2/18/08- 2/22/08


Friday, February 22, 2008

Choose Lifestyle Change Over Diet

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When I spoke to the Prairieville group last Tuesday evening, I made a comment about diet versus lifestyle change. On the way home afterwards, I thought about that comment and reflected on the real reason we initiated this project. Not to see if one could lose weight, but to deal with lifestyle changes. Not to see if there was a quick fix, but to reach a point where one’s lifestyle has changed, and the scope of the change would remain over time. Often diets don’t work because they only address the short term. Lifestyle changes address long-term issues. Diets are temporary by nature, whereas lifestyle changes resemble permanency. 

The comments above led me into what I wanted to leave with you as we approach the weekend. Going on a diet gives me the feeling of sacrifice and doing without that often so permeates our psyche that we can’t really enjoy our journey. Embarking on a lifestyle change gives me a greater sense of control over my journey, and in my way of thinking allows independence. If I have a bad day, not all is lost because the journey goes on. Lifestyle changes are just that – a change, not deprivation. I may not be communicating this very clearly. But as I thought about the idea, it appears that as I make these lifestyle changes, I can enjoy the journey, smell the flowers and breathe the air, knowing there is permanency in my changes.

Give thought to your journey and how you approach lifestyle change. It is not something that you have to do, but rather something that you want to do. You don’t deprive, but open up other opportunities to explore. You don’t play the game as though it has a time limit, and you have to win before the clock expires. You play to win over the term of a lifetime. 

Enough philosophy for today. Take a few minutes this weekend and smell the flowers. After all, it is spring (almost) and a few are blooming.

Bill Richardson

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Too Little Sleep Leads to Weight Gain

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I had a lot of fun last night. Thanks to some wonderful folks at the Prairieville Medical Plaza, I was invited to speak to a community group about the blog. There are some great people in Ascension Parish doing a lot of good work in one of the fastest growing areas of our state. I thank them for allowing me the opportunity to talk about the efforts of the LSU AgCenter to combat obesity in our state.

I must confess, however, that a donut forced itself on me at an early morning meeting I had today. Today’s workout will have to be a little longer to make up for this unruly donut.

Much is being published about sleep and its relation to obesity. One article of note was about sleep duration and childhood obesity. Another research article concerned sleep duration, emotional stress and obesity. These research articles pose a lot of questions about short sleep duration and the effects on next-day drowsiness, limited activity and overeating. Read more in the nutritionist’s response below.

From my personal perspective, sleep quality affects my day. When I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I am not as prone to want to exercise the next day and often open myself up to overeating. When I do get a good night’s sleep, I feel better, and my energy level is higher. I feel more compelled to work out. And, it seems to me, when I have a regular routine of exercising, I sleep better. I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but in making a lifestyle change, sleep duration and quality are important considerations. In my earlier history, I found that working hard all day solved the sleep duration and quality problems. When you are physically tired, you sleep long and hard. Nowadays, when people don’t have a lot of physical activity, they don’t seem to sleep as well. 

Do you sleep better when you have a regular routine of proper nutrition and regular exercise? It seems to work for me!

Tomorrow we will stop and smell the roses. Spring is here, and let’s look around at all the opportunities it brings us.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

With childhood obesity increasing worldwide, researchers are looking at many variables that might influence our biological system and cause it to go askew. One variable that has caught the interest of researchers is in the area of sleep, or better yet, the lack of sleep. We have normal biological rhythms for all hormones in the body, called circadian rhythms. Hormones such as insulin, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, melatonin and many others have a normal 24-hour variation.

To have those normal variations, our body depends on our eating at normal intervals and sleeping an adequate number of hours each night. Actually, individuals who work in shifts and have to stay up at night and sleep during the day have abnormal circadian rhythm for many hormones. They are also at a greater risk for many chronic diseases. We also have many hormones that influence our eating, such as leptin and ghrelin. All of those hormones act in a precise manner most of the time to make us feel full or hungry and regulate how much we eat at meals.

Our sleep pattern affects our biology in a significant way by causing abnormal variations in many hormones, including those involved in eating. Recent research demonstrates that those variations might lead to increasing obesity in both children and adults. A study in children found that those with shorter sleep duration had a 58% higher risk for overweight or obesity than those that had an adequate amount of sleep. Those with the shortest sleep duration had an even higher risk (92%) when compared with children having a longer sleep duration. For each hour increase in sleep in children, the risk of overweight/obesity was reduced on average by 9%.  

Several studies found an association between reported sleep duration and Body Mass Index (BMI) in adults. Those who had a higher BMI in the overweight and obese category had fewer hours of sleep than those at normal weight. It was observed that subjects who slept fewer than 4.5 hours a night had excess weight (BMI greater than 27) more frequently than did subjects who slept 6 – 8 hours a night. The lack of sleep is thought to have a harmful effect on carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function.

It is not clear at this point how the lack of sleep influences weight, but evidence suggests that sleep influences our control over appetite. In particular, short sleep duration is associated with lower concentrations of leptin and with higher concentrations of ghrelin. As a result, short sleep duration is associated with greater hunger and appetite. It is also possible that those who sleep less are more sleepy during the day and do not engage in an adequate amount of physical activity. It was found that those who slept fewer than five hours a night engaged in physical activity less frequently than participants who slept seven hours a night. Sleep may also influence our basal metabolic rate and thermogenesis.

Individuals can also develop sleep debt. This can occur when an individual does not get adequate hours a sleep for several nights. When we develop sleep debt, it has to be replenished for us to feel rested.

Although many factors influence how much sleep we need, the common recommendation is eight hours a night. But individual needs vary. There are so-called short-sleepers and long-sleepers – those who need as little as five and a half hours to as much as about nine and a half hours a night.

Based on this emerging field of research, it is wise to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, and it is especially important that children sleep enough each night.

Heli Roy

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bone Up on Your Calcium

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Calcium is something I didn’t think I needed to worry about. I thought of it as a concern for women. But, I was wrong again. Everybody needs an adequate calcium intake, and everyone should have his/her bone density checked. I had mine checked when I started this program.

You need calcium to achieve peak bone mass as you mature and then to maintain bone mass later on. This observation came from a paper entitled “American are not meeting current calcium recommendations.” In the article’s conclusion, it is stated that, overall, most U.S. adults do not meet daily calcium adequate intake through diet alone and, for those taking supplementation, that too is often inadequate to overcome deficits. Men, ethnic minorities and the socioeconomically disadvantaged show lower calcium intake than mature white women. Men, we need our calcium also. You will find below the recommendation for calcium. I know that I try to consume dairy products as part of my 2,200 calorie plan.

I kept noticing the reference to vitamin D, which we discussed in an earlier blog, in the articles on calcium. The Times Picayune published an article by Jane E. Brody from the New York Times about vitamin D and its impact on bones and health. The specialist will give you detailed information on calcium needs and vitamin D supplementation below.  

One constant runs through these vitamin and mineral discussions. You need to start with a balanced diet. Your nutrition intake is the foundation to all your body needs. If you are eating poorly and generally abusing your body, it is impossible to make up for that with vitamin and mineral supplementation. Going back to the basics of our blog, converting to a healthy lifestyle is the first fundamental step that must be taken.

One good thing about Fridays is they occur just before Saturdays. Do you like sleeping in on Saturday?  I want to share with you a little about sleep tomorrow. 

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Osteoporosis and low bone mass are a major public health threat in the United States for those over 50 years of age. Consuming sufficient amounts of calcium is important for preventing osteoporosis and low bone mass. The development of osteoporosis and the deterioration of bone mass significantly increase the risk of osteoporotic fracture, with 40% of white women and 13% of white men over 50 years of age expected to experience an osteoporotic fracture in their remaining lifetime.

We think of osteoporosis as a disease of older white women, not affecting men and ethnic minorities, and the prevalence of low bone mass and osteoporosis is lower in men than in women and in blacks than in whites. However, it is important for everyone to consume adequate amounts of calcium to maintain peak bone mass throughout life.

Men are almost half as likely to take supplemental calcium as are women. Men also consume a less calcium-rich diet than do women. Therefore, as they age, men are at risk for osteoporosis. Ethnic minorities are also less likely to meet adequate intake levels of calcium through diet, and they are less likely to take calcium supplements than are whites. In addition, minorities have a high incidence of lactase deficiency, which results in low intake of dairy products.  

Here are the recommended intake levels for calcium by age:

Life Stage Group

Adequate Intake (mg/day)


0 through 6 months



7 through 12 months



1 through 3 years



4 through 8 years



9 through 13 years



14 through 18 years



19 through 30 years



31 through 50 years



51 through 70 years


70 years




18 years



19 through 50 years




18 years



19 through 50 years


Calcium is one of the many minerals that you need to be healthy. Being a fundamental building block of bone, calcium is essential for achieving optimal peak bone mass in the first 2–3 decades of life and for maintaining bone mass later in life. Not only does calcium assure strong, healthy bones and teeth, it also helps muscles and nerves to work properly. Research shows that an adequate intake of calcium and dairy products helps regulate blood pressure, and calcium has a role in preventing colon cancer. In addition, recent research shows that calcium, and in particular dairy products, may help you to manage your weight. Vitamin D helps you to absorb and use calcium and has other health benefits.

The best sources of calcium are dairy products. Other calcium-fortified foods include orange juice, soy milk, fish, beans, nuts, turnips and oats. Milk is also fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in food and also made in your body after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Sunshine is a significant source of vitamin D because UV rays from sunlight trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. By promoting calcium absorption, vitamin D helps to form and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D also works in concert with a number of other vitamins, minerals and hormones to promote bone mineralization. Without vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, two forms of skeletal diseases that weaken bones. Vitamin D may also help maintain our immune system at peak function.

Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or greater will block UV rays that produce vitamin D, but it is still important to routinely use sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer and other negative consequences of excessive sun exposure. An initial exposure to sunlight (10-15 minutes) allows adequate time for vitamin D synthesis and should be followed by application of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to protect the skin. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands or back without sunscreen is usually sufficient to provide adequate vitamin D. It is important for individuals with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D in their diet.

Heli Roy


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Strawberries – Good for You and Louisiana’s Economy

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Do you like strawberries as much as I do? Remember in the movie Forrest Gump when the soldier was talking about all the ways he liked shrimp? I feel the same about strawberries. They are good fresh-picked, in a smoothie, in a cake, in a pie, in ice cream and on and on. But my most favorite way to eat strawberries is as freshly picked as possible. There is something about biting into a strawberry right off the vine. The specialists keep telling me to incorporate more fruit. Strawberry season is here. Enough said!

I look for humor in trying to move to a healthier lifestyle. And someone just sent  me an interesting quote, “Couch potatoes often raise tater tots.” Our children might not have much of a role model if all they see is us sitting on the couch or in the recliner – remote in one hand and chip and dip in the other. A recent newspaper cartoon had the following ad for a restaurant, “Hungry Reaper Buffet: Lose your life to gluttony for only $7.99.” Eating too much and exercising too little. I get frustrated when I realize just how simple it is and how difficult we make it. Reduce your calorie intake, moderate portions and move around a little. When I feel a pound settling on that belly fat, I know immediately I’ve had too many calories and am getting lazy about exercise.  

Now that I have opened the strawberry door, I have to find some of those wonderful berries. However, the ice cream, cake and pie are off limits. It’ll just be me and those berries.

Tomorrow I want to talk a little about calcium and give some follow-up information that was recently published on Vitamin D.

Go buy some strawberries and support Louisiana strawberry farmers!

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Strawberries are the official state fruit of Louisiana. Choose Louisiana strawberries for a nutritious and delicious treat. Strawberries contain several nutrients, minerals, and nonnutritive chemicals important for human health.

According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese and a good source of dietary fiber and potassium. They are also sodium- and cholesterol-free.

Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit. One cup of strawberries provides 85 mg vitamin C, 0.56 mg manganese, 220 mg potassium, 2.9 grams fiber and 46 calories. 

The health benefits of strawberries have been examined in several types of animal and human studies over the past 10 years, including cancer, heart disease, anti-inflammatory and aging processes. These studies show that the anthocyanins, red pigments and other phenolics present in strawberries have healthful properties. Strawberries contain a unique phenolic group, ellagotannins, which are effective in preventing initiation of esophageal cancer. Strawberries also contain flavonoids, which have been shown to help prevent inflammation and platelet aggregation, and help confer strength to capillaries in the human body.

Louisiana strawberries are usually available from late November through early May. Most Louisiana berries are grown in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes. Strawberries are grown commercially in several other parishes.

Ponchatoula was officially proclaimed the "Strawberry Capital of the World" by a Ponchatoula city ordinance in 1968. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, held each April since 1972, is a major tourist event in Louisiana. Go to Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival for a schedule of the 2008 event.

Beth Reames


Monday, February 18, 2008

Approach Salad Bars with Caution

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What a beautiful day yesterday in Baton Rouge! I went for an hour-long walk at a brisk pace on the levee overlooking the Mississippi River. I hope all of you took the opportunity to get out and exercise, walk your dog or whatever.

I enjoy the walks on the levee. Not only is the scenery beautiful, it just seems to me the time passes faster. It’s a wonderful alternative to the treadmill. One of my favorite Sunday afternoon exercise routines is to get in a long walk on the levee later in the afternoon, then go to one of my favorite delis in town that has a plentiful salad bar. Let me toss in here something cautionary about eating salads when you’re trying to lose weight. I have discovered you can turn a good thing into a bad thing. The veggies and fruit on the salad bar fit right in with the nutrition plan. But on most salad bars, there are other things that can destroy what you are trying to accomplish in eating healthy. The major thing to guard against is the overuse of salad dressing. Have you ever looked at the number of calories in a tablespoon of a rich salad dressing? I try to find a low-calorie option and most salad bars have one. Often I use vinegar and oil, especially if olive oil is the oil option. 

The other thing to watch about a salad bar is not to treat the salad bar as though this is your last meal. Just because they give you a big plate does not mean you have to build up the stuff on the plate to where it is falling off the sides. You know what I mean! In addition to the over abundance of high-fat, high-calorie salad dressing, watch piling up those other things on the salad bar like potato salad, etc. 

The salad bar or any salad is an excellent meal or complement to a meal. But like everything else, use it wisely and make smart choices. I look forward to another Sunday afternoon brisk walk on the levee and then off to a moderate and properly balanced salad bar without high-calorie items. 

It’s strawberry season! Tomorrow we will explore those wonderful berries and their role in our nutrition plan.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Enjoying a salad before a meal can help control hunger and aid in weight management. Research has shown that people who ate three cups of low-fat salad, vegetables and greens before a meal consumed 12 percent fewer calories at that meal than those who did not. The high water and fiber content of salad vegetables are two suggested reasons that make it easier to consume smaller amounts of other foods.

People may not limit what they consume based on calories alone. Feeling full is one reason that people stop eating. Studies indicate that the volume of food people eat at a meal is what makes them feel full and stop eating, rather than the calorie content of the food.

A salad can be a healthful meal all by itself, or be a great side dish. Most people think of garden salads, which contain raw leafy green vegetables and tomatoes or carrots, mixed with a dressing, as the typical salad. In addition, there are a variety of other types of salads consisting of small pieces of food, such as fruit, potatoes, pasta, meat, seafood, chicken, seafood, beans, etc. mixed with a dressing or set in a gelatin.

In the United States, the salad course is usually served before the meal. But Europeans traditionally eat salads after the meal. Entree salads, which include additional foods and toppings, often serve as a main course.

Salads can be healthful meals, but it's important to watch your portions and your choices. Depending on which toppings you pile on, a salad can become a meal of unwanted calories and fat. Cheese, croutons, bacon bits, nuts and full-fat dressings add up. An average salad bar plate can top out at more than 1,000 calories, depending on your choices and portions.

Tips from the American Dietetic Association for eating at the salad bar include:

  • Pace yourself. Check out the choices from end-to-end before you begin making your salad.
  • Use a salad plate, not a dinner plate.
  • Make greens your base, and the darker green the better: Spinach and romaine supply many nutrients.
  • Add plenty of bright colored fruits and vegetables. Broccoli, peppers, beets, carrots, kidney and garbanzo beans and fruits add nutrients, fiber and phytonutrients. They’re low in fat, too.
  • Lean meats like turkey, crab, tuna as well as low-fat cheese add protein.
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dressing and get it in a cup on the side. Dip each forkful of salad lightly into the dressing. Or pass on dressing entirely and have a splash of vinegar or lemon juice.

For some delicious, nutritious salad ideas, check out these 73 nutritious salad recipes from Produce for Better Health.

Beth Reames

2/10/2009 1:16:34 AM
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