Timi Gustafson, R.D.

Helping people to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

New Nutrition Facts Labels Aim to Be Less Confusing to Consumers

January 26th, 2013 at 12:15 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

How many servings do you get out of one muffin? The obvious answer – one – is incorrect. The right amount is two. Why? Because that is how food manufacturers calculate calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, protein and other ingredients. It’s not the individual item or container that counts but how it is divided up, often in the most arbitrary ways.

The so-called nutrition facts labels you find on the back of all packaged food and beverage products are not only hard to decipher, they mislead consumers who are already confused about their dietary needs.

It has been 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has last addressed the issue of food labeling. To overhaul the current regulations, the agency commissioned a new study to determine how labels could be simplified to help consumers make healthier food choices and limit portions. Confusion over serving sizes is considered a contributing cause to obesity.

For the study, researchers developed alternative displays of nutritional details based on whole food and beverage containers instead of serving sizes.

“The nutrition facts label is only one tool that can help consumers make informed food choices […], but it is a valuable tool, so it is important to continue exploring ways to support effective use of the label for these purposes,” said Dr. Serena C. Lo, one of the study leaders, in an interview with BusinessNewsDaily.

The researchers also found that the percentage of consumers who actually read food labels before purchasing products they are unfamiliar with has risen from 44 percent in 2002 to 54 percent in 2008.

One of the reasons why dividing entire package contents into smaller serving sizes is so important to the food industry is that the apportionment is a useful tool for making products sound healthier than they are. For example, if one serving has only a miniscule amount of a certain ingredient, e.g. trans fat, it can be labeled as 0 percent, while the whole package may contain significantly more.

It is not clear whether giving people information per content or per serving would make much of a difference in their eating behavior. Would they stop gorging themselves on potato chips half way through the bag if they knew the amounts of calories and fat up front instead of having to do math themselves? Doubtful.

But that’s not really the point. What the issue of food labeling comes down to is the right of us consumers to know what we eat. Just like we should have full disclosure about genetically modified foodspink slime or meat glue, we should have access to information on our entire food supply. Anything short of that is deception.

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, a nonprofit organization that sets standards for identity and quality of medicines and food ingredients worldwide, defines the “deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain” as “food fraud.” Where are we willing to draw the line?

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com.  For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com). You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Wrong Diet and Too Much Exercise Can Sabotage Weight Loss

January 23rd, 2013 at 1:24 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

You think you do everything right. You stick to a lean diet and you go for runs and workouts in the gym. Still, the numbers on the scale won’t budge. It’s a frustrating experience many Americans go through during ‘resolution season’ when the damage from the holidays is supposed to get undone.

There can be multiple reasons for unsuccessful attempts at weight loss. Surprisingly, some of the most logical measures such as calorie restriction and fitness training can be among them. How is that possible?

“A healthy diet and consistent exercise are a safe bet at dropping pounds, yet research and evidence suggests that other factors may contribute to how easy it is for you to gain and lose weight,” says Jenna Morris, a personal trainer and writer for Livestrong.com.

Of course, making changes to eating habits that resulted in weight gain may be necessary. But you should proceed with caution, warns Morris. “If you dip too far below your recommended daily intake, then you risk actually slowing your metabolism and making weight loss even more challenging.”

If your weight loss efforts are too aggressive, you may deprive your body in unhealthy ways. A simultaneous reduction in calorie intake and increase in expenditure can cause you to burn valuable, metabolic-boosting muscle, which can make it harder to lose weight, warns Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist and contributor to CNNhealth.com.

Studies on the effects of different levels of exercising on weight loss have found that high-intensity training may not always produce the desired (or imagined) results. People who watch weight loss shows like “The Biggest Loser” on NBC often come to believe that exhausting workouts are the answer, when in fact moderate but consistent exercise routines have shown greater long-term success.

“People who exercise less may end up burning just enough calories to lose weight, but not enough to feel compelled to replace them, either by eating more or remain sedentary otherwise,” said Dr. Mads Rosenkilde of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, the lead researcher in one of the studies. “Those who exercise a lot […] may feel more drained, which prompts them to compensate.”

There can also be other factors involved such as interference from medications or medical conditions like an underactive thyroid gland or Cushing’s syndrome. Or genetic components to weight and metabolism may play a role. There are hundreds of genes that are responsible for weight regulation, says Dr. Jampolis, many of which are designed for survival by preventing starvation. In our modern environment where food is plentiful, they still function, but often in the wrong way.

For healthy, lasting weight loss, she recommends introducing smaller changes over time. If you still can’t lose weight, it might be better to just accept your current weight for the time being and focus on the prevention of more weight gain, which is for many a hard task in itself. But don’t give up on your regular exercise routine, she advises. “It is much healthier to be fit and overweight than to be thin and inactive.”

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Serving Sizes in Restaurants Still Way Too Big, Study Finds

January 20th, 2013 at 8:42 am by timigustafson
  • Comments

For the last six years, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, has given what it calls the annual “Xtreme Eating Awards” to restaurants for serving excessively large portions and using ingredients deemed to be unhealthy. Some of the most popular eateries in America are among this year’s “winners,” including family favorites like the Cheesecake Factory, the International House of Pancakes and Maggiano’s Little Italy.

The list, which is published on the CSPI website, rates restaurant dishes for calorie count as well as fat, sugar and sodium content. Some of the findings are outright startling. Single meals like the Cheesecake Factory’s “Bistro Shrimp Pasta,” a spaghetti dish with crispy battered shrimp in a cream sauce, easily exceed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recommended calorie count for an entire day. Even fruit drinks like Smoothie King’s “Peanut Power Smoothie with Grapes” that sound healthy are in fact extremely caloric and laden with high amounts of sugar.

96 percent of American chain restaurants serve meal sizes in excess of the USDA recommendations for daily intake of fat and sodium, according to a survey conducted by the RAND Corporation.

These findings stand in stark contrast to the changing eating habits of many Americans who have become more health-conscious in recent years and who would choose to eat better and also less if given the chance. For example, at least one third of interviewed restaurant patrons said they would be agreeable to having their portion sizes reduced if such options were offered, according to studies on the subject.

“People are willing to downsize, but you have to ask them to do it [for them],” said Dr. Janet Schwarz, a psychologist and assistant professor of marketing at Tulane University in an interview with “The Salt,” a production of National Public Radio (NPR).

Tests have shown that displaying calorie content, as it is now required for larger restaurant chains, has already made a difference in consumer choices. Researchers also found if people receive such information before they make their purchases, they are more inclined to order less or leave more on the plate than if they already have a big pile of food in front of them. The well-known experiments by Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor for marketing and nutritional science at Cornell University and author of “Mindless Eating – Why We Eat More Than We Think,” have demonstrated how our consumption tends to increase proportionally with the amounts of food available to us.

We need to change both sides of the equation, restaurants and their customers, in terms of expectations and what is considered of value, says Dr. Lisa Young, a nutrition professor at New York University (NYU). We all agree that portions have grown much too big over time. “Now that we are in agreement, we need to figure out ways to scale back,” she says.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

More Realistic Goals, Longer Lasting Results

January 16th, 2013 at 10:58 am by timigustafson
  • Comments

The NBC hit show, “The Biggest Loser,” now in its 14th season, is well known for its rigorous (to put it mildly) workout sessions where contestants are regularly driven to the brink of collapse in the pursuit of rapid weight loss. Of course, all the huffing and puffing during the exercising also adds drama and entertainment without which the show would probably not have lasted this long.

Although the participants come from all age groups, this year’s focus is on obesity among children and adolescents, which is a good idea considering that 17 percent (12.5 million) of Americans age 2 to 19 are now diagnosed as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since 1980, obesity rates among the young have tripled, and the latest data show only slight improvements despite of stepped-up efforts by government agencies and advocacy groups to curb the trend.

While it is disheartening to see how much damage the obesity crisis is doing to all generations, programs like “The Biggest Loser” can help convey the message that it is never too early or too late to make positive changes, provided one is willing to put in the hard work. For that they should be applauded. Still, there are some disconcerting elements at play here.

With progressive success in their weight loss efforts, many of the contestants develop a high, if not inflated confidence level. Naturally, a certain amount of faith in one’s abilities is necessary just to stay motivated. However, when I hear a candidate who has still a long way to go to a healthy weight range talk about her plans for running a complete marathon in the near future, I wonder how expectations of what’s possible can sometimes spin so much out of control. Yes, it would be a headline-grabbing sensation if a once morbidly obese person could pull off one of the most challenging athletic performances known to man after just a few month of training – but is that a healthy, even desirable prospect? Why this tendency to swing from one extreme to another?

It is no secret that radical weight loss bouts over short periods of time don’t last in most cases. So-called yo-yo dieting is a well-known phenomenon in the weight loss industry. Many former “The Biggest Loser” contestants have gained at least some of their old weight back. What seems feasible within a controlled environment often doesn’t hold up when people resume their own daily routines.

And there is also no need for that. The intensity and rigor of a concentrated weight loss program cannot and should not continue indefinitely. Studies have shown that most people reap the greatest benefits from light to moderate but consistent exercise such as resistance training, fast walking or jogging for limited distances (up to 20 miles per week). More than that does not produce significantly greater advantages for physical health or longevity, according to Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans who conducted extensive research on the subject. “If anything,” he says, “it appears that less running is associated with the best protection from mortality risk. More is not better, and actually, more could be worse.”

His colleague and study report co-author, Dr. James H. O’Keefe, a specialist in preventive cardiovascular medicine, agrees. “In general, it appears that exercise, like any therapy, results in a bell-shaped curve in terms of response and benefits. To date, the data suggest that walking and light jogging are almost uniformly beneficial for health and do increase life span. But with more vigorous or prolonged exercise, the benefits can become questionable,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.

So, instead of going from years of overeating and doing no exercise whatsoever to competitive running, I suggest that the young lady in question finds some middle ground where she can manage her weight and engage in an overall health-promoting lifestyle that can make life so much better for her for the rest of her life. The same goes for the rest of us.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Life in America More Precarious Than in Other Developed Countries

January 12th, 2013 at 3:49 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise. On average, Americans are in poorer health and have shorter lifespans than the citizens of other affluent countries, including most Western European nations, Australia, Canada and Japan. Considering that close to 50 million people, almost 20 percent of the population, are without health insurance and many more with only limited access to medical services, a decline in public health would seem inevitable. Still, the findings of a recent study by the U.S. government are quite shocking.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), America currently ranks at or near the bottom among the 17 richest nations in the world in terms of life expectancy and chronic diseases like heart disease, lung disease, obesity and diabetes as well as injuries and death from violence and sexually transmitted diseases.

What’s even more disturbing is that these statistics not only apply to the poor and the elderly, as experts long expected, but across all demographics, including young adults and those who can afford health care coverage.

“We are struck by the gravity of these findings,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and chairman of an expert panel that was tasked with the study. “What concerns [us] is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind.”

Even first generation immigrants coming to the U.S. show negative health effects within a relatively short time due to diet and lifestyle changes. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), obesity rates among immigrants roughly equal those of U.S.-born adults within 10 to 15 years after taking up residence here. One study found that migrants from comparatively poor countries like Mexico or Guatemala are especially prone to develop diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart problems because of dietary changes.

“If you go with the flow in America today, you will end up overweight or obese, as two-thirds of all adults do,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an interview with USA TODAY. “Obesity is one of the few things that has gotten worse quickly. It really is a very serious health problem,” he added.

The obesity epidemic is also one of the main reasons why it is so hard to get health care costs under control in this country. It costs $1,400 more per year to treat an obese patient compared to someone who is normal-weight and $6,600 more to treat a diabetic, said Dr. Frieden.

What changed in the U.S. more profoundly than in other countries – although similar trends are now emerging worldwide – is a dramatic shift in our eating habits. We eat more conveniently prepared but highly processed foods and enjoy fewer healthy meals made from scratch. Our portion sizes have gone through the roof. We also have become more sedentary due to progressive automation in the workplace, longer commutes and lack of safe outlets for physical activity.

“What has happened is that the structure of our society has changed in ways that make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight,” said Dr. Frieden. It’s a fertile ground for the diseases we now see on an epidemic scale.

Obviously, there is not one solution that could undo all of these regrettable developments. Multiple measures will have to be put in place and made to work together. Personal responsibility is certainly part of the equation, but so are numerous other components such as better health and nutrition education for the public, further improvements to school lunch programs, reintroduction of mandatory physical education (PE), more effective safety and disclosure regulations of agricultural and food manufacturing industries, to name just a few.

The current deterioration of our public health is not irreversible. On the contrary. Most of our ailments are self-inflicted and therefore in our control if we only muster the will to address them in meaningful ways.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Instead of Dieting, Build a Healthy Lifestyle

January 9th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

Just in time for resolution season when many Americans try hard to lose the extra weight they gained over the holidays, a surprising study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has come out, seemingly suggesting that a few additional pounds may not do too much harm after all, and being a bit overweight may even reduce a person’s mortality risk. The findings, which were widely publicized in the press, quickly proved controversial and evoked some strong reactions from health experts and the public. Is this the end of the need for weight control?

“Not all weight is the same,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC department that conducted the study, in an interview with USA TODAY. “If you work out and build muscle mass, you may increase weight and that’s healthy.”

Whether a few extra pounds matter much or not depends on how someone has acquired them, said Dr. Walter Willet, professor at Harvard School of Public Health, in the same interview. “If someone has always been muscular and is active and strong, and their blood pressure and levels of blood glucose and cholesterol are fine, then their health risks are probably minimal. However, if someone has gotten to this weight by putting on 10 pounds or more, has increased their waistline by more than two inches, or has elevations in blood pressure, glucose or cholesterol, then this weight can be a serious health risk.”

The problem is that the large majority of overweight people develop metabolic abnormalities such as high blood pressure, diabetes and many other conditions. That’s why most will benefit from losing weight, even if it’s only a modest amount, he added.

Even those who are still within a healthy weight range should take proactive steps to avoid weight increase by eating right and exercising regularly. Obviously, it is much easier to prevent any damage than to repair it.

Either way, successful weight management does not come in form of quick and temporary fixes but with a firm commitment to your overall health and well-being that lasts a lifetime. This may entail paying careful attention to your eating habits and, if necessary, making some changes, which can range from cutting back on portion sizes to learning entirely different eating styles. It can require going on more walks or making the gym your new obsession.

Those who are significantly overweight and face health threats because of that may have to take some immediate action. Even losing relatively small amounts of weight can be a lifesaver. In extreme cases, more drastic measures under medical supervision may be necessary.

Unfortunately, most dieters still focus too much on calorie reduction, in spite of the fact that deprivation rarely works. That’s why so many encounter a so-called ‘yo-yo’ effect, where they regain the weight they’ve lost and sometimes add more once the dieting is over.

No matter how extensive your efforts will need to be, they don’t have to be complicated. Most experts recommend to start small and set more ambitious goals over time. Aim for balance, variety and moderation in your eating pattern. Develop an exercise regimen that matches your needs and that you enjoy enough to stick with it.

Don’t try changing everything all at once. Allow for occasional treats, count on lapses, but don’t lose sight of your long-term goals. Ask for support from loved ones or seek professional help when the going gets too tough. In the end, what matters most is that you own your new and improved lifestyle and that it becomes part of who you are. And it will, if you try long and hard enough.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Weight Issues Not as Harmless as Study May Suggest

January 5th, 2013 at 2:12 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

Obesity may have multiple negative health effects, but higher mortality rates are not among them, according to a study that was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers found that people with weight problems don’t necessarily have shorter life expectancies than their normal-weight contemporaries. In fact, a few extra pounds could even lower the risk of an untimely death.

The findings were greeted with great interest in the press and welcomed as good news for the two-thirds of all Americans who, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are considered overweight or obese.

Based on the results of this study, the government ought to redefine the meaning of “overweight” and “obese” and re-categorize a large part of the population as normal-weight and healthy, writes Paul Campus, author of “The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health” (Penguin Group, 2004), in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.

“If the government were to redefine normal weight as one that doesn’t increase the risk of death, then 130 million of the 165 million American adults currently categorized as overweight and obese would be re-categorized as normal weight instead,” he says.

If only it were that easy.

What this particular study does say is that among all causes of mortality, not overall health risks, being overweight does not seem to stand out as a particularly significant factor. But that doesn’t mean the obesity crisis should no longer be treated as such.

In fact, the study, which investigated the causes of 270,000 deaths from around the world, also found that the morbidly obese had a 29 percent increased risk of dying prematurely compared to normal-weight and moderately overweight people.

It would be a mistake to conclude from this one study that Americans can keep overeating, says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC department that conducted the research. “I don’t think anyone would disagree with the basic fact that being more physically active and eating a healthier diet is very important for your health,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Other experts agree. The body mass index (BMI) by which weight levels are commonly measured is an imperfect assessment of the risk of mortality, and additional factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar must also be considered, says Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, in an interview with the New York Times in response to the study release.

But many of these diseases are diet and lifestyle related, and together they amount to over 60 percent of all causes of death in the world today, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Maintaining a healthy weight range may not automatically produce longevity. It may have little or no influence on one’s life expectancy at all, as this study seems to indicate. But we can say with certainty that struggling with weight problems and other related health issues significantly takes away from the quality of life a person can enjoy, and increasingly so with age. A report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) found that “Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost to U.S. adults due to morbidity and mortality from obesity have more than doubled from 1993 to 2008 and the prevalence of obesity has increased 89.9 percent during the same period.”

If we only look at statistics, we may not understand how weight problems affect people in so many ways. Being unable to move without pain, being dependent on medications, getting out of breath at the slightest physical strain, those are the consequences that may not actually shorten life but make it so much harder – and unnecessarily so.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy reading  “Nearly Half of All Americans Will Be Obese Within Two Decades, Study Projects.”

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Making Your Resolutions Last

January 2nd, 2013 at 4:47 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

New Year’s resolutions are a popular annual tradition in spite of their notoriously high failing rates. According to surveys, almost half of Americans will again vow to change something or other in their lives this month. Losing weight usually ranks at the top of the list, followed by getting better organized, saving money, taking more time off, improving physical fitness, and quitting or reducing alcohol and tobacco use.

The percentage of people who say they regularly achieve all of their goals is a measly eight percent. Almost half report partial success, while a quarter admits to complete failure year after year.

Making resolutions has a great deal to do with the belief that we can reinvent ourselves at our choosing, according to Ray Williams, author of “Breaking Bad Habits.” It can also be a form of procrastination. It’s a way to motivate ourselves to make long overdue changes, if not right away, then at least in the near future.

However, if resolutions are too unrealistic and insufficiently aligned with our actual circumstances, they are doomed from the start. “When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-esteem,” he writes. “You may think that if you lose weight, or reduce your debts, or exercise more, your entire life will change, and when it doesn’t, you may get discouraged and then you revert to old behaviors.”

There may be a multitude of good reasons why we don’t follow through with our good intentions but in the end, it all comes down to energy, or lack thereof, says Dr. Carolyn Anderson, a surgeon and wellness expert. “All resolutions require extra energy, and if your day-to-day life already leaves you exhausted, you’ll never get around to fulfilling your plans,” she says.

Lack of sufficient energy to make lifestyle changes often gets confused with lack of time, which is one of the most common excuses. Energy comes from discipline, she says, discipline to follow proven strategies like eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. These are the necessary foundations other improvements can be built upon.

Another potential cause for failure is the size and scope of the goals we set for ourselves. The bar may be impossibly high, the target too far away. It may also be a matter of lacking confidence. “[The] problem isn’t that we shouldn’t think big, but that we consider ourselves too small of a player in the quest for our own goals,” says Kristi Hedges, an executive coach and author of “The Power of Presence.” “We set all-or-nothing New Year’s resolutions that we can’t possibly keep, and frankly don’t expect ourselves to.”

Many resolutions, she says, are not only unrealistic but also too general and vague to be turned into concrete steps. Failure then becomes an almost inevitable consequence, allowing us to return to our familiar excuses.

So, before you make another resolution, consider first how you will pursue your goals differently from last time when you failed, says Chrissy Scivicque, a lifestyle and career coach. Perhaps you didn’t plan ahead carefully enough. Or you didn’t plan for setbacks and were ill equipped to deal with them when they occurred. You may have lost motivation along the way or forgot why you went on a particular journey to begin with. Maybe you didn’t get enough support to keep you going. Or you are prone to sabotaging yourself as you approach success.

Besides setting only specific goals that are realistically achievable, you should only focus on one resolution at a time, advises Ray Williams. Don’t wait for New Year’s Day to get started. There is no need for artificial timetables. Begin by taking small steps. Pace yourself. Have an “accountability buddy” who helps you keep track of your progress and encourages you when the going gets tough. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you advance too slowly or fall back. Celebrate small successes. Be conscious that changing your behavior and mindset is no easy task and takes time. But it’s all worth it and, hopefully, will spare you another frustrating resolution season. Happy New Year!

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Food Trends to Keep: Small, Simple, Fresh and Healthy

December 29th, 2012 at 2:37 pm by timigustafson
  • Comments

Much has been reported on changing food and nutrition trends in recent years and 2012 was no exception. Analysts agree: Americans want to eat more healthily. That includes healthier choices as well as smaller portion sizes. At the same time, convenience and efficiency are as important as ever, which calls for simple recipes and easy cooking techniques. Also, rising prices have made consumers more conscious of the value of quality food and they pay attention to what they’re buying and try to be less wasteful.

People want to eat “smaller” – not necessarily smaller as in less but smaller as in locally grown and as in fresh, as opposed to shipped in from far away, in big bulk and highly processed, explains Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions, a consumer research group. “Consumers want the food they buy demystified,” she said in an interview with USA Today. “They want to be able to pronounce the names of all the product ingredients. And they want to know where it comes from – ideally, locally. Nothing sells like pure and simple.”

Studies by the NPD Group, a consumer and market research enterprise, show that healthy eating is becoming a top priority, especially among aging baby boomers. Faced with multiple age- and lifestyle-related health threats, the boomers will continue their search for the fountain of youth, or at least will do whatever it takes to slow their decline. By 2015, this generation will be responsible for half of all the money spent on groceries in this country, and much of that will be on health food, the NPD Group predicts.

Transparency where our food comes from and what goes in it is very much part of that same equation, says Danielle Gould, founder of Food + Tech Connect, a research company that analyzes market trends. “Consumers read labels and select their foods more holistically based on all the food factors, including taste, ingredients, source and nutritional composition, as well as who is making their food,” she says.

Sustainability is also a growing concern. Too much food is being wasted, she warns. According to the National Resource Defense Council, about 40 percent of all the food available in the United States goes uneaten and has to be discarded. More Americans feel uncomfortable with that situation and want to see changes in the ways we deal with the overflowing supply, especially when millions of our fellow-citizen, including children, go hungry.

For food manufacturers and restaurant operators the demand for local fare, smaller servings and greater nutritional value may bring some serious challenges, and old business models, where more has always been considered better, will have to be realigned with the changing times. But they will eventually come around upon consumers’ insistence. As is so often the case, seemingly revolutionary ideas will become the new normal, and we will hardly remember why it took us so long to get there.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Don’t Start Dieting Just Yet

December 26th, 2012 at 7:56 am by timigustafson
  • Comments

The holidays are nearly over. It’s time to assess the damage caused by delicious treats, fun cocktail parties and festive dinners that made us feel so good but now give us a sense of regret. It’s time to repent, shed quickly the extra pounds we gained and return to the path of nutritional righteousness. Or is it?

In fact, no. I don’t recommend dieting after the holidays. Going on a diet right after putting on more weight may be the worst thing you can do. Why?

Numerous studies have shown that starving yourself after periods of overindulging can be highly counterproductive. One study from the University of CaliforniaLos Angeles (UCLA) found that people who diet not only regain the weight they lost but actually tend to add more.

“We found that the average percentage of people who gained back more weight than they lost on diets was 41 percent, says Dr. Traci Mann, a professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in psychology of eating disorders, in an interview with WebMD. She believes these numbers are conservative and the statistics may be even bleaker because the study’s data are based on self-reporting, which notoriously skews the results.

One of the reasons why diets don’t work, especially after a time of overeating, is that it’s hard for most people to change even recently acquired habits. If you can’t continue with something that provides you with so much gratification, it feels like cruel deprivation. It can be difficult to overcome that sudden void.

And even if you initially succeed at losing some weight, the returns inevitably diminish over time, says Dr. Mann. “When you keep to a reduced-calorie diet, your body makes metabolic adjustments that make it harder and harder for you to lose weight. Your body becomes very efficient, and you have to eat less and less to continue to lose weight. If you had the will to go on a diet, the fact that it steadily becomes less and less effective makes it even harder to stick to it,” she says.

People often underestimate how difficult it is to change their lifestyle, says Dr. Robert M. van Dam, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who specializes in obesity studies. “People think diets are something you do for a little while before going back to your old lifestyle. But if you do a crash diet, you will only regain the weight,” he warns.

So what is the right way to get us out of the holiday spirit and let us down gently?

“People who want to achieve and maintain a healthy weight should start working at lifestyle changes they can maintain, even if it means not losing weight but just staying at the same weight,” says Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom, a professor for psychiatry and epidemiology and director the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh. In other words, instead of jumping on another fad diet that promises quick results, it is better to gradually ease back into your regular routine and go from there if additional weight loss measures are needed.

This is not just a physical exercise but a mental one as well. If the holidays caused you to engage in some bouts of emotional eating – meaning you ate for reasons other than hunger – you must find ways to cope with those issues as well. Just because the season is over doesn’t mean those needs go away.

Lifestyle changes that produce lasting results include a number of different elements, says Dr. Fernstrom, including moderation of food intake, increasing physical activity, managing stress and, if necessary, getting counseling and treatment for depression and other illnesses that may get in the way.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy reading “How Damaging Is Yo-Yo Dieting?.”

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”, and at amazon.com. You can follow Timi on Twitter and on Facebook.

Write your own blog

Do you have something to say? Are you passionate about a particular topic and can write regularly and coherently? We'd love to talk with you. Contact us today about blogging on this site.

Blog Search
About timigustafson

Timi Gustafson, RD, LDN, FAND is a registered dietitian, health counselor, book author, syndicated newspaper columnist and blogger. She lectures on nutrition and healthy living to audiences worldwide. She is the founder and president of Solstice Publications LLC, a publishing company specializing in health and lifestyle education. Timi completed her Clinical Dietetic Internship at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an active member of the Washington State Dietetic Association, a member of the Diabetes Care and Education, Healthy Aging, Vegetarian Nutrition and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition practice groups. For more information, please visit http://www.timigustafson.com

*About Community Blogs

Community blogs are written by volunteers. They are members of our community but not employees of this site or newspaper. They have applied or were invited to blog here but their words are their own and are not edited by the editor or staff of this site, and have agreed to abide by our Terms of Use. The authors are solely responsible for their content. If you have concerns about something you read on a community blog, please contact the author directly or email us.

Would you like to have your own blog on our site? Contact us today.

Archive
Categories