Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ratings on the Most Popular Diets!

I love this ratings article from U.S.News on the top 20 most popular diets and how healthy they are. The panel of experts included registered dietitians, physicians, and others who specialize in healthy eating behaviors and food science.
I found it interesting that only two of the diets worked for the thousands of people surveyed who had tried the diets: Weight Watchers (which received a 4.4 out of 5 rating, and was ranked #6 for healthy diets), and a modified form of the Atkins diet called Eco-Atkins (ranking #15 and rated 3.1 out of 5 starts).
Click on the name of any diet and it brings you to a page showing how it rates for ease of following, support, nutrition, balance, and other factors.
The number one diet: The DASH diet plan, formulated for preventing high blood pressure. This diet is high in fiber, potassium and calcium; low in sodium and fat; composed of very nutritionally dense foods. It only received 3 stars for how easy it is to follow, but is healthy for virtually anyone who wants to lose weight, control diabetes, control hypertension, and eat for a healthy heart.

Visit this article and do some research before you start your next eating plan!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Will I Get Through Halloween Without Eating Candy?

This is a tough time of year if you're someone who likes to watch your intake of calories. It's only the beginning of being surrounded by tempting treats: People inviting you to parties, bringing in leftover candy from trick-or-treaters, leading up to more and more cookies and candies from Thanksgiving through Christmas. What's a sensible person to do?
Personally, I buy candy I don't like. I'm unusual in the sense that I'm not a big fan of chocolate. For me, buying Snickers fun-size bars or Milky Ways is not going to tempt me when they're around for the kiddies. If you are a chocoholic, what kind of candy doesn't interest you? Maybe candy corn does nothing for you (one of my favorites!), or the popular Sponge-Bob Crabby Patties turn you off. Choose whatever bags of candy you find least interesting so the temptation won't be there.
If you do have candy in the house that tempts you, ask someone to hide it for you so it will be out of sight. I usually hide treats from my family members in the potholder drawer where I know they will never venture. They'll know a place you won't look, too, like ... well, I don't want to give away any secrets!
So, the first step: Buy candy you aren't interested in, and second, have someone else be "keeper of the candy" until Halloween is over.
Have leftovers? Bring them to your workplace or, better yet, donate them to your local food pantry where they will toss a few pieces in with every family's grocery bag.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"I Can't Afford to Eat Healthy" Might Just be Another Excuse

As a registered dietitian, "I can't afford to buy healthy food" is a response I hear all too often from people who have diets too high in calories, fat, sodium, or some other nutrient that should be consumed in moderation. I would be tempted to be empathetic if they were just 20 pounds overweight and not 50, or if they didn't spend so much money on cigarettes, alcohol or other "extras" like acrylic nail manicures and tattoos.

When the patients I saw in a hospital a few years ago regularly told me, "I can't follow this low fat/low sugar/low salt [fill in the appropriate healthy diet] prescription because I rely on assistance from food stamps/the local food pantry/the soup kitchen," I set out to rectify the situation in my own town: I signed up to volunteer at my local food pantry.

The other volunteers at the food pantry made me feel welcome and were excited to show me around. I explained that I wanted to help re-organize the standard food list to include special foods for people who had to follow diets for their medical conditions. "They should be able to have healthy options to choose from, like canned fruit packed in its own juice instead of in heavy syrup, low-sodium canned soups, and whole grain products," I informed them. 

"Oh, we have those," the staff told me. "All they have to do is let us know what they're looking for and we're happy to provide the alternative selections. We regularly stock cereals without added sugar, whole grain breads and rice, low sodium products and sugar-free beverages."

Through my weeks volunteering over a period of two years, I seldom found anyone who would ask for "special diet food". There were signs up announcing the presence of a Registered Dietitian to help guide the patrons for healthier choices depending on their diet needs, and occasionally someone would have questions about losing weight or lowering their blood pressure. For the most part, though, the staff would be frustrated at the poor choices made by the customers. While there were a range of varieties available (people couldn't be forced to take brown rice over white, fruit juice over punch, or chicken over hot dogs), the vast majority of our disadvantaged citizens opted for convenience over health. When local farms would drop off cases of fresh vegetables, they would pile up during the week until the staff took them home on the weekend in lieu of tossing them out because they grew rotten. "But I don't want to have to peel vegetables and cook them," the clients would complain. "I just want something I can open and serve." I'm not sure why they were too busy to cook, since the majority were unemployed.

Recently in the hospital where I work I had a 250-pound woman explain why she couldn't lose weight: "I can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables," she said.  I asked, "Can you afford canned fruit and frozen vegetables?" and she said, "yes." Okay, next excuse?
By the way, she also refused to stop buying her cans of cola because she 'had' to have at least 3 a day.

Just because you can get dollar meals at fast food restaurants doesn't mean "food that is bad for you is cheaper". How about foregoing soda and chips and using that money to buy fruit and vegetables? How about making choices that make sense, like drinking skim milk instead of fruit punch or beer?

Not being able to afford "healthy" food is a poor excuse for being overweight. Fresh food that is not processed and can be prepared to be low in calories, sodium and sugar does not have to be expensive; no one is suggested you buy organic milk or salmon steaks when non-fat dry milk and canned tuna provide similar nutrients and cost less than half as much.

Need help planning healthy meals on a budget? There are plenty of resources available. Don't have a computer to look these up? Your local library will let you sign on there for hours. Start with the USDA's "Thrifty Meal Plan" download which provides shopping tips, recipes, and menus on a budget.

Then think about what you can trade off to make purchases that are better for you. That's what will save you money in the long run.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Diet Products Really Work?

Do some research before you buy (and try) those herbal supplements, fat blocker pills, or painful injections that promise to melt the fat away. Here is a page on the FDA's site with specifics about diet products so you can find all the answers with just one click! click here