Archive for May, 2016

How to lose a sweet tooth

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

(BPT) – Most of us have been there at some point. You somehow find yourself barefoot in your kitchen at midnight, eating ice cream out of the container. Alternatively, the mid-afternoon energy slump has landed you in front of the vending machine pining for a package of candy. Maybe the kids didn’t exactly have to twist your arm to make brownies last weekend. And, by the way, is that whole sleeve of cookies really gone?

How is it that, despite our most valiant efforts, a sugar craving can effortlessly throw a healthy way of life off track? And how do we combat these cravings in an effort to eat better?

Get a handle on the basics.

Hydration, protein intake and movement all play an important role in sugar cravings. In fact, it’s estimated that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. “Lack of hydration is a real problem, because our bodies are primarily water,” says Cindi Lockhart, senior program manager for Health and Nutrition at Life Time Fitness.

Adequate hydration is essential for energy, nutrient absorption and improved digestion, maintaining body temperature, detoxification, easing joint pain, optimal mental function, younger appearance and weight control. Furthermore, by the time actual feelings of thirst set in, they’re often mistaken for hunger. “Naturally, as we reach for the nearest cupcake in an inadvertent attempt to resolve physiological thirst, our ‘cravings’ will not be satiated,” says Samantha Bielawski, registered dietician and personal trainer at Life Time Fitness.

Optimizing protein intake can also help stabilize blood sugar spikes and crashes, which cause an energy level roller coaster and an endless cycle of cravings for sugar and carbohydrates throughout the day. “A lot of my clients are shocked to learn their true protein needs and are pleasantly surprised when they are liberated from the urge to eat every two to three hours,” says Bielawski.

Bielawski says movement and exercise can also impact your sweet tooth. “Not only will a walk distract you from the nearby vending machine fare, but you’ll also enjoy the non-sugar-induced-serotonin boost. Add some sun exposure – especially during the midday slump, and you’ll feel naturally invigorated.”

Ditch healthy labels.

Recently, there’s been an increase in the amount of healthy labels gracing products in grocery store aisles. Even still, Bielawski says it’s important to choose wisely. “Every nutrition choice either moves you toward health or away from it. In my experience as a dietitian, most foods plastered with flashy labeling and elephant-sized font proclaiming their healthy qualities are anything but.” She says processed foods that are unrecognizable in nature are typically high in carbohydrate and grossly lacking in hunger-busting protein and fat. Processed carbohydrates like these give a temporary high, possibly fueling sugar addiction, but what goes up must come down. Healthier options include a handful of cashews, hard-boiled eggs or Greek yogurt topped with grain-free granola. “The bottom line is man-made food rarely provides nourishment. We should all try to stick with unprocessed, natural foods whenever possible,” says Bielawski.

Arm yourself with adequate sleep.

Research shows when healthy adults are sleep-deprived they tend to crave carbohydrates and can develop disruption to normal blood sugar regulation. “This means your body is even more apt to add that sugary intake directly to your midsection,” says Bielawski.

Retrain your taste buds.

“One of the Life Time Weight Loss Support Groups I am involved in found added sugars in everything from gravy mix to canned mushroom soup, and I am confident that those specific foods don’t taste overtly sweet to the average American,” says Bielawski.

Experts agree that our sweet sensors require much more sugar now than they ever have before to actually promote the sensation of “sweet.” The answer, however, isn’t simply transitioning to chemically fortified sugar free alternatives to enjoy at liberty.

“While an artifically-sweetened dessert is OK as an occasional treat, any dessert food – whatever the sweetener – shouldn’t take up a substantial portion of your diet,” Bielawski notes. “While it may sound extreme,going cold-turkey on sugar can go a long way in turning down those taste buds to their natural subtlety.” Bielawski adds that we might even find ourselves fully satisfied with the silky sweetness of roasted beets or the vivid taste of fresh summer raspberries, no longer needing the taste of a diet soda, which is a very good problem to have.

Beware of the outdoors this summer

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

While your body is relaxing, the sun and other natural elements could cause irritation and even harm to your skin and eyes. As you’re preparing to unravel the “who done it?” mystery, make certain you prepare for your great afternoon of reading at the pool, beach or even in your own backyard with these precautions:

Eye strain – As we age, it often becomes more difficult to read regular print. Carrying a pair of readers can help prevent eye strain. But when outside, traditional readers don’t help protect your eyes from the sun. Usually, it’s just the opposite, and they magnify the glare of the sun. Coppertone invisible bi-focal Sunreaders, available through Select-A-Vision and at Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond and Harris Teeter, conveniently tackle both problems. These Sunreaders provide the best sun protection blocking both UVA and UVB rays on both the bottom lens portion, which contains the reading magnification spot, as well as the rest of the lens that functions as a safe sunglass. They also have a stylish curvature that adds additional protection from side light.

Skin damage – Curling up in summer sun can make you feel warm and cozy, but a potential sunburn can turn a fun afternoon of reading a romance into a painful evening. To enjoy your reading afternoon, find a shady spot for your read-a-thon and apply a good dose of sunscreen before settling down with your book. Also, before you head out, consider donning sun-protective clothing and bring along a shade hat to keep the sun’s glare off your face.

Dehydration – The old adage is that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Laying out during the warm summer months – on the beach or in your own backyard – can quickly lead to a case of dehydration. Keep a water source nearby like a water bottle or canteen, or enjoy a summery drink like lemonade to keep hydrated. Avoid alcohol, which could increase the risk of dehydration.

Bug bites – Sitting still for too long outside can make you a magnet for bugs. Protect your skin with insect repellant, protective clothing and even a spritz bottle filled with water. An added bonus is the spritz bottle can help cool you down when the sun gets too hot.

The beautiful outdoors are tempting, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for the dangers they offer. Keep these safety factors in mind the next time you head to the beach, the local pool or a nearby park for a little bit of peace, relaxation and a good story.

Are your food and cooking choices accelerating the aging process?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

AGEs develop in the body or are ingested through certain foods, including browned, sugary and processed foods. When people consume too many of these foods, higher than normal levels of AGEs build up in their tissues. This accumulation accelerates the aging process from the inside out. Slowing the progression of AGEs is vital to living a long, healthy life.

In an effort to educate the public about AGEs, the A.G.E. Foundation, a global not-for-profit organization, is unveiling the findings of its U.S. survey on the effect of eating habits and cooking methods on aging. The A.G.E. Foundation is dedicated to educating consumers about AGEs and how they can protect themselves.

The impact of eating habits and cooking methods on aging

Seventy-six percent of Americans know that eating and preparing processed food can accelerate aging, according to the survey. Thirty-two percent cited the manner in which they prepare food as having an impact on aging, while just 11 percent indicated cooking food at high temperatures affected aging.

As temperatures warm up and outdoor cooking season begins, people will be heating up the grill with limited awareness of the way to reduce AGEs. The survey showed that six in 10 people prefer grilling their meat over oven-roasting (23 percent), stir-frying (9 percent), steaming (3 percent) and poaching (1 percent).

“It is important for people to limit the amount of barbecued, sauteed or even toasted food,” says Dr. Michelle Davenport, a board member with the A.G.E. Foundation. “We’ve found that the higher the temperature you cook something, the higher the AGE level – and excessive AGEs cause our bodies to age prematurely.”

The survey also showed that when people are eating processed, fried or sugary foods, 81 percent are more concerned with the impact on their weight compared with 58 percent who are more concerned about the effect on their internal organs.

Controlling your AGEs

The key to lowering AGEs is to reduce heat, extend cooking time and incorporate more water and acid into your food preparation, according to the A.G.E. Foundation. Water-based cooking methods (i.e., steaming, poaching) dramatically reduce AGEs. When queried about healthy ways to prepare meats for grilling, herb and oil ranked the highest (34 percent), followed by “straight to the grill” at 21 percent. Only 17 percent of respondents knew that adding an acid-based marinade was the best cooking method to reduce AGEs. “Adding a marinade in the form of lemon, lime or vinegar can cut AGEs by 50 percent,” says Dr. Davenport.

Avoiding foods high in AGEs and opting for brightly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which are low in AGEs, is also recommended. Opt for foods that include iridoids, which are healthy elements produced in plants and found in certain fruits and vegetables like noni, blueberries, olive leaves and Cornelian cherries, as well as the supplemental beverage TruAge Max.

In addition to eating a healthy, fresh diet and preparing low-AGE level foods, it’s important to quit smoking, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and control stress levels to achieve an AGE-less lifestyle.

To learn more, visit

U.S. failing to meet minimal dental access standards for older adults

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

The oral health of older Americans is in a state of decay, according to a new national report released by Oral Health America (OHA). A State of Decay, a state-by-state analysis of oral health care delivery and public health factors impacting the oral health of older adults, reveals more than half of the country received a “fair” or “poor” assessment when it comes to minimal standards affecting dental care access for older adults.

One reason for the decline in oral health care is that many older Americans do not have dental insurance. In fact, only 2 percent of Americans who retire do so with a dental benefit plan. In addition, transportation issues, mobility limitations, fear of dentists, and lack of awareness of available oral health services are other factors which impact dental care.

According to the report, the factors negatively affecting the oral health care of older Americans include:

* Persistent lack of oral health coverage – 21 states do not offer dental benefits for low-income Americans or only provide emergency coverage through Medicaid dental benefits.

* Strained dental health providers – 31 states have a shortage of dental health providers, meaning they only have enough providers to cover 40 percent of the population.

* High rates of tooth loss – Eight states had extremely high rates of edentulism – the loss of all natural permanent teeth. Loss of teeth often results in a person forgoing nutritious food choices due to the inability to chew properly.

* Deficiencies in preventive programs – 13 states have about 60 percent of residents living in communities where fluoride is not added to drinking water, despite the fact that it’s been recognized for 68 years to markedly reduce dental decay.

“While we are seeing improvements in certain areas of older adult dental care, there is still a lack of progress in advancing the oral health of such a vulnerable population,” says Dr. Ira Lamster, professor, Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Older adults face significant health challenges if their oral health is poor, and there is no coordinated program to help fund necessary services.”

In response to the need for reliable, readily available, cost-effective, and digestible oral health resources for older adults, Oral Health America has created, a user-friendly website that connects older adults and their caregivers with local oral health resources. With funding from the DentaQuest Foundation and support from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and the Special Care Dentistry Association, offers dependable oral care information from oral health experts across the country, so older Americans can learn why it’s so important to care for their mouths as they age. Visitors to the site can also utilize an interactive map to find resources where they live for affordable dental care, transportation, social services, financing care and support for caregivers.

Smarter snacking for spring and summer

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

(BPT) – The air turns mild and warm, people gladly shed winter coats, and the days grow longer – everything about spring is lighter and brighter. Since the warmer months bring about many occasions to enjoy the best of backyard cookouts and boardwalk fare, the season’s more indulgently delicious offerings may cause us to consider departing from our wellness goals.

It is possible, however, to eat smarter this spring and summer by finding more wholesome options – without sacrificing the robust flavors and fun of the warmer months.

Grocery alternatives

Today, many of the foods we enjoy are offered in lighter, better-for-you versions that don’t compromise flavor. When shopping, look for these healthier alternatives to tempting summer treats.

For example, “figure-friendlier” frozen yogurt is now available in an assortment of varieties beyond basic vanilla – from fruit flavors to ice cream classics like chocolate or mocha. Healthy toppings, such as fresh fruit or dry nuts, add an extra dose of variety and texture to this warm-weather dessert.

For another smart snack option, look to Baked Naturals Tortilla Chips from Pepperidge Farm. Available in Simply Tortilla and Nacho Cheese varieties, these gluten- and preservative-free chips taste great and are always baked, never fried. Made with quality ingredients like stone ground corn and 16g whole grain per serving, Baked Naturals Tortilla Chips contain 43 percent less fat than the leading tortilla chip. Log on to to learn more.

At-home food prep

Some popular food preparations – like frying – tend to add calories and fat, but baking is a great alternative for summer that still allows flavor to shine through in your best dishes. Serving up homemade oven fries seasoned to your liking is one simple way to more healthfully enjoy a traditionally calorie-laden food.

Grilling is another great cooking method for the warmer months. Marinated meats, shrimp, and even chicken wings can easily be grilled and topped with various seasonings. Opting for main dishes that are usually accompanied by vegetables can also make finding room for fresh ingredients simpler.

Lastly, for a refreshing seasonal beverage, simply add slices of lemon or lime to a pitcher of ice water for a fresh splash of citrus flavor.-

By being creative and open to new ideas, it’s possible to snack smarter this spring and summer – and find more wholesome alternatives, both at home and in the grocery store.


Simple steps to packing a better school lunch

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

“Packing the perfect school lunch is about ensuring all five food groups are covered, choosing foods within those groups that kids like and adding variety to the lunch box to keep kids interested,” says Elizabeth Somer, a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and author. “Getting kids involved in the lunch packing process isn’t just a great way to ensure kids are getting a lunch they’re excited about, it’s also a good opportunity to begin to teach children about nutrition and health.”

To make the school lunch packing process fun and easy, Somer and Horizon Organic, a leading organic dairy brand, partnered to create a back-to-school resource called “5 Lunch Needs and 50 Ways to Please.” So what are the five lunch needs and why are they important? Somer outlines the essential food groups and explains why kids need all five for a balanced lunch.

Low-fat milk and calcium-rich foods (recommended 2 to 3 cups per day)

Why milk? Bones are the body’s “bank account,” and deposits can only be made until the early 30s. After that, it’s withdrawals only. So, the bigger the calcium bank account, the better off you are later in life. The biggest benefits come in the early years when the body is able to deposit the most calcium into the bones. A great option in this group is Horizon Organic Milk with 32 mg DHA Omega-3 Single Serve Milk Boxes, which are the only milk boxes with DHA Omega-3, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that has been studied for its role in supporting healthy brain development.

Whole grains (recommended 4 to 7 ounces per day)

Why whole grains? Diets that are rich in whole grains and fiber help fill kids up. Unlike processed refined grains, many 100 percent whole grains are low in fat, high-fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals. Between 100 percent whole grain bagels, tortillas and hamburger buns, there’s something to please any kid’s palate.

Vegetables (recommended 1 to 3 cups per day)

Why vegetables? It’s hard to have a healthy lifestyle without a plate heaped with colorful veggies. Veggies are where kids get things like vitamin C and folate, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. With significant numbers of phytonutrients now identified in veggies and fruits, these foods are important components of a child’s diet. Steamed edamame makes a great lunch box finger food.

Fruits (recommended 1.5 to 2 cups per day)

Why fruits? Fruits are also packed full of fiber, vitamins and minerals like veggies, but they come in a sweeter package. For example, a handful of dried apricots have more iron than a half cup of cooked mustard greens. Kids still need veggies, but on days when they turn up their noses at asparagus, slipping in a few more servings of fruit can make up the difference. Creative melon pieces thanks to fun-shaped cookie cutters are always a hit.

Meats, eggs, and legumes (recommended 3 to 6 ounces per day)

Besides protein, the foods in this group are sources of minerals, such as iron and zinc, and vitamins, such as B vitamins. Fatty seafood, such as salmon, contains omega-3 fats which are associated with brain development in children. It’s best to stick to lean and minimally-processed meats to cut back on saturated fats and sodium. Mini sliders made with organic, ground chicken or turkey and 100 percent whole-wheat buns are a great lunch box alternative to sandwiches.

The full “5 Lunch Needs and 50 Ways to Please resource,” is available at