Tag Archives: weight management

Are you a healthy weight?

Q: What is a ‘body mass index’ and how do I calculate mine?

A: Body mass index, or BMI, is calculated using weight and height and often correlates with body fatness. Therefore, your BMI can indicate your risk for health problems associated with being underweight or overweight. Calculate your BMI here.

BMI < 18.5

Underweight

BMI 18.5 – 24.9

Healthy weight

BMI 25 – 29.9

Overweight

BMI 30 – 39.9

Obesity

BMI ≥ 40

Extreme obesity

Two-thirds of the adult U.S. population is currently overweight or obese.  Excess weight drastically increases your risk for chronic diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. If any of these conditions run in your family, it is particularly important to manage your weight.

Alongside BMI, waist circumference is also an important indicator of disease risk. BMI cannot differentiate between varying body compositions, but waist circumference can. Abdominal obesity – a so-called “apple” body shape – is especially dangerous. The fat stored centrally, known as visceral fat, is more swiftly released into the bloodstream, contributing to an increase in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and a higher heart disease risk. Fat around the thighs, hips and legs also does this, but at a much slower rate. In addition, abdominal fat promotes inflammation in the body, which has been linked to chronic illnesses. [For reference, a “high-risk” waist circumference is ≥ 35 inches for women and ≥ 40 inches for men. Use a tape measure to assess your risk: Keep it level with your navel, parallel to the floor and do not hold your breath while measuring.]

Even if your weight and body type are putting you at high risk, there’s still good news! Modest weight loss of just 5-10% of your body weight significantly improves health, control of diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol. And if you’re overweight, fitness still matters! A study by Lee et al (1999) demonstrated that fit, obese men had a dramatically lower all-cause mortality risk as compared to unfit, lean men! Now that’s a reason to exercise!

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Filed under Medical Conditions, Weight loss

Benefits of Fiber

Q: What exactly is ‘fiber’ and why is it so good for you?

A: Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate, or a string of sugar units held together by bonds that human digestive enzymes cannot break. There are two types: soluble and insoluble fiber.

Food Sources

Soluble fiber: barley, oats, oat bran, rye, fruits (especially apples and citrus), beans, vegetables, seeds

Insoluble fiber: Brown rice, fruits, beans, seeds, vegetables (cabbage, carrots, brussels sprouts), wheat bran, whole grains

While fiber does not provide energy, it has many other beneficial effects:

1. Lowers blood cholesterol: Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol and the risk of heart disease by several mechanisms. (Note: This is why General Mills is able to claim that eating whole grain oat Cheerios can help lower your cholesterol.)

2. Maintains bowel function: Insoluble fiber speeds up the transit of food through your system, while soluble fiber slows it down.

3. Assists blood glucose control: Soluble fiber slows the absorption of glucose from the intestine into the blood stream, thereby preventing a spike (and crash) in blood glucose after a meal. This can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

4. Promotes weight management: Fiber makes you feel full and lessens hunger

5. May defend against colon and rectal cancer: Scientific studies are mixed, but insoluble fiber speeds up the removal of cancer-causing agents from the colon, while resident bacteria in the colon ferment soluble fiber, producing a beneficial compound that may help colon cells resist injury.

Recommended Intake: Since most fiber-rich foods supply a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber, recommendations are given without regard to type. The American Dietetic Association suggests 20 – 35 grams of fiber daily, which is about twice the average intake. That said, don’t overload on fiber and make sure to increase fluid consumption as you gradually increase fiber intake.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are among the best sources of fiber! Also, remember that fiber supplements are not necessarily substitutes for whole, fiber-rich foods.

Check the nutrition facts on the back of products to find out how much fiber is in one serving! Here are some examples:

½ cup whole grain barley – 3g fiber

½ cup instant oatmeal – 2g fiber

1 slice whole wheat bread – 3g fiber

1 slice white bread – 1g fiber

½ cup cooked brown rice – 2g fiber

½ cup cooked white rice – less than 1g fiber

¾ cup (2 oz) whole wheat penne pasta, dry – 6g fiber

¾ cup (2 oz) regular penne pasta, dry – 2g fiber


1 medium apple (with skin) – 3g fiber

1 medium pear (with skin) – 5g fiber

½ cup blackberries – 4g fiber

½ cup strawberries – 2g fiber

1 medium orange – 4g fiber

½ cup orange juice – less than 1g fiber

½ cup American grapes – less than 1g fiber


½ cup lentils – 8g fiber

½ cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – 5g fiber

½ cup black beans – 7.5g fiber


½ cup cooked broccoli – 2.5g fiber

1 medium artichoke – 10g fiber

1 medium baked potato (with skin) – 4.5g fiber

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Filed under Fruits and Vegetables, Grains, Heart Healthy Choices, Medical Conditions, Weight loss

Rise & Shine: It’s Breakfast Time

Q: I’m trying to lose weight. Should I skip breakfast?

A: No! You should always aim to eat breakfast whether or not you’re trying to lose weight! Breakfast gives you the fuel to start your day off right. During the night, your body goes 8-12 hours without food, so breakfast replenishes dwindling blood sugar reserves. People who do not eat breakfast feel more tired, irritable and less focused.

Eating breakfast revs up your metabolism. When you don’t eat for long periods of time, your cells are hungry and your body naturally slows down your metabolism to store energy and burn only what’s absolutely necessary. If you want to lose weight, however, you want to speed up your metabolism. Another way to boost your metabolism is by exercising!

Evidence shows that eating breakfast can reduce food intake throughout the entire day. You’re more likely to snack on sweet and fatty foods and overload at lunchtime if you skimp on breakfast.  In fact, people who miss this meal are more often overweight than breakfast eaters.

Additionally, research has shown that children and young adults who skip breakfast have a significantly lower intake of most vitamins and minerals when compared to those who consume breakfast.

Breakfast is arguably the easiest meal of the day to prepare, so even if you have to eat it on the run, that’s OK! Pack a small bag of trail mix or a piece of fruit to eat when you get to school or work.

Some quick & easy breakfast suggestions:

-1 cup whole grain cereal with skim milk, topped with sliced fruit

-Toasted whole grain English muffin with 1 Tbsp peanut butter

-1 packet instant oatmeal, made with skim milk or water

-Fruit and yogurt smoothie (Check out my recipe on TheHealthyDiet.com)

-1 ready-to-eat whole grain waffle, topped with 1 Tbsp jam or 1 tsp soft margarine

-1 egg, scrambled with chopped vegetables on a piece of whole wheat toast

-1 cup low- or non-fat yogurt mixed with berries

 

To drink, enjoy a cup of coffee, a glass of skim milk or half a cup of juice with your breakfast!

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Filed under Meal Tips, Weight loss

Better than butter?

Q: Is there a difference between butter and margarine?

A: Yes! A quick look at the nutrition facts tells us there is a big difference between butter and margarine! The debate focuses on the types of fat found in these products and stick butter has the most saturated fat per tablespoon (7g), giving it the most unhealthy characteristics.

When it comes to eating a heart healthy diet, you want to minimize intake of artery-clogging trans-fat and saturated fat, both of which can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Keep trans-fat consumption to a minimum and saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories. (That’s 20g saturated fat for a daily 2,000 calorie diet!)

Years ago, hard margarines were made with unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenation is the process of taking unsaturated (healthier) fats and adding hydrogen atoms to obtain characteristics of a saturated fat. For example, hydrogenated oils are firmer and easier to spread, but this causes the loss of health benefits associated with unsaturated fats. Trans-fatty acids also form during hydrogenation and pose a double risk to heart health by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Thanks to better technology, soft margarines and spreads can now be made from a blend of unhydrogenated oils, such as soybean and canola oils, which are mostly unsaturated and, therefore, more heart healthy than butter.

While whipped butter has less saturated fat per tablespoon that stick butter (see below), soft margarine and spreads are clearly the way to go to save on calories and saturated fat grams! The bottom line? Check the ingredient list to make sure the product is not made with partially hydrogenated oils and look for spreads that are trans-fat free and low in saturated fat!

Butter, stick (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (7g saturated)

Breakstone’s whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 7g total fat (4.5g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 50 calories, 6g total fat (3.5g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes soft margarine (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (3g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, soft (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)

Fleischmann’s Original Soft Spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, original soft spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)

*Smart Balance Original Buttery Spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 9g total fat (2.5g saturated)

*Promise buttery spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)


*Made with no hydrogenated oils

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Filed under Fats & Oils, Heart Healthy Choices