Tag Archives: fitness

Staying Healthy Over 60: 4 Simple Steps

GK PostThough we can’t stop our aging clock, we can certainly make an effort to stay healthy and active and lead simply healthier, happier lives. It starts by making simple food choices, staying active and understanding the unique nutritional needs as we get older.

In honor of National Senior Health and Fitness Day celebrated this week, vow to keep your body strong and get the most out of your “over 50” years. Follow these four simple steps to get you on track and moving in the right direction.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Did you know that as we get older we are more prone to dehydration? Yes, it’s true. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, even when you aren’t craving a drink or feeling thirsty. Water keeps your mind sharp and energy levels up.  Your brain alone uses 2 cups of water daily.  Your skin and hair need it, too.  So drink up!

Fiber is your friend

As we get older, our digestive system may work more slowly; so it’s more important than ever to eat a diet high in fiber. Try loading up on high-fiber fruits and veggies, wholegrains, and beans. Not only will they help keep your digestive tract healthy, they will give you more energy throughout the day.  I recommend making at least half of your grains whole- grains and for women – working towards consuming 21 grams a day and for men 28 grams daily. How to do this? Two large fruit a day provide 8 grams of fiber; ½ cup beans provide 8 grams; 2 whole-wheat bread slices provide 4 grams, a salad provides 2 grams of fiber, a cup of cooked vegetables another 4 grams.

If you are increasing your fiber intake, be sure to do it at a gradual pace over the course of a few weeks and add more fluid to your diet as you add in extra fiber.  Fiber also acts as a pre-biotic, feeding the good bacteria in the gut, which keeps the immune system strong and may even help lower cholesterol levels, based on recent studies.

Revamp taste buds

Your sense of taste and appetite may diminish some, as your number of taste buds decrease with age, but your body still needs its nutrients.  Add natural herbs and spices to make meals more tasty, instead of adding  salt, fat or sugar. Step it up a notch in the kitchen and put a little more effort into planning and preparing your meals. Find ways to makeover simple recipes, spicing up the flavor, adding healthy veggies and trying new ways to present food attractively.

Boost vitality

Falls are more common as we get older, and can lead to serious injury, blood clots, or even disability. Incorporating physical activity into your day will not only give you more energy but will also make bones and muscles stronger. Strengthening muscles will mean you are less likely to fall and bones less likely to break. Balance and stability exercises, stretching, and core (trunk) exercises add stability and reduce falls also. Walking is an easy activity to add to your daily routine. Though I recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, it doesn’t have to be done at once. Try walking for 15 minutes at a time twice a day or even 10 minutes three times a day. Add weight training 2-3 times weekly, for 20 minutes each time.

Enjoy the difference in energy and strength, and enthusiasm from these simple steps.

For more ideas on healthy eating, calcium and fiber sources, and anti-osteoporosis exercises, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

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Protein Series, Part 1 of 3: Benefits of Lean Protein for Healthy Muscle Mass

Introduction:  Recent research indicates that a moderate serving of high-quality protein (3-4 oz) with each meal can make a significant difference in healthy aging, body strength, weight management, and disease prevention. This is especially significant since approximately 20 percent of older adults do not meet the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance of protein. Read my three-part series on Protein to learn how you can achieve optimal health as you get older.

 

Benefits of Lean Protein for Healthy Muscle Mass

Given the growing baby boomer population (approximately 10,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day), loss of muscle mass in older adults is becoming an increasingly significant public health issue.

It’s a fact of life that our body changes as we age. Those transformations happen in body composition, skeletal changes, metabolism slows down, aerobic (oxygen) capacity declines, and our immune system weakens. So, how do we prevent these changes?

The most practical dietary strategy to stimulate muscle growth is to include high-quality protein during each meal, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Aug 2007). Research indicates that a moderate serving of high-quality protein (3-4 oz) with each meal can make a significant difference in body strength. This is especially significant since approximately 20 percent of older adults do not meet the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance of protein.

Be Lean Protein Savvy

Enjoying these high-quality protein foods can help you build a healthy lifestyle at any age:

  • Consume 3-4 oz servings of protein-rich foods at each meal daily.  ( 1 protein equivalent = 1 oz meat or 1 cup milk or yogurt or ½ cup beans or 1 egg )
  • Vary protein sources weekly. Try poultry,  fish, lean beef or pork,  bean or all-vegetable meals, low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese.
  • Choose low-fat toppings. Top baked potatoes with cottage cheese, yogurt, marinara sauce or salsa, and top salads with balsamic vinegar, lemon, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
  • Snack on healthy alternatives such as nuts, popcorn, wholewheat bagels, pretzels, popsicles, frozen nonfat yogurt, carrots, homemade Chex cereal mix, wholegrain crackers or toast. 

Add Muscle with Protein

Building optimal muscle mass comes from pairing the right types of high-quality protein with the right exercise routine, and making that a habit. First, exercise is not all about the amount that’s important, it’s the type of exercise that’s important. Did you know that starting at age 25, you can lose 8-10 lbs of muscle mass each decade? Did you know cardio workouts such as walking and running will help you maintain muscle, but resistance training is what really helps you build muscle? Stimulating the right muscles, over several repetitions, helps you build muscle mass over time. In addition, eating lean protein within 30 minutes after resistance training helps builds muscle more effectively. 

Exercise Variety Leads to Optimal Benefits

Enjoy changing up your routine with these exercises. And, remember to set goals that are appropriate to your age group and ability to get the most out of all of your efforts.

  • Aerobic (heart, lungs, weight, stamina, balance)
  • Flexibility/stretching (joints, range-of-motion)
  • Strength (bones, muscles, core)
  • Balance (reduces falls, hip & spine fractures; adds stability, coordination, functional fitness)
  • All-in-one (yoga, pilates, aqua exercise, Zumba, bar/ballet classes, functional fitness, bands with cardio, circuit classes)

Sample Weekly Workout Plan/Goals*

  • Cardio – moderate intensity, 30 minutes, 5 times/week OR vigorous intensity, 20 minutes, 3 times/week
  • Strength – 8-10 exercises, 10-15 repetitions, 2-3 times/week
  • Balance/Core – 3 or more times weekly
  • Stretching – 5-10 sets per day

*Note: these particular sample exercise goals are intended for adults over the age of 65. See a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

In summary, you can age gracefully. Achieve optimal health as you get older with 1) 3-4 oz. lean protein with each meal daily along with other nutrient-rich foods, and 2) exercise for cardio, strength, balance, and flexibility weekly. Become proactive and live a healthy, active lifestyle starting today.

Remember to sign up for my blog, so you don’t miss out of part 2 and 3 of Protein series. You can also follow my updates on Facebook.com/GeorgiaKostasNutrition and Twitter @GeorgiaKostas. For more nutrition and wellness tips, recipes, handouts, and to get a copy of my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009), visit my website www.georgiakostas.com.

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%.

National Cholesterol Education Month is Now!

Do you have a happy heart? This is a perfect time to get your cholesterol checked; then be pro-active to achieve and maintain a low (healthy) cholesterol level (below 200) and low LDL cholesterol (below 130).  LDL is the cholesterol that sticks to arteries, hardens, and creates plaque.  It eventually builds up and narrows and stiffens arteries, blocking blood flow and causing clots.  The result?  Heart attacks and strokes.  You can lower LDL and total cholesterol the same way.  My top ten tips:

  1. Eat more fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.  Their natural anti-oxidants block LDL from oxidizing (hardening) in arteries, causing plaque.  They also prevent LDL-inflamed arteries, which spin off clots. Red foods in particular are natural clot-busters.  Eat red apples, berries, tea, red grapes, and red onions, tomatoes …particularly rich in the artery-protective polyphenols and flavanoids.
  2. Eat seafood 2-4 times a week…particularly omega-3 rich salmon, tuna, bass, sardine, swordfish, and cod.  And take a fish oil supplement with 1000 mg EPA/DHA omega-3’s from marine sources only.  Fish oils protect arteries from inflammation and clots, and keep the heart beat in rhythm.
  3. Eat lean protein – fish, poultry, lean beef and ham, nonfat dairy; 3-7 eggs a week.  Keep fish/poultry/lean meat at 6 -8 oz daily to not exceed safe amounts of hidden cholesterol and saturated fat.
  4. Keep fiber intake high as possible, particularly insoluble fiber sources – as in oatmeal, Kasha, beans, oat cereals (like Cheerios and oat squares), and psyllium.  You may also add one tsp of sugar-free Metamucil (psyllium) to a glass of water at 2-3 meals daily to lower cholesterol.  Three whole grain foods daily will also lower cholesterol.  Example: oatmeal, 100% whole grained bread, popcorn or corn.
  5. Use healthy oils – olive and canola, nuts, nut butters, avocado, olives – to lower LDL.
  6. Add special sterol-fortified foods (like Smart Balance Heart Right spread or milk). Two servings daily will lower cholesterol in 6-8 wks.  Many more are on at your grocery store. Ask a dietitian.
  7. Lose 5-10 lbs – cholesterol will drop 15-25 points.
  8. Do not smoke.
  9. Limit alcohol – 1 drink a day for women; 2 for men.
  10. Keep moving!  Aerobic activity 150 min a week and weight training (30 min twice a week) will do the trick!  You will lower cholesterol and build healthy HDL cholesterol, which transports LDL out of your arteries.  You will decrease your blood pressure, blood sugar and unwanted pounds.

Lowering cholesterol with food, exercise, weight, and lifestyle is the key.  Check out my book The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution:  Step up to the Plate (2009) for more ideas of menus, snacks, cereals, cheeses, beef cuts, vegetable ideas to make all this easier for you . Or call me for a phone consult at 214.587.4241.  I want to help you be healthy and have a happy heart!

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

Image: “Mixed Vegetables Healthy Lifestyle” by Grant Cochrane

Tips for Eating the Mediterranean Way

For Good Health, Lowering Cholesterol, Preventing Heart Disease & Diabetes

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month, so what better time to start eating more healthy foods and beverages than now. Here is a list of some of my favorite foods that fit into the Mediterranean Diet. They are delicious, colorful and packed with nutrients that are scientifically proven to promote good health. I encourage you to give them a try today!

  • Seafood:  Eat seafood two to four times a week. Try salmon, shrimp, snapper, tilapia or tuna fish. Choose light white tuna chunks (note: albacore may contain mercury). The American Heart Association recommends 500-1000 mg omega 3’s daily, which equals 7 grams (7000 mg) weekly.
  • Berries:  Try fresh or frozen bags of mixed berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries. Top pancakes, oatmeal, toast, yogurt and light ice cream with berries. Make a smoothie by blending together yogurt, berries, half a banana and a little orange juice.
  • Red foods:  Enjoy red foods daily. Try tomatoes, marinara sauces, carrots, cantaloupe, oranges, red onion, red bell pepper, red cabbage, red beets, red apple with peel, red grapes, purple grapes, cherries, berries eggplant and sweet potatoes.
  • Greens:  Try spinach, asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce (with red veins) and broccoli.
  • Fruit & Vegetables:  Have two fruit and three vegetable servings (1/2 to 1 cup) each day. For picky eaters, get creative and find ways to sneak veggies into favorite foods.
  • Beans:  Enjoy a half cup of beans almost daily. Try different kinds of beans such as hummus, lentil soup, black bean soup, limas, black bean & corn salsa, butter beans and black eyed peas. Prepare navy beans cooked with carrots, onions and celery, or combine garbanzo beans with rice and serve on top of spinach. Dip baby carrots and red bell pepper strips in hummus as a snack.
  • Oatmeal and Whole Grains:  Oats lower cholesterol. Prepare a fiber-rich bowl of oatmeal by combining half a cup of dry oatmeal with one heaping tablespoon of Quaker Oat Bran. Add your favorite toppings such as raisins, berries, peanut butter, or chopped almonds or walnuts. Or eat three cups of Cheerios.
  • Enjoy three servings of whole grains a day. One serving equals half a cup of cooked oatmeal, brown rice,  corn, barley, a corn tortilla, two cups popcorn, six low-fat Triscuit crackers or one slice of 100% whole wheat bread such as Sara Lee, Nature’s Own or Orowheat. Choose items with the highest number of whole grains (Nature’s Own: 23 grams of whole grains per slice; Quaker oatmeal: 38 grams per bowl).
  • Lean Protein:  Choose lean beef and pork cuts, poultry without skin, seafood, nonfat milk and yogurt and 2% or low-fat cheese. Visit http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/ for recipes using lean beef.
  • Healthy Fats and Oils:  Use olive, canola, soy or sunflower oil and tub spreads such as Smart Balance HeartRight Buttery Spread (stanols added). Consume two tablespoons of healthy fats and oils daily. Eat 1.5 oz (3 tablespoons) of walnuts, almonds or pistachios daily…they lower blood fats.
  • Products that Help Lower Cholesterol:  Add one heaping teaspoon of sugar-free citrus-flavored Metamucil to a glass of water at three meals daily. Eat soluble fiber found in beans, bananas, apples, oranges, carrots, oats and eggplant. Include new foods with stanols or stenols. Consume 2 grams (2 servings) a day to lower blood fats. One cup of Smart Balance HeartRight Milk or Kroger Active Lifestyle Fat Free Milk counts as one serving, and are delicious!
  • Physical Activity:  Get up and move every hour of the day! Walk around, move your feet and arms as you sit, march in place, climb some stairs. Use bands or hand weights, toss a ball, play ping pong, throw a tennis ball, dance or do a quick set of jumping jacks. By remaining on the move, you get the benefits of improved circulation, energy and health; plus a smile on your face.

For more resources and tips, visit http://www.georgiakostas.com/. Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my professional Facebook page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.

Go Red for Heart Month! Show your Heart some TLC

Go red! You may recognize this American Heart Association’s Heart Month slogan, reminding us that heart disease is the top health threat to women, as well as men.

Go red! This is a great way to eat to prevent heart disease. Red foods contain plant nutrients called bioflavonoids and anthocyanins – both of which are heart-protecting natural blood thinners, anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory agents that protect arteries, blood vessels and our hearts. It is easy to eat red/orange at almost every meal – a fresh orange or berries at breakfast, with cereal or a shake, a red apple or tomato soup with a sandwich at noon, or tomatoes in a sandwich; at supper, a salad with tomato, red onion, red bell pepper, carrots, radishes, California (red/green) lettuce – that’s six red foods right there. Sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, red grapes, all berries, red lettuces, red cabbage, eggplant are other ways Nature provides us with cardiovascular health.

Other simple, effective ways to enjoy heart health:

  • Eat heart-healthy – fruit, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, poultry, lean meat cuts, healthy oils (olive and canola oil, tub spreads, Smart Balance Heart Right spread with stanols and omega 3’s, pistachios, nuts, nonfat milk/yogurt; limit sugar and fatty foods, sodas, processed foods.
  • Exercise regularly – do good-for-the- heart aerobic activity 150 minutes a week; resistance training 2-3 times weekly ; and stretching for balance, flexibility, agility
  • Live a healthy lifestyle – get enough rest, relaxation; keep a healthy weight; don’t smoke; control alcohol ( at most: less than 1 drink daily for women; two for men)
  • Keep tabs of your blood cholesterol levels, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, omega 3 levels, c-reactive protein, homocysteine, vitamin D levels, blood pressure, blood sugar – all biomarkers of cardiovascular risk. Normalize your levels with lifestyle – eating, exercise, weight.
  • Pay attention to your waistline more than your total weight. Middle fat raises heart risk.

How does your diet rate? Would you like to lessen your need for cholesterol-lowering medications? You can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and protect your arteries and heart with simple food strategies and weight management. Check out my website www.georgiakostas.com to learn more. Here’s to your happy heart!

Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my Facebook Fan Page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition.

Putting the NEW 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans into Action

This morning, the eagerly-awaited 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released to help Americans eat better, become more active, enjoy better health and a healthier weight, and prevent the most common chronic diseases – heart disease, lung disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cancer.  These health issues decrease quality of life, yet are 80% preventable with proper food, physical activity, weight, and lifestyle (not smoking and alcohol limits).

Here is my take on the 2010 Guidelines – what they say and how to live them:

  • Eat with the plate approach. Divide your plate into fourths. Make one half of your plate fruits and vegetables at lunch and dinner.  Choose lean protein (fish, poultry, lean beef/pork cuts, beans/peas) and starches/whole grains to make up the other two one-fourth portions. The divided plate creates food variety, nutrient-richness, balance and appropriate (moderate) portions.  No calorie or fat counting needed! The more color, the better.
  • Avoid over-sized portions. Remember just 3 “portion-right” visuals:  1) a baseball = 1 cup – Eat vegetable and fruit portions at least the size of a baseball ; eat starches (potatoes, pasta, rice, corn) no bigger than a baseball;  2) a deck of cards = 3 oz lean protein;  3) a golf ball = 2 tablespoons – the maximum amount of total fat (oil, spreads, dressings)  we    should add to our foods daily.  Choose healthy fats (liquid oils, soft tub spreads) rather than solid stick margarine, shortening, and foods with trans fats (French fries, doughnuts, many commercially prepared snacks, desserts, fast foods).
  • Increase no-fat or low-fat milk. We need the Calcium, Vitamin D and eight other key nutrients that are concentrated in dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt). Choose dairy 2-3 times daily.
  • Choose lean protein. Eat more seafood – at least twice weekly. Choose lean beef cuts, which concentrate large amounts of 8 key nutrients in just a 150-calorie, “right-size” 3 oz cooked portion (4 oz raw).  No need to overeat protein. Beans, peas, nuts are alternative plant proteins.
  • Good news! We do not need to eliminate any foods.  Enjoy eating! Go for balance and quality. Select lower-fat options; minimize sugar, salt, and processed foods which tend to have more calories, fewer nutrients. Choose “real food,” or wholesome foods with maximum nutrients and fiber, less salt, sugar, fat, and processing.
  • Exercise daily. Drink water instead of sugary beverages.  Eat breakfast. Watch snacks. Be mindful of calories in/calories expended, to keep weight healthy, and prevent weight gain. Seek the help of a registered dietitian to help you understand how to do this, for your body size.
  • Eat more nutrient-rich, fiber-containing whole grains. Choose 100% whole wheat bread and cereals, oatmeal, corn, popcorn, Kashi, reduced-sodium Triscuits.
  • Cut salt in half or more. Eat less salt and high-sodium foods. Read and compare food labels, choosing lower- sodium soups, snacks, crackers, etc. Target levels: 2300 mg for healthy adults and children; 1500 mg for those 51 years old and older, African Americans, and those with or at risk of hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease…more than half of Americans.   Why? Excess sodium hurts arteries, the heart, and blood pressure. Current intake daily for adults averages 3400 mg.  Stick with fresh or frozen produce , dry beans and peas, unsalted nuts, and more natural (less processed) plant foods…no sodium exists in these fresh foods.

Want to implement these guidelines today? My latest book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009) offers you quick and easy solutions…realistic meals, divided plate menus, quality snacks, brand-named products to spare you time from label-reading. Find “how to” tips on every topic mentioned in the new Guidelines. Enjoy reading food tips instead of food labels. Book available at http://www.georgiakostas.com/Products.aspx or Amazon.

Take even two of these steps this year, and you will find yourself healthier, at a better weight, enjoying fresh food more, and saving health dollars in 2011. That’s a lot of good news!