Nutrition tips to start the year

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Candice O’Hare is a registered dietitian and health educator at Saint Francis Medical Center and Fitness Plus. (Fred Lynch)

For many people the start of a new year is a time to re-examine diets and ways to become healthier. This week Candice O'Hare, a registered dietitian and health educator at The Healthy Weigh at Saint Francis Medical Center, gives answers to questions on how to eat more healthfully, what to watch for in a diet and more.

Q: At the start of a new year, many are probably resolving to eat more nutritiously. What's one simple dietary change people can make to be healthier?

A: Go for fruits and vegetables. They are the most important part of our dietary habits and provide tons of nutrition along with other health benefits. Start slowly. If you are currently not eating any fruits and vegetables, set your goal for one to two each day until you can work your way up to five full-cup servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Q: For those who want to take the next step and begin a more rigorous nutrition program, what would you suggest?

A: For someone who wants a more rigorous nutrition program, Saint Francis Medical Center offers The Healthy Weigh, an innovative program featuring lifestyle education, personalized attention and follow-up and an emphasis on long-term weight and health management. The Healthy Weigh program is perfect for someone looking to lose 10 to 100 or more pounds and can be done at the clinic with or without medical supervision or at home with diet kits and program materials. Dr. Philip E. Tippen, an internal medicine physician at Saint Francis Medical Center, is the medical director of The Healthy Weigh. He is supported by a team of medical and fitness specialists at the medical center and Fitness Plus who give guidance in prevention, exercise and nutrition, helping patients lose weight safely, keep off pounds and increase wellness. To learn more, call The Healthy Weigh at 331-5686.

Q: How much water should someone drink per day, and does this vary by person, weight and medical conditions?

A: The average person's goal should be eight 8-ounce glasses of noncaloric fluid daily. Water is the best choice, but unsweetened coffees or teas also count toward your fluid. If you prefer, add noncaloric flavors like Crystal Lite to your water to help get to your eight glasses. If you have certain medical conditions like heart disease or kidney disease you should consult your doctor on the correct amount of fluid you should be drinking daily.

Q: How can parents help their children eat healthier foods and make eating nutritiously a habit the child will carry into adulthood?

A: Getting balance back into meals and snacks will have immediate and long-term benefits for your kids. When they consume the right balance of calories and nutrients for their growing bodies, they'll feel better, have more energy and probably do better in school, too. 1) Start with fruits and vegetables. 2) Add in whole grains. Make sure that your children are not eating only refined grains. Go for whole grain bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pastas. These options provide fiber as well as antioxidants to boost nutrition. 3) Include the power of protein. There are plenty of delicious ways to serve the protein kids need to grow strong and tall: lean beef, pork, lamb, fish, seafood, chicken, turkey, legumes (dried beans and peas) and reduced-fat dairy foods (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and milk). 4) Choose beverages wisely. It's time to rethink your children's drinks. Move away from sugary beverages with lots of calories and no nutrient value. Drink low-fat milk with meals and water with snacks.

Q: What are some reasonable expectations for losing weight the healthy way?

A: If you can, meet with a dietitian to figure your resting metabolic rate and then develop a daily calorie to help support your weight-loss goals. Different diets yield different results, but to keep the weight off long-term you must change behaviors. Find a program that focuses on getting in five full-cup servings of fruits and vegetables every day, use low-calorie ready-to-eat meals or shakes as meal replacements, and make sure you are doing some form of physical activity every day.

Q: What are some ways to make food more appetizing while minimizing salt?

A: There are many no-sodium spices out on the market, like Mrs. Dash and McCormick seasonings, that offer a lot of taste with no added sodium. You can also use herbs and spices right out of your cabinet. Don't be afraid to try new spices -- you can even add fresh-squeezed lemon juice for added flavor.

Q: What should consumers beware of when looking at diet pills, and are these pills safe?

A: It isn't surprising that with the weight of our society a lot of people fall into the fad diet circle with bogus weight-loss products. Conflicting claims, testimonials and hype by so-called "experts" can confuse consumers. The bottom line: If a diet sounds too good to be true, it is probably is. There are no foods or pills that magically burn fat. No superfoods will alter your genetic code. No product will miraculously melt fat while you watch TV or sleep. Some ingredients in supplements and herbal products can be dangerous and even deadly for some people. Most diet pills come with a very low-calorie diet prescription to be used in conjunction with the pill. Severely restricting calories is going to yield weight loss, but it is not something you will be able to continually practice. When you drop the number of calories you consume, your metabolism slows down, too, which can have you gaining weight when you begin to eat a regular diet again. Here is the truth: Losing weight does take work and at times it can be difficult, but the payoff of taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle is immeasurable. If you focus on increasing fruits, veggies and whole grains, incorporate lean proteins and low-fat dairy, practice portion control and increase physical activity, you'll have a prescription that will not leave you unsuccessful and frustrated.

Q: When comparing canned and frozen vegetables, what's the better choice?

A: Any vegetable is a better choice. Frozen vegetables tend to have lower sodium levels and are frozen at their peak of freshness. However, if you only have a can of green beans in your cabinet, that is a better choice than having no vegetables. When using canned vegetables, look for the "no added sodium" label or rinse your vegetables before cooking to help decrease the sodium level.

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