Thursday, May 21, 2009


Fad diets don’t work in the long run

If you are like many Americans, you are on a weight management diet and chances are it is some kind of low carb, eating plan for your blood type, or detoxify diet – basically senseless elimination or fad diets.

We cannot ignore the fact that more and more people are becoming overweight or obese. By not maintaining a healthy weight, there is an increased risk for many ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Why is this problem with obesity or being overweight happening? Americans are eating about 300-500 calories extra per day than we did 20 years ago as well as moving less. So if you are looking to shed some of those extra pounds, how should we approach doing so?

Reading the newspaper, watching television or even attending local community events, it is hard to judge whether nutrition advice is sound. Often you only receive a tiny fraction of the underlying research, if there is even valid research. Do the results of these fad diets promise sound too good to be true?

A fad diet is a diet that guarantees quick weight loss that does not last over the long run. Weight loss can usually be attributed to fluid loss and comes right back as soon as the diet is stopped. Often, these diets advise people to avoid specific foods or replace meals with supplements, characterize some foods as “bad,” don’t focus on lifestyle changes, and claim they are the best new diets.

But these diets may be lacking in many essential nutrients that the body needs to maintain health. In the end, the diet may do more harm than good. Many fad diet books lack sound research to support their claims, and the proponents of these books generally nave no nutrition expertise. Generally the primary reasons for fad diets are to sell a product.

So why do some people swear by a particular fad diet and actually shed a few pounds temporarily? The key word here is temporarily.

Fad diets work to restrict caloric intake therefore when less is eaten, weight loss occurs.

Then where should we turn? The answer is to go back to the simple concept that has withstood the test of time. In order to maintain a healthy weight over the long term, you should decrease total calorie consumption, increase the calories you burn through physical activity and adopt a balanced eating plan based on the Food Guide Pyramid by eating adequate amounts of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low fat dairy. Easier said than done.

However, by choosing one or two diet and activity goals to incorporate into your lifestyle to start -- small steps in the right direction -- long term weight management goals can be achieved.

When seeking or reading about nutrition advice, you can trust the information if presented by a registered dietitian, the Food Guide Pyramid, US Dietary Guidelines or if the weight management information recommends variety, moderation and exercise.

A recent book review in Today’s Dietitian magazine reviewed two books that were suggested for use: "Move It. Lost It. Live Healthy. The Simple Truth About Achieving & Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight" and "The Daily Fix: Your Guide to Healthy Habits for Good Nutrition."

Both books were written or co-written by a dietitian and offered sensible, science-based recommendations for healthy weight and eating habits.

If you like snack chips, have a few, not the entire bag, have them once in a while, not every day. It is the limitations with food choices with fad diets that is unrealistic, and in the end makes eating less enjoyable.

Sarah Hospod is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Hospod and all of the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Children need healthy role models

Do you ever feel like you’ve got a “mini-me” following your every move?

Perhaps your daughter wants to put lipstick on like mommy or your son wants to wear a tool belt like daddy. Parents are the most important influence in children’s lives.
Our children look to us to learn proper behaviors. Just as children pick up positive habits – saying please or thank you – they can also pick up attitudes about food.

As role models, parents need to be aware of their own behaviors so that their children acquire healthy attitudes toward eating. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do you snack all day long?
• Do you eat in front of the TV?
• Do you eat whenever you are stressed or bored?
• Do you eat dessert at every meal?
• Do you skip breakfast?
• Do you have soda rather than milk at your meals?
• Do you diet all the time and have a fear of food?
• Do you make negative comments about your body?

If you’ve answered “yes” to more than a few of these questions, you are likely sending unhealthy messages to your children.

Establishing healthy habits can be very difficult for children who received mixed messages. Healthy eating won’t be seen as important if it’s not something mom and dad are doing. For example, research has shown that young girls are more likely to drink milk if their moms drink milk.

The following list offers tips for a healthy home that will foster healthier eating and activity habits for you and your children:

• Have nutritious foods available. Eat and prepare foods with the kids.
• Allow treats in moderation.
• Limit screen time with the TV, computers and video games to two hours or less per day.
• Be active for an hour or more each day.
• The whole family is in this together; don’t single out any one person.
• Be lenient and complimentary. A 2006 study conducted my Boston University’s School of Medicine found that the children of overly strict parents are five times more likely to be overweight.
• Expose, don’t coerce. Children avoid unfamiliar foods, not just healthy ones. Keep putting the asparagus on the plate, and don’t get angry if it goes untouched for two months. Eventually children may take a nibble on their own terms.
• Don’t demonize foods. Don’t necessarily talk about healthy foods, just provide them. Kids learn by watching you, not from lectures on saturated fats.
• Don’t talk diets. It may seem harmless to say you “need to cut down on candy to get back in shape,” but it introduces the defeating notion of “going on a diet.” Eating well and making healthy lifestyle choices need to be viewed as life long goals, not temporary solutions.

While it’s unrealistic to expect any parent to be a perfect role model, trying your best to demonstrate healthy lifestyle habits will positively impact your child.

Actions speak louder than words -- so practice what you preach. Hopefully the “mini me” that idolizes you will pick up on these healthy habits:

• Never skip meals.
• Take moderate portions.
• Try new foods – offer, but don’t force your child to try them.
• Turn off the TV when eating.
• Limit junk food in the house.
• Drink water or low-fat milk instead of soda.
• Learn new strategies to handle stress that don’t include eating.
• Eat fruit for dessert.
• Include vegetables and fruits with meals and snacks.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. E-mail Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at

Monday, May 11, 2009


Spring allergy season is in full swing

Spring is here and with it comes a flurry of itchy eyes, runny noses and tons of ads on TV about allergies. You have cold symptoms and you don’t know whether what you have is common cold or spring allergy, commonly known as Hay Fever (allergic rhinitis).

Allergic rhinitis happens when you breathe something you are allergic to, and the inside of your nose becomes inflamed or swollen, causing excess mucus and congestion. Allergic rhinitis affects 40 million people in the United States.

When is it allergies and not a cold?

Signs of allergic rhinitis are similar to signs of a common cold. But, unlike common cold symptoms, allergic rhinitis can last for more than 8-10 days. Common symptoms are:
• A runny nose to start with which usually ends up being stuffy later.
• Sneezing, usually multiple times
• Itchy nose, itchy eyes and/or watery eyes
• Children who have allergic rhinitis might have dark circles under their eyes(from excessive rubbing), or use the palm of their hand to push their nose up as they try to stop the itching (called the “allergic salute”)
• Coughing and/or sore throat cause by mucus running down the back of your throat.

A common cold usually lasts 3-5 days and may be associated with fever, aches and pains. Itchy nose or eyes is not a symptom of common cold at all.

What causes allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is caused by things that trigger allergies, called allergens. These allergens can be found both indoors and outdoors. Common outdoor allergens are mold or trees, grass and weed pollens. Allergic rhinitis caused by these is usually referred as “hay fever”.

Allergic rhinitis may also be caused by allergens that are in your house, such as animal dander, indoor mold, or the droppings of cockroaches or house dust mites.

• If you have symptoms in spring, you are probably allergic to tree pollens.
• If you have symptoms in the summer, you are probably allergic to grass and weed pollens.
• If you have symptoms in late summer and fall, you probably are allergic to ragweed.
• Dust mites, molds and animal dander cause symptoms all year round.

What are the treatment options?

There are a number of over-the-counter medications, called antihistamines, that are available. Most people are aware of Benadryl, which tends to cause drowsiness and is not preferred if you work with machinery or driving. Many of the newer medications do not have this problem, for instance Zyrtec or Claritin (or any equivalent store brand).

Nose sprays and antihistamines that your doctor prescribes are more helpful in controlling symptoms. Nose sprays can act as preventive medications if started early in the season before the symptoms start. There are other medications available to help prevent or minimize symptoms. Talk to your doctor for more details. If you are one of those who suffer throughout the season or all year, a visit to an allergist may be a good idea.

Ravi Prakash, MD, is a pediatrician on the Backus Hospital Medical Staff with a private practice in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dr. Prakash and all of the Healthy Living columnists at, or comment on their blog at

Monday, May 04, 2009


Walk the grocery aisles as if it were the Food Pyramid

When at the grocery store, keeping your heart and cardiovascular system healthy can be as simple as shopping the food pyramid.

Grains: 5-8 servings of grains per day. This food group plays an important role in providing essential B vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients. The recommendation for fiber is 25-30 grams per day, and grains can go a long way to meeting that goal.

When shopping look for the following foods:
Whole grain cereals which provide 6 or more grams of fiber per serving.
- 100% whole wheat bread, English muffins and pasta.
- Oatmeal, oat bran, whole grain tortillas and brown rice.
- Quinoa, whole wheat cous cous, Kashi whole grain pilaf.

Fruits: 4-5 servings per day. Choose a variety of fresh, canned or frozen, preferably without sugar or syrup, from this group:
- Incorporate fruit in as snacks, in sandwiches and on salads.
- Consider adding fruit to cereals, both hot and cold.
- Try a smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit added.

Vegetables: 4-5 (1⁄2 cup) portions per day. Again, choose from a variety of fresh, frozen or canned. Look for lower sodium options and avoid butter and cream sauces. Boost your vegetable intake by eating a daily salad; adding sliced tomatoes, peppers or spinach to sandwiches; choosing vegetable soups and pasta primavera; and don’t forget raw veggies for snacks.

Some simple and easy options include:
- Melissa’s peeled and steamed ready to eat baby beets.
- Simply Potatoes mashed sweet potatoes.
- Melissa’s steamed and ready to eat lentils.
- Steam-in-a-bag frozen vegetables.
- Frozen edamame.

Fats: Keep fat choices heart healthy by choosing oils instead of solid fats. Fat that is liquid at room temperature is primarily unsaturated, both mono and polyunsaturated. Examples include: Olive oil, Canola oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil to name a few. Choose:
- Trans-free margarine.
- Fish oil supplements or fish 3 times per week (salmon for example).
- Olive or canola-based cooking sprays.
- Eggs, 2-3 per week.
- Low-fat dairy (skim or fat free yogurt).
- Low-fat cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise or salad dressings.

Dairy: These products can be a significant source of saturated fats: Choose low or fat free dairy foods to promote a healthy heart, including:
- Skim milk (try Hood Simply Smart).
- Low fat cheese and fat free yogurt.
- Consider Greek yogurt, which is an excellent source of protein and low in carbohydrates.
- Light or low-fat ice cream once or twice a week.
- Fat-free half and half.

Meats: Go for the leaner cuts, including:
- Chicken or turkey without skin, 3-4 times per week.
- Fish 2-3 times per week (consider canned salmon vs. tuna)
- Pork or beef 1-2 times per week.
- Consider turkey or chicken sausage.
- Ground turkey breast.
- 93% or leaner ground beef.
- No more than three eggs per week.
-1-2 tablespoons of nuts per day.

You might also consider going vegetarian 1-2 times per week. In addition to reducing the fat in your meal it can also save you money at the grocery store.

Wendy Kane is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in the Backus Hospital Diabetes Management Center. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Kane and all the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?