Category Archives: diet

A Focus on Men’s Health by Guest Blogger Steve Jasper

Men’s Health Week By Steve Jasper

Every year, Men’s Health Week falls on the seven days prior to Father’s Day. The significance of this event would mean nothing without first realizing that one’s health is not only a measure of the lifestyle you lead, but how you stay in shape as well. A fraction of men are regular gym-goers who work out tirelessly with exercise equipment in order to keep their bodies healthy and active. Men realize that working out serves a more important function than just building muscles. Working out can help you improve your body image, self confidence, and even add years to your life.

Men’s Health Week (June 14-20th) is a week of awareness involving health issues and diseases for men that easily can be averted with early action, treatment, and healthy prevention. It’s no coincidence that Men’s Health Week leads right up to Father’s Day because Father’s Day is where we celebrate a man we love and wish nothing but health and happiness to. Many men understand the importance of adhering to a diet rich in whole foods, such as fruit and vegetables, whole-grains, low- and nonfat dairy products, and lean meat choices.  Yet, how can more men be proactive in staying healthy and avoiding illness and heath issues? Well, a good place to start is to be educated about how to use the gym, and exactly how important it is to do so. A better knowledge of how to properly exercise is integral to fighting obesity and improving your health.

The list of ailments that go along with obesity is almost endless: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, respiratory problems, and even cancer all have higher incidence rates in the obese. This is scary enough, but looking at the statistics, it’s even more frightening. The Journal of the American Medical Association states that 72 percent of men over the age of 20 are considered to be overweight or obese while 32 percent are dangerously obese. This is too much- especially when studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have shown that physical activity may greatly reduce the risk of both obesity and most health conditions in men.

There are plenty of great foods men can eat that will not only improve their exercise performance and overall fitness, but help them to be healthier and avoid obesity as well. Incorporating foods like blueberries (which are loaded with antioxidants) and sardines (not for everyone, but they are nutritious) can change a man’s attitude and drive. Additionally, other great foods men can snack on are nuts, which are full of vitamin E. Rice is also a good source for your vitamins, potassium and zinc. Even smaller foods are great to add to your diet in order to make things run smoothly. For example, sesame seeds are great for a man’s sex drive because they are rich in amino acids. Amino acids, as you may know, are the building blocks for your body’s proteins. Eating the right food can even affect your mood, which has been seen with edamame (or soy beans), for example. When you are fulfilling your dietary needs, you are less likely to succumb to binges on junk foods. Getting on the right diet and eating foods that help maintain a healthy body is one of the most important steps a man can take towards staying healthy and avoiding obesity. Of course, the other half of the equation is keeping a good workout routine.

Depending on who you ask, going to the gym may either seem like a hobby or a chore, but following those routines are important to staying fit and healthy for men everywhere. Now, we all come up with excuses as to why we can’t work out. When polled, the biggest reason men gave for not being able to exercise is, “not enough time.” The best way to overcome this hurdle is by getting your hands on one of your own personal home gyms. When you factor in the time it takes to travel back and forth from your fitness center, the gas money spent to do so, and the various membership fees, a home gym starts to look like a very reasonable option. And if you are more likely to work out regularly on your home gym than you are at your club, then all the more reason to pick one up.

How do you or the man in your life stay in shape?  Do you have a personal home gym?  What do you eat to help fuel your exercise?  Share with us, we want to know!

About the Author:

Steve Jasper is not a medical expert. If you have any serious medical concerns, please consult a qualified medical professional before undertaking a new fitness regimen. Steve is a contributing blogger from Gymsource who writes an all topics related to fitness equipment and much more.

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Filed under diet, exercise equipment, fitness, health, healthy food, men, nutrition, obesity, weight loss

Nutritional Supplement or Glorified Candy Bar?

Whole foods are best, but when you are constantly on-the-go, that option is not always possible.  Enter meal replacement bars – the go-to source of nutrition of many that has gained in popularity in recent years.  And, for good reason – when you are about to debunk and are faced with choosing between an empty calorie, high-sodium, fat-ladened meal from a fast food restaurant or an enriched energy bar, the latter choice wins out.  Care needs to be taken, however, when choosing the best meal replacement bar for you.  With all of the different choices on the market today, this can prove to be a challenge.  How is one to know if their bar of choice is a good supplement to their diet or just a glorified candy bar?

Manufacturers of supplement bars strive to reach different consumer targets.  Usually, the label tells all.  Descriptors such as “low-carb,” “high-performance,” or “high-fiber” give an indication as for whom the bar is made and what nutritional “needs”  it is intended to meet.  Supplement bars basically fall under two main categories – meal replacement and performance.  Subcategories within these would include bars engineered to meet the needs of different gender and age groups (e.g., women, children, etc.,), and/or those individuals with special dietary requirements/preferences (e.g., “vegan,” “organic,” “gluten-free,” etc.,).

When choosing the best bar for you, consider the following:

  • Who are you buying the bar for? You? Your child?
  • What are your goals? Are  you looking to increase exercise performance? Do you want to build muscle mass? Lose weight? Run longer?
  • Is the bar to replace a regular meal or to act as a nutritional supplement in your diet or your child’s diet?

The descriptions below of what to expect from the different categories of bars may help you to select the one that meets your needs and goals.

Meal Replacement Bars

  • Individuals interested in using supplement bars as part of their weight loss program want to ensure that the bars provide a nutritional equivalent to what would be achieved by consuming a small meal composed of whole foods.  These bars should contain fiber (at least 3-5 grams) to provide a sense of fullness.  Diet bars should be relatively low in fat (no more than 5 grams), contain a moderate amount of protein (10-15 grams), and should be enriched with a third of your daily requirements for vitamins and minerals.
  • When choosing a bar that will be a nutritional supplement to fill-in any “gaps” that may be in your or your child’s diet, be wary of claims such as “real fruit,” “yogurt,” etc.,.  Read the label carefully because the source of “fruit” may actually be from juice concentrates and high-fructose corn syrup rather than real pieces of fruit.  And, the form of yogurt present typically does not contain the live, active cultures that help with digestive and immune function.  Also, use caution when deciding upon meal replacement bars that are dipped in chocolate or have chocolates swirls on top.  These “extras” usually come with a price – added sugar and fat in amounts that equate or exceed those found in candy bars.
  • To round out your nutritional needs or those of your child, serve a piece of fruit, some yogurt, or a glass of skim milk along with the meal replacement bar.

Performance Bars

  • Although there is a range, performance bars can contain a higher caloric content than diet bars targeted for weight loss in order to meet the increased energy needs of an active individual.
  • Supplement bars that target bodybuilders tend to have the highest protein content, around 20-30 grams.  Choose a bar that lists high-quality protein (whey, casein, or soy) as one of the main sources.
  • Athletes who are looking for an energy bar to consume prior to a moderate- to high-intensity workout should look for one that is high in carbohydrates (around 25-40 grams).  Avoid bars that are high in fat and fiber which can interfere with digestion and cause gastrointestinal distress.
  • Endurance athletes looking for a supplement bar to be consumed during a prolonged exercise session (longer than an hour) would benefit from bars that are high in quick digesting carbohydrates (glucose).  Ideally, these individuals want to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise.
  • Energy bars consumed post-workout should be relatively high in carbohydrates (30 grams or more) to replenish energy stores and have a moderate amount of protein (10 grams) to aid in muscle tissue repair.

What to Look for in all Supplement Bars

  • The fat source should primarily come from mono- and poly-unsaturated fats such as whole-grains and nuts (e.g., oats, almonds, etc.,).  Avoid bars high in trans and saturated fats.
  • Limit bars sweetened with sugar alcohols which can lead to gastrointestinal upset.  Instead, choose bars that are sweetened with natural sugars (e.g., fruit purees, honey, etc.,).  Avoid bars made with high-fructose corn syrup and/or have simple sugars listed as the first or second ingredient.
  • Carbohydrates should come from complex sources (e.g., whole-grain oats, wheat bran, etc.,).  Avoid bars made with unrefined grains (e.g., white flour).
  • The protein should come from quality sources such as egg, soy, whey, and casein.

Meal replacement and performance bars are a convenient source of energy and can have a place in your and/or your child’s diet when chosen wisely.  Care should be taken to avoid going “overboard” on supplement bars.  Since many can contain mega amounts of carbohydrates and proteins, you are at risk for consuming more calories than you expend, which can lead to weight gain.  If you are considering using meal replacement bars, meeting with a dietitian can help you find the best one for your goals and nutritional needs.

Do you eat meal replacement bars?  Which ones are your favorites?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Sources for more Information

MedicineNet.com “Meal Replacements: Choose Those Bars and Drinks Carefully,” Zelman, K.

Running Times Magazine, April 2007, “Raising the Bar – How to find the best energy bar for you,” Eberle, S.G.

“Kids and On-the-Go Nutrition,” Gavin, M.L.

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Filed under children, diet, easy meals, energy bars, nutrition, nutritional supplement, snacks, weight loss

A Diet for Kids that Promotes Bone Growth, Not Fat

Dark-green vegetables, such as the broccoli above, and deep-yellow vegetables are part of a diet that can promote bone growth while attenuating fat accumulation in children.

“Eat your dark-green and deep-yellow veggies and limit fried foods” is the message for parents who are interested in promoting bone growth, not fat, in their children according to findings of a study published online June 2, 2010 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  The study collected data on a total of 325 children (ages 3.8-7.8 years) over a 4 year study period during which measures of body weight, body composition, dietary patterns, physical activity levels, and time spent watching television and playing outdoors were assessed.  The researchers found that those children who consumed diets that were higher in dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables and lower in fried foods had higher bone mass and lower fat mass than those children whose diets lacked these characteristics.

Some interesting findings came out of the study.  The researchers found that even when total caloric intake was the same, a higher consumption of fried foods was associated with a greater accrual of fat mass.  The investigators speculate that hormonal shifts which favor fat growth, as opposed to lean mass development, may be a factor; but, they note that more research is needed.

The findings of the study also indicated that a high consumption of processed meats combined with the consumption of dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables was related to the development of greater bone mass.  They believe this increase is linked to protein which, according to data from previous studies, has been shown to play a role in enhancing bone mass in adults.  And, in this particular cohort of children, processed meats were a major source of protein in their diets.  However, the investigators stress that they do not advocate processed meats to be a mainstay in children’s diets due to the high sodium and saturated fat contents of these products.  The researchers believe that the role of dark-green and deep-yellow vegetable consumption has in promoting greater bone mass is related to the presence of alkalizing minerals, such as potassium, in these foods.

The investigators conclude that their findings have great implications because it is the study is the first of which, to their knowledge, to show that a certain combination of foods can promote bone mass while attenuating fat accumulation in children.  Many parents are aware of the health risks that children now-a-days are facing at increasing rates as a result of a poor diet.  Obesity and osteoporosis are two conditions in which their origins may be rooted in childhood dietary practices.  The challenge for parents is to provide their children with healthy eating habits that promote the growth of bone while reducing the risk for accruing high amounts of body fat.  There is limited information available to parents and caretakers as to what constitutes a diet that can achieve both of these goals.  The findings of the current study show promise that diets can be manipulated to optimize growth and development in children.

Suggested Dark-green and Deep-yellow Vegetables to Serve:

  • Spinach
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes

Does your child have a favorite dark-green or deep-yellow vegetable?  How do you prepare it?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under children, diet, obesity, osteoporosis, vegetables

Could these Nutrients be Lacking in your Child’s Diet?

If your child’s diet consists mostly of fast food meals, processed and refined products, and soft drinks, then he or she may not be getting enough of 5 nutrients that play a necessary role in the proper growth and development of his or her body.  The essential nutrients that could be lacking include: fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and/or calcium.  An “essential nutrient” is a nutrient that your body needs to function properly, but can only be obtained from food sources.  Essential nutrients cannot be synthesized (made) by the body and so an adequate diet must be consumed to prevent deficiency.

How do these nutrients effect the growth and development of your child?

Fiber: Plant-based foods are the only natural source of fiber.  Fiber is needed to regulate digestion and to prevent constipation.  It also plays a role in the management of cholesterol levels and in reducing your child’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life.  Whole grains (e.g., oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur/cracked wheat, etc.,), beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits and vegetables are all sources of fiber.  Note, if your child’s current diet is lacking in fiber, you will want to introduce high-fiber foods gradually to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.  Start by offering a high-fiber snack after school, such as carrots and bean dip or by providing cooked whole oats at breakfast.  Make sure your child drinks plenty of water as you increase the fiber in his or her diet.

Magnesium: Magnesium has many roles in the body.  It fosters bone and teeth growth; maintains proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and the nervous and immune systems; and, it promotes energy production.  If your child consumes a lot of processed foods, he or she could be deficient in magnesium, because most of this nutrient is removed during processing.  Dark green vegetables (e.g., spinach), almonds, pumpkin seeds, whole wheat, and milk can provide your child with magnesium.

Potassium: Potassium maintains fluid and mineral balance in the body.  In addition, it promotes strong bones, plays a role in energy production, regulates heart and muscle function, and aids in the transmission of nerve signals (impulses).  Some food sources that contain potassium include bananas, avocados, lima beans, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that provides protection against free radicals which can cause damage to cell membranes.  Your child needs adequate amounts of vitamin E to build a strong immune system.  Good food sources for this essential vitamin include: wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, and filberts.

Calcium: Commonly known for its role in promoting strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, calcium also helps to regulate heart rhythm and muscle function. Low-fat and/or flavored milk, yogurt, fortified juices and soy/nut milks, canned fish, cheese, collard greens, and broccoli are some sources of calcium.

By providing your child with a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, fish, and poultry; and low-fat/nonfat diary products, you can increase his or her chances of developing a healthy and strong body. Get your child involved in the decision making process by having him or her help you choose the recipes for family meals, purchasing the ingredients at the store, and with meal preparation.  As a result, you will increase your child’s awareness of the importance of making healthy food choices.  For more information about the food sources and recommended intake levels for fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and calcium, visit MyPyramid.gov.

Why do you think children may be lacking in these essential nutrients?  What can be done about it?  Who is responsible?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under children, diet, essential nutrients, fruit, health, healthy food, nutrition, vegetables, vitamins and minerals

ADHD Linked to Pesticides – Another Reason to go Organic

Yesterday’s release of scientific data that links Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to pesticide exposure supports the case for going organic.  The study, published in the May 17, 2010 online version of Pediatrics – The Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, found that out of 1139 children ages 8-15 years, those whose urine samples contained higher levels of organophosphate metabolites were more likely to have ADHD.  Previous studies have shown a correlation between markers of organophosphate exposure and impaired neurodevelopment (e.g., behavioral problems and reduced cognitive function) in children living in environments with high exposure (e.g., living on a conventional farm).  However, the recent study is the first to see a correlation in the general population for whom no particular exposure has occurred.

Most of the children (93.8%) had some detectable markers of organophosphate exposure in their urine.  Depending on the marker of organophosphate exposure, there was a 55-75% increase in the risk for developing ADHD for each 10 fold increase in urinary concentration of the metabolite (dimethyl alkylphosphate levels). The researchers note that because organophosphates are typically eliminated from the body within 3-6 days, their presence in most of the children studied indicates continued exposure.

Besides being present in the environment, residue of organophosphate metabolites has been found on fruits and vegetables, such as frozen blueberries.  Investigators highlight that there are several limitations to the study and that there is a need for further investigation to determine if the link between pesticide exposure and ADHD is causal.

The current study’s findings highlight the importance of Americans to be aware of their food source and what they are putting into their bodies, as well as, their children’s bodies.

What do you think?  Does this study support the case for eating only organically farmed fruits and vegetables?  Can rinsing conventionally grown fruits and vegetables eliminate the risk?  After reading this report, will you make the switch to organic foods?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under diet, eco-friendly, fruit, green eating, green living, health, healthy food, organic, sustainable, Uncategorized, vegetables

Food Allergy Awareness – “Respect Every Bite”

This week The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is telling Americans to “Respect Every Bite” as it celebrates its 13th Annual Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW), an initiative started by FAAN in 1997 to increase the awareness of the prevalence of, and complications associated with, food allergies.  Food allergies should not be taken lightly – they can be life-threatening.  Approximately 50,000-150,000 hospital visits per year are due to food-induced anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction that can be fatal).  And, large amounts of the allergen are not needed to trigger a reaction, even trace amounts can bring about symptoms.

Ninety-percent of all food-allergic reactions are caused by eight foods: milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts (e.g., almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, and cashews).  As of yet, there are no known cures for food allergies.  Therefore, prevention (avoidance of the food allergen), as well as, knowledge of early warning signs, followed by a quick response to control/manage the symptoms are warranted to circumvent a medical emergency.

What are the warning signs that someone is having an allergic reaction?  According to FAAN they include:

  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Coughing/sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy, red, bumpy skin
  • Swollen face (e.g., lips, eyes, etc.,)
  • Vomiting

Recommended Steps for Prevention for Individuals with Food Allergies:

  • Carefully read product labels (Note: non-edible products, such as ant traps, can also contain food allergens, such as peanuts).
  • Don’t share food
  • Pack your own snack or lunch in situations in which you are uncertain of the ingredients of served foods
  • Wash your hands before eating
  • Wipe down the eating area with soap and water before serving and eating your meal
  • Know the signs of an allergic reaction
  • Carry epinephrine
  • Wear a medical alert tag indicating your food allergy

Preventing food-allergic reactions in children can be particularly tricky.  An inability to understand the potentially dangerous consequences of eating food allergens, in addition to peer pressure, can make it difficult for young children to avoid tempting foods that may contain an ingredient to which they are allergic.  In these circumstances, adults in the child’s environment (e.g., school) need to be made aware of the child’s food allergies, as well as, be very diligent with supervising activities in which the child may come in contact with a food to which they are allergic.

For information regarding food allergies and how you can help with initiatives, visit the website of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.  On the website you will find informational brochures for parents of children affected by food allergies, toolkits for school and corporate presentations, as well as, coloring pages and activity sheets for children.

Do you have a child with food allergies?  How do you handle birthday party celebrations to which your child is invited?  Do you have any experiences or tips you would like to share regarding food allergies and children?  Share with us, we want to know!

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Filed under children, diet, food allergy

“Food Then and Now” by Laura Heuer

Cookie - Or Pancake? Portion sizes of common treats have greatly increased over the last few decades.

Food Has Changed

When you look back do you remember that eating and drinking was different? I do. I remember water was my choice drink. My kids have energy drinks (soft drinks advertised as boosting energy), vitamin water (Aquafina Flavor Splash, Dasani flavored water, Fruit 2o Essentials, Propel, Sobe Life Water, Agave Lemonade, VitaminWater, to name a few), smoothies, tea, and so much more.

I was just telling my kids the other day that when I was in high school I bumped into one of the cross country runners at McDonalds drinking the Large soda. I was amazed he could drink soooo much! Looking back, that drink is now the McDonalds small drink, which it seems everyone drinks (if not the medium).

So not only are there more choices for my kids, the portions are larger!

This has not just happened with drinks, but with candy bars, tollhouse cookies (yes! they altered the recipe to make fewer cookies meaning larger ones) pizza slices, coffee has gone up in ounces per serving, and most all portions are now larger then ever. Check out divine caroline for more pictures and insight.

So now that we know that the choices are more, the portions are bigger, here is the next item – the amount of preservatives and additives have gone crazy!

Examples: Hershey’s Chocolate is not what it used to be. Do you taste the difference? I used to love Hershey.  Now I don’t eat it so much and I was not ever sure why; it just is not so satisfying any longer. But now I found out that the recipe has changed. Don’t get me wrong, I eat my chocolate, but I prefer a dark organic bar with all natural ingredients. Candy Blog http://www.candyblog.net/blog/item/rising_cost_of_candy/

What does all this mean and why should we care?

Obesity rates have tripled with American kids aged 12-19 since 1980. One third of America’s children are overweight or obese. There is so much information available online and in the news that it can get exhausting.  Do we really need to do something?

I think as parents the answer is easy, of course we need to do something! But what are the answers? That is the part that may not be so easy:  Or is it? One step or one thing at a time is what I think I will do and see what happens.

Jamie Oliver is trying to revolutionize America’s eating habits. Will this work, can this be done? I for one would like to think it can. How though? Just like David Letterman said, with 160 types of cookies what hope do you have? One family at a time that is how.

Let’s Move

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and the fight against childhood obesity has been created to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.

I was able to be part of an online discussion forum: Kids’ Obesity and Healthy Eating/Nutrition and Health. During this panel discussion we reviewed new technologies that can help us, as moms, make wiser choices in our family diet. Piccka Shop to Lose iPhone app helps us to see what are the best food choices in a chosen category or restaurant.

As a Mom I am ready to see some changes. I would love to see healthier lunches available at school, no preservatives lurking in food, no hidden additives in drinks and no funny gimmicks like “no fat” or ”no sugar” which basically translates to chemically altered food. But, bottom line, I am responsible for what goes in my body and my children’s bodies. If I buy it they will probably eat it. So I would love a technology to help make good food choices especially when the idea of knowing what is good and what is not has gotten so fuzzy.

What kind of changes would you like to see? Would you like for the world to go back to natural food, organically grown? How about more Whole Foods type stores so that these stores will have to get competitive and drop prices? You gotta love how one man changed McDonalds with his documentary.  What can a whole bunch of moms do?

About the Author

Laura and her husband have three very active teenage boys. She has an entrepreneurial spirit that led her to the creation of Jakoter Health Organizers. Now with a love to be on the Internet, write; fiddle with gadgets and use technology that make life easier you will find her creations and services on MomTechnology.com.

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Filed under children, diet, health, moms, nutrition, obesity, soft drinks