So what is the deal with all these diets?

Seriously – there seems to always be some new diet that is all the rage; some dieimage courtesy of qualitystockphotos.comt or hot new method to lose weight, cleanse your body, detox … you get the idea.  All it takes is a glance at the magazines at any grocery store checkout to see what the celebrities consider to be the latest and greatest way to shed some pounds.  The promises are many – this is the hidden secret, this is the one that doesn’t make you change what you eat, this one lets you eat as much (fill in the blank) as you want, the Paleo diet, Keto diet, Low Carb diet, All Carb Diet, Gluten Free Diet, Peanut Butter Diet, All Veggie Diet, and the list goes on and on and on.  But do these really work, and are they good for you?

Upcoming are several posts that will deal with these questions, questions about diet, diets, and dieting, and also some guest posts that will give you some real-life firsthand accounts of experiences as a result of various diets and approaches to a healthier lifestyle.

As a foundational truth though – remember that diets don’t work – not in the long term and not for lasting change toward a healthier lifestyle.  Sometimes they can be helpful (and just the thing you need) to shed a few pounds or kick start a change in lifestyle – but “going on a diet for a while” is almost always destined to fail since you’ll eventually end up right back where you started (or worse off) once you return to your old ways.

The bottom line – “diets” in the traditional sense don’t work – but a change in your diet can work if you incorporate those changes into your daily life and make them foundational for a new lifestyle.  If you do that – there are several different dietary approaches out there that do work.  Upcoming posts will take a closer look at these questions, provide some real-world feedback, and attempt to address any questions you might have.

Questions or comments – please use the form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Obesity trends are bad news for everybody

Bad news about obesity

The CDC released a study showing that more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese and that currently not even one state has met the nation’s Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15% (no state is even below 20%).  (Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health,; the standard measure is when Body mass index (BMI) is greater than 30 kg/m).

As a New York Times article pointed out: “The billions that we are spending to treat diabetes is money that we don’t have for education reform or retirement benefits …, it’s estimated that the total cost of America’s obesity epidemic could reach almost $1 trillion by 2030 ….”

It’s certain that even if you’re fit and of a healthy weight you either know or have family members that are a part of this trend.

For everyone’s good – What can you do about this?

  1. Encourage people to make healthy eating choices.  Many people don’t think about the effect of what they eat on their body and their health.   A former coworker lamented to me about his inability to lose weight, but always had a mid-morning snack of a can of Coke and a pack of frosted pop-tarts.   We worked through healthy alternatives that could be just as filling, last longer and not have all the bad effects of Coke and pop-tarts.
  2. Educate your family members about why you make the food choices you do.  Don’t be annoying or a know it all, but I believe that as people learn about healthy delicious alternatives and taste how good they are, they are more likely to make a healthy choice rather than dismiss healthy food as  “leaves and twigs”.
  3. Share your healthy foods and habits with others.  Whether it’s break time at work or a get-together with friends, provide good foods for friends to share with you.   Once people try ripe cherries, juicy mango, fresh ripe peaches, fresh cruchy apple slices, and other healthy choices some of the unhealthy choices don’t that much better than the healthy ones.

Questions about anything in this post?  Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear from you.

Healthy alternatives for food you should avoid part 2

You can make changes to your diet – one step at a time- and still enjoy a delicious variety of nutritious foods.  This post will help suggest options to help make some of those changes.

Once again, start with your food diary (having logged everything you consumed for a week), and then review what you’ve eaten and target things you should avoid.   Reference the list of items to avoid here – there are so many delicious and healthy options – you won’t go hungry!

Packaged/processed foods

  1. -Fresh healthy options are always your best bet; here are a few examples:
    -Baked, grilled, broiled or roasted chicken or fish
    -Grilled or seared lean meats (grass-fed beef, bison, chicken)
    -Steamed, grilled or roasted veggies
    -Salad mix with or without pieces of grilled or pan-seared chicken or fish
    -Fresh made pizza (want the recipe?)
    -Turkey or low-fat ham and cheese sandwiches (want the recipe for healthy homemade bread?)
    -There are many sites dedicated to healthy meal options – use this list as a springboard for thinking about healthy options in the style of a traditional meal (meat, veggie, bread, salad).  There are more options than steak and potatoes or burgers and fries.
    -None of the options above take much time to prepare (except for pizza) and many of the ingredients can be pre-staged to accommodate a quick meal and a busy lifestyle
  2. Alcoholic beverages
    -Be very careful with these, the calories add up so fast, and there are many detrimental effects of alcohol abuse.  Some studies indicate that moderate consumption may have some beneficial effects; do the research, but don’t start drinking to try to improve your health!
    -Fruit juices, seltzer water mixes, the rare sugar sweetened soda, sparkling fruit juices
    see the options previously listed for soda
  3. Bacon, sausage, cured meats
    -These are not good for your health, try to avoid these altogether.
    There are no good healthy meat based substitutes for these, but here are some recommendation is you feel you must consume this type of meat product.
    -Look for organically raised uncured bacon or organically raised uncured turkey bacon
    -Look for uncured sausage made with organically raised meats
    -Avoid these or keep them to a minimum to avoid excessive fat consumption and the detrimental effects of fried foods
  4. Sauces, dressings, and toppings
    -Look for lighter dressings and sauces made with healthy oils, and vinaigrettes
    -Watch for low-fat sauces, but beware of added sweeteners or chemical thickeners
  5. Candy
    -Fresh fruit
    -Try a small amount of dark chocolate, you get an antioxidant boost as a bonus
    -Dried fruit (a small amount – ounce for ounce more calories than fresh fruit)
    -Candy should be avoided because of the high sugar content which quickly raises blood sugar levels, potentially damaging to tissues and results in the unused sugar being stored as fat
    -Save sweets for a rare treat or special occasions (and even then – only having a small piece) you will save yourself loads of calories and protect yourself from blood sugar/insulin spikes and peaks

These suggestions are a starting point to get you thinking about the many healthy and delicious foods that can be a part of your diet, and to help you replace some of the things you need to avoid.  There are many web resources available for healthy quick recipes.



Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.


Healthy alternatives for food you should avoid part 1

Healthier choices don’t mean a tasteless diet!

If you’ve already created a food diary (logging everything you eat and drink for a week), then it’s easy to review the items you’ve consumed and watch out for things you should avoid.   You can reference the list of items to avoid here –  don’t lose heart, there are healthy alternatives for everything!

The following are some suggestions for the first five foods on your “stop or limit” list

  1.  Sodas – both diet and sugary
    -Consider the following options instead:  coffee, tea (black, green, white, herbal), seltzer water,
    or perhaps the best option – just plain water
    -Many people can wean themselves off soda by watering it down or adding seltzer water and eventually switching to plain seltzer water if they still want the fizz (or seltzer water with just a splash of fruit juice)
    -If you have to have a soda – make sure it’s sweetened with sugar – not high fructose corn syrup – and only have one occasionally as a rare treat
    -Diet sodas have their own issues – it’s best to avoid them.
  2. Juice Drinks
    -Look for 100% juices or make your own at home with a juicer, blender or Vitamix
    -Look for unsweetened, unfiltered juices
    -Be careful of apple juice – can be high in sugar  (about the same as Pepsi or 7up), but usually with no fiber
    -Be careful of fruit juice that is largely flavored apple juice with added flavorings
    -Add some water or seltzer or sparkling water to your juice drink if you simply must have it
  3. White bread, white rice, white rice, white potatoes
    -Look for whole grain alternatives to the bread products.  Fewer calories, more fiber, more nutrients
    -Look for wild, brown, or black rice as an alternative to white rice.   More nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, less fat, fewer calories
    -Whole grain pasta – more fiber, more nutrients
    -Sweet potatoes instead of white (just don’t load them up with butter and brown sugar) – they have a natural sweetness.  You can even make your own broiled sweet potato “fries”
    -With all the above you won’t get the same blood sugar/insulin spikes and peaks as with the “white foods” and they will “stick with you” longer than the white alternative
  4. Fried foods
    -Look for grilled, baked, broiled or roasted alternatives.
    -By limiting fried foods to every once in a while and eliminating them as a mainstay of your diet you will save loads of calories and fat
  5. Cakes, cookies, pies, etc.
    -Look for fresh light alternatives like fresh fruit, yogurt
    -Try frozen fruit like frozen berries or grapes
    -Have a small amount of dark chocolate, you get an antioxidant boost and less fat than milk chocolate
    -By saving these sweets for a rare treat or special occasions (and even then – only having a small piece) you will save yourself loads of calories and protect yourself from blood sugar/insulin spikes and peaks


These are just a few of the possibilities – get creative and make it a game to find healthy substitutes!
Remember to watch your portion sizes on anything you eat – start by cutting everything in half.
Also remember to take the time to thoroughly chew each bite.  This allows you to savor the flavors and textures, helps with the digestion process by grinding up the food thoroughly and giving the enzymes in your saliva a better chance to do their job, and slows you down so that you won’t keep eating past the point of being satisfied.

Next post – Substituting food you should avoid with healthier choices  part 2


Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.

Stop eating these now

A recent blog post here highlighted the importance of creating a food diary.

The best place to start with a review of your diet is with a food diary; simply record everything you eat and drink for a week.  If you’ve already done this – good!  If not, start your food diary today and I will show you how to do a simple review of the things you consume in order to identify things to skip or minimize, and reinforce some the good things in your diet.

This post focuses on things that you need to stop or limit to an occasional treat (circle these things in your food diary in red).  While this is not a comprehensive list, this list of 10 items is a start – not necessarily the “top ten” or ten worst, but a starting place for your review of the things you consume. This review is not a substitute for an in-depth nutritional analysis, it is intended to help you move toward a healthier diet.


Sodas – both diet and sugary. Empty sugar calories at best.
May also contain unhealthy artificial sweeteners.
Juice drinks Most of these are sweetened beverages with some added fruit juices – you have to read the labels!
White stuff: White bread, white rice, white potatoes, white pasta  – these are simple starches/sugar without much fiber – they can lead to blood sugar/insulin spikes and increased body fat
Fried food Too many bad things to list here! Let’s leave it at the high fat content for now (how about grilled instead?)  Fried food will get its own post in the future.
Cakes, cookies, pies, etc. High sugar, often high fat with little or no fiber, and lots of calories.
Packaged/processed foods Read the labels – usually high sodium, low in fiber, added sugar, and lots of things you can’t pronounce that you probably shouldn’t be putting in your body
Alcoholic beverages High in empty calories (almost as much as pure fat)
Can both dehydrate you and displace other nutrients
Effects on heart, liver, brain and other organs
Bacon, sausage, cured meats Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of even a small amount of these results in a measurably increased risk of cancer and other issues
Sauces, dressings, and toppings Often high calorie with lots of added sugar, salt, and fat.   These can make a healthy dish unhealthy, or turn something  already unhealthy into something very bad for you.
Candy Added sugar that nobody needs.
Kudos if you have dark chocolate – just don’t have too much.

Coming next – suggestions on how to move away from these with substitutes and healthier choices.


Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.


healthy oils

The next time you’re tempted to reach for that bottle of corn oil – don’t.  Corn oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids.  Omega 6 fatty acids are important, but the typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.   A healthier balance of fatty acids can have many overall health benefits.

There are many healthier oils out there, and I’m not just talking about canola oil.  Both corn oil and canola oil tend to come from GMO (genetically modified) plants and the both of those oils are processed with hexane (a product of crude oil) and some reports indicate that hexane can persist in the final product.

Here are three alternatives to consider:

Raw virgin coconut oil
A very healthy alternative that is largely made up of about 50 percent lauric acid, a rare medium-chain fatty acid found in mother’s milk that supports healthy metabolism. Overall, coconut oil contains 92% saturated fats, and only 1% Omega-6, the fat Americans get way too much of.   Look for cold process expeller processed coconut oil.  Coconut oil has a high smoke point (smoke point is where an oil burn and starts to breakdown) making it great for sauteing.  Coconut oil deserves its own post here and will be highlighted in the future.

Olive oil
A key component of the often touted “Mediterranean diet” – olive oil is another heart healthy alternative.
Olive oil has been used for literally thousands of years, and the basic process for obtaining oil from olives is largely unchanged.  A repeated series of pressing and then filtering yields the oil.
There are many different varieties of olive oil – some with a very mild taste, and some with a heartier full-bodied flavor.  Try the different varieties and see what taste you prefer.  Many reports indicate beneficial effects on many aspects of your health including digestion, metabolism, cardiovascular and blood cholesterol to mention a few.

Grapeseed oil
Grapeseed oil is a clean light tasting oil.   With virtually no taste, grapeseed oil can be used in a variety of recipes and leaves no discernible taste of its own.  Use of grapeseed oil also has been shown in some studies to increase levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and lower levels of LDL.  Grapeseed oil also has a high smoke point making great for sauteing.   Some brands are processed with hexane, so look for one that is expeller processed and produced without solvents.

Want to know more about anything mentioned in this post?  Let me know – leave a comment.