Tag Archives: healthy weight

Family Mealtimes: Making an Impact

A tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation is family mealtime. But, does your time spent together as a family at the dinner table seem different than the generation before? It probably does.

With dual careers, busy schedules and the temptation of fast food drive-thru, family mealtimes often suffer. Intentions are there, but it’s simply not happening. Recent surveys show that 80% of families value mealtime together, but 33% actually achieve it. Family mealtime is important. There are too many positive health benefits that our children get out of it to be ignored.

Importance of Family Mealtimes

A growing body of research shows positive implications of family mealtimes on children. Here are my top five:

1. Better grades — Studies show kids who eat with their families perform better in school and have a broader vocabulary. Family meals offer an opportunity for conversations where kids learn vocabulary-building words to help them read and communicate better.

2. Learned skills — Family mealtime helps in the development of adult-child communication skills. It offers a time for togetherness, which helps children develop a sense of belonging, trust and better self-esteem. In addition, parents can serve as positive role models and help their children learn important skills, such as meal planning, grocery shopping, setting the table, preparing the meal, serving the meal, polite table manners and enjoying nutritious food choices.

3. Consume more nutritious foods — A Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day as families who don’t eat together. Finally, children who regularly eat with family have diets higher in fiber, calcium, iron, folate and vitamins B6, B12, C and E.

4. Healthier weight — Children who eat meals with their families are less likely to be obese than those who eat alone. That’s because children consume less fried food, added sugar, and soda when they eat together. When there are no TV, computer, and phone distractions, children also eat better foods and are less likely to overeat. They eat more slowly (learning to detect true hunger), and talk more. The talking is as important as the food itself.

5. Less behavior problems – Family meals are positively associated with reducing risk-taking behaviors among children. Teens are less likely to use tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, and get pregnant, due to the increased family connection and communication at mealtimes.

Although 5 family mealtimes a week are optimal, research shows that family meals even 3 times a week makes a HUGE difference in the health of family members – emotionally, physically, nutritionally, psychologically, academically, and behaviorally. Isn’t it great to know that one simple behavior, that both parents and children report loving, can nourish one’s total well-being and make a lifelong impact, beyond the table? Think of mealtime as Family Time!


Resources to Help Make an Impact

Making family mealtime a reality is about routine. What 3 nights a week can you make family mealtime become a reality? Do you need to eat on the bleachers or around a park table to make mealtime a reality? Do you need to cook ahead on a weekend, pick up foods to take on a picnic, have sandwiches for dinner, or let every family member pitch in, just to make it happen? Here are several resources I recommend to help bring back the tradition of family mealtime and making it last:

• National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Enriching Family Mealtimes toolkit — helps busy families enjoy more mealtimes together – see “how-to” tips, advice, tasty quick recipes, menus, shopping lists, conversation starters, menu planning forms, plus many other resources.

• Purdue University’s Promoting Family Meals project  — lists books, research, studies and articles on family mealtimes- a comprehensive reference.

• National Restaurant Association’s Kids Live Well initiative  — lists healthful Kids LiveWell options that many of the nation’s leading restaurant companies are offering for kids.

Personal Note: Thank you, Florida Dietetic Association, for inviting me to speak on the topic of the Importance of Family Mealtimes to your talented group of registered dietitians on July 19, 2011. I would also like to thank NCBA for sponsoring the session, and for creating the amazing toolkit, Enriching Family Mealtimes, which will be a valuable resource for RD’s, teachers, and parents, in helping to secure the tradition. Family mealtime can help families eat better, maintain healthy weights, and prevent weight gain.

For more resources and tips, visit my website Georgia Kostas Nutrition. Follow me on Twitter @georgiakostas or like my professional Facebook page, Georgia Kostas Nutrition. Check out my book, The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate, where you’ll find balanced no-fuss meals, quick recipes, snack ideas and more.

Small Changes, Big Results

People often ask for my viewpoint on nutrition, weight loss, and success – making changes “stick”. In simple terms, here’s my philosophy:

  1. Small changes…taken one at a time.
  2. Accountability…to one’s self and someone else.
  3. Target dates…to accomplish each new beneficial step.

Recently, I met with a young woman, ecstatic because she lost 4 lbs in one week, “without dieting”.   Based on her eating patterns, she chose to follow through with the following three steps from a list we compiled:

  1. Drink 80 oz of water daily; obtained by 16 oz at 3 meals and 16 oz upon waking and in the afternoon.
  2. Larger, baseball-sized portions of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables that she was already eating and enjoying.
  3. More “activity” in the evenings, rather than sitting.

These few steps resulted in weight loss because the “fill-up value” of water, fruits and vegetables   enabled smaller portions of other calorie-rich foods. In addition, an evening project of fixing up her patio kept her engaged in a fun, rewarding activity after a full day of work.  No “reward” food in front of the TV was needed!

Small changes, big results. This is the note she wrote me:  “I love that I don’t feel like I am dieting, but I am still losing weight.  I am starting to see how taking care of myself can happen by making small, positive changes daily.  This is a significant shift for me, so I am grateful!”

What small changes can help you trim 50 calories off breakfast, 100 off lunch, 100 off dinner, and 50 off a snack?  Think about it, because here are the potential results:  a loss of approximately 8 pounds in 90 days!  Add 60 min of additional physical activity weekly (if appropriate) for a loss of approximately 10 lbs in 90 days! That is success!

I am a big believer that it is the little things that count the most! Do YOU have tips for small changes that help you achieve your best health, weight, fitness, energy?  I would love to hear them. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

For more resources and tips, visit www.georgiakostas.com. Also, 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!