Self-Care is a trending topic, and I am a fan. Until recently, I never took the time to prioritize my own needs – I’m sure you’ve been there, either going to school, nurturing your career, helping partners and friends, raising children, caring for aging parents, volunteering, you name it.
But self-care can help you do all of those things better. It is essentially taking care of your needs so that you can stay healthy both physically and mentally, with enough energy to live your best life. There are many ways to incorporate self-care into your day to manage stress and stay fit: taking a daily walk, getting enough sleep, doing meditation or yoga, optimizing your work environment, journaling, scheduling a massage or mani-pedi, connecting with nature, and feeding your spiritual self with prayer, gratitude or inspirational quotes.
And most importantly, there is what I call “Nutrition Self-Care”. Do you feel your best when you skip breakfast, snack on donuts at work, and eat fast food for lunch? What about if you overindulge in late night beer, chocolate, or chips? None of those are off limits, and I am not advocating counting calories or macros. Instead, I’m thinking how much better you will feel if you…
You have to own your health. Diets won’t do. Deprivation won’t do. Your body deserves good food, and it is the ultimate self-care to make it a priority.
Just One Thing: Make time for “Nutrition Self-Care” by fueling your body with good, wholesome foods you love.
I love sweets as much as anyone, and I don’t hesitate to enjoy a couple pieces of chocolate or a chewy sugar cookie on occasion. But what if I want dessert Every. Single. Day?
A daily intake of sugar and fat is not great for my blood cholesterol, triglycerides, or glucose levels, not to mention the extra empty calories. So I opt for desserts that have a nutritional benefit as well as a treat for my taste buds. These usually include something with fruit, vegetables, nuts, and/or whole grains.
This time of year, I love zucchini bread and pumpkin bread. Find a recipe from your favorite cookbook, website or friend, and make a few healthful substitutions, like these:
I am often asked for recipes but honestly, I prefer to teach you to make these substitutions so you can turn any recipe into a nutrition rockstar. If you need a place to start, I like Cooking Light and Eating Well (click to link) Then, remember to keep your portions reasonable by listening to when your stomach says it is almost full.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy fall vegetables like zucchini and pumpkin by baking them into a healthful recipe!
Exactly one year ago, I encouraged readers to think twice before jumping on the Keto bandwagon (http://www.melissawdowik.com/blog/keto-what). Now, a new statement from the National Lipid Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force weighs the pros and cons of low carbohydrate and very low carbohydrate diets, including a ketogenic diet. Not surprisingly, their thorough review of the literature led them to conclude that these diets do not offer benefits for weight loss above other calorie-limited intakes - in their words, there is not one macronutrient distribution that is superior for weight loss or for the management of Type 2 diabetes.
There is some evidence that a very low carbohydrate diet helps with appetite control, improve triglycerides, and reduce medication use for type 2 diabetes, but by two years, there were no differences in these markers. In addition, there are potential negative side effects from low intakes of fiber and complex carb foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Just One Thing: Treat yourself to a well-proven recipe for weight loss and maintenance that includes eating less, moving more, and getting social support to continue these positive behaviors!
Meatless Monday is not just a great idea, it’s a global movement! In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, Meatless Monday is an effort to decrease meat consumption for our health and our planet’s health.
If you are a meat eater, going just one day a week without meat, especially red meat and processed meat, is not a big sacrifice but has big benefits for you: better heart health, lower risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, healthier kidneys, and improved weight management, not to mention saving money.
Eating less meat is also good for the earth: reduced use of resources (including the land and water needed to raise meat) and reduced pollution (including methane gas emissions and waste products).
Meatless options are plentiful; try these plant-based foods that provide protein and other nutrients:
Check out these recipes and additional resources from the Meatless Monday website, plus read about the Meat Free Monday movement started by Paul McCartney and even more recipes here. 😊
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy Meatless Mondays for a healthier you and a healthier planet!
I have been waiting months for the sound of crunching leaves under my sneakers 😊.
Every Fall, I get a renewed burst of energy for exercise, since it means I can take it outside.
Why should you exercise if you aren’t as excited as I am? The benefits of physical activity are numerous:
Check out more benefits from the Mayo Clinic here and remember, it does not have to be boring, strict or painful - just walking or playing are great. Find tips for making fitness fun for the whole family here.
Just One Thing to do: Get outside to move a bit and make fitness fun!
I love football season, whether I’m outside playing catch or watching a game, or inside cheering on my team from the sofa. Usually watching games means snacking on fun, tasty foods and drinks. The occasional nachos and hot dogs are fine, but if you find yourself in this ritual once or twice a week, consider some more nutritious options.
For beverages, have a variety of options available, including beer, light beer, alcohol with light mixers, and sparkling water. A good rule is to drink a cup of water between servings of alcohol.
For hearty snacks, make pulled chicken barbecue on mini buns, turkey chili, or French dip sandwiches.
For somewhat lighter fare, try chicken nachos, hummus and pita bread, or bean dip with corn tortillas. I love these sweet potato skins.
Have a variety of fruits and vegetables on platters for easy munching, along with big bowls of light popcorn.
Check out these links for colorful, nutritious recipes from Cooking Light and Eating Well.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy football snacking with a variety of healthful foods and drinks.
I did not coin the term “portion distortion” but I wish I had; it calls attention to our changing views and social norms about what is considered a normal amount of food to eat at one sitting.
You may have heard that restaurant portions are enough for two people, but they have actually grown large enough that one serving would be the right amount for three people. That means we need to save 2/3 to take home with us or share the meal three ways. For example, a burger at Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s can give you enough calories, fat, and sodium for more than half your day’s needs (or your whole day’s worth if you are inactive and over 60).
Even if you do not eat out often, the portion distortion of restaurants have a carry-over effect, in that now people expect portions at home to be similarly large. Dinner plates have gotten larger, too, making it difficult to judge how much to serve ourselves.
To reset your visual image of portion sizes, compare approximately 1 serving of each of these to the item listed:
Beans and legumes: computer mouse
Meat, poultry and fish: the palm of your hands or a deck of cards
Fruit: tennis ball
Cheese: wine cork
Peanut butter: golf ball
Grains: baseball or hockey puck
Check out other good visual tools here and here.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy food, real food, good food. Just don’t go overboard on portion sizes.
Today we celebrate the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, a holiday honoring the American worker. Being an American worker, I am keeping my blog easy by recommending previous posts and publications! Fortunately, this information does not go out of date.
If you are grilling or picnicking today, as many of us are, consider limiting processed meat (read more) and enjoying smaller beef portions (read more) as well as eating alternatives such as plant based burgers (read more). Also, be sure to follow safe grilling guidelines (read more).
Lastly, don’t forget to include a variety of fruits and vegetables recommended by the DASH diet for health and longevity (newspaper article).
Just One Thing to do: Have a wonderful Labor Day and happy eating!
Last week I wrote about smoothies, and received several questions about prepared beverages such as Ensure, Boost and Slim Fast. They are sold as “complete, balanced nutrition for everyday health”, but should you believe the hype?
Premade nutrition shakes promise lots of protein and nutrients, but take a good look at what is in them. Among the top three ingredients you will usually find sugar, a non-nutrient already over-abundant in our diets. Continuing down the list, you will find additional forms of sugar (such as fructose), as well as oil, water, milk or milk protein, and corn maltodextrin, a processed food additive used to thicken. The next 10 or so ingredients read as an alphabet of vitamins and minerals.
Now imagine taking a clear glass or jar, filling it halfway with water, and adding sugar, oil, corn starch, and powdered milk, topped off by a ground up vitamin/mineral supplement. Yum.
It’s understandable that you may want extra calories and fluids after a hard workout. For an active young adult, this is a valid concern, and I recommend you look for a premade beverage that is low in sugar and contains more natural ingredients (read more here). Even better, make you own with a high quality, low sugar protein powder and a variety of flavorful ingredients such as fruit, nuts, oats, and/or spices (20 recipes here).
But unless you are an active young adult, you likely do not need the extra calories that come from these bottles. If you want a snack, eat a cup of plain yogurt, a fresh nectarine, or a handful of nuts and your body will appreciate the healthful boost.
Just One Thing to do: Make your own protein shake with a base of water, milk or nondairy substitute, then add a scoop of protein powder and a banana or other fruit.
Doesn’t a cold smoothie sound good on a hot summer day? A smoothie is a thick, creamy beverage – with a “smooth” consistency - that is typically a blended concoction of fruit, dairy/dairy substitute, and ice. It is easy to make it nutritious, but just as easy to create or buy one that is more dessert than health food.
Store-bought and chain-bought smoothies average 5 teaspoons of sugar per cup, and most servings are 2 to 3 times that size. That’s a lot of sugar! It comes from processed fruit purees and juices (such as apple puree and orange juice) along with table sugar, honey and other sweeteners. The problem with the juice and puree is that they are handled in your body like the other forms of sugar; these sugars do not trigger you to feel full or satisfied as quickly as real fruit because they do not contain any fiber and are digested quickly. Some smoothies also contain frozen yogurt or ice cream, making them a milkshake in disguise.
If you are buying a smoothie, ask if they use only whole fruit and skip the yogurt or ice cream. Consider add-ins like protein powder, peanut butter or chia seeds if you don’t mind the extra cost, but skip the spirulina and guarana seed boosts which have no proven benefits. And unless you are an active young adult, keep your portions small.
An even better option is to make your own at home. Start with the basics:
Experiment with flavors and textures until you find your favorites, then start preparing a large batch to store in the refrigerator for later. A good tip to keep it fresh: add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the blender. Store in individual portion containers such as a small mason jar or cup with a lid, then you can grab one after a workout or on your way to work for a quick, and yes, nutritious, drink.
Just One Thing to do: Make your own smoothies with a fruit, vegetable and protein source for a healthy drink packed with vitamins and minerals!
P.S. This blog was longer than my intended 100-200 word length; sorry. I hope it was a quick read!