Category Archives: Nutrition


11 Holiday Health Tips

Follow this advice to enjoy a little holiday indulgence without sacrificing your health goals

Indulging Without Overindulging
1. Relax. You won’t gain 10 pounds. It’s a misconception that you’ll need to go up a pant size in January. The average person gains only about a pound during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s no excuse to eat with abandon, though. (After all, gaining one pound every year can add up in the long run.) But a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology notes that people who had an attitude of forgiveness and self-compassion after one high-calorie setback were less likely to give up and keep bingeing. So if you lose control with a dish of chocolate truffles, don’t think, I’ve blown it. Might as well move on to the eggnog. Just forgive yourself for the truffles.

2. Don’t skip meals. It seems logical: Forgo lunch; leave more room for pigs in blankets at the office party later. But arriving starved may result in overeating, and drinking on an empty stomach will give you a quicker buzz, which is more likely to lead to mindless munching. Eat normally during the day, and be strategic at the buffet. Don’t bother with things you don’t absolutely love. Splurge on something special (hint: It’s not those cubes of Cheddar), then stop.

3. Turn down Aunt Jan’s pie. “It’s better to sit with a little guilt than to overeat just to please loved ones,” says Diaz. If you can’t say no to Jan’s face, try “Maybe later,” then hope she forgets.
Give yourself a break from the gym. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of people who exercise regularly is lower in December than at any other time of the year. So don’t beat yourself up—you’re not the only one who’s too busy for Spinning class. But try to stay active in other ways. Speed-walking with shopping bags counts. So does cleaning, says Mark Macdonald, the author of Body Confidence. Add some toning by tightening your core muscles as you vacuum or reach for scattered toys (imagine trying to get your belly button to touch your spine). And most important: Get back into your regular exercise routine once the holidays end.

Drinking Responsibly
4. Practice moderation (really). Drinking too much may not just mean a terrible hangover. Around this time of year, doctors report seeing a spike in erratic heartbeats—dubbed “holiday heart syndrome.” It is more common among people who usually aren’t heavy drinkers but drink in excess for a short time. “Alcohol may be toxic to enough cardiac cells that it disrupts the coordination required to maintain a normal heart rate,” says Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston. “Women should have no more than three drinks on any occasion and seven per week,” says Michael Weaver, an associate professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, in Richmond. “So a woman can have up to three drinks in a night and go out two nights, but that’s it for the week—or else the chances of problems go way up.”

5. Keep it on the rocks. Melting ice dilutes a cocktail and creates more liquid. So order your drink on the rocks to try to avoid a quick buzz—and to sip longer before a refill. Use soda water as a mixer for liquor (a cocktail with liquor and club soda is only about 100 calories), and don’t be ashamed to add ice cubes to bubbly. In France, it’s called a piscine. Très chic.

6. Put a cork in it early. Alcohol may help you to conk out quickly; the problem comes when it starts to wear off. The period in which your body is metabolizing the alcohol is when sleep is disrupted. You may wake up frequently in the middle of the night (even if you don’t remember doing so) and miss out on restorative rest. The best strategy is to allow time for the alcohol levels in your body to drop before going to sleep; at the very least, retire your flute several hours before bedtime.

A to ZZZs of Sleep Deprivation
7. Don’t let late nights make you fat. “People who sleep less over time tend to be heavier,” says Lawrence Epstein, the chief medical officer of the Sleep Health Centers, in Brighton, Mass. But it doesn’t take long for the cycle to start. “If you pull one all-nighter or miss a few hours each night over a week, your body releases hormones that prompt eating and weight gain,” says Epstein.

8. Watch out for hidden caffeine. Think hot cocoa is a soothing way to end a winter’s night? Hold on to your marshmallows. Chocolate, even the powdered kind, contains caffeine, as do many over-the-counter pain medicines that you might pop at night to get a head start on a hangover. Excedrin Extra-Strength Caplets, for example, contain 65 milligrams of caffeine; by comparison, the average cup of coffee contains 50 to 100.

Beating the Blues
9. Don’t assume that this is the most depressing time of the year.
 Contrary to popular belief, depression isn’t more common during the holidays. In fact, suicide rates in the United States are actually lowest in December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This may be a result of more social interaction, which has been found to enhance happiness,” says Caroline Adams Miller, the author of Creating Your Best Life. But that doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the holiday blues, especially when you’re missing a family member or stressed-out by the in-laws. Make plans with friends if your family is far away—or, on the flip side, opt out of events if your schedule is overwhelming. “You don’t have to be a type E personality—everything to everyone,” says Ronald Nathan, a psychologist in Albany.

10. Consider a supplement. Is there a magic pill that will cure the blues? Of course not. But some research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may relieve depression; other research has found that vitamin D may improve mood. Add a daily supplement of omega-3 or vitamin D to your diet. Or increase your intake of vitamin D–fortified milk or foods rich in omega-3s, such as fish, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Take Facebook with a grain of salt. You’ve seen the status updates: “Hope Santa can find us in ARUBA!” or “Mmm, homemade cider, kids making cookies, life is good.” And you know what? Those people have bad days, too.

Remember: Most people put their best self forward on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t compare your life with those dreamy-sounding posts.

11. Make plans for January. “If you have social events coming up with people you like, you’ll be upbeat about what’s to come,” says Alison Ratner, a clinical social worker in Atlanta. Plan a weekend getaway or an Oscar-nominated–movie marathon. Or, ahem, if you did gain that holiday pound, might we suggest a jogging club?



Eat Right Holiday Survival Guide

These tips from UAB EatRight will get you through the holidays without going up a dress size.

  1. Keep Your Routine. If you normally eat at 8, noon, and 5, continue to eat at those times to prevent over eating at the big holiday feast or party. If dinner isn’t until late, have a healthy snack such as a broth-based soup or some fruit with peanut butter; then eat less at dinner. You are far more likely to overeat if you show up to dinner starving and looking to reward yourself.
  2. Don’t Skip Meals. It may sound smart to save your calories for the big event ahead, but it can easily backfire. Instead, make the meals that you are eating healthier by cutting out unnecessary calories where possible. Halve your typical amount of salad dressing or have an open faced instead of full sandwich. These few little calories really add up and give you a bit more wiggle room later.
  3. Don’t Succumb to Holiday Stress. The body’s response to stress often leads to an increase in appetite, which eventually leads to a larger waistline, guaranteeing even more stress. If you are all wound up over what you are going to eat and then you make a mistake, you may irrationally decide to throw in the towel and just give up.
  4. BYO Healthy Food. If the occasion you’re attending calls for guests to bring food, whip up something good-for-you and great-tasting. That way, you’ll be confident that there will be healthy food at the party you can enjoy.
  5. Get Plenty of Exercise. Don’t skip out because your schedule is packed. Take an extra 10 minutes a day and go for a walk, move around while doing holiday prep work, and park in the back of the parking lot during your errands.
  6. Sleep Tight. Sleep deprivation can result in a hormonal response that is connected to weight gain. When you are well rested, you are more likely to make smarter decisions about food and stay focused on your goal of weight maintenance.
  7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. With the holidays comes a bevy of celebratory beverages, many of them high in calories. It’s okay to indulge, but create a smart system: have water before and between every glass of alcohol or other beverage.



Need to Lose Weight? Do it the Right Way.

The heat is rising in the South, and the rest of the country soon will follow. Of course this means swimsuit season, and a plan to arrive at a healthy weight will help you look good at the pool and make you healthier overall, say University of Alabama at Birmingham experts.

“Start by throwing away all clothing catalogs with skinny models in skimpy bikinis on the front,” says Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D., UAB assistant professor of nutrition sciences. “Then buy a bathing suit that flatters yourshape. Going to extremes for weight-loss leads to yo-yo dieting and makes you feel bad about yourself.”

Healthy living is not about the number on the scale, but rather feeling good about yourself and being comfortable or confident in your skin, says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Wellness coordinator. “The goal is to be a healthy size for you, so focus your attitude and energy on becoming the best version of yourself and enjoy the journey to health.”

Be realistic about attainable weight loss, says Retta Evans, Ph.D., UAB associate professor of health education. Talk to your doctor to find out how much weight you need to lose to be healthy and set a date for achieving that goal. If it’s summer – try June 1. Then, count the weeks that you have to lose weight.

“You can safely be able to lose up to 2 pounds per week. So if you have four weeks until your specified date, for example, you can set a goal to lose 6 to 8 pounds,” Evans says. “If you need to lose more, you can always establish new goals after some weight-loss.”

With a healthy goal weight and date in place, avoid overwhelming yourself, says Whitt. Make only one lifestyle change per day. “Taking small steps towards your goal will make it more attainable. Try little things, such as drinking one fewer soda a day or eating breakfast,” Whitt says. “An early morning meal with protein should keep you satisfied until lunchtime and help you resist high-fat, sugary mid-morning snacks.”

But skipping meals is a no-no when trying to be healthier. If you want to reduce calories, Kitchin advises you keep a food record for a few days or use a weight-loss app on your smart phone that requires you to note what you eat. “You’ll find out where extra calories are coming from,” she says.

Our experts suggest these meal guidelines:

  • Make half your meals fruits and vegetables, a quarter should be grains, and the last quarter should be lean proteins such as poultry and fish
  • Choose recipes that are low-fat and high-fiber
  • Eat smart portion sizes and skip the seconds
  • Choose fried foods less often or share/cut portion sizes
  • When dining out, order items that are baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed
  • Don’t order items that are batter-fried, pan-fried, buttered, creamed or breaded

Plus, swap the sugary drinks for diet sodas, unsweetened tea or water, and limit the alcohol you drink. Whitt says women should stick with one drink and men can have up to two. “Alcohol tends to increase your appetite and provides calories without nutrients. If you skip it altogether, you can reach your goals more easily,” she says.

You also must increase your activity levels.

“Start slow and be consistent. Make exercise an event on your work calendar so you have a reminder,” Evans says. “Pack a bag with your work-out gear the night before and leave it in your vehicle so you have no excuse.”

Now choose the right workout for you.

“If you are a social person, try going to a group class like Zumba or step aerobics,” Whitt says. “Conversely if you are more into a solo workout, go with walking, running or even swimming.”

Aim for getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, says Whitt. “If you burn at least 250 calories through exercise and cut out at least 250 calories from food — one 20 oz. bottle of soda — you easily can lose at least 1 pound a week.”

Finally, don’t set your goal of getting in shape with an “all or nothing” approach, says UAB clinical psychologist Josh Klapow, Ph.D.

“One splurge doesn’t mean all is lost and you should give up your efforts to get healthier,” says Klapow.

“You can have the summery, not-so-healthy foods and still stay healthy,” Klapow adds. “If you go to a barbecue one night and ignore your diet, no worries. Getting in shape does not require perfection; just get back on track the next morning.”

Bottom line: work up a good sweat and watch what you eat. Just losing 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can lead to improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugars, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Healthy lifestyle changes will benefit you for a lifetime.

Source: UAB

Backyard Barbecue Made Healthy

Backyard Barbecue Made Healthy

Nothing says summer like a backyard barbecue, whether it’s to celebrate Father’s Day or the Fourth of July.


But if you’re watching what you eat, grilling out can feel more stressful than scrumptious. We asked UAB EatRight expert Megan Davis, MS, RD, for her top tips on enjoying the ‘cue in a healthy way.


1. Plate Proportions. “Stick with the basics of healthy eating, like filling half of your plate with vegetables and using smaller plates—9 inches or less in diameter,” Davis says. “These tactics can drastically reduce the number of calories you eat while allowing you to grab a plateful of grilled goodness.”


2. Think Outside the Bun. We’re not talking Taco Bell, but getting creative with your protein options. “Rather than cooking up the same old burgers and hotdogs, opt for salmon, chicken breast, pork loins, or leaner cuts of beef,” Davis says. “You’ll save about 120 calories by skipping the bun.”


3. A Better Burger. If it’s a burger you crave, answer the call, but do it in a healthier way. “A typical beef burger has roughly 200 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat,” Davis says. “Instead, go for a leaner alternative such as a turkey, black bean, or even a lean ground beef burger as a satisfying way to save calories.”


4. Guilt-Free Dips. Put the ripe vegetables of summer to work with Davis’ homemade salsa recipe. “At 20 calories per serving, it’s a great alternative to the usual backyard barbecue dips, which can have 100 calories or more in two tablespoons.”


Healthy Backyard Salsa: 
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup corn kernels, grilled or boiled
¼ cup red onion, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
Juice from 1 lime


5. Grill it All. “Veggies like zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus taste wonderful when tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grilled,” Davis says. “Corn can be cooked right in the husk, and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, and carrots can be seasoned and wrapped in a foil packet for a healthy steamed side. The bonus? No clean-up required!”


6. End on a Sweet Note. The main course isn’t the only thing fit for the grill. “Fruits like pineapple, peaches, and nectarines caramelize and get even sweeter when grilled,” Davis says. “Serve them topped with with low- or non-fat frozen yogurt, and enjoy!”


7. Feel the Burn. “Take advantage of being outside and play a fun game like tag, bocce ball, or horseshoes; toss a football, kick around a soccer ball, or take a walk,” Davis says. Every bit of movement helps you burn extra calories for an even fitter fete.

Source: UAB