Bet you never expected to find an article on bowel health during the holidays! But let's be honest, at this time of year, most of us are thrown from our regular routines and this can affect how things are going (or not!) in the GI department. Here are a couple of ideas:
1.) Move your body. Evening parties and social gatherings may interrupt your exercise regimen. Regardless of your current commitment to physical activity, you may need to shift your schedule and make an even greater effort stay physically active. This will help your stress levels and your bowels.
2.) Don't forget to include whole fruits and vegetables at every meal. Fruit on cereal, chili for lunch, and roasted veggies at dinner are essential to keeping things flowing as they ought to. :) Too many baked goods and processed sweets will have you backed up in no time.
3.) Drink plenty of fluids. Keep a water bottle with you and try to avoid caffeinated beverages. They may give you the burst of energy you need to make it through the day but can also be dehydrating. Hot herbal tea in the evening can be particularly helpful if you are feeling constipated.
4.) Try Magnesium. If a healthy diet and exercise isn't doing the trick, you may want to consider 250 mg of magnesium in supplement form. Just don't go overboard or you may find yourself racing for a bathroom at an inopportune moment. Now that would be a bummer for your holiday shopping...
As a nutritionist in Cambridge, I refer my clients to check out Cambridge Naturals for their supplement needs. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and they have just about everything under the sun.
Here's to wishing you a holiday season that is nothing but smooth sailing!
Are you sick of the articles and news reports talking about holiday weight gain? I am. But in my profession, it's a conversation that I simply can't avoid. And to be realistic, most people are pretty stressed out about the amount of food-related celebrating this season brings.
If you are looking for simple tips and tricks to avoid holiday weight gain, google it. There are a bizzilion blog posts and articles written on the topic. But what I will try to offer you is a re-cap from the newsletter article I wrote and sent out a week or two ago. In fact, I can sum it up in one word, perspective.
Thanksgiving is a single day. And most of us will likely eat more than we normally do on that day and that's ok. I personally feel that that is part of "normal eating." The problem truly lies in the fact that holiday celebrating seem to span several days, weekends, and even weeks!
So as the holidays approach, it may be helpful for you to remember that holiday celebrating should be enjoyed. But seek to balance out those days of special foods rather than letting it bleed into every other day that follows....
Another thing to consider is that there are many other things than food to indulge in this season: counting your blessings, reconnecting with friends and neighbors, reaching out and giving to those around you. Do your best to take care of your body with lots of rest, plenty of movement, and days of balanced eating.
I live in Cambridge and have found myself surrounded with friends that follow a vegetarian/vegan diet. Their rationale for doing so varies from person to person: health benefits, decrease damage to the environment, reduce animal suffering, etc.
While I don't follow a strict vegetarian lifestyle, I am a huge advocate of replacing some of your animal-based food choices with plant-based ones. Eating a largely plant-based diet is associated with huge health benefits in the prevention of developing many chronic diseases as well as increasing the nutritional quality of your diet.
The Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group is an excellent resource if you are interested in articles, research, websites, books, and cookbooks on the topic of vegetarian eating.
If you are interested in eating more plant-based meals, but don't know where to start, the Meatless Mondays website is a great place to go. The rationale behind the website is that by going meatless once a week, we can radically improve our health and health of the planet. Check it out.
A couple of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks include:
- Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers
- Vegan with a Vengeance & Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Here is one of my favorite recipes that I've made lately, courtesy of Veganomicon. I made it last week and served it on a whole grain bun and couldn't wait to eat the leftovers. Delicious!
prep time: | cooking time: 35 minutes start to finish | makes 4 to 6 sammiches
From Veganomicon. Every vegan cookbook needs a sloppy joe recipe with the name changed around a bit, right? Well, this is ours. Those sloppy joes we loved as a child but made with lentils. Snobby Joe thinks he's better than all the other Joes because he doesn't have any meat.
Just a pot or two
1 cup uncooked lentils
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (wet mustard)
4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns
Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more.
Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through.
Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can't wait. I like to serve these open faced, with a scoop of snobby joe on each slice of the bun.
Today, theNew York Times magazine is all about food. One of the articles, written by Michael Pollan caught my eye. It's about food rules. Basically, his premise is that culture might have more to teach us than the government or trained nutritionists.
Pollan says "If we can’t rely on the marketers or the government or even the nutritionists to guide us through the supermarket woods, then who can we rely on? Well, ask yourself another question: How did humans manage to choose foods and stay healthy before there were nutrition experts and food pyramids or breakfast cereals promising to improve your child’s focus or restaurant portions bigger than your head? We relied on culture, which is another way of saying: on the accumulated wisdom of the tribe."
So I'm interested to know- do you have food rules that you live by? If yes, what are they? Do you think food rules can be helpful or harmful? Pollan solicited for readers food rules. Check out this "food rule slideshow" to see some of the responses.
Interestingly enough, I was planning to blog later on this month about a fantastic book called "The Rules of Normal Eating" by Karen Koenig that has some great suggestions for helpful food rules. Check back later on in the month for my book review.
I do have some pretty simple food rules that I try to live by:
1.) Eat breakfast
2.) Eat when hungry, stop when full as much as possible
3.) Eat foods I crave
4.) Eat fruits and vegetables everyday
What are your food rules?
So I have a surprising number of people ask me about eggs. It seems that a fair number of you like them but are afraid that their high cholesterol content will have a negative impact on your cholesterol. As it turns out, the newest research shows that it's actually excessive intake of saturated fat, rather than cholesterol that negatively affects risk factors (i.e. high blood lipids, cholesterol, and blood pressure) for the development of cardiovascular disease.
Here's a quick little abstract from the Journal of American College of Nutrition which states that "The most recent American Heart Association guidelines no longer include a recommendation to limit egg consumption, but recommend the adoption of eating practices associated with good health." In fact, there just doesn't seem to be good data that eating a lot of eggs directly increases cholesterol levels.
Currently, the AHA recommends 6 or fewer eggs per week. This article provides a list of cooking tips to consider if you are worried about your heart health. Remember, it's the overall pattern of your diet that matters most! It's not about obsessing over one food in isolation.
But I say, let's focus on the positive. Eggs offer some really fantastic nutritional benefits. It's a great source of protein, fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A,D,E,K), and they are super cheap! So I say scramble a couple of eggs with your favorite veggies and serve it up with some whole grain toast. Here's how I serve up my eggs at home:
1.) Saute whatever veggies I have in the house (peppers, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, onions, etc) in some olive oil, black pepper, red pepper, and garlic for 5 minutes (or so).
2.) Whisk together an egg or two with some skim milk and season salt.
3.) Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the cooked veggies.
4.) Scramble until desired consistency (I never can make a beautiful omelette so I just end up scrambling them up).
5.) Toast some whole grain bread and serve your eggs with hot sauce, salsa, ketchup, or plain!
I’m reading a book for my book club called “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. You’ve probably heard of it. Professor Wansink has made his food lab at Cornell famous from such experiments including stale popcorn and endless soup bowls, to name a couple.
Essentially, he studies the subconscious cues which encourage all of us to overeat. In his book he provides a multitude of suggestions to outsmart ourselves. One of these suggestions I thought was particularly interesting.
Apparently, in the Japanese culture people eat until they are “no longer hungry.” Yet we all know from experience that most Americans eat until they feel full, overfull, and often stuffed. The concept of eating until “no longer hungry” has a phrase “hara hachi bu” which essentially means “eating until you are just 80% full.”
So as you dive into your next meal, pause half way through. Can you envision your stomach and what 80% full might look like? Take a step further. Could you stop eating at 80%? See if you can take this idea on as a challenge. It’s not easy and it takes some practice. But it feels pretty good to walk away from the table satisfied but not stuffed.
Clients often ask me for restaurant suggestions for healthy dining in Harvard Square. One resource that many of you might find helpful (regardless of location) is called The Healthy Dining Finder. Essentially, you type in your zip code, price range, and type of restaurant you are looking for. And the website produces restaurants and menu suggestions based on your search criteria. The only downside is that most of the participating restaurants are chains, so it won't cover all of the restaurants in your area.
My favorite cheap and healthy restaurant choice in Harvard Square is Felipe's Taqueria. You can get a whole wheat veggie burrito (filled with freshly grilled vegetables) for under $5. With whole grains, tons of veggies, and black beans it's filling and packed with wholesome nutrition. I highly recommend it.
Have you ever wondered what "normal" eating looks like? I was recently forwarded this article on "normal eating" and wanted to share it with all of you. What do you think normal eating looks like? Here's the article from the NY Times:
Today, the mental health site PsychCentral.com asks an interesting question: What does it mean to eat “normally?”
Given that 60 percent of the population is overweight, our view of normal eating has changed over the years. For some eaters, “normal” means eating fast food on a regular basis. For others, “normal” means regular failed efforts at calorie restriction in an endless cycle of yo-yo dieting.
The article cites a broad definition of normal eating by registered dietitian Ellyn Satter. Here are some of the highlights:
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life
The PsychCentral post offers a lengthy exploration of what it means to eat normally.
So what do you think of Ms. Satter’s definitions of normal eating? And how do you define eating normally?
If you are interested in this topic and want to read more, check out a book by Karen Koenig called "The Rules of Normal Eating." It's fantatstic.
I recently had the opportunity to co-lead a weekend workshop with a Boston-based organization called Feeding Ourselves, which aims to help people learn how to feed themselves based on internal cues (i.e. hunger and fullness) rather than for emotional or social reasons. The Feeding Ourselves approach combines psychological awareness with behavioral techniques for establishing a positive relationship to food. Through this experience and through a lot of the counseling that I do, I’m often reminded that a lot of people have a hard time determining whether or not they are actually hungry!
One important way to establish balanced eating is to try to eat for physical reasons most of the time (shoot for 80%). And an easy way to determine if you are actually hungry is by using THE APPLE TEST. The idea is that you choose a neutral food, like an apple (something you like to eat, but wouldn’t be tempted to eat it unless you were hungry). And the next time you are reaching for a bit to eat but aren’t sure if you are actually hungry, ask yourself if you’d eat an apple (or another neutral food). If the answer is no, you probably aren’t hungry.
I wanted to let me local readers know that I will be teaching a new class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education this Fall. Here are the course details:
Food and Mood
by Marci Anderson
Do you feel tired and sluggish even when you get enough sleep? What about insatiable snack cravings that you just can’ t kick? Learn how diet, meal timing, and hormones interact to influence your mood, energy levels, and appetite.You’ ll discover simple changes that you can start making today that can significantly improve body and brain function.You’ ll also receive sample menus and recipes to take home. With the right meal mix and timing, you can start feeing more satisfied and energized today! Limited to 16.
Sec. 01: 1 Monday, 5:45-8:45 pm. Sep. 21, 56 Brattle St. | $60
Course Code: FDMD–1
Starts on: September 21, 2009
Ends on: September 21, 2009
If you'd like to register, you can do so on the CCAE website or by calling them at 617-547-6789.
If you have any friends or family members that may be interested, please send them this information!