There Are No Magic Diets

February 28, 2009

Finally! A diet study that makes sense!

This week the New England Journal of Medicine published a study comparing four different types of weight loss diets-
* A low-fat, average-protein diet
* A low-fat, high-protein diet
* A high-fat, average-protein diet
* A high-fat, high-protein diet

All of the four diets used in the study had the same personalized calorie-reduction goals and were heart healthy- low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in dietary fiber. All of the study participants were either overweight or obese and had to keep a food diary, attend group counseling sessions, reduce calorie intake, and do at least 90 minutes of exercise per week for approximately 3 years.

The results found that REGARDLESS of diet type, participants lost an average of 13 pounds in 6 months and maintained a 9-pound loss after 2 years. Also, there were improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors in all four regimes.

For years, dietitians have been telling their clients that there is no magic formula for weight loss.

balance_plate2It’s a simple equation…energy intake < energy expenditure = weight loss. It doesn’twoman_running matter which proportion of carbohydrate, protein and fat you choose….it’s the total calories that count!

Most importantly, find a regime that works best for you!

The Mediterranean Way

February 18, 2009

When I hear from clients, “ Bread and pasta are bad” or “I try not to eat any fat to stay healthy”, I often wonder where these common misconceptions came from. Ironically, the core of one of the healthiest diets on the planet- the “Mediterranean diet”- includes staples that are the exact opposite of what many people in this country believe not to be healthy (example: bread and pasta)! The key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

Healthy fats– Instead of limiting fat, the Mediterranean diet encourages liberal amounts of healthy fats- olive and canola oil, nuts, avocados, and olives; and limits animal fats and fats from processed foods. Instead of spreading butter on bread, Mediterranean people dip bread in olive oil.

Eating an abundant amount of fruits and vegetables- Similar to other healthy eating regimes, fruits and vegetables should be consumed several times throughout the day. Mediterranean people often eat fruit for dessert instead of high fat and sugar treats.

Eating whole grains and legumes- Mediterranean people eat whole grain bread, pasta, potatoes, polenta, rice, couscous, and beans or legumes at each meal. These foods are full of fiber and nutrients, low in fat and are a rich source of energy!

More fish, little red meat- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout) contain omega-3’s that promote heart health are encouraged over red meat and other high fat animal products.

Low fat dairy products- milk, yogurt, cheese

Drinking red wine in moderation– Small amounts of wine (about 3 ounces per day) are usually consumed with dinner and are associated with lower rates of heart disease.

Eating plenty of fresh, local and seasonal foods over processed foods.

Research shows that those who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to have:
Lower body weight, blood pressure, blood fats, blood sugar and possibly a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

One Day Sample Mediterranean Menu

Pita bread, feta cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes

Lentil Soup
Vegetable salad with olive oil
Pita bread

Grilled Tuna Fish
Grilled vegetables- eggplant, zucchini, squash, bell peppers
Fruit salad
Red wine

healthyheart1Heart Disease is the #1 killer among women and #2 among men. While our genetics plays a role, your lifestyle also plays a significant role in your heart health. Here are 10 eating strategies for keeping a healthy heart.


1. Reduce your intake of Saturated Fats, Trans Fats, and Cholesterol.

a. Saturated fats, primarily found in animal sources including meat and whole milk dairy products, raise the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish and nuts. Also avoid vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils, which also contain saturated fat.

b. Trans fat are formed by a process called hydrogenation when a liquid vegetable oil is transformed into a transfatsolid fat. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease, as well as lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Primary sources of trans fat are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

c. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is present in all animal cells. Cholesterol is found in egg yolks, organ meats, meat, poultry, ice cream, butter, cheese and whole milk. Cholesterol in food can directly effect blood cholesterol levels.

2. Choose heart healthy oils and fats. Oils such as olive, canola, margarines labeled “trans fat free”, or smartbalancecholesterol lowering margarines, such as Smart Balance or Benecol can actually protect the heart.

3. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. This type of dietary fiber is associated with lower cholesterol and reduction of heart disease.fiber

4. Choose whole grains. Whole grains contain several nutrients and dietary fiber that promote heart health. Choose 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta, and high fiber cereals such as bran flakes and oats.

5. Eat fish at least two times per week. Fatty fishes like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit the heart. Other foods such as tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils contains one type of fatty acid that becomes omega-3 in the body.

no_salt6. Decrease salt intake. A high salt diet can raise blood pressure, which puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease. It is not enough to simply avoid using the salt shaker. Salt is rampant in our food supply. To lower salt intake avoid canned, processed, and convenient foods. Choose mostly fresh foods, such as fresh meat, fish, vegetables, cheese whenever possible. Limit high sodium condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, and seasonings containing salt. Instead choose natural herbs and spices such as garlic, onion, and Mrs. Dash substitutes.

7. Keep Portions Moderate. In recent years, portions in restaurants have increased significantly, thus changing our perception of what an adequate portion is. Consistently eating large portions can increase weight and cause overweight/obesity, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. To ensure a balanced plate, consider a medium dinner plate filled half with vegetables, a quarter with grains and another quarter with 3-4 ounces of lean meat or protein.

8. Consume alcohol in moderation. Research shows that all types of alcohol (in moderation) can raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and reduce negative effects of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Red-wine appears to have a greater effect than other types of alcohol.

9. Avoid stress while eating. While stress is not good for your heart in any situation, stress while eating relaxed-eatingmay cause you to not pay attention to your food intake. It may also cause indigestion. Enjoy your meals in a relaxed environment, with nice lighting or candles.

10. Listen to your body. Staying mindful of your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues is a natural way to help regulate your food intake and avoid overeating, which can contribute to excess weight, leading to heart disease.

pregnant2Recently I have had many friends who have had babies or are pregnant. In this month alone, I know at least 5 women who will be having babies! So, in case you or someone you know is pregnant, here are some important diet do’s and don’ts for ensuring a healthy pregnancy.


-Remember that your nutrition in pregnancy WILL affect your baby’s growth and development.

-Eat a well-balanced diet and choose a variety of foods to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

-Take a prenatal vitamin supplement.

dairy-Consume at least 3 or 4 servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Calcium is needed to build strong bones and teeth. If you don’t consume enough calcium to meet the needs of your growing baby, your body will take calcium from your bones, putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Foods rich in calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products. Take a calcium supplement if you have difficulty consuming adequate calcium. Women who are pregnant need 1000-1300 mg calcium each day.

-Consume at least 3 servings of iron-rich foods per day to ensure that you and your baby are getting enough beansoxygen (iron helps carry oxygen throughout the body). Women who are pregnant need 27 mg of iron per day. Good sources of iron include meat, beans, peas, and lentils; enriched grains (cereal, rice, pasta); and some fruits such as berries, apricots, and dried fruits.

-Consume at least one good source of folic acid each day, such as dark green leafy vegetables and legumes. Folic Acid helps to prevent neural tube defects.

-Do limit caffeine to no more than 300 mg per day. The average 8-ounce cup of coffee has 65-120 mg and tea has about 20-90 mg. Also, remember chocolate and some soft drinks contain caffeine.


no-alcohol-Drink alcohol while your pregnant. Alcohol has been associated to premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects, and low birth weight babies.

-Use saccharin because it can cross the placenta and may remain in the fetus. Instead, use other non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet) or sucrulose (Splenda).

-Don’t eat swordfish, shark, tilefish, or king mackerel because they may contain high levels of mercury which can affect the developing brain and nervous system of the unborn child.

-Eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheeses because they maybrie cause Listeria infection since they are often unpasteurized.

-Eat raw fish.

-Attempt to lose weight while pregnant. While it’s true, you don’t need to “eat for two”, it’s important that you and your baby have adequate nutrition and energy to stay healthy. It’s recommended that pregnant women should add 300 more calories per day from their pre-pregnancy diet.  Also, the average women needs to gain 25-35 pounds to support the pregnancy.