
  • Instead of choosing the junk food for your daily meals, add whole grain breads, salmon fish, apples, egg whites, skimmed milk in you diet as they entirely reduce the fats and triglycerides.
  • Always stick to a low fat high protein diet that is both healthy and tasty. But check the calories of every meal that you have.
  • Avocados do much in fighting the triglyceride levels and unlike the junk foods is cholesterol free. The content of oleic acid and fiber are responsible for this reduction of the high triglycerides.
  • Garlic has all the compounds that are necessary for the reduction of the high triglycerides and you need not take it directly. You can crush and add them in the food you cook.
  • Vegetables like string beans, celery, broccoli and cauliflower are to be eaten everyday as they are excellent reducers of triglycerides. But remember not to cook the vegetables as the nutrients are reduced. So it is always better to steam the vegetables and consume them.


Traveling for the Holidays

Posted by | November 22, 2009.

It’s that time of year again! Our favorite time of year–filled with family, good food, and lots of cheer. If you are one of the many millions of people traveling this holiday season, there are a few nutrition-related tidbits to keep in mind!

Healthy snacking

When traveling by car or train, pack healthy snacks for you and your family. Good choices include:

  • fresh fruit (apples, pears, bananas, and grapes/berries are good choices because you are left with little waste and little mess)
  • high fiber/whole wheat crackers
  • sandwiches (think peanut butter and jelly or low fat deli meat or tofurkey on whole grain bread)
  • fresh vegetables (carrots, celery sticks, pepper or cucumber slices to name a few)
  • high fiber/whole grain granola bars or cereals
  • water, low calorie beverages (flavored water, Crystal Light (R), diet soda/pop, etc).

Forgo the chips, candy, and regular soda at the gas station stops, and you will save money, calories and potentially time!

When traveling by plane

  • If traveling within the country, pack less-perishable fruit (apples, oranges, grapes, etc) in your carry-on luggage. If traveling outside of the country, buy fresh fruit once you get through security.
  • Buy a deli sandwich on whole grain bread and hold the mayo/dressings.
  • Buy a field greens salad and ask for dressing on the side (or hold the dressing).
  • Ask for water, unsweetened tea, or diet soda on the plane.


When traveling by car, take advantage of rest stops for more than just a trip to the restroom. Get out, stretch your legs, do some stretches or even take the family for a short walk around the rest stop. The fresh air, exercise, and time away from the monotony of driving will do all of you good!

When traveling by train or plane, walk the terminal prior to your flight or trip. I like to get to the terminal early and do laps around the terminal. If you train ride or flight is long, walk the length of the train car/plane as able to get some exercise.

Although most of us are more lax with healthy eating and exercise during the holidays, it can still be a time to fuel your body properly! Happy travels!