Good Nutrition Advice We All Know and Often Ignore

Even simple advice can be difficult to follow if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Here’s how to bridge the gap between knowing and doing.

It’s no surprise that optimistic diet and nutrition advice is magnetic. Who wouldn’t be attracted to promises of longevity, beauty, health, or a svelte body, often touted by the hundreds of competing programs out there? While there are many different paths to healthy eating and weight loss, the best diet advice tends to be the simplest: Eat more plants, keep portions in check, drink plenty of water, and so on. One would think that when presented with basic advice like this it would be easy to follow through with healthy choices, but as a nutritionist who has worked with clients for more than three decades, I know that reality is much more complex.

One reason healthy efforts fail is that so many programs ignore important lifestyle factors. While many diets focus on what you eat, behaviors also have to be taken into consideration to shine a light on how you eat and how much you eat. Studies have even shown us that whom you eat with could impact your intake. In my experience, the gap between knowing what the right choice is and actually doing it typically arises when general advice, although promising in theory, does not fit into a person’s life. I’ve spent countless hours listening to my clients’ needs, and I’ve seen what does work. While everyone is different, here are four things I believe are essential for healthy eating as well as advice for taking these principles beyond this page and onto the table.

Seek out the power of plants. We have been told to eat at least nine fruits and vegetables each day. This advice is well-intentioned as produce provides important nutrients that help ward off such diseases as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and gastrointestinal ailments, just to name a few. But in my experience, even vegetarians can have trouble packing in nine servings on a daily basis. Instead, I’ve found that clients have just as much success when they make a conscious effort to incorporate fruits and vegetables into at least two meals or snacks each day. Once you get into the habit, you’ll easily find ways to slip more vegetables into your diet. Add a few slices of tomato and arugula to your sandwich or start your dinner with vegetable soup. You can even drink your produce by having a smoothie as a late-afternoon snack, such as my sweet potato smoothie, which is loaded with potassium, fiber, and protein.

Cut back meat consumption. A diet heavy in meat tends to attract extra pounds and could also welcome high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. More recent studies have even linked excessive meat consumption to certain forms of cancer. It’s clearly time to cast aside the “eat your meat and leave the potatoes” mantra that you may have heard from your parents, but going cold turkey may not be the answer. While vegetarian diets go in and out of style, programs that eliminate entire food groups tend to be less sustainable. A more realistic action would be to designate one or two nights for meatless meals. A key to doing this is to tap plant-based sources of protein, such as tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and grains. Quinoa is a seed that contains an excellent protein profile weighing in at 24 grams of protein per cup (the same amount in a 3-ounce burger!). Plant-based proteins also provide flavor, texture, fiber, and a host of vitamins and minerals that you cannot get from meat. By incorporating more plant foods into your diet, you’ll experience the benefits of a healthier body weight, improved cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of cancer.

Keep portion sizes and mindless eating in check. Your body requires only a certain amount of food, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out just the right amount that’s needed. With today’s technology there are many diet apps and calorie trackers available, but instead of living by the numbers, I’m in favor of learning to eat mindfully. This means understanding what your body needs versus what you want. This is something we all know in theory, but when stress or temptation strikes it can be hard to discern between necessity and desire. One helpful approach is to think about how much food your stomach is meant to comfortably hold. Most of us don’t realize that the stomach is only the size of two fists put together. Picture filling a bag that size with a glass of wine, a few pieces of bread, an appetizer, a main dish, a dessert and a cappuccino, and you realize the typical restaurant dinner is probably bigger than that bag could comfortably house. Use this image of a two-fisted pouch, so to speak, when eyeing how much food is on your plate. You can read more simple advice for weight-loss success on my website.

Be smart about carbs. It is true that some carbs, like the ones in cookies, pastries, and croissants, often travel with fat and sugar as its companions. These foods could cause weight gain and should be included on days that are more “special” and not routine. However, attempting a low-carb lifestyle can do yourself a disservice. Whole-grain breads, starches, and grains, in general, should not be avoided, since they provide a wealth of nutrients and help you feel satisfied. A more realistic approach is to fill a quarter of your plate with the right carbs such as grains and starches. The right carbs in the right portions can be satiating while simultaneously providing that comforting feeling you crave. Ancient grains like quinoa, millet, and amaranth are easily available and simple to prepare, and they can boost your intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and iron. Starches such as baked potatoes are also good sources of nutrients. A baked potato with skin provides twice the potassium of a banana, and it’s a great source of fiber. Top with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese and chopped veggies to make this side a loaded main dish.

By Bonnie Taub-Dix
Published on November 3, 2014

The Best New Science for Weight Loss in 2017

Each year, hundreds of studies are published examining the most effective ways to lose weight, keep it off, and feel healthier and more energetic. We scoured this research from the last year to find the most reliable and most realistic ways for you to reach your healthiest weight in 2017. Luckily, these five strategies are not only easy, but also delicious, as you’ll see from the recipes below. Try one or all of them, and you’ll be on your way to your healthiest year yet.

1. Eat plant protein.

Plant protein has been gaining popularity in recent years, and now there’s even more reason to enjoy it. In a study published last fall in Food Nutrition Research, researchers fed 43 men three different breakfasts: a high-protein patty made of legumes, a high-protein patty made of veal and pork, or a low-protein patty made of legumes. The men who ate the first patty reported feeling fuller, and they ate 95 to 105 fewer calories at lunch. Researchers say the combination of fiber and protein in the legumes helped provide those feelings of satiety. This isn’t to say that plants are necessarily “better” than meat, but rest assured, you won’t starve if you eat plant-based meals. Try this recipe featuring chickpeas that a friend of mine shared with me a decade ago. You can modify it how you like, adding raw onion instead scallions, various of your favorite spices, apple cider vinegar instead of umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums) vinegar—make it your own!

Chickpea Tuna

Ingredients

  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1/4-1/3 cup small diced celery stalk
  • 1-2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar (this makes it taste more like fish)
  • Spices to taste, optional (black pepper, cayenne, thyme; Himalayan sea salt) 

Directions

  1. Place chickpeas in a food processor and pulse two or three times to roughly chop. The texture will resemble tuna if you keep the chickpeas in bigger pieces.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse two or three times more to incorporate.
  3. Serve on bread with lettuce like a tuna sandwich or as a dip with crackers.

Yield 3-4 servings

2. Add probiotics to your diet.

Although a lot has been said about the connection between probiotics and gut health, we’re now learning how they may play a role in weight management, too. A study published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe at the beginning of this year reported that our gut bacteria may help or hamper our diet efforts. Scientists found that people consuming the standard American diet have less diverse gut microbiome. This means that when you switch to a lower-calorie, plant-heavy diet, it may take longer to reap the rewards. So don’t give up if you don’t see the benefits of a better diet right away.

In an unrelated, meta-analysis of 25 studies, Chinese researchers discovered a connection between taking probiotics and reduced BMI and body weight. The best results seem to happen when you take more than one strain of probiotic for more than two months.

The research on probiotics, such as fermented foods and supplement pills, and weight loss is just beginning, but I am an enormous fan of probiotics. Even if you don’t lose weight, what you oƟen will lose is inches. The number on the scale may be the exact same, but suddenly your pants will zip up easier because probiotics improve digestion and reduce gas and bloating. Each person has to experiment with probiotics, as certain strains are good for certain people at certain times. Our needs change, and so should the probiotics we use.

Related: The Profound Health Benefits of Probiotics

3. Embrace healthy fat.

As much as we all keep saying fat doesn’t make you fat, some people still fear this macronutrient. However, in a study published in The Lancet, researchers put more than 7,000 men and women on one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, or a low-fat diet. Everyone lost weight, but those in the olive oil group lost about a pound more than the low-fat dieters. They also gained less belly fat. The researchers say these results show it’s best not to restrict the intake of healthy fats if you are looking to maintain your weight.

Healthy fats are known to balance blood sugar and slow down digestions, which keeps you more satisfied. That can help you eat less overall and lose weight. Include some healthy fat in every meal. Try my go-to vinaigrette. This is another recipe you can customize. You can add Dijon or whole-grain mustard. For those who like sweet dressings, you can add a teaspoon of honey, and you can use lemon in place of vinegar (you’ll need the juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon).

Mason Jar Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic, apple cider vinegar, or red wine vinegar
  • Seasonings to taste (granulated garlic, fresh thyme, fresh oregano) Himalayan sea salt to taste Black pepper to taste

Directions

Place all ingredients in a mason jar. Shake well. Keep in the refrigerator.

Yield 6-8 servings

4. Keep your metabolism going strong.

The jaw-dropping weight loss results seen on NBC’s hit show “The Biggest Loser” can make it seem like ultralow-calorie diets and hours of intense exercise is the only way to drop pounds, especially if you want to slim down fast. Don’t believe everything you see on TV: Scientists followed up with 14 “Biggest Loser” contestants and found that, aƟer six years, they had regained 68 to 90 pounds and their metabolic rate (how many calories they burned at rest) had slowed.

It’s proven that the long-lasting, less-stressful way to lose weight is slow and steady. No matter what diet you choose to follow, if you follow it consistently and exercise regularly, rather than doing anything extreme, your metabolism will balance itself out and stay there. So be inspired by “The Biggest Loser”, but don’t try this at home.

5. Don’t worry about your genes.

If you have the fat gene, also known as FTO, it doesn’t mean you are destined to carry excess bodyweight for life, according to a study published in British Medical Journal in September. Newcastle University researchers analyzed eight studies that looked at how effective different weight-loss methods (diet, exercise, drugs) are for people with the FTO gene. They found that the gene didn’t affect how much weight someone lost, no matter what method they used to slim down.

I’m not surprised by this study. Truth is, we can down-regulate many of our genes. That means if you have a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce the production of certain genes. This gives you some power and control over your weight fate—to a degree. No matter what’s in your family medical records, focus on creating good-for-you habits and being the author of your own health history.

By Dr. Janet Zand Published on February 6, 2017

  

Proof That Hiking Makes You Happier And Healthier

The Huffington Post  | By Abigail Wise
Posted: 07/18/2014 8:21 am EDT Updated: 07/21/2014 6:59 am EDT

John Muir was onto something when he said, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." Hikers battle bug bites, blisters and bruises for the sake of overcoming a challenge and enjoying some quality time with nature. But along with the snow-capped mountain tops and ocean views come an abundance of mental and physical perks.

Here's what hikers can teach the rest of us about leading a happier, healthier life.

Hikers are creative.
Forget the caffeine. Those looking for a brainpower boost need not look further than the closest trail. Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. The authors of the study also point out that the results may have as much to do with unplugging from technology as they do spending time outside. "This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving," David Strayer, co-author of the study, tells the Wilderness Society.

Plus, it's not only the lack of technology and surplus of trees, sunshine and fresh air that contribute to this creativity boost in trail blazers. Researchers from Stanford University's Graduate School of Education found that walking gets the creative juices flowing far more than sitting.

Hikers are seriously fit.

Hitting the trail works out your body as much as it does your brain. Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you're carrying. Hiking is a great way to get a serious workout without putting too much pressure on your joints. "Trails are often softer on joints than asphalt or concrete," Caroline Stedman, a seasonal Park Ranger at northern Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, tells The Huffington Post. "So I find myself feeling less stiff and creaky after a hike than a jog down a sidewalk."

If you head for the hills, weight loss results are even better. Not only are you burning some serious calories, but altitude itself has also proven a weight loss ally.

Plus, tramping through the trails on a regular basis decreases blood pressure and cholesterol. Logging cardio in the form of hiking can lower blood pressure by four to 10 points, and reduce the danger of heart disease, diabetes and strokes for those at high-risk. And don't lose heart if you're not out of breath on the way back. Both the ups and downs have benefits when it comes to lowering cholesterol, but hiking downhill is two times more effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.

Hiking heals.
Some research suggests that the physical benefits of hiking extend far beyond cardiovascular health, and may even go as far as to help cancer patients recover. In astudy published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine researchers measured oxidative stress (thought to play a role in the onset, progression and recurrence of cancer) rates of women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer before and after hiking. The study found that long distance hiking trips may improve the antioxidative capacity, which helps fight off disease, in the blood of oncological patients. Another study showed that breast cancer survivors who exercised regularly -- many in the form of hiking -- believed that physical activity complemented their recovery from cancer treatment.

Hikers are happier.

Research shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. It may even inspire those suffering from it to lead a more active lifestyle.

For those who don't suffer from depression, hiking still offers mental benefits. "Being out in nature, away from the business of our daily lives and technology, can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being," Leigh Jackson-Magennis, REI Outdoor Programs and Outreach New England Market Manager, tells The Huffington Post.

Interested in taking up the sport yourself? So you're ready to hear the crunch of leaves under your feet and see the world from above. Luckily, it's easier to start hiking than you may think. We talked to the experts to find the best tips for beginner hikers:

  • Start small. Stepping over tree roots and maneuvering around rocks on a trail can be more tiring that you might imagine, says Stedman. Start out with a few miles at a time and gradually build up to longer treks. "It's also important to start practicing with a pack of some sort," she tells The Huffington Post. "People often underestimate how heavy a backpack might feel until they try hiking 10 miles or so with it."
  • Prepare for the worst. Hopefully you won't need to use that first aid kit or emergency shelter, but it never hurts to be prepared. Stedman recommends carrying extra water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray and at least a small first aid kit, even on shorter hikes.
  • Overestimate your trail time. Hiking can be a slower process than newbies realize. That's why Jackson-Magennis suggests erring on the longer side when estimating how long it'll take to complete a trek. As a general rule of thumb -- keeping in mind that time is based off of physical fitness and elevation -- you can expect to cover about two miles an hour. Then, add an additional hour of extra time for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
  • Don't ignore your own backyard. You don't have to live in the mountains of Colorado to enjoy some quality trail time. Cities, counties and states all have parks or natural areas to get started hiking, says Stedman. Even very urban areas, like New York City or Washington D.C., have green spaces great for shorter hikes.
  • Use the buddy system. Two brains are better than one, so partner up and hike with someone who knows the trail or the area well. "It's also important to tell someone where you are going and when you are expected home," Jackson-Magennis tells The Huffington Post.

So long treadmills, we're going rogue! This story is part of our Go Rogue series, where we explore how outdoor sports make us healthier, happier and full of adventure.