Healthy is Strong

Bosc Heart
February is American Heart Month, and taking care of yourself and the ones you love is the perfect way to say I love you this Valentine’s Day. According to the Million Hearts® Healthy is Strong campaign, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. Instead of giving your sweetie chocolates this Valentine’s Day, why not give your heart? For men and women, one small change can add up to one healthy heart!

One simple way to boost heart health is with physical activity. No, you don’t have to run five miles every day, but increasing activity slowly, such as a romantic walk with your sweetie, improves cardiovascular health. As a rule of thumb, aim for 150 minutes of activity each week – and if you #PearUp with a partner, you’re more likely to stick to your plan!

Another quick fix is to add in heart-y foods to your diet, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, no salt added nuts and seeds, fish, and healthy oils, such as olive or canola. To keep it simple, try a piece of fruit for a snack, such as the delicious Anjou, Bosc or Bartlett pear – all American Heart Association Heart-Check certified for health. For a delectable option that still feels sinful, try sliced pears drizzled with dark chocolate. Yum!

So this February when love is in the air, remember that a healthy heart is a strong heart! Visit Healthy is Strong or Go Red for Women for more tips to take charge of your heart health.

#PearUp with a Pal for Lasting Results!

Red Pear SuccessNow that 2017 is fully underway, you may be feeling less motivated to maintain your New Year’s resolution. You’re not alone: By two weeks into January, approximately 1/3 of us have failed to maintain our resolutions. So maybe it’s time to #pearup with a friend or group!

Studies suggest that people who participate alongside a partner or group, whether for weight loss or physical activity, tend to stick with the program longer (1, 2). Weight management programs that incorporate meetings or phone calls tend to have greater success partly due to encouragement and accountability (3). Newer research even suggests that online weight loss communities via various social media platforms are associated with greater weight loss (4, 5). From my personal experience, friends make the journey fun and we feel less alone. Friends and I sometimes get together to prep recipes for the week, incorporating lots of fruit, veggies, and fun into what can be an otherwise dull task!

Likewise, partner or group exercise tends to be more effective than going solo. This is partly due to the Köhler effect, which is when weaker members are motivated to keep up with more capable members of a group (6, 7). Additionally, if the group relies on everybody completing the task at hand, the weakest members tend to step up their performances, such as finishing a group jog (8). This seems to happen because we try to match our partner’s performance (9, 10), and virtual workout partners may have similar effects – noteworthy for those just starting out or who have anxiety around group fitness or gyms (11). Personally, I’m a fan of group exercise because meeting a friend makes me show up, we cheer each other on, and it feels less like work and more like fun. I’ve made some of my closest friends this way!

Whether you’re off and running with your resolution or still trying to get off the couch, think about enlisting a friend. Chances are, your friends need motivation and want to #pearup, too!

  1. Wing RR, Tate DF, Gorin AA, Raynor HA, Fava JL. Self-regulation program for maintenance of weight loss. N Engl J Med. 2006;355:1563-71.
  2. Dishman RK, Buckworth J. Increasing physical activity: A quantitative synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jun 1996;28:706–19.
  3. Kulik NL, Fisher EB, Ward DS, Ennett ST, Bowling JM, Tate DF. Peer support enhanced social support in adolescent females during weight loss. Am J Health Behav. 2014;38:789-800.
  4. Pappas GL, Cunha TO, Bicalho PV, Ribeiro A, Couto Silva AP, Meira W Jr, Beleigoli AM. Factors associated with weight change in online weight management communities: A case study in the LoseIt Reddit community. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19:e17.
  5. Turner-McGrievy GM, Tate DF. Weight loss social support in 140 characters or less: Use of an online social network in a remotely delivered weight loss intervention. Transl Behav Med. 2013;3:287-94.
  6. Kerr NL, Hertel G. The Köhler group motivation gain: How to motivate the “weak links” in a group. Soc Pers Psychol Comp. January 2010;5:43–55.
  7. Weber B, Hertel G. Motivation gains of inferior group members: A meta-analytical review. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007;93:973–93.
  8. Steiner ID. Group process and productivity. New York: Academic Press; 1972.
  9. Stroebe W, Diehl M, Abakoumkin G. Social compensation and the Köhler effect: Toward a theoretical explanation of motivation gains in group productivity. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; 1996. Witte E, Davis J, eds. Understanding group behavior: Consensual action by small groups; No. 2.
  10. Kerr NL, Messé LA, Seok DH, Sambolec EJ, Lount Jr. RB, Park ES. Psychological mechanisms underlying the Köhler motivation gain. Pers Soc Psychol B. 2007;33(6):828–41.
  11. Feltz DL, Forlenz ST, Winn B, Kerr NL. Cyber buddy is better than no buddy: A test of the Köhler motivation effect in exergames. Games Health J. 2014;3:98-105.

Promises, Promises

lonely-seckelEvery year I make a New Year’s resolution… and sometimes stick to it. Over the years, countless clients have told me they resolve to lose weight in the coming year, but most of us fail to reach our resolutions. What’s the problem? Instead of vague promises to lose weight or get healthy, perhaps we should focus on the causes of the issue: Small changes are what really add up. A more realistic goal may be to change a particular behavior that contributes to health. Here are a few ideas.

  • Slow down! When we eat quickly, we tend to eat too many calories before our brains register satisfaction. Take in the environment, enjoy conversation, and savor each bite. If you’re struggling to hit the brakes, make sure you’re spending at least 20 minutes enjoying your meal.
  • Prepare ahead of time. You don’t have to spend Sunday afternoon preparing the week’s meals – I know I don’t have an entire afternoon to spare! Instead, focus on one meal: Prep dinner while making breakfast. To save time, I make larger amounts and spread the meals over the week.
  • Drink up! Drinking more water is so simple, but even dietitians fail at this one. Water is necessary for metabolic processes and may help us feel fuller. I’m not a sipper, so I’ve set my phone to vibrate multiple times each day to remind me to drink a glass of water – and it works!
  • Wear an activity tracker. It’s easy, many are inexpensive, and they sync with your phone so you can track progress. I use mine for biofeedback and if I haven’t reached my steps in the evening I take the dog for a longer walk or get in some steps while brushing my teeth.
  • Reduce screen time. This recommendation isn’t just for kids! If you binge watch your favorite show or eat dinner in front of the TV each night, I’m talking to you. In the time it takes to watch just one episode, you can get in a workout or prepare dinner for the next night – two items on this list!

Small changes really do add up. But if you must focus on the scale, try a more realistic and measurable goal – such as, to lose 10 pounds and keep it off for the entire year. Isn’t that the hard part, anyway? Here’s to a happy and healthy 2017!

Waiting for the Weight?

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_rosipro'>rosipro / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Ah, the holidays. That magical time of year when friends and family come together, airports are overrun, siblings fight, and we all pack on a few pounds that we resolve to lose in January. (Actually, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 suggests we only gain about one pound over the holidays!) My first holiday gathering is this week, and since I have a terrible sweet tooth I’ve already pictured the dessert table. It looks delicious and is full of my favorites, so what do I do? I say it every year – plan, plan, plan! So where to start?

First, never arrive hungry. If I’m hungry when I walk in the door, within minutes I might have a bottle of wine and an entire cake in my hands. That’s not good, so carry filling snacks with you or stop on the way to the party for a filling bite.

Second, eat well throughout the day to avoid peaks and valleys in blood sugar that may cause overindulgence. A good tip I tell my clients is to always eat two macronutrients together, such as a high-fiber carbohydrate with a protein or fat – for example, a fresh, fiber-rich pear with a few cubes of cheese or a smear of nut butter. Fiber, fat, and protein help us stay satisfied in different ways, so we can stay on track when temptation dances in front of us.

Third, step away from the table! We tend to linger in the kitchen or over the treats; this makes sense because we’re social eaters and eating together connects us, especially at the holidays. But if you move the party away a few feet, you’re less likely to mindlessly nibble. Likewise, use a beautiful fruit bowl as your centerpiece – happy and healthy!

Fourth, watch the libations! If your indulgence is more of the liquid kind, try a low-calorie mixer or follow what I call the sandwich method: Have your cocktail, but follow it with a glass of water before the next cocktail. This will help you avoid overindulgence and help you stay hydrated – another cause of overindulgence.

Finally, if you do overindulge, cut yourself some slack, stick to your exercise routine, and get back on track with the next bite . Eating healthfully, enjoying plenty of fruits and veggies, and drinking more water will help you fight the holiday overindulgence and stay on track through the New Year!

Staying Fit and Healthy Through the Holidays

peartapemeasureToo many indulgences and fewer workouts can wreak havoc with your energy level and your waistline this time of year. However, there are simple ways to create balance that don’t require sacrificing your favorite goodies, or even stepping into a gym. Check out my realistic three-step strategy for staying fit through the holidays.

Step One: Whip up some healthy holiday dishes
Go ahead and enjoy your very favorite holiday foods prepared traditionally. But commit to lightening up others. For example, replace one pie with baked pears, or a mock pear cobbler. Simply sauté chopped ripe pears over low heat in a little water seasoned with a bit of fresh squeeze lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Top with a healthy “crumble” made from mixing rolled oats and ground cinnamon into almond butter. Or instead of creamed spinach, serve a fresh spinach salad, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, topped with sliced pears and chopped walnuts.

Step Two: Move in ways you look forward to
You don’t have to spend hours on the elliptical to burn off holiday calories. In fact, this is a great time of year to be active with family and friends in fun ways that can still keep you fit. Head to an ice skating rink, have a dance off, or organize a group hike, walk, or game.

Step Three: Make room for special indulgences.
Many of my clients find themselves eating things they don’t even really like during the holidays, simply because they’re there. When faced with a treat, take a moment to rate it, using a 5-star scale, 5 being “can’t-live-without” and 0 being “meh, if I pass it up, I won’t feel deprived.” If a food rates a 3 or less, skip it. And if it’s a worthwhile splurge create balance in simple ways. For example, if it’s carb-heavy, like a brownie, opt for a protein topped salad rather than a sandwich or wrap for lunch. This strategy literally allows you to have your cake (or pie) and eat it too!

Four Recipes for Diabetic Eating

Nourishing, naturally sweet and truly delicious, pears are in season which makes it the perfect time of year to celebrate the joy of eating well. National Diabetes Month (November) is coming to a close, but eating diabetes-friendly foods is important year-round and it’s my personal mission to change the conversation around the diabetic diet from one of deprivation to one of gratifying intentions to eat to nourish your body. Whole foods, like pears, are nutrient dense and sustaining which makes them easy to love. I also love the concept of “food gratitude” as it offers you a positive way to celebrate the good-for-you foods on your plate like the many reasons to be grateful for pears. The fiber content of the pear, 6 grams per medium piece of fruit, helps to naturally keep blood sugars in check. Plus, they are a good source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune function and rids the body of disease causing free radicals. You can enjoy a pear as a snack or incorporate them into more savory meal preparations.

No matter how you enjoy pears, the right ripeness is most important. Check the neck near the stem with your thumb. If it yields to pressure you’ll know it is ripe. Here are a few of my favorite snack recipes using pears that are perfect for the diabetic and non-diabetic alike.

Pears with Tahini, Chocolate, Honey and Hemp Seeds
Ingredients:
1 medium pear
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon dark chocolate shavings

Instructions:
1) Core then slice the pear into 6 equal wedges.
2) Drizzle with tahini and honey.
3) Sprinkle the wedges with the hemp seeds and dark chocolate shavings.

Savory Yogurt Pear Parfait
3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon honey
½ cup diced pears (tossed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
1 tablespoon unsalted chopped hazelnuts
1/2 teaspoon Za’atar
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:
1. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, honey and orange zest.
2. Top with pears, hazelnuts, za’atar, olive oil and sea salt.
CoolWeatherCobblerCool Weather Cobbler (From my new cookbook, Whole Cooking and Nutrition)
Ingredients:
For the Filling:
6 medium pears or apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries and/or pitted cherries
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
For the Topping:
1 cup almond flour
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (or gluten free flour)
1/4 cup unsalted, toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw, unsalted sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)

Instructions:
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2) For the filling, toss together the fruit, arrowroot powder, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest in a medium bowl. Spread the filling in the bottom of an 8×12-inch baking dish.
3) To make the topping, stir together the almond flour, oats, whole-wheat flour, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in another bowl. Drizzle in the coconut oil, olive oil, and maple syrup and mix until evenly combined.
4) Crumble the topping over the filling and bake for 40 minutes, or until the topping is brown and the fruit is bubbling. Remove cobbler from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Ginger-Cardamom Pear Sauce with Pistachios (From my new cookbook, Whole Cooking and Nutrition)
Serving Size ½ cup
Ingredients:
2 pounds ripe pears
1 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
6 tablespoons roughly chopped pistachios

Instructions:
1) Combine all the ingredients except for the pistachios in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
2) Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil; then reduce the heat to medium – love and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pears are very tender.
3) Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
4) Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (or desired texture).
5) Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of chopped pistachios.

Ditch the Guilt

52549295 - pensive happy woman remembering looking at side sitting in a bar or home terrace

It’s Sunday morning and you splurged too much on food or drink last night. You’re tired, unmotivated, and guilt creeps in from not making the best choices. Sound familiar? The truth is we all splurge sometimes, myself included, and we need a plan – especially with the holidays approaching – to ditch the guilt and get out of the splurge cycle!

As a dietitian, I feel like I work with guilt almost as much as I work with improving eating habits. Unfortunately, too many of us associate eating habits or what the mirror displays with self-worth and confidence. We are more than what we eat! Here are some steps I review with my clients (and sometimes myself!), give it a try! First, reflect on the occasions when you splurged. Would you take back the entire day or night, the time spent with friends, or the experiences you had? Probably not, so stop obsessing and forgive yourself. Second, stop telling yourself you should eat a certain way and that you’re a failure when you don’t. Instead, focus on eating healthfully and exercising to feel better. Third, start with the next bite. Most people count diet by days, when diet is everything we put in our bodies over time. Weeks are a much better measure of health, so let’s find balance over the next few days. Fourth and finally, increase your fruits and vegetables. Not only do fruits and veggies provide nutrients, fiber, and water, but they are the foundation for leading a healthful life. In the end, it’s never too early or too late to feel better, so start right now!

Why Alternative Protein Like Cricket Flours May Work for You

What do you do when you can’t eat 90% of the foods you used to enjoy? You start from scratch and that’s not such a bad thing.

Charles B. Wilson – Founder & CEO of CricketFlours.com

Many of us have shared that same feeling when we look around the kitchen and think, “There is nothing to eat in here!” However, in reality there many delicious recipes that could be made with ingredients at hand but sometimes we lack the inspiration or motivation. However, a little while ago I found myself along that same line of thinking but there was actually nothing that I could eat – literally nothing.

I confess, I have a vested interest in this topic, as I’m the founder of Cricket Flours. But let me tell you a little about my experience and why it led me to create this company. A few of you may be squeamish about the flour, and I totally understand! I’ve found it to work well with my many food allergies, but it’s not for everyone.

Here’s my story: Growing up my family had a couple of different food allergies and dietary restrictions, but I never really had any of those same issues myself. However after I started getting sick and not feeling like myself, I decided to undergo food allergy tests with my doctor. I never knew those tests would lead to a restrictive diet that removed over 60+ different foods from my diet. It is easy to remove foods that you don’t like or perhaps ones that you know you shouldn’t eat. But removing ingredients such as black pepper, shrimp, wheat, cocoa, coconut, and many others, it really made it difficult when you can’t eat 90% of the foods I used to enjoy.

tea-cakesRecipe idea: Pear and Cricket Financiers – A new twist on the classic almond tea cake with brown butter and all purpose cricket flour. Super easy and elegant to make. After I received those test results, I had to rebuild my diet from scratch. Baking flours I used to use growing up were now off the table. Even protein powders I used to love after a workout were gone. It was on this journey to find new foods and ingredients that worked with my new diet that I came across a new ingredient: cricket flour. I was searching for alternative flours and protein powders that could work, and found a few articles talking edible insects that are used by cultures around the world. Not only are insects sustainable, but also I could use them in my baking recipes or even in my protein shakes for a boost of protein and nutrition. I found that cricket flour worked great in a lot of our family’s recipes because it adds a slightly nutty or even a hint of cocoa to baked goods and is naturally gluten free.

brownies-3Recipe idea: Chocolate Decadence Cake with Pear Compote – A fudgy, flourless chocolate cake made with cricket powder and with pear ginger compote. When we use cricket flour in our baking recipes we can add a few tablespoons to our normal recipes, or add up to 1 part cricket powder to 4 parts normal baking flour. In shakes/smoothies 2 tablespoons adds 10g of protein along with calcium, iron, and even B12 for energy. We found it was great way to get the protein and nutrition again in our favorite recipes. So starting from scratch in our kitchen definitely hasn’t been easy, but it did get easier when we found alternative ingredients like cricket flour. So we put together these great recipes for you to try using cricket flour in new ways. Enjoy!

smoothie-2Recipe idea: Tropical Pear Juice Boost – Delicious pears, pineapple and mangoes get a boost of protein from cricket powder in this refreshing juice drink.

Check out other interesting alternative protein recipes!

USA Pears does not endorse the views in this blog, 
only those produced by the USA Pears

New Initiative to Increase Fruit Consumption in Children

betta_7475In a push to increase fruit consumption in children, the United Kingdom’s largest grocery chain, Tesco, has implemented a program offering free fruit to children while their parents shop. Just like the United States Department of Agriculture, the UK government recommends everyone, including children, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, like the US, children in the UK fall short of this recommendation with only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11-18 consuming 5 fruits and vegetables each day; only 2% of American kids eat the recommended daily five servings of fruits and veggies. The Tesco initiative is being launched in over 800 stores and is already receiving praise from experts and charities. But, will it work?

Well, that’s hard to say. Last year, a study from the University of Vermont found that school children required by federal mandate to take either a fruit or vegetable with lunch actually consumed less of each. Digital imaging was used to capture student lunch trays before and after consumption, and more produce was actually thrown away. Does this mean we should stop encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption? Of course not. But what it does mean is that multiple approaches may be better at achieving increased consumption. The study authors suggest slicing fruit, serving fruit/vegetables with dip, or mixing the produce in with other portions of the meal. Likewise, encouraging fruit and veggie consumption from an earlier age and increasing access and positivity in the environment, such as farm-to-school programs, may help normalize eating healthfully.

Only time will tell how the UK initiative will fare. I believe we all agree, however, that the first step is always to offer healthful choices!

Read more about the study here: http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmpr/?Page=news&&storyID=21298

Grill Master

grilled pearsTo me, summer means sunshine, farmers’ markets and grilling. I personally love the flavors of grilled foods and regularly grill veggies as a side or base for meals. One of the greatest challenges I have faced in my years of counseling and teaching is that people have been trained to think they don’t like fruit and/or vegetables, and they don’t venture outside the norm for ingredients or culinary techniques. The remedy is simply to get a little creative in the kitchen – or backyard – and be okay with failing once in a while. I base most of my meals on produce, and in the summer that means adding a treat of grilled fruit at the end!

Grilling is probably one of the simplest culinary techniques for fruit and veggies. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to stay close to the grill to keep an eye on your food; err on the side of slightly lower heat so it doesn’t burn, then turn up the heat at the end for beautiful grill marks. Grilling infuses fruit with smoky and savory flavors and causes caramelization of sugars, leading to more color and flavor changes. It’s a whole new way to experience fruit! In my food science lab, we talk about how sugars in fruit, when exposed to high temperatures, start to melt: The sugars are inverted and water is released, resulting in sugar molecules rearranging and binding together to form chains. Organic acids and other flavor compounds also accrue, resulting in different flavors than the original sugars. Basically, the compounds are altered so we sense a unique flavor on our taste receptors.* Science is fun!

My favorite treat is to slice pears in half, set them on the top rack to soften, then pop it onto the heat for a bit at the end. I serve them drizzled with honey or chocolate sauce, then sprinkle with walnuts or a dollop of whipped cream. Delicious and a pretty presentation! Want more ideas? Check out a few of my favorite grilled pear recipes, including grilled pears stuffed with mascarpone and bacon, at USA Pears.
*McWiliams, Margaret. (2012). Foods Experimental Perspectives. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.