2/4//08- 2/8//08


Friday, February 8, 2008

Water: Drink of Choice

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Have you noticed just how complicated our decisions have become? I remember, growing up, having only a small number of cars or pickup trucks to choose from when you wanted to buy a new or used car. When you went to the store to get a cold drink, the choices were again limited to three or four products. I could go on – but will date myself quickly. I must admit the barrage of things being advertised for us to drink does cause one to want to simplify the choice. It never ends with the new products coming out offering to take care of your every need and even needs you didn’t know you had. I didn’t think I would ever pay a buck or more for bottled water. Now bottled water comes with additives that help you remember, give you energy and heaven knows what else.

I have decided to simplify things. Water is my drink of choice. It’s safe, plentiful and easy to estimate the calories – zero. Furthermore, it tastes the same most of the time. I occasionally have orange juice, milk and other natural fruit juices. I also might have one diet drink per day. I recently was introduced to a green iced tea, sweetened with an artificial sweetener that was excellent. I leave all the energy drinks alone. I find they are too calorie-laden and, despite the commercials, I just don’t want to use my calorie allowance for a drink rather than another food item on my menu. Long before the energy drinks were popular, I read about a drink that a marathoner suggested for after a long run. He simply drank cold orange juice but added a little salt. I tried it and found that after a long run salted orange juice was good. I also chased the orange juice with a banana. 

Water, orange juice or other natural fruit juices and an occasional soft drink really do the trick. I try not to drink my calories. I’m sure there are some good products out there, but I believe it’s best to keep it simple.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Energy drinks have gained popularity in recent years, particularly among teens. There were 10 brands on the market two years ago, now there are hundreds. Most energy drinks contain high doses of sugar and caffeine, and many contain other herbal supplements such as ginseng and guarana, which are not regulated by the FDA. In addition, energy drinks have gotten bigger and bigger so that the amount of caffeine in one drink may be five times the amount of a 12-ounce can of Coke.


Caffeine induces the body’s fight-or-flight response by releasing adrenaline. This results in the release of extra sugar from the liver into the bloodstream. Caffeine also alters levels of dopamine in the brain, making you feel like you have more energy.


High doses of caffeine can lead to heart arrythmias, jitters, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and can cause withdrawal symptoms in those individuals that drink caffeine-containing beverages every day. Caffeine also increases blood pressure and heart rate, which is not good for anyone.


Water is definitely the way to go.


Michael Zanovec

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Our Food Preferences

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I finally figured it out – I now know why I don’t like macaroni and cheese. It’s because of food texture and density neurotransmitters. In an article published by the University of Michigan, the following is quoted from one study: “Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The sensory pleasure response to foods may be mediated by brain neurotransmitters and brain peptides.” Is that what happens when you walk into the movie theater and smell the popcorn? Or park next to a restaurant and smell the food cooking? Or what happens when you walk into someone’s home and smell bread baking? Smell, taste, texture, density are all factors that guide our food preferences from infancy through our adult lives. 

I also read that men and women respond differently to taste and texture in food. Women generally like bread, doughnuts, cake, cookies, ice cream, chocolate and other desserts. Men, on the other hand, like steaks, roasts, hamburgers, fried potatoes, pizza and ice cream. Women tend to like food with a mixture of sugar and fat while men like mixtures of fat, protein and salt.

Another trend I read about is that as countries become more affluent, the people tend to eat more fat and sugar. Hence, the population becomes more obese. It is amazing how we train ourselves to adjust to affluence. I grew up with coffee mixed with cream and sugar. It was a little coffee with a lot of cream and even more sugar. A conscious decision was made to wean myself off the sugar. Now, when I accidentally get a cup of coffee with sugar in it, I marvel at how sweet it tastes – almost to the point of being undrinkable.  

We put salt on food before we ever taste it. We have trained ourselves that we need salt on foods.  We have trained ourselves that brown rice tastes bland while white rice tastes good. I’ve found that brown rice is, in fact, tasty.  

My goal with this information is to arm you with data that can help you make smart choices and lead a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy your food. Eat in moderation. Try new things. And eat what our ancestors ate out of necessity – whole grains, vegetables, fruits. Reduce highly processed foods. Exercise! Just as you and I were trained from infancy to enjoy certain things, we can train ourselves to change and add variety to our diets.

I still don’t like macaroni and cheese.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

When we eat or simply smell food, our whole biological system is activated from gut to brain. We release intestinal enzymes and intestinal hormones that travel through our systems. Some enter the brain and activate pleasure centers in the brain. Those signals also tell us when we are full. We can override those signals, however, and continue eating even when we are full. In particular, this can happen when we eat in a group, and plenty of food is available.

If people are presented limited choices of foods, they eat less than if they have a large variety available. We tend to eat more when we are presented with a variety of foods and a variety of textures. This is what we have to deal with at parties and at buffets. There are many textures – from smooth to crunchy – and a variety of foods – from raw vegetables and fruits to stuffed and fried seafood. Studies show that when people indicate they are full, but they are presented with a new food item, they will continue to eat more of that new food. This should not discourage you from eating a variety of foods. We have a much healthier diet when we eat a variety of foods; however, we should limit the portion sizes to stay within the recommended intake level.

Certain taste preferences seem to have a genetic basis. That is, we are programmed to like certain foods and are drawn to them. Does it mean that that is all we will want to eat? No, it just means that you may have to work a little harder to bring variety in your diet. It means that during stressful events, for example, you may reach for certain foods for comfort.

Our taste preferences are mostly learned behaviors from our families, but we can re-train our palate. Think about all the different types of cuisines around the world. Those are learned preferences based largely on the types of foods available within a country or a region. We can expand our preferences by exposing ourselves to new foods. This is what happens to babies. They are exposed to new foods when they grow, and it takes many repetitions with some foods for them to like the new foods.

One nonprofit, independent, scientific institute is dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste, smell and chemosensory irritation. It is the Monell Chemical Sense Center in Philadelphia, Penn. Research at Monell is helping to reveal how humans recognize, perceive and respond to tastes, odors and chemical irritants. Many studies focus on individual differences, examining how factors such as genetics, age, gender, experience and the environment influence sensory capabilities. Scientists also are exploring how interactions within and between the senses influence perception of chemosensory stimuli.

Read “Finding Your Way to a Healthier You.”

Heli Roy

Wednesday, February 6. 2008

Involve Your Family

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Is this the last of the holidays? It seems to me we’ve been anticipating, experiencing and writing about holidays since mid November. Fat Tuesday is now history, and we can face the reality of making sure our nutrition plan and exercise program are on track. I took some time over the weekend and did just that. February goals are to keep detailed food log records so that I can make sure my nutrition plan is on target and to add strength and flexibility workouts to my 4-4-4 plan. I’m looking forward to spring weather.  

One factor I keep reading about is the need for a support person, group or organization to depend upon as you embark on a lifestyle change. Two places stand out to me – given where most of us spend our time – work and home. Articles about work group support for healthy lifestyles flood the media. We have reported on some of those in earlier blogs. Equally important is the home environment. I would find it difficult trying to stay focused on a nutrition plan and exercise routine if those around me were not committed to the same. Can you imagine eating your chicken and veggies while others at the table are chowing down on cheeseburgers, French fries, sugary drinks, apple pie and ice cream? Regardless of your family status, having a family support group that shares your nutrition and exercise goals is greatly beneficial. You can do it alone, but I find the time passes faster and is more enjoyable when I’m with family.

I have received a lot of response to the blog from people seeking information and asking for assistance. The tone and nature of these responses indicates to me that a lot of people are looking for support, and we are pleased that the blog is stimulating them to make changes to their lifestyle. Also, if you have read the guest bloggers, you will find a lot of practical advice on how these individuals addressed their lifestyle changes – including family support. 

Tomorrow we will take about calorie dense food and food texture.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

As the chancellor states, it is important for the whole family to be committed to a healthy lifestyle. Even if someone does not need to lose weight, everyone should still follow a healthy lifestyle to ward off chronic diseases. Weight alone is not the only factor that contributes to chronic disease development. Even those that are lean can have high lipid levels or develop type 2 diabetes. For example, developing type 2 diabetes is partly dependent on the type of fat you consume. If you consume solid, hydrogenated fats in foods that the chancellor lists, your cells are not as responsive to insulin and glucose as if you consume foods that have unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. When your cells are not responsive to insulin and glucose, you have what is known as insulin resistance, which can then develop into type 2 diabetes over time.

Where do we find unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats? We find monounsaturated fats in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews. Avocado has heart-healthy fats. The oils in avocado are monounsaturated and therefore heart healthy. So, although avocado has a lot of fat, it can be included in a meal as part of a healthy diet. We can find polyunsaturated fats in safflower, sesame, soy, corn and sunflower seed oils, and nuts and seeds. One way to get the heart-healthy oils from nuts and seeds is to sprinkle some of them on salads. They add a nice crunch and blend well with many salads and dressings.

Eating a diet high in saturated fat also limits the intake of antioxidants. Antioxidants eliminate free radicals, which are agents that can cause aging, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Where do we find antioxidants? They are in fruits and vegetables. Including colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate will assure that you will get many different types of antioxidants that will eliminate free radicals and reduces your risk of chronic diseases.  

Exercise should also be part of a healthy lifestyle, whether one is lean or overweight. Exercise also helps regulate insulin and glucose and helps in using blood sugar and keeps it at normal levels so that one is less likely to develop insulin resistance. There are many large-scale studies that show that the risk for type 2 diabetes can be reduced or eliminated with a healthy diet and participation in a regular, daily exercise program such as walking, swimming, bicycling or any other type of exercise that uses most of the large muscles in our body. Regular exercise also reduces the risk for cancer and heart disease. Exercise that includes some weight-bearing exercises can reduce or eliminate osteoporosis, so it is important for women, particularly thin women to include weight-bearing exercises to their physical activity program. Thin women have a higher risk for developing osteoporosis than normal weight or overweight women.  

Involve everyone in the family in a healthy lifestyle program because everyone can benefit from it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Healthy Push--Guest Blogger

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I found myself coming home from work tired and turning into a couch potato. I also had limited energy when it came to enjoying playtime with my son, Cooper, and my daughter, Alyson. I knew I needed to make some changes. But I needed a push. Then, Chancellor Richardson sent out a challenge to campus-based faculty and staff – a weight loss challenge. And faculty within the 4-H department decided to form a team.

With the support of my family and my work family, I started to change my way of thinking when it came to eating and exercising. With the encouragement of fellow co-workers – Janet Fox, Robin Green, David Latona and Hilary Collis – eating right at work became easy. As a team, we eat healthy together daily and help each other avoid or divert back to unhealthy foods.

In addition, I made a few simple rules for myself to help me avoid resorting to eating too much or unhealthy:

  1. Eat healthy – Yes, that means eating salads, fruits and vegetables, which I had done very rarely in the past decade.
  2. When I eat out and I have a limited menu with few healthy choices, I automatically cut the serving in half and take the rest home or share it with someone I am eating lunch with.
  3. Do not eat after 9 p.m.
  4. If I know I am going to a social event where I know they are going to have chips or desserts, I just do not eat them. I tell myself beforehand that I do not have to eat the unhealthy choices. Eat the fruit or vegetables.
  5. Do not eat while watching TV. First of all, I need to always eat with my family. Secondly, one tends to eat too much in front of the TV.
  6. Once I take a break or find myself pausing during a meal, I am finished. I put my utensils down and figure that this is my body’s way of telling me I had enough.
  7. Finally, avoid buffets at all cost. Nothing good can come from a buffet! Plus, you never feel like you get your money’s worth unless you eat at least three plates.

I also am trying to find time to exercise. As many of you know, this is hard with work, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. So, I have incorporated my kids into my workout regimen. Instead of buying a workout bench, my children sit in the laundry basket – I promise it is a high quality plastic basket – and I bench press them 20 times individually and 20 times together. They also enjoy when I do push-ups with them on my back. This may not be good for my back, but they absolutely love it. Aly and Cooper also enjoy chasing me around the block while driving their Power Wheels. By the way, Power Wheels go pretty fast. As a family, we are also eating more fruit, vegetables and healthy snacks and exercising as much as possible. We no longer allow junk food, except on special occasions.

Eating healthy and exercising is a state of mind and is not hard at all when you put your mind to it. I feel better and my clothes from five to seven years ago actually fit me again. Unfortunately, they are outdated. Thanks, Chancellor, for the challenge. It always helps to get a little push!

Todd Tarifa

Nutritionist’s Response

Todd has made wonderful changes in his eating and exercise habits. He began his lifestyle changes with support of family and co-workers. To feel energetic and healthy, we need to change both eating and exercise habits. However, sometimes it is hard to make changes in both areas at once. It is easier to make changes in one and then address the needs in the other area. Todd began his healthy lifestyle initiative by eating more fruits and vegetables and watching his portion sizes. Fruits and vegetables can give us more energy because they have vitamins and minerals we need for all the reactions in the body, and they have the healthy phytochemicals that help ward off chronic diseases. They also have lower caloric density than most snack foods and can help in weight loss.

Todd set himself a few simple rules. He decided not to eat in front of the TV. Many people consume a good portion of their calories in front of the TV without knowing it. They passively consume many calories. It is a good idea to listen to your body when it comes to the amount of food consumed instead of eating until the plate is clean. At times we may be full sooner than we expect because we might not have been as active and may need to leave food on the plate. At other times we may need to eat more because we were more active for a couple of days. Listening to our hunger cues can help us decide whether we need a snack or not of if we need a smaller portion today.

Once he felt comfortable with his eating habits, he began to address his exercise habits. Todd, as a parent of young children, has incorporated lifestyle changes to the family activity pattern. This way he is modeling an active lifestyle to his children. As they grow up, they will remain active as adults and parents themselves. That is also an easy way to increase physical activity, doing fun activities as a whole family, instead of thinking of attending a formal class or a gym. If we choose fun activities that are easy to do, we are more likely to continue with them in the long term.

If we need to lose weight and we want to keep the weight off, we need to assess what we are doing now and make gradual changes in eating habits to make them permanent. The same is true for exercise habits. We need to adopt fun activities that we can do every day to stay fit in the long term. I hope all families with young children will decide to incorporate fun activities for the whole family so that they can have quality time together while exercising as Todd is doing now.


Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:31 AM
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