If healthier eating is on your list of resolutions for 2012, look no further. The January 2012 issue of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch offers 12 ways to break old dietary habits and build new ones.
For many years, nutrition research focused on the benefits and risks of single nutrients, such as cholesterol, saturated fat, and antioxidants. Today, many researchers are exploring the health effects of foods and eating patterns, acknowledging that there are many important interactions within and among nutrients in the foods we eat.
The result is a better understanding of what makes up a healthy eating plan. Here are five food- or meal-based ways to improve your diet that we list in the article (you can see all 12 on the Harvard Health website):
Pile on the vegetables and fruits. Their high fiber, mineral, and vitamin content make fruits and vegetables a critical component of any healthy diet. They’re also the source of beneficial plant chemicals not found in other foods or supplements.
As my regular readers already know, I’ve been eagerly coaching the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Triple Play Fit Family Challenge (FFC) participants on healthy eating. During a recent phone call with the families I expressed some wistfulness about not being able to *see* what they’ve been eating (the FFC blog is filled with charming action shots of the families exercising, but almost no food cameos). And this is what the Porter family just sent me. It’s a video inviting me to a dinner of grilled tilapia, brown rice, acorn squash, mushrooms and broccoli. Tell me if this isn’t the cutest nutrition video ever?
Heart disease. Stroke. Diabetes. Asthma. Osteoporosis. These common scourges are often pegged to genes, pollution, or the wear and tear caused by personal choices like a poor diet, smoking, or too little exercise. David Barker, a British physician and epidemiologist, has a different and compelling idea: these and other conditions stem from a developing baby’s environment, mainly the womb and the placenta.
Barker was the invited speaker at this year’s Stare-Hegsted Lecture, which is a big deal at the Harvard School of Public Health. In just over an hour, he covered the basics of what the British Medical Journal used to call the Barker hypothesis. It has since come to be known as the developmental origins of chronic disease. (You can watch the entire talk here.)
It goes like this: During the first thousand days of development, from conception to age 2, the body’s tissues, organs, and systems are exquisitely sensitive to conditions in their environment during various windows of time. A lack of nutrients or an overabundance of them during these windows programs a child’s development and sets the stage for health or disease. Barker and others use low body weight at term birth is a marker for poor fetal nutrition.
When a fetus is faced with a poor food supply, it Read more »
In my recent phone chat with the Boys & Girls Clubs participants of the Fit Family Challenge, one of the callers confided in me that she works long hours and struggles to find time to cook healthy meals for her family. This is a very common problem, though there are tricks to make meal preparation fast and affordable. I decided to take the challenge myself, cooking a pork chop dinner for three, with only 9 ingredients in 9 minutes. I took a photo of the starting ingredients here. The total cost of the used portions (I’m not counting all the PAM, and apple sauce that I didn’t use for example) was about $9. That’s only $3 per person, less than most fast food meals! (I served ice water with the meal, but a glass of skim milk would have been fine too.)
My ingredients include:
1. Quick-fry pork chops, seared in a pan coated with PAM cooking spray. I chose pork chops with very little fat, and cooked them for 4 minutes on each side. Read more »
Most people who have lost weight understand how easy it is to gain it back. In fact, I often hear patients tell me that over the course of their lifetimes they’ve “tried every popular diet out there” and yet have failed to keep the weight off permanently. If that’s your situation, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that only 20% of overweight individuals are successful at long term weight loss. But there is hope for success, and we can learn the secrets of “successful losers” from the National Weight Control Registry.
In a flash of brilliance, sociologist Rina Wing and psychologist Jim Hill decided to create a database of weight loss success cases, and simply observe how they live their lives over decades of time. They called this research study the National Weight Control Registry, and it has been enrolling study subjects since 1994. What they’ve found is that those who have been successful at losing at least 30 pounds and keeping that weight off for at least 1 year share many behaviors in common. I believe that the closer we follow in the footsteps of these successful people, the more likely we are to be fit for a lifetime. So here goes – this is what the study subjects report: Read more »
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