Getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables

It is well known that portions sizes in the United States have increased tremendously throughout the years, but what about increasing portion sizes as a way to promote increased fruit and vegetable intake among children? It may just a work.

A recent study published in the March edition of Obesity examined just that (1). The study took 43 boys and girls ages 5 and 6 and fed them dinner once a week for two weeks. Each dinner consisted of a pasta dish with tomato sauce, milk and varying portion sizes of carrots, broccoli, and unsweetened applesauce. At each meal the size of the pasta dish remained the same, but the portion size of the vegetables and fruit served were doubled between visits. At the meal in which the portion size of the fruit and vegetables was increased, the children consumed 43 percent more of the fruit dish and less of the main entrée. This may be one way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and decrease their intake of more energy-dense foods.

Kids tend to be picky eaters so when preparing vegetables you need to get creative. In addition, it’s important to continue to expose them to various fruits and vegetables numerous times. The best time to introduce new fruits and vegetables is during meals they enjoy rather than having all new foods that are foreign to them. Consider having colorful salads with a dash their favorite salad dressing or melt some low-fat cheese on top of their broccoli. Incorporate vegetables into the meal itself instead of serving them separately or in the morning give them a yogurt parfait with fresh strawberries.

Starting a garden or getting kids involved with the preparation of their favorite fruits and vegetables also works to boost consumption of these foods. This doesn’t mean you have to smother vegetables in high-fat sauces and dressings or put sugar on fruit, but the more creative and tasty you make it, the more they’ll eat.

1) Kral TV, Kabay AC, Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Effects of doubling the portion size of fruit and vegetable side dishes on children’s intake at a meal. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Mar;18(3):521-7.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Fresh versus frozen vegetables

Are you someone who is prone to buying fresh vegetables at the start of the week, and three to five days later they are still sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be used? If this sounds like you, you may be someone who would benefit from purchasing frozen vegetables to get more bang for your buck nutritionally speaking. Fresh vegetables are great, don’t get me wrong, but in the course of being picked and transported to the supermarket coupled with sitting in the fridge for a few days, they begin to lose their nutritional value.

A recent report showed that up to 45 percent of nutrients may be lost in fresh vegetables before they are consumed, and that in some cases it may take up to two weeks from the time they are picked to reach our tables (1)! Frozen vegetables are picked when they are at their ripest, and that is when fruits and vegetables typically carry the most nutritional value. From there they are blanched in water to kill any bacteria, sealed and immediately frozen.

A good rule of thumb is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season and at the ripest to get the most benefits nutritionally. If you have the luxury of picking your own in the summer months or taking advantage of locally grown, this can definitely help too. In winter months when there isn’t as much access to fresh produce or when you know you won’t be able to use your produce quickly, stock up on frozen vegetables so that you can reap all the nutritional benefits.

1. Frozen vegetables ‘more nutritious than fresh vegetables’, says report. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7374249/Frozen-vegetables-more-nutritious-than-fresh-vegetables-says-report.html. Accessed: March 5, 2010.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Water and Weight Loss: Is there a connection?

Throughout my career, a common question that arises is whether water consumption before or during a meal really helps with weight loss. A common responses to this question is that people often confuse hunger for hydration, but a recent study may provide an answer to this question that is based on science. A randomized clinical trial published in the February edition of Obesity examined how water intake might affect weight loss in overweight and obese individuals age 55-75 (1). One group received a low-calorie diet with an emphasis on increased water consumption (water group: 16 fluid ounces of water prior to each of the three daily meals), and the other received a low-calorie diet alone (non-water group).

Neither group was aware of the true intention of the study prior to participating. There were no differences between the two groups at the start of the trial with regards to age, anthropometrics, blood chemistry or physical activity. Measurements were taken at baseline and at the end of 12 weeks. At the end of the trial both groups had lost a significant amount of weight, but those who had been instructed to consume 16 fluid ounces of water prior to each meal had a 44 percent greater weight loss than the non-water group. This equated to an approximate four-pound difference between the two groups. The mechanism through which water may be impacting weight is not fully understood, but it may be in part that it reduces energy intake at each meal and increases feelings of fullness.

1) Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Get motivated to move

No matter what area of the country we live in, there are always obstacles that hinder our ability to keep up with our exercise routines. Loss of motivation can stem from living in New England during the winter months with the cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours or living in the South in the middle of the summer. With New Years’ Resolutions a distant memory, but with hopes of spring soon arriving, here are some tips to reinvigorate you with your exercise goals, whether it’s walking, yoga or even using that gym membership you paid for Jan 1. The key is to make exercise enjoyable!

1) Enlist a friend: You’ll be more apt to keep a workout appointment if you know a friend is waiting for you. Even if you aren’t the most motivated individual on a particular day, having a friend can make working out in the morning, at lunch or in the evening more enjoyable if you know someone is there with you. This is a give-and-take relationship because there will definitely be days when your friend isn’t as motivated, and you’ll be his or her motivation to work out. By having a friend, you might be more prone to do something you wouldn’t typically do on your own, like signing up for a rumba or kickboxing class!

2) Switch your routine: If you tend to do the same activity day in and day out, switch your routine. This could be buying a new workout DVD, using a program On Demand, signing up for a class at the gym or doing that hot yoga class you’ve always wanted to try. If you live in colder climates, use the winter months as an excuse to downhill or cross-country ski, snow shoe or ice skate with the kids. For those in warmer climates, use this a great time to start walking, jogging or even swimming.

3) Buy some new gear: Not many people enjoy spending money on workout gear they are just going to sweat in, but buying new gear will make you more likely to use it in addition to making you feel better about yourself while you’re working out.

4) Make exercise non-negotiable: Just like you have to get up for work each day even when you may not want to, think about your workouts in the same way. By blocking out a chunk of time in your calendar each day or setting the alarm a half hour earlier, you’ll be less likely to have the excuses pile up as the day goes on. Once you get into the habit of working out regularly, you’ll not only feel better about yourself, but you’ll be more likely to make sure this is one part of your day you don’t let slip away.

5) Sleep in your gym clothes: In colder climates, the winter months make it hard to get up, especially if it is dark out first thing in the morning. What’s worse and less motivating is changing out of your warm clothes into cold ones. Sleeping in your clothes is one solution to this problem because once the alarm goes off, you can get up and go straight to the gym without having to deal with both the dark and cold. If you have a gym membership, you’ll be excited to see how many other people decided to get up early just like you.

6) Bring your workout gear with you: Sometimes it’s more difficult to get out of the house at night after a long day at work. Each morning pack a snack and your gym bag. Instead of going straight home from work, change at the office, have your snack in the car and you’ll have the motivation to work out after work. Being hungry and not having your stuff with you are two reasons you’ll be less likely to go back out once you get home.

7) Social Networking Sites: Use Internet social networking Web sites to get you motivated. There are numerous places online where you can join fitness groups that will get you motivated. Don’t want to work out in front of other people? No problem! You can connect with other people who feel the same way and who will give you tips for staying active even if you are embarrassed to work out with others. Connect with friends on Facebook or in the area to see if they would be willing to meet for a walk or planned activity. This is a great way to reconnect in addition to accomplishing your goals!

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

Preventing the post-dinner munchies

Over the years I have noticed that most people have no trouble following the anti inflammatory diet during the day. It’s about two hours after dinner that the munchies begin to strike.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

What’s the buzz about magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that is inching its way into the spotlight. About 50 percent of the magnesium in our bodies is located in our bone, and the other half is found inside our cells and tissues (1). So what’s the big deal? Well in addition to maintaining muscle and nerve function, regulating heart rhythm, bone health and supporting our immune system, it also helps control blood sugar levels, blood pressure, energy metabolism and protein synthesis (2). This means it may play a role in diseases like hypertension, diabetes and even cardiovascular disease, although more research is needed. It has even been shown to help individuals with asthma based on its anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating effects (3) and a recent animal study shows promise with regards to its memory boosting properties (4).

Despite all the benefits attributed to magnesium, the increase in processed and refined food intake in the United States has led to a decrease in magnesium consumption through the years. So how can you make sure you’re getting enough? The best sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and unrefined grains, such as oatmeal. Meats, starches and milk include some magnesium but are not the best sources. For women over the age of 30 the recommended daily intake is 320mg/day and for men 420mg/day (1). Women, you can meet your requirements with 1 ounce of almonds (80mg), 1 cup frozen spinach (150mg), 1 cup oatmeal (55mg) and 1 cup of yogurt (45mg). Men add 3oz. of halibut (90mg) to this and you’ve met your daily requirements too!

1) Magnesium: Available at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=5776&page=190. Accessed: February 22, 2010.
2) Magnesium. Available at: http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/magnesium.asp. Accessed: February 22, 2010.
3) Bichara MD, Goldman RD. Magnesium for treatment of asthma in children. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Sep;55(9):887-9.
4) Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, Huang C, Zhang L, Li B, Zhao X, Govindarajan A, Zhao MG, Zhuo M, Tonegawa S, Liu G. Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-177.

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.