3/24/08- 3/28/08


Friday, March 28, 2008

Read Snack Package Labels

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Almonds. My favorite snack. Unfortunately, they’re getting expensive so I eat fewer per can. I stopped to get a bottle of water the other day on one of my trips out in the state and couldn’t find almonds. Instead, I picked a package of stuff I would have eaten before starting on this lifestyle program. I tried to convince myself that a little unhealthy snack wouldn’t hurt anything, right? Now that I have become conditioned to read labels, I did this before opening the package. I noticed there were only 80 calories per serving. Not bad. Then in the fine print – fortunately, I had my glasses with me – I noted there were eight servings per package. That means – 8 times 80 – there were 640 calories in just one package. That’s way too much for one snack. I made the smart choice and put the bag of goodies back on the shelf, got a diet soft drink and hit the road. I’ll get enough cans of almonds over the weekend to cover my road trips next week.

A couple of thoughts from this experience. First and foremost, read the labels on the back and not the advertizing on the front the package. As was pointed out yesterday, seek nutrient-rich foods. A 640-calorie bag of salty stuff isn’t nutrient-rich. Second, find a nutrient-rich snack and be modest with the amount you consume. I have found that a small handful of almonds mid morning with a bottle of water or some juice and another similar snack mid afternoon gives me about five moderate meals per day and keeps me nourished. 

Fruit also makes a healthy snack. Our strawberry farmers have some of the best snacks available right now. 

Back to the top 10 nutrition facts – No. 6: Look at the big picture. No single food or meal makes or breaks a healthy diet. Your total diet is the most important focus for healthy eating.

Good advice! Incorporate healthy snacks into your nutrition plan and take a long-term view of your nutrition and exercise goals.

Monday is the end of the month, and we will report baseline data. 

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Whether you’re on the road or at your desk, being prepared when the munchies hit is a must. Nutritious snacks help you meet your nutritional needs, give you energy and help prevent overeating at meals.

Choosing snacks by comparing nutrition information on food labels is a great way to make healthier choices. To make it easier, a variety of healthy snacks now come packaged in single-serving portions. 

Since many roadside convenience stores may not offer nutritious snack choices, pack healthy snacks, and even your lunch, to take with you when traveling. Buy water or a low-calorie drink to go with it or carry these with you, too.

Some healthy snack suggestions from the MyPyramid food groups that provide calories to give you energy, protein and fiber to sustain you and unsaturated fats to add taste and flavor are:

  • Unsalted, dry-roasted or raw nuts – pecans, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds.
  • Low-fat granola cereal or other whole-grain crunchy cereals.
  • Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots, cherries, cranberries, bananas, pineapple and dates without added sugar.

Beth Reames


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Backslide Blues

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How many times have you started and stopped a program aimed at improving your health? Diets? Exercise programs? And many others! I’ve been there and wrestled with all those issues and more and failed miserably. We tend to start strong and then backslide. What’s different about the lifestyle change I’m going through now and reporting to you in this blog is its holistic nature – nutrition and exercise coupled together with abundant information and strong support.  The blog is the vehicle to help keep the pieces together. 

Often when I have those down days, like yesterday, something appears that catches my attention. This morning in the local newspaper was an article entitled “Research links dementia to big bellies.” I scanned the article to see how big belly was defined. This study is the latest evidence that fat in the abdomen is the most dangerous kind. These researchers suspect that those fat cells are the worst because of their proximity to major organs. They ooze noxious chemicals that cause inflammation, constrict blood vessels and trigger other processes that might also damage brain cells. Fat wrapped around your inner organs is much more metabolically active than other types of fat right under the skin. Need another reason not to backslide?

The researchers used a complicated method for measuring fat known as Sagittal abdominal diameter (SAD). If your SAD is above 25, you are at the greatest risk. That is roughly a 39-inch waist for men. Let’s see. I believe that I was right at 39 last month, and Monday is judgment day again for this month. Need another reason not to backslide?

Nutrition Fact No. 5: Think nutrient-rich rather than good or bad foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients – and lower in calories.

If we must snack, then what are the healthy ones? I’ll share my favorites tomorrow.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to stay on track in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Just like life in general, your journey to health may encounter bumps and road blocks along the way. So how can we keep on track? When you get lost, don’t ever hesitate to ask for directions or help, which can be provided by your healthcare practitioners, family, friends and peers. One other important thing to remember is that just because you overate slightly or did not get as much physical activity as you would like, you have not failed. What is important is what you have learned from the misstep and actions you plan to take to overcome barriers in the future.

As we have mentioned in the blog before, make sure you have some sort of support group to help you when you do backslide. Think about what inspires you and your overall goal – to have a healthy lifestyle. Make smart choices, and always remember to keep your eye on the prize.


Denise Holston


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Buddies Help with Lifestyle Change

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Misery loves company, as the old saying goes. So if you are miserable exercising or changing your eating habits, why not share it with someone? I find that when I am working out with someone, the time just goes by faster. Last Easter weekend a buddy of mine and I had the opportunity to combine our workout and walk. For three days we walked for one hour each day taking a different route. The time just seems to pass faster when you are with someone rather than doing it alone. Furthermore, I don’t talk myself out of exercising when I know someone is waiting and expecting me to go. I don’t consider exercising misery, but having a partner will help make the time more pleasurable and will provide motivation.

A study recently published by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that personal contact with a trained weight loss counselor was more effective in keeping pounds off than help from an Internet support group. That personal contact just seems to help keep us focused and targeted. When we know someone’s watching and cares about our progress, it makes us assume more responsibility for fulfilling our goals.

I suggest that you find a support group of family, friends, co-workers, club or whatever and identify people to share your workout with and to support your nutritional goals.

Here’s nutrition fact No. 4: Balancing physical activity and a healthful diet is your best recipe for managing weight and promoting overall health and fitness.

How do you avoid backsliding? We will discuss that tomorrow.


Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

The chancellor is right. Having a buddy or any type of support is the key to reaching your healthy lifestyle goals. This person or persons not only provide support, but also motivation. You don’t want to let them down, do you? Research also suggests that a partner or support group will help you stick to your health goals long term. In fact, one study conducted in 1995 found that exercise adherence after one year was greater among spouses who joined an exercise program together than those who joined without their spouse.

Bottom line – if you want to stay motivated, have a support network. Family, friends and colleagues are a great place to start. You may even find that they need support from you as well!

Denise Holston


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keeping Motivated

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Back to the top 10 nutrition facts. Here’s No. 3: Get your advice from an expert such as a registered dietician. RDs are uniquely qualified to translate the science of nutrition into reliable advice that you can use every day.

Staying motivated is hard to do. I have found that over the past five months of writing this blog I have had highs and lows in motivation. I find that the level of enthusiasm regarding the nutrition plan has its peaks and valleys as does the exercise program. I am on a high right now because the exercise program is going great, and March might be one of my best months in frequency and intensity of exercise. In like manner I sometimes lose the discipline for maintaining the nutrition plan even though I firmly believe that I am making smarter choices . Sometimes you just want a second helping of crawfish bisque, and a commitment to a portion controlled nutrition plan gets pushed aside.

As I reflect on these issues, I liken the nutrition and exercise highs and lows to what we experience in everyday life. We have good days, and we have less than good days. In general, though, we continue to look forward to our goals, such as getting a good job done at work, spending time with family and friends when they are going through rough times, dealing with life’s emergencies, and on and on. We take a bad day in stride and overcome it. We take a good day in stride and relish it. Such is the same for eating and exercising. I had a great workout this morning, and I feel good about it.

When you have that challenging day, get through it the best you can and get back on track for the next day. We can’t give up. We must look at this program to change a lifestyle as a journey without end. Each day I add to the journey – my lifestyle savings account.

The weather is great. Get out and move around.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Most people know that healthy eating and exercise are important, but they haven't formed habits that will help them reach their goals. When healthy eating and regular physical activity become habits, you're less likely to be tempted to break them.

Long-range goals can be easy to lose sight of. Instead, set short-term goals, write them down, and keep a record of how you felt when you accomplished them. To help keep you motivated, jot down notes about your progress. Use this information to analyze any problems you may have and to reward your achievements.

The more specific you are in setting short-term goals, and the more you repeat them, the greater your success. To paraphrase an oft-repeated motivation: The key to your future is hidden in your daily routine.

LSU AgCenter extension nutrition specialists are registered dietitians (RDs). An RD is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the RD credential. To obtain this credential you must complete at least a bachelor's degree at a U.S. accredited college or university, required coursework and at least 900 hours of supervised practice. In addition, you must pass a national RD examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

The majority of RDs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of medical teams) in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of RDs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of RDs work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs.

Beth Reames 

Monday, March 24, 2008

Peace, Love and Vegetables

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What a wonderful weekend in South Louisiana! I hope each of you took advantage of the holiday break to get out and get some exercise. I did and really enjoyed the mild temperatures and abundant sunshine. Not only does a good, long, vigorous walk help your cardiovascular system, it just seems to make me feel better in general.

Last weekend at an LSU AgCenter wellness meeting in Napoleonville, one of the agents had a T-shirt on display with the following message: Peace, Love and Vegetables. That message got me thinking about vegetables , my nutrition plan and the need to get all my servings of vegetables. One of the challenges is how to prepare vegetables so they are both tasty and healthy. You can take a perfectly healthy vegetable and load it down with other stuff and defeat your intent of eating healthy. I love vegetables and having them as a part of my nutrition plan is more than OK with me, but a lot of the vegetables can be a little bland.

One of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is in a wok. I chop up my favorite veggies and prepare them in the wok with a tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper for added taste. I go easy on the salt. I also find that if I slice up a chicken breast, cook the breast and then add it to the veggies, it adds flavor. You come out with a chicken stir-fry and a filling meal that meets many of your nutrition goals. I try to avoid adding butter and other ingredients that will also add calories.

My favorite vegetables are cauliflower, broccoli and bell peppers. Not only do these make a good stir-fry, they also make a good presentation. I also like onions and add them to the stir-fry often for taste and variety. While the vegetables that I like are not out there on the far reaches of vegetabledom, I like experimenting with others for taste and variety.

Peace, Love and Vegetables – a rather good motto to not only live by but also for planning your daily nutrition and dining experiences.

I often need to re-motivate myself, and I’ll share some of those trying times with you tomorrow.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Eating vegetables helps prevent chronic diseases because of the phytochemicals they contain. Phytochemicals are associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in the United States – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Here is some information on what researchers are finding out about the protective effects of vegetables:

  • Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have found that a chemical produced when digesting such greens as broccoli and kale can prevent the growth of human prostate cancer cells.
  • A compound in broccoli may help keep the immune system functioning as we age.
  • Broccoli may help prevent bladder cancer.
  • Results from one study showed that lycopene from tomatoes is associated with reductions in prostate cancer risk.
  • Higher intakes of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, in the diet may slash the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
  • Proteins isolated from the potato may be biologically active and capable of reducing blood pressure.
  • An increased intake of green leafy vegetables may reduce the risk of lung cancer. Similar protection may also be seen with the intake of potatoes, cabbage, turnip tops and lettuce. The protective effect of the vegetables was possibly due to their antioxidant content.

Phytochemicals in vegetables:



Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, chives, leeks)

Allyl sulfides

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi)

Indoles/glucosinolates, Sulfaforaphane, Isothiocyanates/thiocyanates, Thiols

Solanaceous vegetables (tomatoes, peppers)


Umbelliferous vegetables (carrots, celery, cilantro,
parsley, parsnips)

Carotenoids, Phthalides, Polyacetylenes

Many studies show that phytochemicals in vegetables give protection against chronic diseases. People who eat higher amounts of fruits and vegetables have about half the risk of cancer and less mortality from cancer compared to those who eat less or no vegetables. Vegetables are particularly effective against cancers of the lung, cervix, esophagus, stomach, colon and pancreas. Vegetables are also protective against cancers that are hormone-related, such as those due to estrogen or progesterone.

Because research shows that vegetables are protective against cancer and other chronic diseases, the "5-a-Day for Better Health" message was changed to “Fruits and Veggies, More Matters .” The average American eats only about one and one-half servings of vegetables per day and less than one serving of fruit per day. Only one in 11 Americans ate at least three servings a day of vegetables and at least two servings a day of fruit. There are some that eat no fruits and no vegetables on a given day. For optimum health, let’s fill our plate with many colorful vegetables every day and reduce the intake of saturated fats, fried foods and those high in sugar and salt.

Heli Roy




2/10/2009 1:16:37 AM
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