Monday, November 29, 2010

Salt and High Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may have told you to “watch the salt.” In essence, this means to eat less salt. For some people, it could mean eating a lot less commercially processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium.

Recommended Intake
According to the US Government, American adults should consume 2300 milligrams of sodium daily. That is equivalent to roughly one teaspoon of salt. People with high blood pressure are generally advised to keep their sodium intake even lower, to about 1500 milligrams. But it is easy to consume a lot more sodium and not even know it. That is because salt and other sodium containing products are widely used in cooking and preserving food.

Dining Out
Fast food places and other restaurants are notorious for the high levels of sodium in most of the foods they serve. That makes it very difficult to control your salt intake when dining out. Thus, your best bet is to prepare your own meals and snacks from scratch.

You will need to read the labels on packaged foods to be sure that you are not getting too much sodium. The ingredients list will list salt along with any other sodium-containing compound in the food. 

The Nutrition Panel is more specific. It tells how much sodium is in each serving of the food and shows the Daily Value (DV) for specific nutrients - in this case, sodium, This DV is given as a percent of the total recommended intake.

Tracking Your Intake
You can keep track of your total sodium intake by paying attention to the milligrams of sodium per serving or to the percentage shown per serving. If the package contains 4 servings, you will need to multiply the percent sodium per person by 4 to get the total percentage of the DV you will be getting if you eat the entire package. The same goes for calculating the total milligrams of sodium. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that contain more than 5 to 7 percent of the DV per serving.

Other Related Health Issues
There are many other things besides sodium that may cause you to develop high blood pressure, including obesity, stress, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain prescription drugs. Unfortunately, not everyone will have success by merely cutting back on the salt. If non-drug strategies do not work, you doctor is likely to put you on prescription drugs.  

If you have high blood pressure, pay attention to what you eat. Keeping your salt intake to about 1500 milligrams of sodium per day might help, particularly if you are salt-sensitive. For others, 2300 milligrams of sodium should be adequate.

7 Helpful Tips for Losing Weight During the Holiday Season

You might think that losing weight during the holiday season means that you can't eat and enjoy the amazing variety of foods that make the holidays so delightful. In fact, you can enjoy the same holiday treats that everyone else does, but not without some restrictions.

Understanding Your Relationship With Food
First of all, if you are to succeed at losing weight during the holiday season, you have to understand your relationship with food. If you know that you cannot have just one piece of chocolate fudge brownie, don’t challenge your taste buds; you are likely to lose the challenge. Instead, consider treating yourself to another of your favorite treats, but make it one that will not cause you to overeat.

Create a List
If you are overweight, you should have a sense of which foods are most likely to cause you to gain weight. Make a list of these foods. Next to these 'challenging' foods, ext to each of those foods, write down one or two foods that you might enjoy as a healthy alternative. Use this list when you go shopping, in planning family meals and snacks, and when attending your office party or other social event.

Be Mindful of What You're Eating
You have to pay attention to what you are eating. If you are not paying attention you could end up eating a lot more than you plan to. This is particularly true if alcohol is served or if there is an endless flow of hors de oeuvres being catered to the crowd.

Portion Control
If you can have a small bite of any holiday treat and not eat until you are stuffed, you will probably do okay. But if you can’t resist all of the high-calories snacks you may encounter, you're hardly likely to to lose the weight. In fact, you can easily gain a lot.

Skip the Empty Calories
Keep in mind that empty calories abound over the holidays. These take the form of candies, soft drinks and other foods that are essentially a load of calories from sugar, unhealthy fats. Sodas and candy are the biggest threats during the holidays. You would be wise to eliminate these foods if you can, or consume only small amounts and on rare occasion.

Go Easy on the Alcohol
Alcoholic drinks can cause you to lose your resolve. As a result, you could end up eating a lot more than you plan to. Stay away from the bar. If alcoholic drinks are being catered, learn to say, "No Thank You."

You might find it difficult to lose weight during the holidays. But it is worth a try. Even if you don't lose the weight, by paying attention to your diet you may be able to avoid runaway weight gain and related health problems.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fiber Up Your Diet

Fiber is the tough part of plant foods that cannot be digested and absorbed. Although fiber cannot be absorbed into your bloodstream, it is very important to your health. The work is initiated in your digestive tract, but has wide ranging impact on your total health, including bowel health, prevention of constipation, heart health, cholesterol, blood sugar, hunger and satiety, weight management and much more.

Types of Fiber
There are two basic types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water to form a gel, while insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Soluble fiber binds waste in the gut, holding it together as a soft mass, while insoluble fiber helps to stimulate the action of the intestines to push the waste along, into the colon and out.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The recommended intake of fiber is 25 grams daily for women and 35 grams for men. Unfortunately, many people in the US are not getting nearly enough. This is the result of eating large amounts of highly processed foods from which the fiber has been removed. 

Food Sources of Fiber
You need to eat a variety of plant foods to get the recommended intake of fiber. Keep in mind that number of servings, portion sizes, method of preparation, waste (such as peeling fruit), and straining (as in making juice), will determine  the actual amount of fiber that you get each day. As a general rule, you should choose foods as close to their natural state as possible and eat less of those with added sugars or made from refined, white flour products. Here is a short list of moderate to high fiber foods that you can choose from.
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dried beans or peas
  • Nuts and seeds

Mix It Up
You can mix and match foods to get the fiber you need. Keep in mind that while fruits are naturally high in fiber, fruit juice is not, as the fiber is removed in juicing. So, go for the whole fruit. Also, remember to drink plenty of water. 

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dried beans, peas, nuts and seeds will help you to get the fiber you need for total health.

Monday, November 15, 2010

5 Most Popular Blogs on Dr. Carter's Nutrition Journal

Thank you for visiting Dr. Carter's Nutrition Journal at
I am taking a short break and will resume posting within a couple of days. In the meanwhile, here is a list of our most common blogs of the year. There are a lot more blogs like these in our archives. If you have not viewed them as yet, this is a good time to do so. See what you missed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting Your Child to Eat a Good Breakfast

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is a great way to ensure that your child is able to meet his daily requirements for protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, fluids and other dietary essentials.

Benefits of a Good Breakfast
Eating a good breakfast goes beyond helping to meet your child's basic nutritional needs. Studies show that children who eat a good breakfast are more alert in school, have more energy,  and do better in academic and physical performance than those who skip breakfast. 

Reducing Junk Food Consumption
If your child eats a good breakfast, he is less likely to stop by the corner store or vending machine to fill up on sodas, cookies, and other junk food. These sugary, high-calorie snacks lack the important nutrients that children need for healthy growth and development. Instead, these high-calorie, low-nutrient foods offer an excess of calories that may easily contribute to the growing problem of childhood obesity in this country.

Get a Head Start on Breakfast
You can take the stress out of trying to figure out what to give your child for breakfast if you have a plan. Here are a few simple suggestions:
  • When grocery shopping, keep breakfast in mind. Of course, having a shopping list is always a good idea. Buy foods that are easy to prepare or that can be eaten on the go without making a mess. Read the nutrition label on food packages and avoid those with a large amount of sugar, fat or salt. The less processed, the better.
  • Plan ahead. Review breakfast plans for the next day - even if it is just a mental review of what you plan to prepare for breakfast. Make sure  that you have what you need. 
  • Post a menu on the refrigerator or in some other place where older children can see it and place breakfast foods within easy reach so that no one has to ask where things are or waste time trying to find the foods they need. This includes zippered bags or other containers for packing breakfast to go, in case you are running out of time.
  • Let your child help with planning, preparing and serving or packing breakfast as soon as he is old enough to do so. 
  • And here’s the biggie: Get kids to bed early and get them up 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual to allow more time for breakfast. 
Breakfast to Go
Sometimes, there just isn't enough time to get kids out of bed, get them ready for school and have them sit down to a good breakfast. As a result, it becomes necessary to pack breakfast to eat on the go. 

Here are a few menu ideas for those times when it becomes necessary for your child to eat breakfast on the go. 

– Whole grain breakfast cereal, milk and grapes

Tuesday - Cheese sandwich with whole wheat bread and cran-grape juice

Wednesday – Sliced turkey, lettuce, whole wheat bread and milk

Thursday - Whole grain breakfast cereal, milk and banana

Friday – Peanut butter sandwich, milk and apple

Note: Many schools now offer breakfast. If your child participates in the school breakfast program, make sure that he gets there on time.

Your Weekend Breakfast
Weekends give the whole family a chance to sleep a little later and have a leisurely breakfast. Here are a couple ideas for your sit-down, family style breakfast.

Saturday - Pancakes, omelet, milk and strawberries

Sunday – Hot oatmeal with raisins, milk and orange juice

Without a doubt, mornings can be hectic - trying to get children out of bed and to school on time is no easy task, especially when you also have to make an early start to get to work on time. But with a little advance planning, you can have your kids eating a healthy breakfast and out the door in good time. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Heart Disease: The Cholesterol Link 2 - HDL Cholesterol

HDL Cholesterol
As mentioned in my previous blog (November 10, 2010) cholesterol is a waxy substance that is important for a number of vital functions, like forming vitamin D, hormone production and as part of the nerves and other cells in your body. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol plays a vital role in lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

On the other hand, high levels of LDL does just the opposite, causing the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can then lead to a heart attack or stroke..

HDL Lowers Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
HDL or good cholesterol appears to prevent cardiovascular disease by removing LDL cholesterol from the blood and recycling it in the liver. By removing the LDL cholesterol from your blood, HDL reduces the chances of plaque buildup and the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

HDL cholesterol should be above 40 mg/dL. If it is below 40 mg/dL, you risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases. The desirable ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol is about 1 to 4 (1 mg/dl HDL to 4 mg/dl LDL cholesterol).

Improving Your HDL to LDL Ratio
One way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to improve the boost your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol. There are several things that you can do to achieve that goal - diet, exercise and lose weight if you are overweight.

Diet. One of the most important things you can do to reduce your LDL cholesterol is to avoid foods that contain trans fat and limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is not enough to just reduce your intake of cholesterol, since your body makes most of the cholesterol that is in your blood. By limiting your intake of trans fat and saturated fat, you may be able to reduce the amount of cholesterol that your liver produces.

In addition to controlling your fat intake, it is also important to eat foods that are high-fiber, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas. F

Avoiding foods with added sugar (including high fructose corn syrup), and highly refined and processed foods, especially foods made with white flour is also important, especially if you are trying to cut calories to lose weight.

Exercise. Exercise can help to lower your cholesterol and improve the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol in your blood, improve blood circulation and strengthen your heart muscles.

Lose weight. If you are overweight, lose the excess body weight. Studies show that losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight can result in tremendous improvements in a number of health parameters, including lowering your total cholesterol and improving the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
High Blood Cholesterol, Treatments

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heart Disease: The Cholesterol Link - LDL Cholesterol

What is LDL Cholesterol? 
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by your liver and found in the cell membranes and blood. You can also get it from the foods you eat. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol for short, is called bad cholesterol because if you have too much of this form of cholesterol in your blood, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol also travels through your body as high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is called good cholesterol because it has a favorable effect on your health. An important function is to clear the LDL or bad cholesterol from your blood. This can help to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The Good News About Cholesterol
You hear so much about the harmful effect of high cholesterol that you probably never stop to think that this substance could be of any good.  That is where you would be mistaken. In fact, you actually need cholesterol for a number of important functions. For example, cholesterol is used to make vitamin D. It is also used for making hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and is an important part of the structure and function of nerves and the membrane of every cell.

The Bad News About LDL Cholesterol - Plaque
LDL cholesterol becomes dangerous when there is too much in your blood. That is because when the levels get too high, it could cause plaque to build up in your blood vessels. This in turn can cause the arteries to become narrow and interfere with normal blood flow to your heart. When this happens, your heart may not get enough oxygen. As a result, it has to work harder and can become damaged from lack of oxygen and the increased work it must perform.

Another serious danger of plaque is that it can break away from the arterial wall, form a blood clot and block the flow of blood to vital organs like the heart or brain. The end result could be a heart attack or a stroke.

Reducing Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
You can reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by keeping your LDL cholesterol low and your HDL high.

What Your Cholesterol Numbers Mean
Knowing your cholesterol numbers can help you determine if you are at risk for cholesterol-related cardiovascular disease. A simple blood test can be done to measure your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Make a special effort to know your numbers and what they mean. The following information may be helpful. (I will discuss ways to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol in the next blog.)

Total cholesterol:
Less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable
200 - 239 is borderline high
240 mg/dL and above is high

LDL cholesterol:
Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal
100 to 129 near optimal
130 - 159 mg/dL is borderline
160 - 189 mg/dL is high
190 mg/dL and above is very high

HDL cholesterol:
60 and above is high, which means it is protective
40 mg/dL and above for men and 60 and above for women is good
Below 40 is bad

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a set of recommendations and advice for people two years of age and older, about how good dietary choices can promote health and reduce the risk of diabetes, hart disease, and other chronic diseases. The guidelines are updated every 5 years and issued jointly by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). 

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities are in effect until the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are published. 

Here is a synopsis of the Dietary Guidelines. Use this information to make decisions about what to eat or feed your family from day to day. Pay special attention to the recommendation for limiting foods with added sugars, trans fat, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and large amounts of salt.

Summary of Key Recommendations 
  • Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods from the basic food groups. 
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
  • Limit intake of foods that are high in sugar. 
  • Limit foods that are high in salt. 
  • Limit alcohol intake. 
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Empty Calories (Revised November 8, 2010)

Is soda an empty-calorie food?
If a group of people were asked whether or not soda is an empty-calorie food, the consensus would certainly be yes. It is clear that sodas are loaded with calories from sugar (high fructose corn syrup), but offer no nutritive value when it comes to protein, vitamins, minerals or other health-promoting and disease-preventing compounds.

What about pizza? 
Is this an empty-calorie food?

Many people seem confused on this issue. They tend to confuse empty calories with high-calorie. But there is a real distinction and it is important to understand the distinction if you are going to make decisions about what to eat or serve your family.

To determine if pizza is an empty-calorie food we have to look not only at the calorie content, but at whether or not it provides a reasonable amount of essential nutrients in relation to the calories.

Here’s a quick look at some basic ingredients that may be found in pizza:
Cheese, tomato sauce, choice of veggies, pineapple, mushroom, pepperoni and sausage – to name a few. And of course you have the pizza crust.

It is obvious that despite the potential to be high in calories, pizza offers some real nutritional benefits – protein, lycopene, fiber, iron, and a host of other vitamins and minerals.

What about desserts?
Dessert can also mean a bowl of chilled fresh fruit or a piece of pineapple. It could also mean frozen yogurt or ice cream. There is nothing empty about the calories you get from any of these desserts.

Even cakes and pastries that are high in fat, sugar and calories are not empty calories. They are simply high-calorie foods that have a disproportionately large number of calories from unhealthy fat and sugar. These foods are considered undesirable, not because they are empty-calorie foods, but because they have the potential for causing unhealthy weight gain and other health problems, if eaten in excess.

Take ice cream, for example. No one would deny that ice cream is an energy-dense food. However, ice cream (not the artificial stuff) contains a reasonable amount of protein, calcium and other important nutrients. Therefore, while it is a high-calorie food it does not meet the criteria for being an empty-calorie food.

Now, sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a different story. These foods offer no real nutritional value beyond the calories they provide. The same can be said for most candies and confectionaries.

It is important to deliver the right messages about food in order to avoid confusion and thus make it easier for people to make the right choices when deciding what to eat and feed their families. 

Still confused about what to eat or serve your family? Talk to a registered dietitian.

Note: This post was erroneously posted earlier in its draft form. This post replaces the previous one dated November 8, 2010. If you received the draft in error, please delete it and save this post. Thank you.

U.S. Kids Filling Up on “Empty Calories,” Study Finds: Medline Plus
American Dietetic Association, news release, Oct. 1, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Every Parent Should Know About Childhood Obesity

Reposted from June 19, 2010

Sadly, sodas and other sugary drinks have become the beverage of choice among America's children, as indicated in a USDA report. This report, based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1988-94, shows that the daily soft drink intake of children between the ages of 14 and 18 was almost 4 times more than milk intake (0.7 servings of milk versus 2.7 servings of soda). Younger children were also consuming more soft drink than milk. 

And in a study reported by Harvard University School of Public Health (February 2001), soft drinks were listed as the leading source of added sugars in the diet of children. Researchers also found that the odds of becoming obese increased 1.6 times for each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened soda that kids drank.

There is compelling evidence to show that children who drink large amounts of soda daily are prone to become overweight or obese. That is why it is important for you to pay attention to what your child is drinking and take steps to reduce his or her intake of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving per day - down to zero. Offer more milk, water and a limited amount of 100% fruit juice instead.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Breakfast: The Importance of Eating a Good Breakfast

Eating a good breakfast provides all sorts of health benefits; it is important for your overall health, promotes mental alertness and keeps you energized so you can perform your best, both mentally and physically.

Eating a Good Breakfast Offers Many Health Benefits
Here are just a few of the health benefits you will enjoy when you eat a good breakfast.

Nutrition. After a long night without food, your body is in a state of nutritional deprivation. It must draw on the reserve of nutrients in your cells in order to continue functioning. Eating a good breakfast helps to maintain those reserves. A good breakfast provides the nutrients you need for healthy growth and development, as well. If you skip breakfast, chances are you may consume too many calories during the day without getting enough of the vitamins, minerals and other dietary essentials that you need for optimum health. Your breakfast should provide two-fifths to one-third of the nutrients you need for the day.  

Blood sugar. Your body literally goes into an overnight fast while you sleep. By the time you awaken, your blood sugar drops, which diminishes your energy level. A good breakfast restores your blood sugar and gives you the energy you need to get up and go. Try to eat foods that contain a mix of complex carbohydrates so that you get some fiber. Try to avoid consuming a lot of sugar that could send a rush of glucose into your bloodstream at once. 

Mental alertness. Your brain needs glucose (sugar) to function properly. During sleep, the level of glucose in your blood is lowered. As a result, your brain might not be getting enough. By eating a good breakfast, you are able to recharge your brain, in a manner of speaking, so that you can think clearly and perform other tasks efficiently throughout the morning hours. Eating a balanced breakfast of fruits and/or vegetables, whole grain bread or cereal and a good source of protein is key. Breakfast is also a good time to get some calcium in your diet from things like milk, cheese or yogurt.

Physical activity. Your muscles need glucose for optimum performance. But, like all the cells in your body, muscle cells must have other key nutrients present in order to metabolize or use the glucose you consume. So, eating a balanced breakfast that provides a variety of vitamins, minerals and other dietary essentials is important. Avoid drinking sodas or consuming cookies, chips and donuts or other sugary and/or high fat foods for breakfast, as these foods could actually impede your performance.

Weight control. Studies show that people who eat a good breakfast are more likely to control their weight than those who skip breakfast. One reason might be that when you eat a good breakfast, you are less likely to fill up on sodas, chips, donuts and other high-calorie, low nutrient foods that lead to unhealthy weight gain. Try to eat foods that are minimally processed and that are low in sugar, saturated fat and salt. Eating foods high in fiber, such as whole grains and nuts can help you to feel full longer, making it less likely that you will fill up on high fiber foods later in the morning.

Constipation. A good breakfast that includes whole grains and other high-fiber foods will help to improve gut function, move waste along your G.I. tract and out as waste. This will reduce the risk of constipation so that you can enjoy total health.

The bottom line is, you need to start your day by eating a good breakfast. This will help you to get some key nutrients, boost your metabolism, enhance both mental and physical activity, and may help you to lose weight if that is your goal.

Next blog: What to Eat for Breakfast 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lose Weight Naturally

If you suspect that you are overweight, or if you doctor told you that you need to shed a few pounds, take heed and lose the weight. Otherwise, you could be facing a lifetime of insulin injections to control your blood sugar, costly medications to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, heart disease, the risk of stroke and many other health problems related to being overweight or obese.

Even if you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, it is not too late. You can improve your health and live a more active life by losing weight and consuming a diet rich in leafy greens and other vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Studies show that losing even a small amount of weight, as little as 7 to 10 percent of your body weight, can bring about big improvements in your health. So, take the first step towards reclaiming your health today.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips:
Talk to someone. Find someone to talk to about your weight and health goals. You will probably find it easier to get started and stay on track if you have someone you can talk to about your weight and health goals.

Resist the temptation. There will be many times when you feel like having a soda, candy bar or other junk food. Instead of giving in, distract yourself by finding something to do that doesn't involve eating, or fix yourself a nutritious snack. Even drinking a cup of water might help.

Fill up on water, fruits and vegetables. It is important to have foods on hand that are nutritious and that you enjoy. Losing weight should not be a punishing regimen. Sure, it will take a certain degree of discipline, but as soon as it begins to seem like punishment. the gig is over. So, keep lots of water and low-calorie, nutritious foods on hand for those "moments."

Keep your cupboard free of junk food. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If you don’t keep junk food in the house, it would be much harder to binge on them. 

Forget the fast food. Fast food could be your worse nightmare if you are serious about losing weight and reclaiming your health. A meal consisting of an order of French fries, hamburger and a soda can be dynamite when it comes to unhealthy fats, calories, sugar and salt/sodium. Wo, watch out!

Exercise. What you eat is only one part of the weight-loss equation. Exercise is also extremely important. It is through exercise that you will burn off any extra calories that you might inadvertently consume. So, whether at home or at the gym, find ways to stay physically active.

Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat and drink, and how much exercise you get can give you a clear perspective on what may be causing you to gain weight as well as what may be helping you to lose the weight. This information could prove to be quite valuable as you move forward.

Keep a positive attitude. If you want to lose weight, you have to believe that you can. 

Ask for help. There may be times when you feel totally out of control and go on a rampage, eating every and anything. Then the sadness, anger and depression sets in. You can be sure that you are not the only one it happens to. But if it happens too often or leads to a terrible setback, it may be a sign that you need help. Reach out. If necessary, seek a qualified nutrition professional or mental health counselor. Remember, you don't have to struggle alone.

Love yourself.  Loving who you are on the inside will give you the power to do all of the other things you need to do in order to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Have faith. Pray and trust in God. 

Eating Vegetables Can Help You Lose Weight

Vegetables are the ideal diet food. They are low in calories but packed vitamins, minerals and other powerful, health-promoting compounds. Beyond the well-known nutrients that vegetables provide, they are also loaded with thousands of functional compounds that offer unique disease-fightting, health benefits.

How Much Vegetables Should You Eat?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the USDA, a good rule of thumb is to eat a minimum of 2 to 3 servings of vegetables daily, assuming that you are also eating 2 to 3 servings of fruits. In effect, your total fruit and vegetable intake should total at least 5 servings.

Of course, on a low-calorie diet, you will eat more vegetables in place of other starchy and high fat foods. In some cases, you might consume as much as 9 or more servings of vegetables, which, although bulky and filling, would provide relatively few calories. With most vegetables providing under 35 calories per serving, you could easily eat 9 servings for under 350 calories.

According to a number of government studies, most Americans are not meeting the recommended 2 to 3 servings of vegetables or combined 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Rather than consuming these nutrient-dense foods, we are consuming calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods, which are contributing to the growing obesity epidemic in this country. 

Obviously, if you want to lose weight, it makes good sense to eat more vegetables and less of the more starchy, high-calorie foods that have become the mainstay of the American diet.

Benefits of Eating Vegetables to Lose Weight:
  • Vegetables are low in calories. That means you can eat more for less calories. 
  • Vegetables are high in fiber, which helps to fill you up and reduce your total energy intake.
  • Vegetables are highly nutritious. No other group of food provide the concentration of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients for so few calories.
  • You can mix and match to create a wide variety of meals and snacks everyday; vegetables come in a wide array of colors, textures and flavors to tease your taste buds.
  • Vegetables can be prepared quickly and with little effort, so, even if you don't want to spend much time in the kitchen you can still enjoy a tasty and nutritious meal without ruining your diet. Just wash and eat them raw or steam lightly for a quick bite.
  • Vegetables are so versatile, you can toss them in almost any dish to make a casserole, soup, salad, sandwich or even dessert.
  • You can take vegetables anywhere, anytime and in any climate without too much worry about hazardous temperatures, as most vegetables keep well at a wide range of temperatures. (Of course, you still need to pay attention to basic sanitation rules.)
Vegetables to Choose From:
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Red bell pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Okra
  • Edamame
  • Sweet peas
A diet that consists of an abundance of vegetables will provide you with lots of fiber, fill you up and reduce hunger so that you are less likely to overeat. As a result, you stand a better chance of losing weight than you would on the typical American diet that is loaded with refined carbohydrates and fatty meats, and other low-nutrient, high-calorie foods.


Soda Consumption and Obesity in America

Americans consume an excessive amount of sodas, loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and/or other sweeteners annually. Excessive intake of sodas and other sweetened drinks have been linked to the high incidence of obesity in the US. "The consumption of HFCS increased over 1000 percent between 1979 and 1990, paralleling the increase in obesity, according to the authors of an article in the March 2004 issue of AJCN.

Facing Your Soda Drinking Problem
To put it bluntly, excessive soda consumption is a major part of America’s obesity problem. Anyone who argues with that has his head deep in the sand. To prove the point, I challenge you to give up sodas for 6 weeks. If you succeed, you will be amazed at how easy it is to lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Case in point: In a recent 28-day challenge on the Dr. Oz (TV) Show, Dr. Roizen took the challenge and reported that he had lost 5 pounds by cutting out sodas. 

Can you give it up?
Frankly, I don’t think that many people will be up to the challenge. Call it habit. Call it addiction. Call it whatever you like. But if you are hooked on sodas; if you can't go a few days without having some, it is a habit that many people find hard to break.

The problem with drinking too much soda 
1) You are putting added sugars, which contributes to disease-causing inflammation in your body
2) You are consuming excessive amounts of phosphoric acid
3) You are adding empty calories which easily contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which in turn has been linked to the development of diabetes and a number of other chronic diseases
4) You are most likely eliminating foods that are necessary to give you the health-promoting, disease-preventing nutrients you need for optimum health

The Problem With Diet Sodas
Even if you drink so-called diet sodas, you are not doing your body any good. In case you have not heard, artificial sweeteners, known in the food industry as non-nutritive sweeteners, aren’t any better than the sugar or high fructose corn syrup found in regular sodas. In fact, recent studies suggest that artificial sweeteners fool your taste buds and alter your ability to control food intake. It stimulates insulin secretion, increases the feeling of hunger and leads to increased food intake. This obviously defeats the reason you used the artificial sweetener in the first place.

You only need to look around you to see that artificial sweeteners have done absolutely nothing to ease the obesity crisis. In fact, the increasing incidence of obesity has paralleled the increase in consumption of sodas, both sugar/high fructose corn syrup sweetened and artificially sweetened.

"The consumption of HFCS increased > 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group. HFCS now represents > 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States. Our most conservative estimate of the consumption of HFCS indicates a daily average of 132 kcal for all Americans aged 2 y, and the top 20% of consumers of caloric sweeteners ingest 316 kcal from HFCS/d." I was so struck by the referenced article - that I felt compelled to share this quote with you.

Sodas are bad for you. Remember that the next time you reach for a soda, ask yourself if you would be better off with a good old-fashioned glass of water. Want a little flavor in it? Squeeze a little juice from a lemon or lime and drink.

Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a r...ray et al. 79 (4):537 - - American Journal of /clinical Nutrition

Monday, November 1, 2010

Becoming a Registered Dietitian: Job Outlook and Earnings

If you are passionate about helping people to live healthier, more active lives, a career as a registered dietitian might be just what you’re looking for. In my previous blog, I offered some insight into what it takes to become qualified as a registered dietitian. The next question I am often asked about the field of dietetics and nutrition is about salaries. What can you expect to earn as a registered dietitian?

Job Outlook
Before talking about earnings, let’s take a brief look at the demand for registered dietitians and nutritionists in related fields. We can take a look at the broader employment picture, since once you become an RD so many opportunities are opened up to you. While most RDs work in hospitals and clinics, many find jobs in schools, clinics, nonprofit organizations, the food industry, marketing, communications, education and research, to name a few.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for dietitians and nutritionists is expected to grow from 60,300 in 2008 to 65,800 in 2010. This is an increase of about 9 percent. A growing aging population and concerns about obesity and chronic diseases will impact this growth in employment opportunities.

The BLS report indicates that median annual wages of dietitians and nutritionists were $50,590 in May 2008. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,460 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,410.

“According to the American Dietetic Association, median annual wages for registered dietitians in 2007 varied by practice area as follows: $60,008 in consultation and business; $64,002 in food and nutrition management; $66,061 in education and research; $52,000 in clinical nutrition/ambulatory care; $53,997 in clinical nutrition/long-term care; $48,006 in community nutrition; and $48,984 in clinical nutrition/acute care. Salaries also vary by years in practice, education level, and geographic region.” (From the BLS)