I recently interviewed registered dietitian Valerie Berkowitz, author of The Stubborn Fat Fix. At first glance, her book looked like a reincarnation of the low carbohydrate, high protein diet espoused by the late Dr. Robert Atkins. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, or are familiar with my work or follow me on twitter or facebook, you know I very much support the evidence-based Dietary Guidelines for Americans that promote a diet that’s rich in carbohydrates and moderate in fat and protein. You can read more about my take on the new Dietary Guidelines, issued last January, on msnbc.com. But as science continues to evolve, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that not all experts support the government’s recommendations, and that perhaps other diets–even those that may appear on the surface to be alternative–may be helpful to some. But my message to consumers will continue to be that no matter what diet you ultimately choose, it should be something you can maintain for life, and that gives you all the nutrients you need for optimal health. It should also be part of a comprehensive lifestyle program that includes regular physical activity and stress management. I also encourage slow and steady weight loss (as opposed to fast and furious weight loss as glamorized by tv shows such as The Biggest Loser) to maximize health and psychological outcomes and minimize risks.

Here are some highlights of my interview* with Ms. Berkowitz:

What inspired you to write The Stubborn Fat Fix?

The inspiration for writing my book, The Stubborn Fat Fix, is not a “what” but rather “who”. My clients at The Center for Balanced Health, www.centerforbalancedhealth.com inspired me. The weight loss, the extra energy and the improved clinical outcomes they experience motivates me to share my nutritional approach with as many people who as possible.

What’s the basic premise of the book?

The premise of the book is to help people increase their awareness of their health, their eating habits, and the obstacles that interfere with achieving their weight and health goals. The book encourages people to eat real, unadulterated foods, balance poor eating with nourishing foods, balance rest with activity, balance stress with relaxation techniques, and take the necessary emotional and motivational steps that can help them achieve better health, have more energy, achieve their goal weight, and enhance their feelings of satisfaction.

What are some of the basic principles of The Stubborn Fat Fix:

The Stubborn Fat Fix encourages the use of healthy low carbohydrate diets to promote better eating habits, lower health risk factors and achieve weight loss. The book helps readers identify common medical and environmental barriers that interfere with their ability to lose weight. The diet, nutritional supplementation, exercise and relaxation techniques are encouraged to help repair readers’ underlying medical condition(s) and lose their “stubborn fat.”

Many experts and consumers may think your book sounds like a reincarnation of sorts of the high protein, low carb approach of the late, famous (and infamous) Robert Atkins Atkins-type book; how is your book different from what Atkins advocated?

I should only be so lucky to have as many people read The Stubborn Fat Fix as have read Dr. Atkins’ book. The Stubborn Fat Fix is similar to the Atkins diet in that it taps into the body’s natural ability to burn fat, burning fat from both food and body fat, as a prime source of energy. The difference is that my book:

*isn’t just a diet; it’s educational (for example, it teaches people how to read labels) and empowers people to make better food and lifestyle choices;

*it involves the reader in identifying “metabolic overdrive” and the medical conditions that make it difficult to lose weight but respond to a low carbohydrate nutritional approach; and

*it provides more carbohydrates for added flexibility, variety, fiber and antioxidants.

Can you briefly explain the two levels of carbohydrates your plan provides?

  • On Level 1, up to 50 grams of healthy carbohydrates come from 6-8 servings of fruit and vegetables (in line with the National Fruit & Vegetable Program and the new guidelines recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans–2 to 6 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day or the equivalent of 4 to 13 servings). Nutrient distribution as a percentage of calories is 10% carbs, 30% protein and 60% fat.
  • On Level 2, carbohydrates range from 51-150 grams (nutrients are distributed as a percentage of calories: 20% carbs, 30% protein and 50% fat). The carbohydrate level is determined and based on readers’ medical condition(s), age, gender and activity level.
  • On Level 1, ALL food groups can be included and estimated fiber intake ranges between 15-20 grams or 30-40% of total carbohydrate intake. On level 2, fiber intake ranges between 20 and 30 grams. Level one:

*teaches people how to transition from eating fewer carbohydrates to eating more (as carbohydrate servings are added, fat servings are lowered);

*allows for a built-in “indulgence” so people can “cheat” and still stay on plan; and

*details key lifestyle factors including exercise, stress reduction techniques and environmental factors to help support weight loss success.

The diet you advocate does contain many healthful foods, but it’s obviously not in line with current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. What would you say to those who support the science-based dietary guidelines for Americans and think your plan lacks in certain foods/food groups?

I’m not sure why there would be a presumption that my book “lacks certain food groups”. So first I’d ask if they actually took the time to read The Stubborn Fat Fix. If so, they would know that all food groups are included and the diet plan is supported by science (see below “science supporting low carb diets”).

Why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans does not include the existing science that supports low carb diets in its guidelines is a question you’d have to ask the committee. Nonetheless, it’s extremely concerning and very unfortunate for those who would benefit from this dietary approach and look to the governmental agency for guidance on a healthy eating plan. The Metabolism Society has written a peer-reviewed article appearing in the journal Nutrition, “calling the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to task for failing to consider recent scientific evidence in support of low carbohydrate diets,”  http://www.nmsociety.org/Default.aspx.

I believe The Stubborn Fat Fix is healthier than the dietary guidelines put forth by The 2010 Advisory Committee because low fat foods are not necessarily healthy. For example some low fat foods are eliminated on my plan because they are processed and commercially prepared items that add trans fats, corn syrup and other non-essential ingredients to make fat- free high-carbohydrate foods (cold cereals, fat free yogurt, pretzels, etc…) shelf stable and taste better. Yet, vegetables that are low in fat are, in fact, included on my plan because they are nutrient dense.

What would you like to tell the naysayers about your book–why should consumers read and follow your book, and why should experts support the ideas you promote in the book?

Consumers should read and follow the nutrition plan because:

*the book was written to be your “buddy” and to help support emotional and social barriers that get in the way of sticking to a diet plan;

*the recommended foods are real whole foods that taste delicious;

*it’s flexible, provides quick reference tips and is easy to incorporate as part of a healthy lifestyle;

*the food options are rich in vitamins and minerals, provide nourishing carbs that contain fiber and antioxidants, adequate protein and healthy fat to stave off hunger and provide health benefits;

*it explains why you may be having difficulty losing weight and provides insight into how to help get the results you seek

*after reading the book, readers will become educated “food” consumers.

Experts should read and follow the nutrition plan because:

*low carb diets have been given a bad “wrap”. While some may disagree with some low carbohydrate diets, experts should use their expertise to determine which of these nutrition plans you might consider for clients that may prefer this type of eating plan or may have improved clinical outcomes that occur when carbohydrates are lowered (ie triglycerides and  blood sugar) instead of ruling out all low carb diets. This open-minded approach will broaden your ability to help clients who may not be doing well on other diets;

*the percentage of carbs on The Stubborn Fat Fix is low because when higher carbohydrate food choices (15 g) are replaced with non-starchy vegetables (5g), the carbs are automatically reduced by 1/3. The Stubborn Fat Fix is based on whole foods, so 100 calorie snack packs are not recommended because of the ingredients. But something like celery with peanut butter is an option and would be similar in calories, lower in carbohydrates, contain heart healthy fat, provide more fiber and likely be more filling. Replacing conventionally-made toast (that contains too many preservatives like corn syrup) with either a side of spinach or a “recommended” bread will also lower carbs and certainly NOT make the daily plan on my diet less nutritious or less healthy than a low fat diet;

*the book goes beyond diet and attempts to guide readers on personal, social and other lifestyle issues that interfere with eating well. It outlines the importance of prioritizing dietary changes and making behavior changes. The book educates readers on how to stay motivated despite falling off plan, “how to” read labels and discusses many topics that any nutrition expert would believe imperative to attaining nutrition goals;

*according to The Position on Weight Management from the American Dietetic Association (J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:330-346), carbohydrate restriction “may help with diet adherence by reducing physiological hunger.” The position recognizes that initial concerns regarding cardiovascular risk factors with low-carbohydrate diets have not been found;

*nutritional genomics (5-7) and the metabolic impact of how macronutrients (fat and carbohydrates) are handled differently in the body with various levels of macronutrient consumption, personal food preferences and lifestyles and a greater capacity  to contribute to the successful treatment of obesity (8), type 2 diabetes (9) heart disease (10) and metabolic syndrome (11) are plausible reasons for registered dietitians and other health experts to consider evolving low carbohydrate diets like The Stubborn Fat Fix as an option in providing medical nutrition therapy;

*using the body’s natural lipolytic pathway (fat metabolism) is much safer than popping pills or undergoing surgery and is certainly better than not providing any alternative for conventional diets that are not working.

There is NO argument that lowering fat is the prudent thing to do when carbohydrate consumption is high. It is no secret that a calorie laden, high carbohydrate, high fat diet is at the core of obesity and many chronic diseases. However, when carbohydrates are lowered to the extent that the body is using a lipolytic pathway (fat metabolism) instead of carbohydrate metabolism, fat from ingested food and from the body’s adipose tissue is burned and used for energy much like in an endurance athlete. When it takes 30 minutes of aerobic exercise for someone to start burning a higher percentage of fat while following a high carbohydrate diet, fat is immediately burned upon initiating exercise when following a low carbohydrate diet.

What would you say is a reasonable weekly weight loss people should expect following the diet and do you consider this a safe rate of weight loss?

In my experience with The Stubborn Fat Fix, a reasonable or “safe” weight loss would depend on the person. I find that young obese males and females can lose up to 14 pounds in 2 weeks or on average 1 pound/day. They’re not dehydrated (we monitor for symptoms of dehydration), they don’t complain of muscle cramps (or have any complaints), they’re happy and are full of energy. So, for them, I believe their bodies are happy to not be schlepping around extra pounds. Others who have less weight to lose or women who are experiencing hormonal fluctuations or those who are taking certain medications may not lose more than 1/4 pound per week, and this is reasonable for them. So, as long as a client stays hydrated, follows the plan, and makes behavior changes, they themselves dictate the definition of a reasonable weekly weight loss.

1. Dansinger ML, Gleason JA, Griffith JL et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial., JAMA. 2005 Jan 5;293(1):43-53.

2. Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, et al. A randomized trial of a low carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med 2003, 348(21):2082-2090.

3. Krauss RM, Dreon DM. Low-density-lipoprotein subclasses and response to a low-fat diet in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Aug;62(2):478S-487S.

4. Bruce KD, Hanson MA. The developmental origins, mechanisms, and implications of metabolic syndrome. J Nutr. 2010 Mar;140(3):648-52.

5. Krauss RM. Dietary and genetic effects on low-density lipoprotein heterogeneity. Annu Rev Nutr. 2001;21:283-95

6. Williams PT, Blanche PJ, et al. Concordant lipoprotein and weight responses to dietary fat change in identical twins with divergent exercise levels 1  Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):181-7.

7. Krauss RM: Atherogenic lipoprotein phenotype and diet-gene interactions. J Nutr 2001, 131(2):340S-343S.

8. Layman DK, Evans EM, Erickson D, et al. A moderate-protein diet produces sustained weight loss and long-term changes in body composition and blood lipids in obese adults J Nutr. 2009 Mar;139(3):514-21.

9. Gannon MC, Nuttall FQ. Control of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes without weight loss by modification of diet composition. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006 Mar 23;3:16.

10. Shai I, Spence JD, Schwarzfuchs D, et al., Dietary intervention to reverse carotid atherosclerosis. Circulation. 2010 Mar 16;121(10):1200-8.

11. Volek JS, Phinney SD, Forsythe CE et al., Carbohydrate restriction has a more favorable impact on the metabolic syndrome than a low fat diet Lipids. 2009 Apr;44(4):297-309.

12. Accurso A, Bernstein RK, Dahlqvist A, et al., “Dietary carbohydrate restriction in type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome: time for a critical appraisal” Nutrition and Metabolism 2008, 5:9. 

13. Gardner CD . Low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and the combination of orlistat with a low-fat diet lead to comparable improvements in weight and blood lipids, but LCKD more beneficial for blood pressure. Evid Based Med. 2010 Jun;15 (3):91-2

14. Brehm BJ, Spang SE, Lattin BL et al., The role of energy expenditure in the differential weight loss in obese women on low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;90(3):1475-82.

15. Mavropoulos JC, Yancy WS, Hepburn J, et al. The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot study. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005 Dec 16; 2:35.

16. Ilic S, Jovanovic L, Pettitt DJ. Comparison of the effect of saturated and monounsaturated fat on postprandial plasma glucose and insulin concentration in women with gestational diabetes mellitus.Am J Perinatol. 1999;16:489-495.

*Since our interview, Ms. Berkowitz review article called “Low-Carbohydrate Diet Review : Shifting the Paradigm” was published in Nutrition in Clinical Practice (Jun, 2011;26(3):300-8).

Would love to hear your thoughts…

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You may be reaching for a chilled or bubbly beverage while you read this! But before you take that first sip, check out this terrific exerpt from the timely new book, Go UnDiet by Gloria Tsang, RD to help you make the most healthful (not to mention waist friendly) beverage selections:

 

What Happened to Water?

Our beverage consumption patterns have shifted markedly during the 20th century, and they continue to evolve. In his study,[i] Dr. Barry Popkin found an increase in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. Findings from the American Heart Association back this up as well. The AHA found that over the past 30 years, our total calorie intake has increased about 150–300 calories per day – and half of that increase comes from liquid calories, primarily in the form of sweetened drinks[ii]. In fact, across all age groups, from toddlers to senior citizens, we now drink more calorie-containing drinks than we drink water. In particular, adults aged 19–39 drink an average of 533 calories every day![iii] That’s equal to a whole extra meal, and sugar-sweetened drinks are the main contributor to that stack of extra calories.

So, what exactly is considered a sugar-sweetened drink? I’m sure you know that soda is sweetened, but we drink a lot of sweetened beverages that fall outside the soda category.

Sugar-sweetened Drink (per 8 oz.) Calories
Slurpee, 7-11, Coca-Cola Classic 65
Iced Tea, Arizona – Lemon 90
Sunny D Tangy Original 90
Coca-Cola – Regular 93
SoBe Energize Mango Melon 120
Arizona Kiwi Strawberry 120
Rockstar Energy Drink 140
White Chocolate Crème Frappuccino Blended Beverage, Starbucks 240
Strawberry Milkshake, McDonald’s 280
Milkshake, Cold Stone’s PB&C 670

Table 12. Calories in sugar-sweetened drinks

The worst part is, not only are these sweetened drinks high in calories, but those calories don’t give you a feeling of being full. That means that although you consume extra calories through your drinks, you don’t end up eating any less food – so your total calorie intake just keeps creeping up each time you drink a sweetened beverage.

So, think about why you’re consuming that beverage – is it really because you’re thirsty? If so, stick to drinks that actually re-hydrate your body without filling you up with sugar. Calorie-free tap water is a good choice, but tonic water with 125 calories may not be as good. A cup of green tea is a good choice, but a bottle of iced green tea with 200 calories may not be as good.

 

Go UnDiet Action #26: Un-drink your calories.

Drinks are meant to replenish your body’s fluids – so good drink choices are those that do just that, without a ton of calories.

References:

[i] Popkin BM. Patterns of beverage use across the lifecycle. Physiol Behav. 2010;100(1):4-9.

[ii] Johnson RK et al. for the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism and the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009; 120:1011-20.

[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006.

 

Source: Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, Copyright @2010, Gloria Tsang, RD, http://www.HealthCastle.com

What’s your favorite summer drink? And how do you keep your liquid calories in check?

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This recipe from Feed Your Family Right! How to Make Smart Food and Fitness Choices for a Healthy Lifestyle, is a tasty twist on traditional fajitas, and a great way to incorporate healthful omega-3 fats into your diet.

Total preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Makes 4 servings (4 fajitas)

Nutrition Information per serving:

Calories 300

Fat 17g

Saturated fat 2.5g

Cholesterol 80mg

Sodium 690mg

Carbohydrate 8g

Fiber 2g

Sugars 3g

Protein 29g

Ingredients:

1-1/4 pounds salmon filets cut into 1-1/2” wide slices

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tablespoons chipotle tabasco sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 clove minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

nonstick cooking spray

1 cup sliced onion

1 red bell pepper cut into 1” strips

lime wedges

4 whole wheat tortillas

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine salmon with lime juice, chipotle Tabasco sauce, extra virgin olive oil, cumin, chili powder, salt, garlic, and cilantro. Toss together well, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. When hot, add onions and peppers and cook until softened about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove onions and peppers and add seasoned salmon, skin side down.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until crisp, flip and continue cooking for additional 3 to 4 minutes until firm inside. Serve over peppers and onions. Garnish with lime wedges and serve wrapped in heated whole-wheat tortillas.

Cook’s Tip: This dish can also be served more traditionally alongside wild rice or pasta and a colorful vegetable medley.

Source: Feed Your Family Right! by Elisa Zied, MS, RD, with Ruth Winter, MS. Wiley, 2007.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win a VIP coupon for a free Gorton’s frozen fish item and a T shirt featuring the classic Gorton’s “man at the wheel,” you can do one of the following:

1. Follow me on Twitter. After your follow, please send me an email at elisa@elisazied.com with “Fish Giveaway” in the subject line.

2. Submit a Friend request to me on Facebook.

3. Provide a quote below about how you love to prepare fish, and/or how you plan to spend Father’s Day this year.

4. When you see me mention Fish Giveaway on Facebook, post a comment. If you see it on Twitter, RT it.

5. You may enter the contest more than once, and can possibly win more than one coupon/T-shirt. 5 of each will be given away.

6. Winners will be selected at random on June 10th, and all prizes will be mailed to arrive in time for Father’s Day. Good luck!

Go to Gorton’s web site for recipes and more information about how to work in at least 2 weekly fish meals per week as recommended in current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And what better time to start than on Father’s Day!

Full disclosure: Gorton’s was kind enough to send me some product samples and donate these prizes without compensation or expectation.


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This is a guest post by North Shore University dietetic intern Gary Kwo. Welcome Gary!

I can recall back in my early childhood years frantically rushing to get out of the house, often skipping breakfast, just to find myself out of energy and unable to focus by recess time. As it turns out, I’m not alone. Today, over 18 million students go to school hungry despite the proven benefits and health aspects associated with breakfast intake. The Breakfast in the Classroom program is a relatively new intervention that provides breakfast to students where they need it most–in the hub of learning and socialization, the classroom. In this day and age, when obesity among children is a major concern, how can the implementation of Breakfast in the Classroom help improve overall health and education?

Principals of various school districts, along with teachers of schools that have implemented this program, have reported that students are usually better behaved, are more motivated to attend school, and are more focused. Of course they are! When children rush to school, they often miss out on the most important meal of the day, and often feel like they’re always playing “catch up” with their peers. Simply providing students with as little as 10 minutes to socialize and eat during morning activities may very well improve their performance, contribute to better test scores, increase attendance, and decrease disciplinary problems.

Breakfast in the Classroom often complements academics in a variety of ways. Studies have shown that children who skip breakfast are at an academic disadvantage;  they have slower memory recall, make more errors, and are more likely to repeat a grade.  Children who eat breakfast often have more energy and are better able to concentrate; this can improve participation and academic scores. This often leads to improvement in standardized test scores which is also associated with increased school funding.

Providing Breakfast in the Classroom also grants a myriad of health effects. Skipping breakfast may contribute to obesity in youth. Children enrolled in breakfast programs have been shown to have significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than children who skipped breakfast. These healthy breakfast meals are nutritious and provide 25 percent of the daily RDA for many nutrients including protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D that children may not otherwise attain. In addition to providing essential nutrients at breakfast, Breakfast in the Classroom helps kids get into a healthy routine.

These days, children are increasingly out of shape, and consuming a less than healthful diet is a contributor. If we are to help kids make better choices—starting with choosing to have breakfast, especially a healthful one—they’ll be well on their way towards reaping the many educational and physical benefits of a well-balanced and healthful diet.

Learn more about Breakfast in the Classroom at BreakfastEveryDay.org.

Also, watch this NY1 TV clip about this innovative program.

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This was one of the great questions asked by someone in my son Eli’s 3rd grade class during during March’s National Nutrition Month. Here are my responses to this question and several others. Hope any of you parents out there will these will find this helpful when talking to your kids about nutrition.

How much nutrition do you need each day? EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT NUTRITIONAL NEEDS BASED ON THEIR AGE, HEIGHT, WEIGHT, AND GENES (GENES ARE IN YOUR BODY AND THEY MAKE YOU WHO YOU ARE; THEY’RE THINGS YOU’RE BORN WITH THAT COME FROM YOUR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS). MOST 5 TO 12 YEAR OLD KIDS NEED ABOUT 1,200 TO 1,800 CALORIES A DAY TO GET MOST IF NOT ALL THE NUTRIENTS THEY NEED.

How do you know which foods have good nutrition and which ones don’t? THE FOODS THAT HAVE THE MOST NUTRITION ARE THE LOWEST FAT, LOWEST SUGAR OPTIONS IN THESE CATEGORIES: FRUIT, VEGETABLES, GRAINS, LOW FAT DAIRY FOODS, PROTEIN FOODS, AND OILS. FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE FRUIT CATEGORY, AN APPLE IS A BETTER CHOICE THAN SWEETENED APPLE SAUCE, APPLE JUICE, OR DRIED FRUIT LIKE RAISINS. ALL OF THESE ARE HEALTHFUL-BUT YOU WANT TO CHOOSE APPLE SAUCE AND DRIED FRUIT THAT HAS NO ADDED SUGAR. ALSO, AN APPLE HAS LOTS OF FIBER AND APPLE JUICE DOESN’T—AND THAT’S THE REASON WHY APPLE JUICE ISN’T AS FILLING AS AN APPLE.

What are healthy foods other than fruits and vegetables? OTHER HEALTHFUL FOODS INCLUDE LEAN PROTEIN FOODS (EGGS, LEAN MEATS AND SKINLESS, WHITE MEAT POULTRY, BEANS AND PEAS, LOW FAT DAIRY PRODUCTS, NUTS AND SEEDS AND NUT BUTTERS, AND OILS LIKE CANOLA AND OLIVE OIL.

How many meals should you have in a day? ALL KIDS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST 3 MEALS AND 1 OR 2 HEALTHFUL SNACKS EACH DAY. SKIPPING MEALS IS A NO NO BECAUSE YOU WON’T HAVE ENERGY AND YOU’LL END UP EATING TOO MUCH THE NEXT TIME YOU EAT.

How many calories should a kid have per day? 5 TO 12 YEAR OLDS SHOULD HAVE ABOUT 1,200 TO 1,800 CALORIES PER DAY. MORE ACTIVE AND BIGGER KIDS CAN AFFORD TO HAVE MORE CALORIES THAN LESS ACTIVE, SMALLER KIDS. EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT. IF YOU’RE GROWING CONSISTENTLY ON GROWTH CHARTS (WHEN YOU GO TO YOUR YEARLY CHECK UP, YOU CAN ASK YOUR PEDIATRICIAN IF YOU ARE), THEN YOU’RE PROBABLY GETTING ENOUGH CALORIES TO HELP YOU GROW WELL AND TO STAY AT A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT.

How many calories are in popcorn? How often should you have it? 1 CUP OF POPCORN—AIR POPPED—HAS ABOUT 30 CALORIES; OIL-POPPED OR MOVIE THEATER AND EVEN SOME MICROWAVE POPCORN CAN HAVE ABOUT 60 CALORIES PER CUP. YOU CAN HAVE UNSALTED AIR-POPPED POPCORN OR POPCORN MADE WITH A LITTLE CANOLA OR VEGETABLE OIL AS A SNACK OFTEN (3 CUPS OF POPCORN = ONE PORTION OF WHOLE GRAINS).

What should you have more of, fruits or vegetables? FRUITS AND VEGETABLES ARE BOTH IMPORTANT TO EAT, BUT I USUALLY RECOMMEND THAT KIDS EAT MORE VEGETABLES THAN FRUIT. I RECOMMEND YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF VEGETABLES AT LUNCH AND AT DINNER, AND TRY TO HAVE SOME AS PART OF YOUR SNACKS AFTER SCHOOL (FOR EXAMPLE, RAW CARROTS, PEPPERS, AND CELERY STICKS/STRIPS OR OTHER RAW VEGGIES LIKE BROCCOLI OR CAULOFLOWER.) YOU CAN ALSO HAVE SOME LOW SODIUM VEGETABLE JUICE IF YOU LIKE THAT, THOUGH STICK TO NO MORE THAN ½ TO 1 CUP. YOU CAN ALSO HAVE SOME HUMMUS OR OTHER BEAN DIP AS PART OF A SNACK (YOU CAN HAVE IT ON A WHOLE WHEAT PITA, TOASTED, ON WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS OR A RICE CAKE). HUMMUS AND BEAN DIP COUNT AS VEGETABLES (AND ALSO COUNT AS PROTEIN FOODS).

Should you have unlimited fruits? EVEN THOUGH FRUITS ARE WONDERFUL—THEY HAVE FIBER AND TONS OF NUTRIENTS, THEY STILL HAVE CALORIES. SO IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE ABOUT 1 TO 1.5 CUPS OF FRUIT A DAY (THAT’S LIKE 1 BANANA AND ½ CUP BERRIES). IF YOU HAVE UNLIMITED FRUITS—EVEN THOUGH THEY’RE HEALTHFUL—YOU WON’T LEAVE ENOUGH ROOM FOR ALL THE OTHER HEALTHY FOODS IN YOUR DIET. AND YOU MIGHT GET MORE CALORIES THAN YOUR BODY NEEDS TO BE HEALTHY AND STRONG.

How much vegetables do you need each day? MOST KIDS AGED 5 TO 12 SHOULD AIM FOR ABOUT 1.5 TO 2 CUPS A DAY OF VEGETABLES.

Is an Avocado a fruit or vegetable? AN AVOCADO COUNTS AS A FRUIT AND AS OIL. A FRUIT IS THE OVARY OF A FLOWER. ALL FRUITS—LIKE AVOCADO AND TOMATOES—CONTAIN SEEDS OF FLOWERING PLANTS. BUT UNLIKE MOST OTHER FRUITS, AVOCADO ALSO CONTAINS  HEALTHY MONOUNSATURATED FATS.

What vegetable is the healthiest? THERE’S NO REAL “HEALTHIEST VEGETABLE”—ALL OF THEM PACK IN LOTS OF KEY NUTRIENTS YOUR BODY NEEDS. BUT I BELIEVE BEANS ARE AMAZING VEGETABLES BECAUSE THEY’RE THE ONLY FOODS THAT CONTAIN BOTH COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES (THEY KEY FUEL FOR OUR BRAINS AND CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM) AS WELL AS PROTEIN (OUR BODIES NEED PROTEIN TO GROW AND FIX MUSCLES AND HAVE SO MANY OTHER IMPORTANT JOBS IN OUR BODIES (OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP OF A LOT OF PROTEINS!)

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? JUST LIKE AVOCADO, IT’S A FRUIT!

Which food group is Gatorade in? IT’S NOT REALLY IN A FOOD GROUP! IT’S MADE OF WATER AND SUGAR. THE CALORIES COUNT AS “EXTRA CALORIES,” AND KIDS CAN HAVE ABOUT 120 TO 160 EXTRA CALORIES A DAY FROM ADDED SUGARS (SUCH AS SODA, CANDY, GATORADE, FRUIT PUNCH, COOKIES, CAKE, CHOCOLATE AND OTHER SIMILAR FOODS) AND SOLID FATS (BUTTER, SOUR CREAM, CREAM SAUCES AND THINGS LIKE THAT.)

How much sugar do gummy bears have? 11 GUMMY BEARS HAVE ABOUT 100 CALORIES AND 15 GRAMS OF SUGAR. THAT’S ABOUT HALF THE ADDED SUGAR KIDS SHOULD HAVE IN AN ENTIRE DAY!

What food group is chocolate in? CHOCOLATE IS NOT IN ANY FOOD GROUP! IT COUNTS AS “EXTRA CALORIES” (BEYOND THE CALORIES YOU’LL FIND IN FOODS FROM THE HEALTHY FOOD GROUPS) AND HAS FEW NUTRIENTS. KIDS CAN AFFORD ABOUT 120 TO 160 “EXTRA CALORIES” FROM SWEETS AND TREATS EACH DAY. ONE REGULAR SIZED CHOCOLATE BAR (LIKE A HERSHEY BAR) HAS ABOUT 210 CALORIES.

How many times a day or week should you have sweets? I ENCOURAGE MY SONS TO HAVE UP TO ONE A DAY (AND I TRY TO DO THE SAME). WE TRY TO KEEP OUR PORTIONS TO NO MORE THAN ABOUT 100-150 CALORIES A DAY. SOME FAMILIES LIKE TO SAVE TREATS FOR ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK OR FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS. I THINK THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO KEEP TREATS SMALL (2 OR 3 SMALL COOKIES, ONE SMALL DONUT, ½ BAG OF CANDY, ONE SODA, ONE SMALL CHOCOLATE BAR) AND TO MAKE SURE YOU EAT ALL THE HEALTHY FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND OTHER FOODS YOUR BODY NEEDS TO GROW WELL EACH AND EVERY DAY.

How much oil should I have per day –a lot or a little? THINGS LIKE OLIVE OIL AND CANOLA OIL, MAYONNAISE, AND OILY SALAD DRESSINGS COUNT AS “OILS.” A GOOD RULE OF THUMB IS 3.5 TO 5 TEASPOONS A DAY. 1 TEASPOON OF OIL EQUALS: 1 TEASPOON OF OLIVE OIL OR CANOLA OIL OR OTHER VEGETABLE OIL OR MAYONNAISE; 1 TABLESPOON OF LIGHT OR LOW FAT MAYONNAISE; 2 TABLESPOONS LOW FAT SALAD DRESSING. AVOCADO, NUTS AND SEEDS, NUT BUTTERS AND OLIVES ALSO COUNT AS SOME OILS. 

What category is ice cream in? ICE CREAM COUNTS A LITTLE BIT AS DAIRY/MILK BECAUSE HAS SOME CALCIUM FROM THE MILK, BUT IT MOSTLY COUNTS AS “EXTRA CALORIES” –IT HAS LOTS OF FAT AND ADDED SUGAR.

Are eggs for breakfast good for you? EGGS ARE TERRIFIC! THEY CONTAIN PROTEIN TO FILL YOU UP, AND THEY HAVE A LITTLE VITAMIN D (THAT HELPS YOUR BODY ABSORB CALCIUM). EGGS DO CONTAIN CHOLESTEROL, FAT, AND SATURATED FAT, SO YOU DON’T WANT TO HAVE MORE THAN 1 EGG A DAY OR ABOUT 7 EGGS A WEEK. THAT INCLUDES EGGS USED TO MAKE FOODS (LIKE CAKE, MUFFINS ETC) AND EGGS THAT YOU’LL EAT FOR BREAKFAST.

Is homemade French toast good for you? IT DOES CONTAIN EGG, AND IF YOU USE WHOLE WHEAT BREAD, IT CAN ALSO GIVE YOU HEALTHY WHOLE GRAINS. BUT JUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO PUT TOO MUCH BUTTER AND SYRUP ON IT!

If you eat a sandwich for lunch should you have any more grain for the rest of the day? IF YOU HAVE WHOLE GRAIN BREAD (LIKE WHOLE WHEAT BREAD), THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST ONE MORE WHOLE GRAIN (3 CUPS POPCORN, 5 SMALL WHOLE GRAIN CRACKERS LIKE TRISCUITS®, ½ CUP BROWN OR WILD RICE OR WHOLE WHEAT PASTA. MOST KIDS CAN HAVE UP TO 4 OR 5 GRAINS A DAY.

Which is better for you sardines or tuna? THEY’RE BOTH GREAT FOR YOU, BUT SARDINES HAVE MORE HEALTHY OMEGA 3 FATS AND LESS MERCURY THAN TUNA. MY BEST ADVICE IS TO MIX UP THE TYPES OF FISH YOU EAT SO THAT YOU GET ALL THE BENEFITS WHILE LIMITING THINGS LIKE MERCURY (WHICH WE WANT TO LIMIT IN OUR DIETS). MOST KIDS WHO EAT TUNA SHOULD AIM FOR NO MORE THAN 6 OUNCES A WEEK.

How much meat should you have in one day? MEAT IS PART OF THE “PROTEIN” GROUP. KIDS SHOULD AIM FOR 3 TO 5 OUNCES A DAY OF FOODS IN THE PROTEIN GROUP. 1 OUNCE EQUALS 1 OUNCE BEEF/POULTRY/FISH, 1 EGG, ½ OUNCE NUTS OR SEEDS, 1 TABLESPOON PEANUT BUTTER, ¼ CUP BEANS (BEANS ALSO COUNT AS VEGETABLES).

Can eating badly make you die earlier? EATING WELL AND HAVING JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FOOD–NOT TOO MUCH AND NOT TOO LITTLE CAN HELP YOU BE HEALTHIER, FEEL BETTER, AND HELP PREVENT DISEASES AND HEALTH PROBLEMS THAT PREVENT YOU FROM DOING THINGS YOU WANT TO DO IN LIFE. YOUR BODY NEEDS TO BE TAKEN CARE OF AND FUELED PROPERLY JUST LIKE THE ENGINE OF A CAR– YOU HAVE TO PUT IN THE HIGHEST QUALITY FUEL TO GET THE BEST PERFORMANCE. IF YOU EAT WELL AND STAY ACTIVE, YOU’LL HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF LIVING A LONG AND HEALTHY LIFE.

Is there a question your kids have asked you about nutrition that you could not answer? Leave your question below–you may see it answered in an upcoming blog or article.

For more information about how to eat healthfully, or to sign up for my free e-newsletter, THE ZIED GUIDE, please sign up on the right side of my home page at www.elisazied.com.

 

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Are you looking to curb mindless eating and slash your overall calorie intake painlessly? And I mean with zero pain?

The tip below (not to mention so many others) from the new book, The Skinny Rules: The 101 Secrets Every Skinny Girl Knows, by registered dietitian Molly Morgan, may help you do just that. Of course being ‘skinny’ is not something I feel people should aspire to (though admittedly, during the course of my life, I too have succumbed to wanting to be more slim—especially when I was an overweight teenager and young adult.) I also believe that no matter how hard someone works to lose weight and get in shape, he or she won’t necessarily become thin, skinny, or slim from their efforts—genes and so many other variables factor in to what our ultimate body shape and weight are and will be. That being said, Morgan’s tips throughout her book are common-sense with a twist, and can help all of us–especially those who have trouble keeping their weight down–eat and live more healthfully and reap the many benefits of doing so.

Here’s an excerpt of my favorite tip from The Skinny Rules…..

Skinny Rule #15: Watch Your BLTs

No, not bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches… bits, licks and tastes! This helpful tip comes from a Skinny cousin of mine, Kristie Kinderman: Every bit, lick and taste adds up quickly when you’re watching your calories. So think twice (and even three times) before you have that extra bite, lick or taste!

If you want to challenge yourself, try this fun little exercise. Keep a scrap of paper in your pocket for an entire day and every time you take and extra bite, lick or taste of something, jot it down. At the end of the day try to estimate how many extra calories piled up thanks to those little BLTS. To estimate how many calories are in a small amount of food, go to www.nutritiondata.com. It is an amazing online database of nutrition facts that lets you see how many calories are in different serving sizes of various foods. To start, go to the web site and in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, type in a food name and then click Search. You will quickly be able to see how many calories are approximately in a bit, lick or taste. Choose the one-ounce serving size from the drop-down menu for the food you’ve selected and it will give you a rough idea of how many calories were in that taste. Of course, depending on how many bites, licks and tastes of the food you had, the amount of calories will differ. And while I’m not calling you a big mouth, the calories may also vary depending on the size of your mouth!

This Skinny rules is especially important because people don’t take the calories from those BLTs into account, but they do add up! Maybe it’s a few extra bites while you’re preparing dinner, followed by the lick of a spoon when you’re cleaning up or a small taste off your friend’s plate at a restaurant. Each of these seemingly innocent and perhaps even mindless acts adds calories. Controlling calorie intake is a delicate balance and nixing the extra bites, licks and taste can and will make a difference in your weight.

Check out some approximate calories that come from just a small 1-ounce bite, lick or taste:

Lick of peanut butter: 165 calories

Lick of frosting:  116 calories

Bite of Cake with frosting: 103

Few Bites of French Fries: 93

Taste of Chicken Wing: 60

Excerpted with permission from The Skinny Rules, by Molly Morgan, RD, CDN.

If you’d like to enter to win a free copy of The Skinny Rules (generously donated by Molly herself), share your thoughts about this post below; or share a tip that has helped you keep weight off/prevent weight gain. A winner will be announced on Wednesday, May 11th. (When you leave a comment, please email me your email address (with “book giveaway” as the subject line) at elisa@elisazied.com (p.s. your email address will only be used to contact you if you’re the winner and for no other purpose.)

Full disclosure: I requested and was provided with a free copy of The Skinny Rules by the author, Molly Morgan.

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Going gluten-free–avoiding foods that contain this certain type of protein–has become a popular trend over the last few years. While many who cut gluten out of their diets do so because of sensitivities or because they’ve been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, others have begun to do so because they think it’ll help them cut calories and lose weight, or even get healthier.

The popularity of The G-Free Diet by The View co-anchor and GMA contributor Elizabeth Hasselback*, and the estimated $2.6 billion in sales of ‘G-Free’ foods in the U.S. in 2010 (not to mention 30 percent growth between 2006 and 2010) show us that gluten-free foods may become, in many ways, more of a rule than an exception for many.

Because May is National Celiac Awareness Month, and because many ask me about the gluten-free trend, I asked my colleague and friend Rachel Begun, a registered dietitian, to share some information about Celiac Disease as well as her personal experiences as someone with the condition.

EZ: What exactly is Celiac Disease (CD) and how common is it?

RB: According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac Disease (CD) is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition that affects both children and adults. When people with CD consume foods that contain gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that damages the small intestine and doesn’t allow food to be properly absorbed. Even small amounts of gluten in foods can affect those with CD and cause health problems. Damage can occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.

About 1 in 133 Americans have CD, but of those, only an estimated 3 percent are diagnosed; that means about 97 percent of people with the condition walk around undiagnosed, not knowing they have the condition and not getting the proper dietary and lifestyle treatment they need to manage the condition. Symptoms of CD vary among individuals, but if left untreated it can lead to:

o   Nutrition deficiencies and their associated conditions, including anemia and osteoporosis

o   Neurological disorders

o   Liver and thyroid conditions

o   Infertility (men and women)

o   Depression

o   Intestinal lymphomas and other GI cancers

o   Other autoimmune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis

A strict gluten-free diet is the only treatment for CD–easier said than done since gluten is omnipresent in our food supply, cross contamination in restaurants is highly prevalent, and standardized gluten free labeling on food packaging has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.)

EZ: What exactly is gluten, and what foods contain it?

RB: Gluten is the common name for the proteins found in specific grains that are harmful to people with CD. Gluten is found in all forms of wheat (including durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn and faro) and in rye, barley and triticale. All of these must be eliminated in the diet of someone with CD. And although oats do not specifically contain gluten, they can become contaminated in the manufacturing process; I encourage people with CD to consume only certified gluten free oats.

Question (EZ): When were you diagnosed with CD?

Answer (RB): I was diagnosed in 2009.  I am a classic example of a person with CD who was misdiagnosed for many years. Like so many others, I was told I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Question (EZ): What were your symptoms?

Answer (RB): My whole life I’ve had a “bad stomach” and suffered repeatedly with symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, cramping and bloating.  Then my symptoms started getting much worse.  I was extremely lethargic all the time, sleeping too much and experiencing what I now know to be “brain fog.”  When I had three stomach virus-like episodes within a month, I knew there was something else going on. I wasn’t eating dairy, so I knew it wasn’t lactose.  I began an elimination diet and, when I put gluten back in my diet, I noticed the more severe symptoms returned.  That’s when I went to a GI specialist.  Initial blood tests showed I was deficient in iron, B12 and carnitine.  My doctor then tested me specifically for CD and that’s when I found out I had the condition.

Question (EZ): I understand that eating out can be a real challenge for those who have to eliminate certain foods–and such pervasive ones like that including bread and pasta. Having eaten with you, I know that having a conversation with the waiter or the chef at a restaurant, is often needed (and not so bad–especially if they’re cute!) What do you and recommend others with CD do when they eat out?

Answer (RB): Whenever possible, I call the restaurant ahead of time to let them know that I have CD and that I have to completely avoid coming into contact with wheat, rye, barley and oats.  Prior to going to the restaurant, I review the menu so I can get an idea of the items I would like to have and which are generally less likely to have gluten or be contaminated so that I can focus my questions on these items. At the restaurant, I clearly communicate to the waiter that I have to avoid gluten and when ordering I ask very precise questions to know all of the ingredients in the dishes I am interested in, as well as exactly how they are prepared and whether they can be made with sterilized cookware, utensils and surfaces.  For example, eggs and omelets are generally gluten free, but not if they are made on the same grill on which pancakes are made, which is common in diners. In such a situation, I would ask that they be prepared in a pan that has been cleaned. If the waiter or chef cannot confirm what ingredients are in a dish or how it is prepared, I err on the side of caution and don’t order it.  There have been times when I’ve (politely) walked out of a restaurant due to not feeling comfortable about eating safely.

Question (EZ): How do you eat at home?

Answer (RB): Eating at home is much easier, as I know exactly what goes into my food.  While I’ve always enjoyed cooking, I do so much more now than before being diagnosed.  My husband is really supportive and has offered to be completely gluten free in the house, but I don’t want him to have to miss out and encourage him to keep some of his favorite gluten-containing items on hand. To make sure I am safe:

  • the counters are always wiped down after a gluten-containing item is prepared
  • we have two toasters and two sets of pots and pans, one for gluten free foods and one for gluten-containing foods
  • we do not share jarred and spreadable items, like butter, jams, nut butters and hummus; instead, we purchase two jars of the same product and print out a gluten free label to put on one
  • gluten-containing items are placed on the bottom shelf of the pantry so that they don’t contaminate gluten-free items

This sounds very restrictive, but it’s really not.  It’s more about getting into a routine and sticking to it. In fact, we have been able to explore cooking with so many new foods and probably eat a wider variety now than before I was diagnosed.

Question (EZ): Do you think people who don’t have CD or certain sensitivities should go gluten-free? What are the perks/perils of doing so?

Answer (RB): There are some people without CD or non-Celiac gluten sensitivity that swear they feel better without gluten in their diet.  If that’s the case, then good for them and they should avoid gluten.  I say that with a big caveat, however.  I think taking gluten out of the diet is often confused for taking highly processed gluten-containing foods out of the diet and, yes, anyone taking processed foods out of the diet and replacing them with wholesome, natural foods is going to feel better.  That isn’t an effect of removing gluten from the diet, it is the result of removing low nutrient foods from the diet!  For those taking gluten out of the diet (both processed and natural foods) because they think it is a magic bullet for losing weight or being healthier, that just isn’t so.  Unlike their gluten-containing counterparts, many gluten free products on the market aren’t enriched with iron and B-vitamins, are made with starch fillers devoid of fiber and trace minerals, and contain more fat, sugar and calories.  The perks come when people begin adding more naturally gluten-free foods like fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean cuts of meat and poultry, fish, beans, nuts and seeds into their diets. The perils come when the diet is heavy in highly processed gluten-free foods.

Question (EZ): What are your favorite resources for those with CD to help them better understand and get a better handle on the condition in the real world?

Answer (RB): There are so many great gluten free resources, but the ones I use on a regular basis include:

Books

The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Living – Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University

Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide – by registered dietitian Shelley Case

The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide – Triumph Dining

Magazines

Gluten Free Living

Living Without

Informational/Advocacy Websites

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (disclosure: I am an Ask the Dietitian expert and consulting dietitian for NFCA)

Celiac Disease Foundation

Gluten Free Recipe Websites

Silvana’s Kitchen

Elana’s Pantry

Gluten Free Girl and the Chef

EZ: Can you share a favorite recipe?

RB: Here’s a delicious one (if I say do say so myself) for ChocoCocoNut Cookies. It shows you that you can be gluten-free and still eat deliciously and healthfully.

ChocoCocoNut Cookies

These cookies are gloriously rich and satisfying without containing any refined grains, gluten, dairy or refined sugar. A great way to indulge while feeling good about what you put into your body.
These cookies are gluten free and dairy free.

Ingredients:

2 cups walnut pieces

1⁄2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 egg whites, whisked until frothy

1/8 cup plus 3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1⁄4 cup coconut flakes

1⁄2 cup large semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a cookie sheet. Grind the walnut pieces and cinnamon in a small food processor to a flour-like consistency. Mix the walnut cinnamon mixture with the eggs, honey and vanilla extract to make a batter. Mix in the coconut flakes. Batter should thicken. If desired, toss in chocolate chips. Drop equal-sized portions of batter onto cookie sheet. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

Makes 12 cookies.

About Rachel Begun, MS, RD, CDN:

Rachel Begun, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and accomplished food and nutrition communications professional.  She provides food and nutrition marketing, communications, education and spokesperson expertise to food companies, retailers and foodservice/hospitality providers, as well as to schools, camps and health organizations. Rachel also provides gluten-free/allergy-friendly counsel to private clients and educates the public via speaking opportunities and writing, including her own blog, The Gluten Free RD.

*I have not read the book The G-Free Diet, and my mention of it here is not meant to be an implied endorsement.

If you have celiac disease, please share your tips for eating and living in the real world.

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Did you know that, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids aged 8 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day on ‘entertainment media’—watching tv or movies, listening to music, and playing video games. They also were found to spend another 2 hours texting or talking on the phone.

Unfortunately, more sedentary behavior (and less active play) usually means a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Screen-Free Week is an initiative that kicks off today, April 18, to promote more healthful lifestyle behaviors for busy parents, teachers, and those who work with and/or care for kids to find active alternatives to screen time.

Here are some screen-free gems–tips and resources to help you help the next generation move more and sit less. Even if you don’t completely turn off the screens in your home or workplace, you can replace some of the time you’d otherwise spend in front of a screen to be more active and reap the many benefits physical activity can provide.

*WeCan! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition), a science-based national education program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), helps children ages 8-13 stay at a healthy weight. WeCan! offers several materials to help caregivers and families encourage children to become more active. Some tips to get active include:

*Walk your children to school –I do this as much as possible and find it a wonderful way to connect with my kids);

*Go for a half-hour walk instead of watching TV –you can walk home from school or take a half hour walk with your family right before or after dinner);

*Play with your kids at least 30 minutes per day –you can do this all at once, or divide it into 2 15 minute periods if that works with your schedules—some is better than none, and taking this time to simply play is a great way to take a break during an otherwise hectic day);

*Dance to music with your kids –one of my favorites—AND we often laugh a lot when we dance because my husband and I look so ridiculous when we shake our booties.)

For more GET ACTIVE tips, go here.

To reduce screen time:

*Set screen time limits. Create a house rule that limits screen time to two hours every day.

*Talk to your family. Explain to your kids that it’s important to sit less and move more.

Find more tips to REDUCE SCREEN TIME, go here.

How do you and your family spend your active time? Share your tips for cutting screen time and moving more.

Want to receive my free weekly newsletter, The ZIED GUIDE? It highlights new blogs, articles, segments and videos and those from the past week mentioned on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up here or email me at elisa@elisazied.com and write “newsletter” in the subject line.

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Earth Day fell this past week on April 22nd, 2011. To celebrate today and every day, here are Jackie Newgent’s “8 Eco-Rules” and tips for simply and painlessly becoming a greener eater-or an “ecotarian:”

1.     Prepare plant-based meals. Try to include a fresh fruit or vegetable in every recipe. Fill half of your plate with produce when possible.

2.     Be an energy-wise cook. Let small appliances rule. A toaster oven works just like a regular oven, but more energy efficiently-using only about half of the energy of a conventional oven. And due mainly to faster cooking times, the microwave oven can reduce energy use by about 2/3 (maybe more!) compared with the conventional oven.

3.     Eat by season. The United States is a big place, so aim to mostly use produce that’s in-season in your own local area (or, better yet, your own garden!) for the greenest fruit and veggie experience. If a fruit or vegetable is available at your local farmers’ market, that’s a good sign of seasonality.

4.     Enjoy the great taste of fresh foods naturally. Try “earth-style” on for size, too. Use every edible produce part-skin, seeds, and all-whenever possible to create less waste and add eco-flair. Make sure to scrub skins and outer peels well first. And when you want to boost flavor of your cuisine, reach first for fresh ingredients, like grated citrus zest, fresh herbs, even mushrooms (or truffles, if you’re lucky!).

5.     Go organic and eco-conscious when you can. Going organic is an investment into your health-and the health of the planet. It means fewer pesticides and other possibly toxic chemicals end up in the food that you eat-and in the surrounding ecosystem and environment as a whole. To help you decide which foods are most important to choose wisely, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen produce list.

6.     Buy locally when logical. To get to your table, foods use fossil fuels, contributing to climate changing pollution. Keep this in mind: The average distance a food needs to travel to get to a farmers’ market is less than 60 miles. That’s quite a difference from what the average food travels from farm to plate … about 1500 miles!

7.     Practice the 4R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle. Buy and use only what you need. Wash and reuse what you can-as long as it’s safe to do so. Consider other ways to use something other than how it was originally used. (For instance, a used can of soup may be repurposed as a chopstick holder or pencil container.) Recycle everything allowable … but don’t try to recycle what’s not recyclable. (Ask your local municipality for recycling guidelines for your area.)

8.     Be realistic. Being a 100% sustainable eater is not sustainable. Find your own sustainable “sweet spot.” If you think you’re about 75% green, shoot for 80% as your next goal. Small steps do make a difference.

How do you go green in your kitchen?

Source: Jackie Newgent, RD, CDN, culinary nutritionist and author of Big Green Cookbook.

Want to receive my free weekly newsletter, The ZIED GUIDE? It highlights new blogs, articles, segments and videos and those from the past week mentioned on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up here or email me at elisa@elisazied.com and write “newsletter” in the subject line.

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Today Show nutritionist Joy Bauer was kind enough to share two scrumptious recipes–one for Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and one for Frozen Hot Chocolate–from her recent cookbook, Slim and Scrumptious. Can you say Yum?!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

“My kids jump at the chance to order chicken lettuce wraps from restaurant menus, so I was thrilled when I perfected this scrumptious version that I can make at home for less. It has all the punch of the original but with a lot fewer calories, less fat and sodium, and still a hearty dose of protein. Loaded with vegetables and chicken and spiced with ginger, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce, and rice vinegar, it’s sure to please kids and adults alike. When I discovered how a manual food chopper made quick work of chopping all the veggies, I was amazed — and a true convert to this handy kitchen device.  (Carefully pulsing the ingredients in a food processor works equally well.)  Be sure you use soft, pliable butterhead lettuce, such as Boston or Bibb, for the lettuce cups.  I promise, everyone will have fun scooping the chicken mixture into the lettuce and eating this out of hand — it makes for a perfect kid-friendly meal!” ~Joy Bauer

4 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely diced

3 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

2 tablespoons grated or finely minced fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground chicken (at least 90% lean)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup bottled Chinese plum sauce

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon hot chili paste, such as sriracha (or to taste)

¼ cup unsalted roasted cashews, chopped

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish (optional)

1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce

1.     Liberally coat a large skillet with oil spray, and preheat it over medium-high heat.

2.     Add the carrots, celery, bell pepper, water chestnuts, scallions, ginger, and garlic.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until veggies soften slightly, about 5 minutes, adding a tablespoon of water at a time as necessary to prevent scorching.

3.     Reapply oil spray if necessary, and add the ground chicken to the skillet.  Cook until the chicken is no longer pink, breaking the meat into a fine crumble with a wooden spoon as it cooks.  Season with the salt and pepper.

4.     Add the plum sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and chili paste and stir to coat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until heated through.

5.     Remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the cashews and cilantro.  Allow mixture to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

6.     Clean the lettuce and break off 12 individual leaves (trim away stem end of leaves if they are tough).  Fill each lettuce cup with roughly ½ cup of the chicken mixture.  Garnish with additional cilantro if desired.

Serves 4.  Serving Size: 3 lettuce wraps

Nutrition Information

Calories – 298

Protein – 27 g

Total Fat – 9 g

Saturated Fat – 2 g

Cholesterol – 80 mg

Sodium – 610 mg

Carbohydrate – 34 g

Fiber – 5 g

Frozen Hot Chocolate

“Serendipity is a stylish ice cream parlor on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that has been in business for decades and is known for its over-the-top Frozen Hot Chocolate. By my own calculation, each overflowing glass of Serendipity’s “fro-ho” packs in 925 calories, 48 grams of fat, and 100 grams of sugar.  (Clearly I was slurping this up before making a career in nutrition!)  I was determined that this cookbook should include a slimmed-down version of this NYC classic…and here it is!  This sweet, frothy treat will satisfy your chocolate cravings for only 150 calories and with virtually no fat.  Don’t forget to try the variations, as they’re equally indulgent (the peppermint version tastes like mint chocolate chip ice cream!).” ~Joy Bauer

½ cup chocolate syrup

1 cup nonfat evaporated milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups ice cubes

Reduced-fat whipped topping or dark chocolate shavings (for garnish; optional)

1.     Combine the chocolate syrup, evaporated milk, vanilla, and ice in a blender and blend until completely smooth.

2.     Pour into glasses, and garnish with a dollop of whipped topping or a sprinkling of chocolate shavings if desired.

VARIATONS:

Mexican Hot Chocolate: Add ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate: Substitute ¼ teaspoon mint extract for the vanilla extract.

Serves 4.  Serving Size: 1 generous cup

Nutrition Information

Calories – 150

Protein – 5 g

Total Fat – 0 g

Saturated Fat – 0 g

Cholesterol – 3 mg

Sodium – 85 mg

Carbohydrate – 32 g

Fiber – 0 g

Source: Slim & Scrumptious: More Than 75 Delicious, Healthy Meals Your Family Will Love by Joy Bauer.

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