My “Personal Secrets” for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

scale tapeWith the holiday season upon us and the unhealthy weight gain that often accompanies it, I am happy to share “my personal secrets” for avoiding this common malady. I consider weight control a non-negotiable element of my job description and have successfully avoided holiday weight gain over the years by using these tips. And if they work for me, they should work for you too! Click here to see them.


The Essential Ingredient for Weight Loss

Lowering blood insulin levels is essential for weight loss and lasting weight control. Here are the four things that you can do to lower it:

  1. Reduce Your Intake of the Great White Hazards. This includes the refined, high glycemic carbs – white flour products, white rice, white potatoes, and sugars/sweets.
  2. Increase Your Levels of Physical Activity.  Strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily, but more is even better. Additionally, avoid prolonged sitting.
  3. Increase Your Fiber Intake.  Eat more fruits, veggies, beans, and physically intact whole grains.
  4. Reduce Your Stress. Regular exercise is my top-rated strategy for reducing stress levels. Mindfulness-based breathing and meditation are also remarkably effective


Brain Power in Kids

brain with dumbbellIn a ground-breaking new study that I hope grabs everyone’s attention, particularly parents and the education establishment, researchers confirmed that both physical activity and body weight have a decisive impact on how well a child’s brain functions. For this study, researchers carefully assessed cognitive function through a special battery of tests in 45 normal weight kids age 7-11, half who were active and half who were inactive. The researchers also gave the same battery of tests to a matched group of control kids who were both overweight and inactive. Their findings were compelling and should serve as a wake up call to all of us. Kids who were both lean and active exhibited superior brain function compared to kids who were lean and inactive, indicating that physical activity boosts brainpower. Relative to overweight, inactive kids, lean and active kids scored nine points higher for planning and eight points higher in the ability to focus. But weight ultimately appeared to have the greatest impact on brain function, with the lean and inactive kids still scoring 12 points higher than their overweight and inactive controls. To put the results of this study in a “real world” perspective– the lead researcher commented that for a child, being overweight could mean the difference between having average cognitive function vs. the top level of normal. Click here to see what the best science tells us are the most effective parent and home-based strategies for preventing obesity and improving weight control in our youth. (Pediatric Exercise Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1123/pes.2015-0044)

And for all of the “art and science” of raising a healthy eater, check out my latest book, Eat Right for Life, The Family Plan.

5 Proven Ways to Overeat

1. Dining out, especially for lunch

2. Eating while distracted, especially while watching TV

3. Eating directly out of the bag, box, or food container, especially large sizes

4. Eating quickly

5. Keeping ready to eat foods visible and in close proximity (think the cookie jar or bags of chips on the kitchen counter)


An Easy Way to Burn More Calories

walkingWoohoo! Scientists have uncovered a super-easy way to burn even more calories during walking– simply vary your walking speed. For this first-of-its-kind study, researchers had study subjects walk at varying speeds on a treadmill set at a constant rate. The researchers then measured the “metabolic cost” of alternating walking speeds as the study subjects purposely changed their walking pace. The results revealed that simply altering walking speed can translate to burning 6-20 percent additional calories. According to the lead researcher, changing walking pace requires kinetic energy, which demands that our legs muscles have to work a bit harder. And more muscle work means more calories burned.

So for trimmer waistline, speed up and slow down off and on as you walk, or even start and stop every once in a while. ( Biology Letters, September 2015

What’s on Your Kitchen Counter?

shutterstock_103872746The foods present on your kitchen counter may have a decisive impact on what you weigh! That was the eye-opening upshot from an intriguing new study lead by the Cornell’s famed eating behavior scientist, Dr. Brian Wansink. For this study, Dr. Wansink and his colleagues photographed 210 Syracuse, New York kitchens and then compared the foods present on the study homes’ kitchen counters with the body weights of the adult females living in the homes. The results were telling. Woman who had sugary drinks, high calorie snacks and even boxes of cereal on their counters weighed much more than those whose counters featured healthier options, such as fruit. How much? For those with soda on their counters 24 to 26 lbs. more and for those with breakfast cereals on their counters 20 lbs. more. Fresh fruit however seemed to have the opposite influence. Women whose counters were adorned by fresh, whole fruit were more likely to have a normal body weight and weighed on average 10 lbs. less than those whose counters were not graced by this “real” food. (Health Education and Behavior, October 2015 DOI:10.1177/1090198115610571)
Although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect, it makes perfect sense. We already know for a fact that the more visible and convenient a food is, the more likely we are to eat it. Bottom line– keep healthy, slimming foods visible and easy to reach and high risk, fattening foods totally out of sight!

Tasty Nutritional Upgrades in Seconds

Here are 10 simple ways to boost the nutrition of your favorite dishes and meals with great- tasting extras in less than 10 seconds.

 1.  Add 1-2 TBS of toasted wheat germ or shelled hemp seeds (hemp kernels) to your morning cereal, oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies. Both have a slightly sweet, yet nutty flavor and are loaded with nutrition including minerals, vitamin E, fiber, protein, omega 3 fats and folate.

2. Sprinkle cinnamon in or on your morning coffee, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal or toast. This sweet spice improves the metabolism of glucose and cholesterol, which translates to protection from type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

3. Add brocco sprouts to your salads and sandwiches. Developed by cancer researchers from John Hopkins, these immature broccoli sprouts are filled with good nutrition, including fiber and vitamin C, but are most special because of their anti-cancer prowess. Regular broccoli is a bonafide anti-cancer superstar and these tasty spouts contain 20-100 times more of the natural cancer-prevention agent, sulphoraphane, than mature broccoli. (For more on foods that may help prevent cancer check out my Just Say Whoa! to Cancer Grocery List)

4. Throw some capers into your salads, sandwiches, pasta, or chicken dishes. Capers are the flower buds from a small bush common to the Mediterranean regions and they are exploding with potent plant antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavenoids are workhorses in the body for cancer and cardiovascular protection and measure for measure capers have more flavenoids than any other food.

5. Add prepared fresh salsa to your eggs, veggies, pastas or poultry dishes for an instantaneous boost in lycopene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Most grocery stores now carry ready-made cartons of “fresh salsa” in the refrigerator sections. And every ingredient in salsa is 100% healthy!

6. Spice up your bean, poultry and rice dishes with turmeric or curry spices. Both are teeming with the golden yellow pigment, curcumin now world-famous for its anti-inflammatory power. Inflammation plays a fundamental role in the genesis of many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and Alzheimer’s. It’s no wonder that the population that boasts the highest intake of these spices, namely India, also enjoys the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world. (For more, check out my Anti-Inflammatory Grocery List)

7. Go nuts! Throw a small handful (about 1 oz.) of nuts (any that suit your palate) into salads, soups, sauces or other prepared dishes. These delectable morsels of good health score a perfect 10 when it comes to a heart-healthy performance. Of nuts’ 8 nutritional attributes, 7 provide specific cardiovascular benefits. It’s no surprise then that several large and powerful studies report that eating about an ounce of nuts 5 days a week can reduce your risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 30-55%!

8. Add 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons of canned 100% pumpkin to your yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies. This convenient and inexpensive food is one of the most nutrient-packed available to you. Low in calories, high in fiber, and home to the most concentrated package of disease-busting carotenoids known, canned pumpkin is an underutilized superstar food. Carotenoids play a central role in the health of your heart, eyes, skin and immune system.

9. Add pesto to your sandwiches, sauces and pastas. Decadently delicious and nothing but 100% pure heart-healthy ingredients – fresh basil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil – I eat it regularly and know my cardiovascular system is thankful. Conveniently, prepared pesto is available at most grocery outlets.

10. Throw some berries (frozen just as healthy as fresh) into your pancake mix, smoothies, yogurt, cereals, and oatmeal. Berries are my top-rated fruit – loaded with fiber, vitamin C, folic acid and super-potent antioxidants. If you knew what I knew about them, I’m sure you would do as I do and include them in your diet daily!

No Safe Limit for Sugary Drinks

sodaSugary beverages can wreck your health. According to the most comprehensive and authoritative review of published science to date, Harvard scientists determined that drinking as little as one to two servings a day of a sugary beverage was tied to significant health risks. Among the most compelling were a 35 percent greater risk of heart attacks, a 26 percent greater risk of type 2 diabetes, and a 16 percent greater risk of stroke. Sadly, sugary beverages remain the single greatest source of “added sugars” in the US diet with half of the population consuming some type of sugary beverage on a daily basis. Bottom line-science knows no safe limit for any type of sugary beverage, so stop drinking them and encourage those you love to do so too! (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2015; 66 (14): 1538 DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2015.08.025)

8 Reasons to Exercise if You Want to Lose Weight

  1. Exercise burns
  2. Exercise enhances insulin sensitivity (insulin action), which boosts calorie burning potential.
  3. Exercise builds lean body mass (muscle). The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.  Muscles burn calories (14 calories per pound per day vs. fat’s 3 calories per pound per day) very effectively and are ultimately what burn about 60 – 70% of the total calories your body burns over the course of each day.
  4. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety can be powerful triggers for “emotional eating” and binging.
  5. Exercise improves sleep quality and duration. Poor sleep increases appetite and cravings for junk foods. Good sleep improves energy levels and the likelihood that you will exercise or move more.
  6. Exercise directly boosts metabolism. Moderate to vigorous exercise provides a transient (2-5 hours) increase in calorie-burning potential (This is known as “after burn”).
  7. Exercise improves the activity of brain cells involved in appetite regulation.
  8. Exercise improves the release of appetite suppressive hormones in the gastrointestinal tract and the brain’s sensitivity to them.


Superstar Food- Kefir

KefirFermented foods are rapidly garnering rock star status for a number of reasons, and kefir is one that everyone should know about. This “drinkable yogurt” offers all the goodness in dairy – complete protein, calcium, vitamin D, B-vitamins, zinc and potassium along with a huge dose (typically10 -12 billion per serving!) of a much broader variety of beneficial microorganisms (aka probiotics) relative to yogurt. What’s even better, for those like me who are lactose intolerant or suffer from digestive stress from regular dairy, this awesome food is available 99% lactose free.
I now strive to include organic plain kefir in my diet morning and night and know my gut microbiome is loving me for doing so. I add half of a microwave melted banana and some berries or cut up apple with cinnamon to sweeten it a bit. And my daughter Lucie, the real chef of the home, is planning to start making it from scratch.