It’s time for CHANGE…..

September 30, 2008

Have you found yourself thinking about making a change in your life, but can’t quite get yourself motivated to do it?

I see people every day in my practice who either WANT to change but don’t know how or don’t believe they can; or, they think they SHOULD change (or their doctors tell them they should), but simply don’t want to.

When people think about change, they often feel scared, frustrated, angry, confused, excited, stuck, or afraid of failure. It is totally normal to have these feelings and want to resist change! But, without change, life is stagnant and there is no improvement or growth.

When it comes to changing eating behaviors, people struggle for many reasons. One reason is that we’ve developed our eating habits over many years, so those who expect their eating habits to change in a day, a week, or a month, often feel let down or frustrated. Although some changes can occur quickly, such as someone who starts eating breakfast every morning, it is only when the change is repeated over and over for a long period of time, that it will become a habit. Patience and persistence is key!

Another reason changing eating habits can be difficult, is that many people use food to cope with emotional distress. For example, one of my clients always turns to cake, pie, or cookies when she’s stressed. No matter how hard she tries to avoid sweets, she always finds a way to eat them because it’s the only thing that comforts her in times of stress. When emotional eating is an issue, it’s a good idea to find other (non-food related) ways to cope. This is definitely not an easy task!

Another challenge to changing eating habits is that eating is needed for survival. Unlike quitting smoking or drinking alcohol, eating cannot be avoided completely. Eating is a part of our every day life and therefore we are constantly faced with decisions about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat etc. In order to adapt to an eating behavior change, one must be engaged in the change every day.

I wish it were as easy as taking a pill or flicking a switch. But, truthfully, we ALL can change when:
• We WANT to/It’s important to us (e.g. we want to be healthy so that we can live a long life)

• We know HOW to do it (e.g. we have the proper knowledge, skills, training or professional guidance)

• We believe we CAN do it (e.g. we’ve had experience with change in the past and feel confident that we can do it)

As a nutrition therapist, I help individuals to get to a place where these three things are aligned, so that they can make a change towards better physical and emotional health.

3-1-2 Magic Meal Box

September 22, 2008

The Japanese are not only healthy because their food is naturally low in fat and high in health promoting benefits, but also, the proportion (and portion) of foods at each meal is very well-balanced. During my visit to Japan at the ICD conference, I attended a lunch seminar in which they explained the use of “The 3-1-2 Meal Box Magic” It’s basically a tool to preparing well-balanced nutritious meals.

In essence the box has a 3:1:2 ratio.

3: Shushoku (staple foods from grains)

1: Shusai (main dish from fish, meat, poultry, eggs, soybeans)

2: Fukusai (side dish from vegetables, potatoes, mushrooms, seaweed)

Also, only one of the dishes is prepared in oil to keep the fat content down.

Here’s a picture of what it looks like:

It’s easy to incorporate this style of eating into any type of cuisine and for any meal. For example an American meal, might look like this:

1 medium baked sweet potato

3 ounce baked chicken

1 cup green salad

1 cup steamed vegetable

1 Tbsp olive oil (for fat)

You can also use this model to the right

to help you to design healthy, balanced meals.

Secrets of the Japanese Diet

September 15, 2008

Konnichiwa! I just returned from an amazing week in Japan and wanted to share a bit of my experience regarding Japanese eating habits. Some of what I learned was from nutrition professionals from around the world at the International Congress of Dietetics Conference in Yokohama. I also learned a lot about the Japanese eating habits through my own observations and the help of my host, Mr. Terou Tabuchi.

For several years, the Japanese have been in the lead for both the longest average life span and the longest healthy life span compared to any other culture. e. Based on what I learned, I can see why!

Unlike the typical American diet, almost all of the foods consumed by the Japanese are nutrient dense (lots of nutrition in a small quantity), low in fat, and many have health benefits beyond basic nutrition. . The major components of the Japanese diet include fish, fermented foods (such as soy, miso, dairy), vegetables (especially broccoli, radishes, watercress), fruit, seaweed, tofu, green tea, and of course, rice.

Fish is not only an excellent source of protein, B-vitamins, iron and other vitamins, but also, it is a major source of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA) which has been shown to decrease risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, inflammatory disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis), and macular degeneration. This type of essential fatty acid may also improve mood, and IQ (in babies whose mothers ate fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding).

Fermented foods in particular fermented dairy products provide probiotics (“friendly bacteria”) which may help to improve digestion, enhance immune system, treat irritable bowel syndrome, lower blood pressure, as well as improving several other conditions.

Fruits & Vegetables- We all know that these are good for us, but, most of us are challenged by getting enough in. In Japan, fruits and vegetables are consumed at each meal. In fact, it is normal to eat salad at breakfast! For sweets, fruit is usually served instead of high calorie cookies, ice cream, or cake.

Seaweed contains several minerals including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, and zinc. It is also a good source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), B1, B2, B6, niacin, vitamin C, pantothenic acid, and folic acid. I also learned that seaweed is a good source of Vitamin B12, which rarely occurs in land vegetables. One study showed that a common component of the diet of centenarians (those who lived to be 100 years old) is seaweed and fermented foods.

Tofu is an excellent source of protein and alternative to red meat because it is low in fat and has little artery-clogging saturated fat.

Green Tea is a rich source of flavanoids, which have been shown to provide anti-cancer and antioxidant effects. I It is also an excellent source of Vitamin C. Overall, green tea drinkers have a lower incidence of many chronic diseases. It seems that in Japan, Green tea is more readily available than water

Rice is included at every meal in Japan. . It is an excellent source of carbohydrates (for energy), low in fat, and keeps you satisfied enough to avoid eating other high calorie foods.

Besides the nutrient dense and health-promoting foods found in the Japanese diet, the Japanese eat slowly and mindfully. Most of the foods are served individually on pretty little dishes. This gives you a chance to enjoy the beauty of the food, which results in slower eating, and ultimately eating less (it takes your brain 20 minutes to realize that you’re full). Additionally, using chopsticks instead of a fork helps you to take smaller bites and to eat slower.

Lastly, I was amazed by how convenient it was to find these foodsds ! It seemed that since these foods are staple in their diet, they are available at every restaurant and convenient store. So, you don’t have to drive miles to find the nearest healthy meal or snack, which for most of us in America, is the biggest reason we choose fast foods.

Have you ever found yourself standing in the market wondering if you should buy the organic product (which usually costs more) or the conventionally grown product?  If you’re comparing apples to apples….you might see the same round, firm, and bright red color, but, are they both really the same? 

The main difference between organic farming and conventional farming is the way the farmers grow and process agricultural products.  Organic farmers use natural fertilizers, use beneficial insects and birds to reduce pests and disease, and give animals organic feed.  On the other hand, conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers , spray insecticides, and give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and promote growth. 

But, what about nutrition?   So far, there is no conclusive evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown products.   But, if you want to reduce your exposure to pesticides, choosing organic is the way to go. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) developed a list of 43 fruits and veggies with the highest and lowest pesticide load.  Keep in mind that soft-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels.  Since food costs are going up, buying all organic foods may not be possible for some, but here are the top fruits and veggies that you should always buy organic.

1.      Peaches  (worst-highest pesticide)

2.      Apples

3.      Sweet Bell Peppers

4.      Celery

5.      Nectarines

6.      Strawberries

7.      Cherries

8.      Lettuce

9.      Grapes-imported

10.  Pears

11.  Spinach

12.  Potatoes

The 5 least contaminated fruits and veggies:

1.      Onions (best- lowest pesticide)

2.      Avocado

3.      Sweet Corn- Frozen

4.      Pineapples

5.      Mangos