Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tips for Decreasing High Blood Pressure

The first leading cause of death in the US is heart disease and the third leading cause of death is stroke. Having high blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk of developing both heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can also result in congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). While genetics plays a role in the development of high blood pressure, there are still things that you can do to decrease your risk.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood on the walls of the vessels during contraction and relaxation. The numbers in your blood pressure reading tell how hard your heart is working to pump blood. A blood pressure of less than or equal to 120/80 is considered normal. A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher is considered high. 

Weight Reduction

As body weight increases, blood pressure rises. The single most important factor in decreasing high blood pressure is weight reduction. Losing just 5 pounds can decrease blood pressure! 


Eating excessive amounts of salt causes your body to retain more water. The increase in fluid circulating in the body causes an increase in pressure on the blood vessels. The blood vessel walls begin to thicken and the heart has to work harder to move fluid around, leading to high blood pressure. Aiming for 1,500mg of sodium can help to manage high blood pressure. Sodium is found in processed foods like deli meats, soups, and frozen meals.


A diet high in potassium helps to protect you from high blood pressure. Potassium inhibits the reabsorption of sodium in the body. It is recommended to consume between 2,000 and 4,000mg of potassium. Potassium can be found in many fruits (oranges, tomatoes, bananas, raisins, apricots) and vegetables (potatoes, peas, beans, broccoli, spinach).

Chronic consumption of more than 1 ounce per day of alcohol has been associated with higher blood pressure. Intake should be limited to 1-2 ounces of ethanol per day. This translates into 1 12-oz beer, 4oz wine, and 1oz of hard liquor.

Physical Activity 

Physical activity decreases your risk of high blood pressure by as much as 50%. Regular physical activity helps to strengthen your heart. As little as 30 minutes per day of physical activity can decrease blood pressure by 10mmHg.  Physical activity also helps with weight management.

Lastly, smoking cessation is an also a very important change to make when decreasing your risk of high blood pressure.

Happy heart health!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Increase Your Metabolism

Let's set the scenario. You watch one of your best friends (spouse, boyfriend, etc) eat whole pizzas all the time, but, they never gain any weight! You, on the other hand, eat one piece of pizza and the next day, your pants don't fit! A little exaggerated, but I am sure most of you understand the feeling of seeing some people eat anything they want and never gain an ounce.

We are going to break down what metabolism is and what you can do to influence it. While genetics plays a role in your metabolic rate, there are still many things that you can do to help!

What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories.

Factors Affecting Metabolism
1. Body size: Tall, thin people have higher metabolic rates than short, wide people.
2. Exercise
3. Age
4. Gender: Men have higher metabolic rates than women do. Sorry women.
5. Hormones
6. Exercise
7. Food/beverage intake
8. Sleep
9. Cold exposure: Studies have shown that frequent cold exposure (cold showers, cold drinking water, less bundling in the winter) increases metabolism.

Your metabolism slows down as you age. What can you do about that? One thing you can do to avoid weight gain is to decrease the amount of calories you consume.

Women, your metabolism fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle. This is the reason why at certain weeks you are eating everything in sight. Pregnant women, during the second half of pregnancy, metabolic rate increases due to fetal growth and the mother's increased cardiac workload.

Athletes with greater muscle mass have a 5% higher metabolic rate than non-athletes. This is largely due to their increased fat free mass.  By participating in strength training exercises (chest press, overhead press, lat pulldown, etc), you are increasing your resting metabolism. This means that you are increasing the amount of calories you burn after exercising. This effect can last for up to 24 hours.  High intensity interval training has also been shown to increase metabolism for 2-3 hours after exercise.  Lastly, having more muscle in general will boost your metabolism because of the calories needed to maintain them.

Food/Beverage Intake
Spicy foods and caffeine both stimulate your metabolism. Meals with chili may increase metabolic rate as much as 33% for a span of 3 hours. By ingesting caffeine every 2 hours for 12 hours, your metabolism is boosted by about 10%. Green tea has also been well known for the benefits of EGCG, which boosts metabolism. What's the catch? You can only reap the benefits of green tea by regular consumption of 5-6 cups of green tea per day.

It is important to try and get in about 7-8 hours of sleep per night. While resting, your body burns calories performing basic processes (repairing damaged tissues, breathing, pumping blood). Your resting metabolism accounts for about 65% of your daily calorie burning.  With chronic lack of sleep, your metabolic function becomes altered and slowed.

To sum it all up, the major factors in increasing metabolic rate are exercise and sleep. While coffee, spicy foods, and green tea can help boost metabolism, the amount you have to consume on a daily basis  is quite high. The best ways to boost metabolism are to be mindful in caloric changes (decreasing calories as you age), using strength exercises, and getting enough sleep every night.
Mahan L, Escott-Stump, S. "Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy." Saunders. 2004.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Eat This, Not That: Supermarket Edition

There are thousands of options when you go to the grocery store. Just peak down the cereal aisle and you will see at least 50 different options. Which ones are the healthiest?! Welcome to Eat This, Not That Supermarket Edition!

Eat This: Kashi GOLEAN
               140 calories, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 6g sugar, 10g fiber
Not That: Post Banana Nut Crunch

               240 calories, 6g fat, .5g saturated fat, 12g sugar, 4g fiber
-Two key things to look for on the cereal label are high fiber and low sugar.

Eat This: Dannon Light and Fit Strawberry Yogurt
               60 calories, 0g fat, 90mg sodium, 7g sugar
Not That: Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Strawberry Banana

               150 calories, 1.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 95mg sodium, 26g sugar

-Two key things to look for in yogurt are low sodium and sugar and high protein.

Breakfast Meats
Eat This: Banquet Brown'N Serve Turkey Sausage
               110 calories, 7g fat, 2g saturated fat, 380mg sodium
Not That: Banquet Brown'N Serve Original Links

               200 calories, 18g fat, 6g saturated fat, 490mg sodium

-Two key things to look for with breakfast meats are low saturated fat and sodium.

Peanut Butters
Eat This: Simply Jif
Not That: Skippy Creamy

               -Both have similar amounts of calories and fat; however, the natural peanut butters don't have added sugars.

Eat This: Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato Soup
               90 calories, 1.5g fat, .5g saturated fat, 400mg sodium
Not That: Campbell's Tomato Bisque Soup

               130 calories, 3.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 880mg sodium
-Two key things to look for in soups are low sodium and saturated fat.

Eat This: Raw Pistachios or Whole Natural Almonds
               -Pistachios provide phytosterols that decrease bad cholesterol
               -1 oz. almonds provides half of the Vitamin E you need in a day
Not That: Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts

               -Peanuts are the lowest nut in nutritional value with minimal antioxidants.

-Don't worry about the fat content for nuts. Most of this will (should) come from the monounsaturated fatty acids.

Frozen Entrees
Eat This: Healthy Choice Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
               300 calories, 5g fat, 2g saturated fat, 430mg sodium
Not That: Maria Calendar's Fettucine with Chicken and Broccoli

               630 calories, 37g fat, 15g saturated fat, 900mg sodium
-Two key things to look for with frozen entrees are low sodium and saturated fat.

Eat This: Athenos Traditional Feta 
               80 calories, 6g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 330mg sodium
Not That: Treasure Cove Blue Cheese

               100 calories, 8g fat, 5g saturated fat, 380mg sodium

-Two key things to look for with cheese are low saturated fat and sodium.

When reading a food label, remember to look at the protein, fat, fiber, salt, and carbohydrate content. Also, sugar should not be one of the first 4 ingredients listed on a food label. 

As a final note, try to shop the outside perimeters of the grocery store as much as possible (that is where all the healthy foods are)!

Zinczenko D. Eat this not that. New York, NY. 2008. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Eat This, Not That

So, you skip the homemade dinner and opt to go out to eat. But what do you choose?! Although what is available to you may not always be the healthiest, some choices are better than others.  Now, on to eat this, not that!


Eat This: Grilled Cajun Lime Tilapia
               310 calories, 6g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1,250mg sodium
Not That: Grilled Steak Caesar Salad
               1,295 calories, 82g fat, 26g saturated fat, 2,199mg sodium

Burger King
Eat This: Croissan'wich Egg and Cheese
              300 calories, 17g fat, 6g saturated fat, 740mg sodium
Not That: Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit
               530 calories, 37g fat, 12g saturated fat, 1,490mg sodium

Eat This: Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich
              270 calories, 3.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 940mg sodium
Not That: Chicken Caesar Cool Wrap
               480 calories, 16g fat, 6g saturated fat, 1,640mg sodium  

Dunkin' Donuts
Eat This: Ham Egg and Cheese English Muffin
              310 calories, 10g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1,270mg sodium
Not That: Multigrain Bagel
               500 calories, 15g fat, 7g saturated fat, 930mg sodium

Olive Garden
Eat This: Chicken Giardino
              448 calories, 11g fat, 1,670mg sodium
Not That: Stuffed Chicken Marsala
               1,315 calories, 86g fat, 2,550mg sodium

Outback Steakhouse
Eat This: Prime Minister's Prime Rib
              730 calories, 39g fat, 65g carbohydrates
Not That: Ayers Rock Strip Steak
               1,450 calories, 85g fat, 87g carbohydrates

P.F. Chang's
Eat This: Ginger Chicken and Broccoli
              660 calories, 26g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 45g carbohydrates
Not That: Kung Pao Chicken
               1,240 calories, 80g fat, 10g saturated fat, 58g carbohydrates

Ruby Tuesday
Eat This: 7 oz Top Sirloin
              464 calories, 24g fat
Not That: Turkey Burger
              1,171 calories, 58g fat

Additional Swaps and Tips

-Look at the paper they are sitting on. A dark stain means they are loaded with fat.

Movie Theaters
Eat This: Popcorn (10 cups)
              550 calories, 31g fat, 5g saturated fat, 972mg sodium
Not That: Nachos (6-8 nachos with cheese)
               608 calories, 34g fat, 14g saturated fat, 1,736mg sodium

Eat This: Dannon Light and Fit Strawberry Yogurt
              60 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 90mg sodium, 7g sugar
Not That: Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Strawberry Banana
              150 calories, 1.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 95mg sodium, 26g sugar

When eating out, remember, it is not always about the calories. It is also important to consider the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content of the meal. Stay tuned for an "Eat This, Not That" supermarket edition!

Zinczenko D. Eat this not that. New York, NY. 2008. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Snacking and Healthy Eating on the Go

Scenario 1: From the minute you get up in the morning, you are running like crazy, whether it is with your job, your family, your hobbies, or all of the above. You may have just enough time to grab breakfast in the morning. If not, your stomach is grumbling leading to the perfect setting for that salty, fatty, not-so-good snack. Scenario 2: You don't eat all morning and before you know it, your stuffing cold leftovers into your mouth at the fridge. Scenario 3: You experience both scenarios mentioned before, depending on the day.

Whatever your scenario may be, here are simple tips and recipes to help you curb the cravings and snack healthy!

Let's start off with a brain buster question. Are 100-calorie pack snacks "healthy?" Truth is, no. They are basically 100 calories worth of carbohydrates. Since simple carbohydrates turn into sugar in your body, they are basically 100 calories worth of sugar. While they are better than eating chips out of the bag and help with portion control, they are no match for the endless possibilities of healthy snacks.

Tips for Healthy Snacking
1. Design your snacks like mini-meals. Include protein, fat, and healthy carbohydrates.
2. Resist the urge to snack when you are bored or stressed. Try going for a walk or reading a book to get your mind off of food.
3. Don't snack in front of the TV. This leads to mindless eating and lack of portion control.
4. If you are one to eat from the chip/pretzel bag, take out a serving and put the rest away in the cabinet.
5. Make snacking interesting! Try something new and different (like macadamia nuts or avocado slices).

Tips for Snacking On-The-Go
1. Pack your snack the night before, or at the beginning of the week. If you are making non-perishable items (trail mix or homemade granola bars) portion out a serving so they are easy to grab on the way out.
2. Remember to read the nutrition label. Sugar should not be one of the first 4 ingredients!
3. Choose high-fiber snacks like fruits and vegetables to keep your fuller for longer.
4. Stash carrots, peanut butter, and crackers in your bag or desk drawer so you always have healthy food nearby.
5. If the vending machine is all you have as an option, opt for nuts (protein and fat) or a lower sodium food.

Simple Snacks for Home or On-The-Go
-bananas dipped in yogurt, rolled in nuts, and frozen
-bananas dipped in peanut butter and frozen
-apples and peanut/almond butter
-apples and cheese
-trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, etc
-hummus (mashed chick peas, olive oil, garlic) and vegetables
-avocado deviled eggs (hard boiled eggs, yolks mashed with avocado and spices)
-smoothie made with protein powder or peanut butter
-mini sandwich with tuna or egg salad
-yogurt with blueberries and granola

Hopefully, these tips help you to curb those cravings and snack healthy. Happy snacking!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to Read a Nutrition Label

"Heart healthy!" "Low fat!" Confused on how to read a nutrition label? Well, you have come to the right place!

Why should you read a label anyway? For starters, it helps you determine the nutritional content of the product. It is also helpful for those with food allergies or intolerances. Reading the nutrition label helps you to see how the food fits into your overall diet.

One of the first things you want to look at when reading a nutrition label is the serving size. Many people consume over the amount suggested. You want to note the size of a single serving and how many servings are in the product. If you are doubling the serving size, you will need to double everything listed on the food label. For example, 20g of carbohydrates would then be 40g of carbohydrates.

As you look further down the label, you will see calories, calories from fat, total fat (includes saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats), cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates (includes fiber, sugars, and other carbohydrates), protein, vitamins, and minerals. To the right of these nutrients, you will see "% Daily Value." This is shown to see how the food fits into your overall diet. If a product says it has 5% of the daily value, it is considered a low source. 10% of the daily value is a good source and 20% or more of the daily value, it is considered a high source.

"Other carbohydrates" refers to the amount of starch in the product. Some products do not list "other carbohydrates." This number is found by subtracting both sugar and fiber from the total carbohydrates.

In general, you want to keep cholesterol, sodium, fat (trans and saturated), and added sugars low. Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the least. If sugar is one of the first 4 ingredients, toss the product aside and opt for something else. Sugars add calories with little to no nutritional value. You want to focus on foods that offer high amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats, potassium, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Labeling Terms and Tips
-"No" or "Zero" trans fat means that a product must have less than .5g per serving of trans fat.
-When a product says "lean" it means that total fat must be less than 10g and saturated fat must be less than 4.5g.
-A product that says "calorie free" has less than 5 calories per serving.
-"Low calorie" means that the product has less than 40 calories per serving.
-Fruit drink usually just has a lot of added sugar, little to no real fruit, and no fiber. Skip it and opt for a piece of fruit instead.
-"Sugar-free" or "fat-free" does not mean the product is low calorie or that has a high nutrient value. Most of the fat-free products just substitute sugar to make the product palatable.

Hopefully, this has helped you to see that reading a nutrition label is not as hard as it may seem. Just a few final tips: the fewer ingredients, the better and if you can't pronounce most of the ingredients, you might want to opt for something else.