Monthly Archives: December 2011

Renew Your Health in the New Year!

If you are committing to “eat better” in 2012, and want to reap the greatest benefit with the least amount of change, where will you begin? Most health experts agree:  “eat more fruit and vegetables”!  Here are four good reasons why:

  • their unique nutrients help reduce chronic disease – heart, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity
  • their low-calorie, high fiber, and water content will help you lose weight faster, while feeling “full”  
  • their potassium, magnesium, and fiber content counters common nutrient shortfalls
  • their nutrition impact trumps genetics in reducing genetic-related heart disease

Not convinced?  The Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which followed the diets and health of 110,000 men and women for 14 years, found that eating more fruit and vegetables helped people lose weight faster and more easily, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke by 30%. Those averaging 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily had the greatest reduction in cardiovascular risk.  Although all fruits and vegetables likely contributed to this benefit, the greatest impact seemed to come from green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale; and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit (and their juices).

Beyond the cholesterol-lowering benefits of fresh produce, their anti-oxidant content improves artery health. A Swedish study released in December 2010 quantified the antioxidant value of diets in over 35,000 older women. Those who ate the most fruit, vegetables, and whole grains had the greatest anti-oxidant intake and greatest reduction in stroke risk.

Anti-oxidants have many beneficial qualities, including: 1) block cholesterol-plaque build-up and hardening in our arteries, keeping artery walls (muscle) pliable and healthy for better blood flow, and 2) lessen plaque-related inflammation in artery walls, leading to blood clots. Stiff, plaque-narrowed arteries and clots lead to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Supplemental anti-oxidants have proven unhelpful, and in some cases, even dangerous.  Nature provides the right form and balance of anti-oxidants in foods, conferring health benefits, as well as the right mix of vitamins, minerals, fiber, phyto-nutrients, and phytosterols, which most likely are at the heart of the benefits.

Another interesting study reported in 2011 found that adding fresh produce and other heart-protective foods to one’s diet reduced the risk of heart attacks more powerfully than merely subtracting the “bad” stuff – saturated fat, sugar, trans fats, salt.

I love this finding because I have long been an advocate of adding quality foods rather than merely subtracting foods when helping my clients to eat better, lose weight, or lower cholesterol or blood pressure.  My clients tell me they prefer this positive approach and are more successful with their health and weight results.

So, if you make one change this year, begin by adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals daily! You may start with just one extra fruit and one vegetable today. Or, follow the recommendations of the 2011 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans:   fill “half your plate with fruit and vegetables and lunch and dinner”.

Need more ideas?  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009), or email me at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com to schedule a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  You can follow me on Twitter/GeorgiaKostas, Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or visit my website http://georgiakostas.com. Let the New Year begin with renewed health and zest!

Happy, Healthy Holiday Tips

“Tis the season to be jolly! A season filled with festivities, friends, family, fellowship…and yes, food!

How can you enjoy the season and not give yourself the typical 2- 8 lbs at Christmas that may linger all year? Here are a few top survival tips:

  1.  Focus on the people and conversation everywhere you go — let food be a secondary joy.
  2. Arrive at events satisfied, not starving. 
  3. Drink 2 glasses of water before walking in the door, and drink 2 glasses of water for every higher calorie beverage.
  4. Fill up first on veggie and fruit options (easy on the dips, dressings, sauces).
  5. Go lean with protein, such as turkey, meatballs, ham, roasted chicken, beef tenderloin slices.
  6. Pay attention to liquid calories, such as holiday punch, soda, beer, wine, eggnog, which pack hundreds of extra calories…and pounds. 
  7. Use small plates, which lends to smaller portions. Imagine each bite providing 50 calories…100 bites = 5000 calories (= 1.5 lbs of weight gain per party!)
  8. Think small and special, so skip “usual” foods like chips and dips, and head to seasonal favorites.
  9. Cut portions into smaller bites than usual.  More bites = more chews = more filling.
  10. Offer to bring a dish, such as a fruit trays, vegetable tray, coleslaw, pico de gallo, Heavenly Seven-Layer Dip (recipe below), turkey slices, vegetable wraps, popcorn, chex mix with added popped cereals (rice, oats, wheat, etc).
  11. Keep moving –walk the mall or walk your neighborhood! Every step helps.
  12. Remember that eating scheduled meals and exercising at scheduled times will help you survive the stress of the season, so you can enjoy the holidays even more.

For easy tips, meal plans, recipes and more, check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009). Or, send me an email at Georgia@GeorgiaKostas.com, for a nutrition consult in person, over the phone or online.  I want you to be at your healthiest and happiest this holiday season, and carry that well into the New Year!

Follow me on Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition or Twitter @georgiakostas.

Healthy Seven-Layer Dip

Guacamole (buy at grocery store or make homemade below). Set aside.

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 teaspoons lime juice, fresh or bottled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons salsa or fresh chopped tomato
Garlic powder or garlic salt to taste (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Dip layers   Prepare and set aside each item below.

8 ounces fat-free or light sour cream
1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix
15-ounce can fat-free or vegetarian refried beans
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican-style cheese blend (i.e. Jack and cheddar)
2 1/4-ounce can sliced black olives (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In small bowl, blend sour cream with taco seasoning.
  2. Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate or glass pan (you can warm the beans up in the microwave briefly to make them more spreadable.)
  3. Top the beans with the sour cream mixture; then top each layer as follows: guacamole, tomatoes, green onions, shredded cheese, black olives.

Serve with reduced-fat tortilla chips or reduced-fat crackers or baby carrots, jicama sticks, red bell pepper slices, broccoli or cauliflower pieces,

Makes 16 appetizer servings.

Per serving (dip only): 85 calories, 5.2 grams protein, 6.4 grams carbohydrate, 4.4 grams fat (1.9 grams saturated fat, 1.9 grams monounsaturated, .3 grams polyunsaturated fat), 7 milligrams cholesterol, .7 grams fiber, 258 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 46%.