December 7, 2011

Portion control: Do your portions measure up for success?

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Robin Rudner, RD, LDN, weighs in on portion control.

With the holiday season in full swing, portion control is something that is often put to the side until after the new year. Remember that you can still enjoy your favorite holiday treats without adding inches to your waist line, both now and any time of the year. One of the biggest mistakes people make is labeling foods as good or bad. This creates the mindset that certain foods are always allowed, and other foods are never allowed, thus making people more likely to binge on those “forbidden” foods especially during the holiday season.

Here are some tips on what a portion size is and tools you can use to help you keep your portions in check, thus preventing you from setting a New Year’s resolution of dieting and losing weight, like you may have done in previous years.

Look at the nutrition label. The nutrition label is one of the most useful tools in helping you to determine the appropriate amount, so locate your measuring cups and spoons. Cereal, for example, can be an easy food to overeat because most people just pour it into a large bowl and sometimes go for seconds. A serving of cereal is usually around 3/4 to 1 cup. Many people are eating 2-3 times the recommended serving without even realizing it.

The new USDA food guide pyramid, now called “MyPlate,” is a great tool to help you see what a proper plate of food should resemble. It is divided into sections: protein, grain, fruit, vegetables, and side of dairy. Your goal is to fill half of your plate up with fruits and vegetables and the remaining one-half divided evenly between starch and protein. Your starch can be anything from a starchy vegetable like potatoes, corn, peas, beans or your grains like rice, pasta and bread. Your protein could be fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu or other lean source.

. A serving of protein is about 3 ounces, which is roughly equivalent to the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. One serving of a starch, like a potato, can be compared to the size of a computer mouse. In addition, a serving of starch is considered one slice of bread or about half cup of pasta or rice. A serving of fruit is considered about 80 calories which is the size of a small apple. Your fats like oils, nuts and peanut butter have a much smaller serving size. Nuts for example are about one-quarter cup, oils are about 1 teaspoon and a serving of peanut butter can be compared to the size of your thumb.

At parties, it is important to choose wisely. Try to focus on selecting foods that are special at that time of the year or event. If there are several choices, try to sample each one while savoring every bite and chewing slowly. There is much research to support that the first bite is always the best and the sensation gets less and less with each successive morsel.

Never eat directly out of a box, jar, or bowl. By doing so, you are unable to keep track of exactly how much you have consumed, making is much easier to not only eat mindlessly but overindulge. Whenever possible, measure out a particular serving and then put it on a plate so you can see exactly how much is in front of you. One trick is to use smaller plates and bowls. Try eating salad on a dinner plate and your entrée on a salad plate. This can help you remain mindful of what you are consuming while keeping portions in check.

Divert your attention to the people with whom you are conversing and not the food on the table. If you are too tempted to be near the food, try to relocate somewhere farther away.

Go to events with a plan. Visualize. The more you visualize exactly how you want the event to go, the more likely you are to succeed. Establish a non food-related reward for your mindful efforts in avoiding foods and portions that you may have overdone on previously occasions.

Try not to think about food as good or bad. It is important to eat foods that you enjoy, while maximizing nutrient-dense options. This means you would be able to eat larger portions of foods that will provide satiety with a higher amount of nutrients than less nutrient-rich foods.

Use a food journal or online fitness tool to help you track how much you are eating.

Limit how much you eat out at restaurants. The more you are able to prepare your food at home, the better. If you do find yourself eating out, try to eat slowly and leave some food on the plate. The portions at restaurants can be more than double or triple of an appropriate portion.

Keep in mind that not all foods are created equal. For example, there are different portion sizes of both less nutritious foods that are high in saturated and trans-fats and processed sugars as well as healthier nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables. Being aware of portion size is important in maintaining a healthy weight while meeting your energy requirements.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

November 30, 2011

Figure-friendly fall fruits and vegetables

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthful eating. This week, Rachel Ernzen writes about fall vegetables.

The holiday season brings to mind the sights and smells of home, with tasty treats and indulgent dishes. To help you maintain your health (and food budget) this year, consider serving locally grown fruits and vegetables. Purchasing local and seasonal produce brings the ripest food items to your plate. Usually the most economically priced, these items have traveled fewer miles from the farm to your table. What’s in season now? Learn more at

Try starting your celebrations with a side salad or savory soup. Leafy green spinach and cruciferous vegetables like red or green cabbage and brussels sprouts are rich in cancer-fighting compounds called indoles. These nutritional superstars fair well in both warm and cold side salads. For the freshest brussels sprouts, choose those with bright green leaves. They can be boiled, braised, microwaved, steamed or roasted until tender. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or roasted with chestnuts.

Tantalize your taste buds with soups using winter squashes, including acorn or butternut. These veggie-packed, hearty soups sport serious flavor without the added fat or calories of their cream-based counterparts. Winter squash is a rich source of potassium, beta carotene (Vitamin A-precursor) and B vitamins. Learn more on how to pick and store your winter squash at:

Simple substitutions can significantly improve the nutrition profile of your holiday dishes. Swap half or all the potatoes found in traditional recipes, such as creamy mashed potatoes or potato latkes, for cauliflower. Doing so not only lightens the caloric density but triples the vitamin C content. Take it up another notch by using low-fat milk or olive oil in place of whole milk or butter. Also, try baked versions of your favorite fried-food recipes. These tricks can easily save you 100 calories or more per serving without sacrificing flavor.

Got a sweet tooth? Consider naturally sweet, fiber-rich foods like apples or sweet potatoes. Fat-free, low in sodium and rich in potassium, sweet potatoes lend themselves well to decadent treats like pudding or pie. Baked apples or a simple rustic galette (tart) typically require as few as five ingredients. And don’t forget the cranberries. Try a cranberry pie or cranberry coffee cake. Seeking recipes? Aim for choosing ones with less than 250 calories per serving. Explore,, and

Finally, mix it up. Setting smaller plates, planning events or games to fill time between meals, and simply scaling down seasonal recipes to yield smaller portions can allow enjoyment of holiday flavors with fewer calories. However you paint your plate this holiday, keep your and your family’s health to heart.

Posted by Kim Walker at 4:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

November 23, 2011

Healthy choices exist when eating on the go

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. This week, Elaine Pelc weighs in on healthy snacks.

Most people don’t eat three meals a day. Lack of time is a common complaint of those who skip breakfast and lunch.

It is very important to feed your body at regular intervals throughout the day. Doing so maximizes the efficiency of your metabolism and helps keep your body strong and well-nourished.

Having a balanced meal while you’re on the run is possible with a little forethought.

Grocery shelves house many meal replacement options, many in the form of bars or drinks. The difficulty is knowing which ones are good for you. Remember that your body burns through carbohydrates faster than it does fat and protein.

Choosing options with a small amount of healthful fats and a decent amount of protein will help keep you full longer. The trick is to find a bar or drink that has a nutrient composition that is similar to a balanced meal.


If you are more of a “bar” person, look for something that is between 150 and 300 calories, with at least 5 grams of protein and less than 5-10 grams of fat. Kellogg’s makes a variety of Special K Protein meal bars that are less than 200 calories and have 10 grams of protein. Some other bar options are Cliff Bars, Luna Bars, Think Thin bars, Slim-Fast meal bars and ProBar Halo bars.


Drinks are another meal replacement option. Some good products include Slim-Fast shakes, Glucerna, Ensure or Boost. You can also make your own protein shake with three-quarters cup of low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt, three-quarters cup of frozen fruit, one-quarter cup of low-fat or fat-free milk or light juice.

Fast meals

Some people prefer on the go options that more closely resemble a meal. Try a low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt with a one-quarter to half a cup of high-fiber cereal or a sandwich packed the night before.

Other healthful snack ideas to use in a pinch:

1-2 tablespoon of natural peanut butter and a piece of fruit.

Almonds and walnuts in pre-portioned bags.

High-fiber cereal.

Single-serving bags of low-fat popcorn.

Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese.

Eating a balanced diet while on the go can be easier than you think. These suggestions can help ensure that being on the run doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your diet.

Posted by Kim Walker at 3:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

November 16, 2011

How you can benefit from healthful oils

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating . This week, Debra Schulze writes about benefits of oils.

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature and come from many different plants and fish. While not a food group, they provide essential nutrients.

Fats and oils can be categorized as saturated fatty acids (solid at room temperature) and unsaturated fatty acids (liquid at room temperature), which include monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Some common oils include canola, corn, cottonseed, olive, safflower, peanut, soybean and sunflower. Others that are used for flavoring include walnut and sesame oil. Oils from plant sources do not contain cholesterol, but some are high in saturated fat, such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oil. Examples of saturated fats include butter, milk fat, animal fats, stick margarine, shortening and partially hydrogenated oil.

Following all the recent reports of trans fats and their contribution to increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers, consumers are looking for healthier fats and oils to incorporate into their diets. Trans-fatty acids are created by converting unsaturated fatty acids (oils) to saturated fats. It is recommended that you decrease the amounts of saturated and trans-fatty acids in your diet since they may raise your cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.

On the other hand, consuming foods high in unsaturated fatty acids may offer health benefits, including lowering your total and LDL or “bad” cholesterol. They may also help normalize blood clotting, according to Mayo Clinic, and some research shows they may also benefit insulin levels and improve blood sugar control.

Pick your oil carefully

Oils are a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, but you must choose them carefully. Sources of healthy monounsaturates attracting attention include olive, avocado, peanut, pistachio and grapeseed oils, as well as oil from walnuts, almond and hazelnuts. Like olive oil, these oils have unique flavors that add to their attraction.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two main classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids and are considered essential because our bodies cannot make them. Flaxseeds are a rich plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and also contain omega-6 fatty acids, making them a healthy choice. This oil contains alpha-linolenic acid, which is being researched for its potential to reduce conditions such as stroke, certain cancers and skin ailments.

Extra virgin and virgin olive oil contain high levels of polyphenols, an antioxidant that may reduce the effects of aging on the body.

How much do I need?

Since oils contain essential fatty acids, there is an allowance in the food guide. Recommendations are based on a person’s age, sex and level of physical activity, and they can range from 3-6 teaspoons of oils per day or 28 percent to 30 percent of daily calories. Most oils contain about 120 calories per tablespoon.

As you plan your meals, keep in mind that other foods consumed can provide adequate oils, such as nuts, fish, cooking oils and salad dressings. It has been determined that some oil is needed for health, so try to include a variety in your daily diet.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

November 2, 2011

Helping children get enough protein


Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Sometimes they will take questions from readers. This week, Faith Hicks, answers a mom's protein question.

Note: Comments made here are for informational purposes only and do not represent or substitute as medical advice. Patients are advised to consult their own physician or pharmacist for advice, diagnosis and treatment.

One of our readers recently asked for advice regarding her 4-year-old who eats very little meat or poultry, but does like eggs, yogurt and cheese.  She is concerned about the adequacy of his diet, particularly his protein intake.

When a parent feels as if it is difficult to get a child to eat certain foods, I always start the discussion about mealtimes in general. I encourage that the family eat as many meals together as possible. Children mimic their parents' eating habits, so having healthy, balanced meals together models good eating habits. Being overly persuasive about eating a particular food or foods can backfire, so avoid pressuring a child to eat any one. Rather, serve the food in a pleasant manner and ask that the child try just a bit of each item on his plate. It often takes repeated samples of a food before a child accepts it. Avoid snacking before meals so that the child is hungry when he sits down to eat. When the child is hungry, the food sure tastes great!

Parents often are concerned that their child's protein intake may be inadequate with a diet low in meat-containing foods. But children can consume more than adequate amounts of protein from milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs, plus smaller amounts of protein in many vegetables and grains. Diets low in meats may be a bit low in iron and zinc, but legumes, nuts and beans contain both zinc and iron. Some cereals are fortified with a fair amount of iron. Iron absorption can be enhanced by having a high vitamin C juice or food along with a high iron food.

The Dietary Reference Intake for a healthy, average size 4-year-old boy is about 15 grams of protein per day.  Here is how a balanced diet could meet his needs.

1/2 cup Cheerios: 1 g
1/2 cup low-fat milk: 4 g
4 oz orange juice

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: 9 g
8 oz low fat milk: 8 g

1 cup macaroni and cheese: 8 g
1/2 cup peas: 2 g
Apple cobbler: 1 g
8 oz low fat milk: 8 g

6 oz yogurt: 6 g
4 baby carrots

Total: 47 g protein

As you can see, this totals over 40 grams of protein, more than double what a typical 4 year old needs.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

October 26, 2011

Spooky foods

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week, Mindy Athas, RD, CSO, LDN, weighs in on Halloween food.

Halloween is lurking so some party hosts and hostesses may be in need some last-minute, themed food ideas. Whether you keep it simple with pumpkin muffins or get frightful with edible entrails, here’s a smattering of tasty trussed treats to help you get your scare on and sneak in some nutrition too.

Freaky finger foods

Slice up fresh veggies and fruit to form feisty faces and scary shapes. Serve these healthy, easy-to-eat portable appetizers with creatively creepy dips and sauces. Shake up your hummus or spinach dip with puff-pastry “fingers” topped with almond “nails.” Form a spider web over the top of seven- layer dip with light sour cream piped over guacamole and serve with red peppers strips. Make a mini Dracula with light cream cheese balls, red pimento or roasted red pepper fangs, and black olive widow’s peak hairline and eyes. Or serve guacamole dip with green guacamole tortilla chips for a swamp effect. Zinc-rich roasted pumpkin seeds are always welcome — just limit or omit the salt.

Spooky soups

Spike your protein- and fiber-rich black bean soup with plastic novelty “body parts” like mini-skeletons, fake fingers, vampire teeth or even plastic bugs and spiders: but don’t eat the decorations.Serve vitamin A-rich pumpkin or butternut squash soup in mini hollowed-out pumpkin “bowls” or use a larger pumpkin as a tureen. Garnish with crème fraiche or light sour cream piped from a plastic bag with a tiny hole cut in the corner. To form a spider web, make concentric circles or octagonal shapes and draw lines with a toothpick or knife, from the inner to the outer circles.

Beastly bites

Try edible arachnids formed from onion rings, slimy night crawlers made via gelatin in straws (instructions found at or creepy cockroaches created from sweet dates stuffed with walnuts and cream cheese. Meatloaf from lean ground beef or turkey can be formed into a rat shape and topped with green peas for eyes, carrot rounds for ears, and a spaghetti noodle tail; serve it with plenty of lycopene-rich red tomato sauce.

Gnarly nibbles

Deviled eggs can be transformed into bloodshot “eyeballs” with beet juice and pimento-stuffed olives for irises; serve atop a crimson salsa bath. Enjoy meringue “bones” made from egg, a “brain” of mushroom soup and reduced-fat cream cheese, “fingers” formed of dough, and “eyeballs” of gelatin and sugar. See for details.

Tricky treats

Turn ordinary sugar cookies into pumpkins, goblins and ghosts with Halloween-themed cutters or pre-made pans. Spice up cupcakes with canned pumpkin and antioxidant-rich nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Turn the mini treats into spiders with thin chow mein noodle legs glued with melted dark chocolate and raisin eyes. Or serve roasted wrinkled pears seeping honey:

Screaming sips

Make a bloody-good punch with beet juice for color, sparkling fruit juices for flavor and seltzer for bubbles. Create witchs’ brew from gelatin, 100 percent fruit juices and ginger ale (use versions containing real ginger); carefully put dry ice nearby for a smoky effect: For more fun drink ideas:

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

October 20, 2011

Announcing the nutrition book winner

Thanks for submitting all of your great questions last month for the University of Maryland Medical Center nutritionists who provide us weekly guest posts.

We sent the questions to the nutritionists, and they will address them in future guest posts. Stay tuned here on Wednesdays. 

First up is our book winner, Becky, who asked: "My 4-year-old eats very little meat, poultry, or fish. He does like eggs, nuts, yogurt and cheese. Will these foods provide sufficient protein for him as he grows? How much of these foods should he be eating? Do I need to add something new to his diet?"

Becky was chosen in a random drawing of all the commenters and will receive the "pocket posh complete calorie counter," which covers thousands of foods in grocery stores and restaurants.

She will get the answer to her question on Nov. 2. 

Congratulations, Becky. 

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

October 12, 2011

Pros and cons of enhanced waters

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. This week, Shanti Lewis weighs in on enhanced water.

Over the past decade, have you noticed more types of bottled waters? Some grocery stores now devote an entire aisle for their display. You can find water with enhanced vitamins, antioxidants, herbs, fiber and coconut. When looking at labels, it can be confusing whether these added ingredients are really worth the additional costs.

Many brands of water promote increased energy. Caffeine is often added to act as a stimulant. Different brands can offer between 50-120 mg of caffeine, which is the same amount you would get from a 5-12 ounce brewed coffee. Some energizing drinks add guarana, an extract from a plant in the Amazon that is rich in caffeine. Many people assume that they are consuming a caffeine-free beverage when they see guarana on the food label because it does not mention that the product contains caffeine. Other companies add ginseng to promote alertness; however, no studies have produced conclusive evidence that a specific dose can improve alertness, mental arithmetic or reaction times.

Antioxidants are also marketed as an additional health benefit. The Center for Science for the Public Interest reports that “no studies have yet to find any clear link between antioxidant supplements and disease” despite health food claims. Some immune-enhancing waters claim to fight off illness, and many of these beverages contain zinc. The only study showing zinc to be immune-enhancing used zinc lozenges as an additive in the diet. The results of some studies showed that colds are shortened in duration with the addition of zinc in the diet.

Most people assume that water is calorie-free; however, many enhanced waters are far from it. A single bottle of 2.5 servings of 8 fluid ounces may contain 125 calories depending on the brand and the additives. This may be a problem for people who are trying to maintain or lose weight. Drinking a large quantity of a calorie-dense beverage as a source of hydration can equate to additional pounds if not taken into consideration with overall caloric intake. Some enhanced waters are labeled as calorie-free and have swapped its calorie-containing sugar for artificial sugars, such as acesulfame potassium or sucralose.

According to the Center for Science for the Public Interest, some brands of water are adding 10 percent of an individual’s daily value of fiber to the water. The fiber that is added to water is called maltodextrin, which is composed of smaller chains of carbohydrate from starch that cannot be digested by the body. However, it is unclear if water with maltodextrin has any weight loss benefits by increasing satiety compared to water that contains no fiber. Maltodextrin is a soluble fiber with different properties than intact fibers found in foods, such as grains, beans and non-starchy vegetables.

Different varieties of waters come from coconut and have been described as super-hydrating, fat-free, cholesterol-free and naturally rich in electrolytes. Coconut water is particularly high in potassium with 569 mg per serving and 160 mg of sodium, compared to electrolyte sports drinks that contain 53 mg of potassium, but 193 mg of sodium. The higher potassium content is supposed to help regulate blood pressure by counteracting the stimulating effects of sodium.

If you are looking to add coconut water as a source of hydration during a workout, it is important to remember that people lose more sodium than potassium with strenuous exercise. Your body cannot tell if you replenish your electrolytes from a sports recovery drink versus coconut water, but your wallet might. Most individuals not participating in strenuous exercise over one hour who are not meeting their potassium needs are most likely not eating enough fruits and vegetables. The bottom line is that coconut water can be added to your diet if you are mindful of the 46 calories per cup and do not use it to replace fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind its high potassium content, and use it for shorter, low intensity work-outs. It remains unclear if coconut water helps with weight loss, additional energy, heart disease or diabetes.

In the end, it is important to drink water, whether it is enhanced or not, to meet hydration needs. Additional calories, artificial sugar, antioxidants or coconut may not be worth the additional costs to some consumers. Consumers should choose their water preferences based on taste, personal environmental concerns, costs and need to maintain hydration. All types of enhanced waters can be incorporated in a healthy diet in moderation.

Posted by Kim Walker at 10:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

October 5, 2011

Slim down your tailgate

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week, Christine Dobmeier, RD CSR LDN, weighs in tailgate snacks.

Fall is officially here, which brings with it football season. And with the arrival of football, most fans think of beer, chicken wings, pizza and cheesy dips. The goal for football season (besides the playoffs, of course) is to make it through the next few months without bulking up to a size of an offensive lineman.

Football treats can be healthier, but still tasty. Score a health “touchdown” with some of these tips:

First down: With proteins, think lean. Instead of chicken wings, try getting chicken breast tenderloins, and cooking them in a crock-pot with either buffalo wing sauce or barbecue sauce. Make meatballs out of 93 percent lean ground beef or turkey. Another lean protein idea is to cook pork tenderloin in a crock-pot with barbecue sauce, and make pulled pork sandwiches; serve on slider rolls or small whole wheat buns. They’ll be such a hit that no one will realize they are low in fat. If you have a grill available, throw on some chicken breasts or thighs, lean burgers or marinated pork tenderloin instead of ribs.

Second down: Use lower-fat substitutions to make favorite dips healthier. Some easy fixes are to use light cream cheese or sour cream, and to use less (and 2 percent or low-fat) cheese. Try serving carrots, celery or baked tortilla chips with the dips instead of chips. For an easy, lighter taco dip, mix one box of light cream cheese with 16 ounces of light sour cream and a packet of low-sodium taco seasoning. Top with shredded lettuce, then a layer of salsa and sprinkle three-quarters of a cup of 2 percent milk shredded cheese on top. Try using fat-free plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in dips as well.

Third down
: Don’t forget the veggies. Have someone bring a vegetable tray complete with the fixings: celery and carrots for dips; lettuce and tomato slices for lean burgers; and peppers, zucchini and squash for the grill. Skewering marinated vegetables on the grill is an easy and tasty way to incorporate vegetables into a tailgate. Vegetables are an excellent way to fill up on low-calorie, high-fiber foods to help you from overindulging in unhealthier choices.

Fourth down: For a sweet treat, try making low-calorie cake or cupcakes. An easy recipe is use one box of yellow cake mix, mixed with one can of Sprite Zero or Diet 7-Up. Bake as directed on the box (without adding any eggs/oil/water). For frosting, try blending powdered sugar with water and some lemon juice to taste. You can add food coloring to make it purple. Chocolate cupcakes can be prepared with Coke Zero in the same manner.

Touchdown: Watch those portions. Even healthier meats, vegetables with low-fat dip and lower-calorie desserts add up. Bring smaller plates to the tailgate, which will help make your plate appear full.

Extra point: Try to get active at your tailgate. Throw a football around, or bring a game of ring-toss or bean bags so that you aren’t at the food table the whole time.

Do you add some healthy or lighter options to your tailgate? If so, tell us in the comments. 

Posted by Kim Walker at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

September 22, 2011

Kirstie Alley's most recent slimming brings back fonder memories

Kirstie Alley is well known for a weight that goes up ... and down ... and up ... you get the idea.

That continued today with news that the comedian had dropped 100 pounds. Good for her. Conveniently, it involved several products she was marketing. If that helps other people stay healthy, more power to her.

Before she was widely known as the Amazing Self-Vending Yo Yo, however, Alley had already waged a slightly different type of public health campaign. Here's Alley as the Tooth Fairy in 1997:

I remember my sister watching this around the time I got my wisdom teeth removed. The writers' noir script for this scene won't unseat Dashiell Hammett anytime soon on my list of favorites, but it brought a nice bit of levity to an otherwise painful situation.

For what it's worth, I consider Alley's real-life attitude toward her weight to be healthier than many celebrities' way of approaching things. I've never seen her fall below what I would consider a health threshold, and there's something to be said for that.

Posted by Patrick Maynard at 10:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Diet, General Fitness, Media, Nutrition

September 16, 2011

Ask a nutrition question and win a book

Each week for about a year, the nutritionists from University of Maryland Medical Center provide a guest post on a different food topic. Now they want to hear from you.

Do you have any questions you would like addressed in a future post? Wondering about the different sugar substitutes? The best diet apps? Becoming vegan? Ask your question in the comments and I'll share with the nutritionists.

As an incentive, those who comment can be entered to win the "pocket posh complete calorie counter," which covers thousands of foods in grocery stores and restaurants.
Posted by Kim Walker at 12:06 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Nutrition

September 14, 2011

Food allergies and intolerances: What is the difference?

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Faith Hicks weighs in on food allergies.

Food allergies and food intolerances are easily confused, even by health care professionals.

A true food allergy is an immune response to a food. The immune system mistakes a food as a harmful substance and mounts a response, which could be life threatening. About 15 million Americans have a food allergy. Many people who think they have a food allergy actually don’t.

Symptoms of food allergy can vary. The most life-threatening reaction is anaphylaxis, which is swelling of the airway and difficulty breathing. Foods most likely to trigger this response are peanuts, tree nuts and occasionally milk, eggs, or seafood. Other allergic responses include rashes or hives, swelling of the lips, nausea or diarrhea. Sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms like heartburn, reflux, diarrhea or bloody stools, particularly in children, may be due to an allergic reaction. Even very small amounts of a food can cause an allergic reaction.

How are food allergies diagnosed and treated?

If you suspect you may have an allergy, see your doctor. If you think you have had a reaction, the next one may be more severe than before, so don’t delay. A skin prick or blood tests are used to identify IgE antibodies to a particular food; however, a positive test does not always mean that the food will cause a reaction. Therefore, IgE testing is correlated with symptoms of an allergy when a food is eaten. Sometimes a food challenge will be done in the physician’s office. The treatment for a food allergy is to remove all traces of the food from your diet. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network can be a great resource for learning to read labels, eat out and survive at school with a food allergy.

What is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance is an unpleasant or adverse reaction to a food, but is not immune related. Symptoms might be migraines, reflux or heartburn, or diarrhea. The most common intolerance is lactose intolerance. This is caused by a decreased or absent level of the lactase enzyme that digests lactose or milk sugar. The undigested lactose results in gas or diarrhea.

Individuals with food intolerances can usually handle a small amount of the food, but have unwelcome symptoms with larger amounts. If you are lactose intolerant, you may be able to have cream in you coffee, yogurt with active cultures, aged cheeses like cheddar and Swiss. Taking Lactaid pills or Dairy Ease may help you tolerate small amounts of lactose. Some people are able to use lactose-reduced milk and ice cream. Soy milk, soy cheese and soy ice cream would be good choices for those with more severe lactose intolerance.

Bottom Line: If you are experiencing any food-related symptoms, see your healthcare provider. It is best to seek professional advice before making any major changes in your diet.

Posted by Kim Walker at 11:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

September 13, 2011

Living Social offering 50% discount at Whole Foods - now what should I get?

Whole foods at Harbor East
I'm not generally a big fan of Whole Foods. They swallowed one of my sister's favorite grocery chains in one gulp awhile back.

But I'll go there occasionally for a specific item or two. For example, the last time I needed imported clotted cream on a Saturday night*, Whole Foods was the only place I could find it.

Now, however, our adorable little Mid-Atlantic Groupon clone, livingsocial, is offering a 50% discount on up to $20 worth of goods at Whole Foods. It seems like it would be a waste to buy that much clotted cream, so I'm looking for something more creative to use it on***.

Continue reading "Living Social offering 50% discount at Whole Foods - now what should I get?" »

Posted by Patrick Maynard at 11:29 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Nutrition

August 31, 2011

Embracing whole grains

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Deb Schulze, RD, LDN, weighs in on whole grains.

Many studies, according to the American Society for Nutrition, have shown that consuming at least three servings per day of whole grains has increased health benefits, including lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as: Type 2 diabetes by 21-30 percent, heart disease by 25-28 percent and stroke by 30-36 percent.

It does not end there. Other benefits include better weight maintenance, reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, healthier carotid arteries, reduced risk of asthma, lower risk of colorectal cancer, healthier blood pressure levels and lower incidence of gum disease and tooth loss.

How to identify whole grains

Look for phrases such as whole grain, whole wheat or whole other grain, stone-ground whole grain, brown rice, wheat berries and oats or oatmeal, which includes instant and old-fashioned. These all contain portions of the grain thus providing ultimate health benefits.

Do not be confused by descriptions such as enriched flour, degerminated (corn meal), bran and wheat germ. They do not describe whole grains and do not have the same benefits. Other words like wheat, multigrain or durum might appear on whole grain food labels but do not guarantee the product is whole grain or a refined grain. Look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient on the label. Keep in mind that if the second ingredient is listed as whole grain, there may be as little as 1 percent or as much as 49 percent whole grains according to The Whole Grains Council.

The Whole Grains Council created an official symbol that can help you find real whole grain products. This symbol makes it easy to identify healthful choices but may not be on all products. For example, if the product label says “100% whole wheat” you can trust these statements to be true.

Gluten-free whole grains

Millions of people who have celiac disease can enjoy a variety of other grains. Gluten is the protein in wheat and other grains such as barley, rye, triticale and oats. Be aware that while oats are gluten-free, they are frequently contaminated with wheat during processing. Look for pure and uncontaminated oat products.

Gluten free grains include Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, montina (otherwise known as Indian rice grass), quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff and wild rice.

Recommended dietary guidelines

Dietary guidelines for whole grains vary according to age and activity level. Generally, all Americans should consume at least half or more of their grains as “whole.” That means eating approximately 3-6 servings of whole grains each day for everyone 9 years old and up.

What counts as a serving?

You can count whole grains as 16 grams of whole grain ingredients or approximately one and a half tablespoons according to The Whole Grain Council. Examples include:

½ cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain

½ cup cooked 100 percent whole grain pasta

1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain

1 slice 100 percent whole grain bread

1 very small 100 percent whole grain muffin (1oz)

1 cup 100 percent whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

Easy ways to enjoy whole grains

Substitute half white flour with whole wheat flour in recipes such as muffins, cookies, bread and pancakes. Be brave and add up to 20 percent of another whole grain flour such as sorghum.

Add half a cup of cooked bulgur, wild rice or barley to bread stuffing.

Replace a portion of the flour in a recipe with quick or old-fashioned oats.

Stir a half cup of rolled oats in your yogurt to add a bit of crunch.

Explore new foods

Buy whole grain pasta or a blend of part whole grain and part white. Make risottos, pilafs and other rice-like dishes with whole grains such as barley, bulgur, millet and others as mentioned above.

Try whole grain breads especially the whole grain pita bread that children will enjoy.

Look for cereals like kamut, kasha or spelt.

Posted by Kim Walker at 5:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

August 17, 2011

The keys to food journaling

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center offers a guest post on healthy eating. This week, Robin Rudner writes about food journals.

Are you keeping a food journal to help manage your weight, but still not seeing results? A food journal is vital in helping track your food trends. For best results, here are key things to include while keeping track of your food and beverage consumption.

First and most obvious: What are you eating? Write down everything you eat with as much detail as possible. Be honest, because it’s the only way that you can effectively make any necessary changes. My motto is, “If you bite it, you write it!”

Portion size: How much are you eating? More often than not, people underestimate exactly how much they are eating. Portion control can make all the difference. You can overdo it on even the most health-promoting foods. For example, precisely how big is your dinner plate? If it is about 10 or 12 inches, chances are good that you are eating more than you need. Make sure you are using a food scale to weigh your portions or measuring cups and spoons to know exactly how much you are consuming.

How is your food prepared? This is where you can jot down things like “baked, grilled, broiled, fried,” etc. Olive oil is a great way to prepare your food and is a healthier alternative to using butter or margarine. You don’t need much of the heart-healthy fat, so keep track of how much you are using. A serving of oil is 1 tablespoon and provides approximately 120 calories.

Where are you eating? If you are dining in front of the TV, in the car or at the computer, you may not be fully aware of what and how much you are eating. Try selecting a room and designated place to eat both at home and work, such as a table in your kitchen, dining room or workplace cafeteria, and make an effort to only eat there. Eating in the same place every day helps to isolate your eating from distractions and has been shown to be an important behavior modification in weight loss and maintenance.

How hungry are you when you are eating? Keep track of your hunger at each meal. If you are eating without a physical sense of hunger, take a look at why so you can track any trends. For example, you may realize you eat when you are bored, anxious, fatigued or depressed. Responding to physiological versus psychological hunger triggers is a big step toward controlling your weight.

Do you eat quickly? Do you eat everything on your plate? Learning to slow down, chew your food well and put your utensils down between mouthfuls, is better for your digestion and will allow your stomach to remind your brain that you are getting full. This is called “mindful eating” and can have a significant impact on how much you eat as well as how you digest and absorb our food. It is also helpful to learn to leave a small portion of food on your plate; it can be as small as a single grain of rice, but this behavior modification teaches people to break the habit of feeling obligated to always eat everything put in front of them.

Additional tips: I don’t recommend tracking specific calories, protein, fat, sugar and carbohydrates. Sometimes focusing on too many things at once can make it too tedious to keep and hard to maintain. If you are a numbers person and it helps you to know specific amounts, go for it. Otherwise, focus on eating when you are hungry and watching your portions to help you be successful with your goals.

Set weekly goals. Make sure these goals are attainable. If you aren’t doing something every day, don’t set a goal to start doing it every day. Start by doing it three to four times a week. Keep track of your goals and review them weekly. Then take the necessary actions to make sure you have a better chance to meet your goals next week.

There are plenty of websites to track your meals/beverages and exercise. For example,, and are all great sites to help track what you are consuming. Or keep a small notebook with you to write down your meals/beverages as you’re enjoying them. Whichever you prefer, remember to document everything and be as honest as possible.

Posted by Kim Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

August 10, 2011

Rating recipe sites

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week Mindy Athas offers the staff’s top recipe website picks.

Finding new recipe and meal ideas is a challenge for even the most experienced cook. Since home-cooked meals tend to be lower in calories, fat and sodium, finding easy-to-follow recipes you can repeat with success is important. I pooled our clinical nutrition staff for their favorite recipe sources.

Most sites include seasonal, international, quick-and-easy, vegetarian, budget, entertaining, holiday, healthy, special diet and kid-friendly recipes. When searching for a specific recipe, cross-reference several sites or books; combine, mix-and-match or double check for ingredients, portions or amounts. One caveat: scouring resources is so much fun, you may run out of time to cook.

Favorite sites

Whether you’re planning a sumptuous Sunday brunch or a simple weeknight supper, look no further than Epicurious ( This comprehensive site is packed with recipes, tips, resources, menus and wine pairings. Beautiful and easy to navigate, it’s a stellar resource for all your food quests. The free recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines range from classic to complex. Also available are dining and travel resources, a food dictionary, phone app and “Epi Log” of blogs. Recipes include user ratings and feedback, videos and a nutritional analysis. There are articles, guides, a chat room and member groups to join and submit recipes. Overall, our top choice.

Loved what you saw on television today? Download it all and showcase your own skills with The Food Network site ( Find visually stunning photos, videos and a variety of recipes from both the TV shows and chef picks. Links include chef bios, favorites, show listings, full TV episodes and a great vault of recipes with links to a food encyclopedia. Recipes range from easy to difficult. The site also includes a free membership area that allows you to rate, review and chat. A similar site in the same format is

Want lower-fat, tasty versions of your favorites? Explore Cooking Light ( With tips on essentials, techniques and resources, recipe makeovers and smart choices, this site has ideas, tricks and valuable information. You’ll eat smarter and cook quicker. Also included are a message board, blogs, virtual recipe file, travel deals, promotions and a shop for buying kitchen items and books. Informative reads such as “Top Nutrition Mistakes” are packaged in a tight, reader-friendly format. There’s also a phone app and raffles.

The runners-up

A favorite for the generic search,, includes a vast recipe selection and many easy-to-prepare versions to compare, often semi-homemade, which readers submit. The site includes reviews, all food types, and highlights special diets (gluten-free), low-carb and low glycemic. It also has a nutrient database to calculate calories, fat and cholesterol for each recipe. Join for free and create a virtual recipe box to save your favorites.

Another good, general-purpose resource, Betty Crocker (, has a recipe finder in which you enter three ingredients and get linked to a bevy of menu ideas. A busy and colorful site, it includes a large recipe library as well as searches for dishes that require five ingredients or less and take 15 minutes or less to prepare. Got apples? Click and find 10 categories, each filled with apple-based items. Good basics, classics and a great resource for diabetes-friendly and heart-healthy ideas.

Need some humor with your tuna casserole? Check out Chow ( with nifty picks like red bean ice pops, peach gazpacho soup and vegetarian muffuletta. They also showcase nonalcoholic drink recipes, food news and bizarre videos such as “How to cook salmon sous vide in your kitchen sink.” A hip and funky site, there are geographically located message boards (Chowhound), and great tips, tricks and cleverly titled food articles, as well as a weekly newsletter.

For the advanced cook

Want to showcase your culinary expertise? Head to Williams Sonoma ( High-brow foodies will be no stranger to this site. The recipes are inspiring, and the site includes guides, techniques, spice blends and drink recipes. Don’t expect to skimp on ingredients or save cash. This is not a beginners’ site, but the recipes will wow any crowd.

Got time for a good read? Click on the Cook’s Illustrated site and expand your food knowledge base. See why is a fantastic resource: Both the magazine and website offer detailed and painstakingly tested, and retested, recipes with extensive research and description. This is a pay site, and you must join to peruse it, but you will keep these winning recipes forever.


Specialty sites

Aiming to eat locally, sustainably and seasonally? Go green with the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s site ( Newly redesigned and full of resources, you can find pick-your-own farms, local vineyards and organic growers, as well as news, events and recipes from local farmers.

Need more health-conscious versions of your favorites? Check out Eating Well ( This busy site has many ads, but the recipes are solid and start with a healthful base of high-fiber and whole-grain items, plenty of fruits, vegetables and nuts, and low-fat dairy items. The site offers food news, food origins, reader recipe photos, gardening tips, community info, videos and blogs.

The Vegetarian Resource Group (, based in Baltimore, offers a site stocked with information, tips and recipes running from gluten-free to vegan. It has business information, teen nutrition, baby foods, guides, handouts and vegetarian restaurant information. The recipes are links and look a bit dated, but the info is solid, and the overall site is very comprehensive.

Weight management is a billion-dollar industry, but surprisingly few sites provide just recipes. One excellent resource, an offshoot of the wildly popular Spark website, is Submitted by members, this huge recipe database provides detailed reader feedback, ingredient adjustments and suggestions; plus, nutrient information is alongside each recipe.

Eating on a budget? Check out, which offers simple recipes in addition to tips on frugal living, housekeeping and menu planning, and printable coupons.


Posted by Kim Walker at 6:05 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Nutrition

August 3, 2011

Seven tips for frugal, healthful food shopping

Each week a nutritionist from University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post. This week, Rachel Ernzen writes about smart shopping.

When looking to cut food costs, time really is money. Investing the time to understand your spending habits, local food markets and options for discount purchases can make you a smarter shopper. Here are some tips for keeping good food on your plate and money in your wallet.

  • Make a grocery list and stick to it. Peek at what you already have available and try not to stray from your shopping list. If staying out of the store keeps impulse buys at bay, try home food-delivery services.
  • Learn more about how you spend your food dollar. Scan your latest grocery bill: What items do you spend the most on? Is this a food staple or splurge? Are there cheaper alternatives? Take a pass on prepared sweets and snacks.
  • Commit to checking your local grocer’s weekly specials before you shop. Consider buying in bulk and stocking up on versatile sale items that store well (dry pasta, canned goods or frozen foods). Think beans, rice and veggies. If you are unsure which fresh foods are best bought organic, access the Environmental Working Group’s wallet guide at:
  • Compare prices in the grocery aisle. The more processed the food, the more expensive it is. For example, a whole chicken will cost less per pound than pre-seasoned, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. While price per pound or price per unit should be evaluated, weigh the labor, yield and possible waste. Back to the chicken example: If you eat white meat only, swapping pre-seasoned breasts for a bone-in version may be a more cost-effective option.
  • Reach out to resources. Call your local food bank to learn more about public programs such as produce drops in your area (Maryland Food Bank,
Posted by Kim Walker at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

July 25, 2011

Picking the best frozen treats

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. This week, Shanti Lewis weighs in frozen treats.

Craving frozen treats this summer but don’t want to ruin your waistline? Here are some tips to help you avoid getting frostbite as you navigate the freezer section.

Careful of 'no sugar added'

Although replacing sugar in ice cream and other frozen desserts is an easy way to cut calories, it does not mean that it is more healthful. In some cases, manufacturers replace the sugar with additional fat and add artificial sweeteners. While artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols can reduce caloric density of desserts, some people may experience gastrointestinal problems if they consume these foods in large quantities.

Watch out for calcium claims

While ice cream and frozen yogurt do contain calcium from the cream and milk used as ingredients, it is hardly the best source of calcium. On average, ice cream contains half the amount of calcium in an equal serving of milk. Remember that you are getting a lot of fat and sugar, along with only a small amount of calcium. There are some brands of frozen yogurt that are fortified to provide 15 percent to 25 percent of daily calcium needs; however, it is best not to rely on frozen yogurt for your daily intake of calcium.

Think small

Ice cream labels are often misleading because the serving size is only half a cup. If you do not carefully measure eight level tablespoons, you may be consuming more calories, sugar and saturated fat than you expect. For example, if you eat 11/2 cups of regular ice cream, you are eating 390 calories, 21 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat and 42 grams of sugar. If you are opting for frozen yogurt, check to see how much additional sugar is added to make it palatable, and measure the amount you are eating.

Choose healthy toppings

By adding chocolate chips or sprinkles to your ice cream or frozen yogurt, you are adding extra calories with minimal nutrition benefits. If you want a topping with a dose of nutrition, add fresh fruit or dark chocolate shavings.

Look out for saturated fat

Some brands of ice cream add as much as 10 grams of saturated fat to clog your arteries. It is best to look for brands that contain 3 grams or less of saturated fat per serving.

Watch out for caffeine

If you are a coffee ice cream fan, you need to be mindful that some brands contain as much as 50 milligrams of caffeine per half-cup serving. If you eat two cups of ice cream, you might be consuming as much as 200 mgs of caffeine, which is equivalent to eight ounces of coffee.

What is the bottom line?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website provides additional information about making the best selections while browsing the frozen section for desserts. Whether you are opting for frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato or ice cream, it’s best to look for half-cup servings that are 130 calories or less, 4 grams of total fat or less, 3 grams of saturated fat or less and 15 grams of sugar or less. Remember to be mindful of portion sizes since one pint could equal four portions. In addition, always try to scoop your serving into a small bowl as opposed to eating directly from the container to prevent overeating. By choosing a small spoon and bowl, you make take smaller bites and savor the taste longer. While ice cream and frozen desserts are not essential to a healthy diet, they are some of life’s pleasure foods that can be incorporated into a healthful diet with these tips.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

July 16, 2011

Healthy summer sipping

Each week a nutritionist from University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post to The Baltimore Sun’s fitness blog Exercists ( This week, Robin Rudner writes about summer beverages.

The summer heat has settled in, and there’s nothing like a refreshing beverage to help keep you hydrated and cool. But some drinks are not as innocent as they might sound. Here are some tips to help you make the best choices when considering your beverages this summer.

Smoothies come in different varieties and are a popular drink to beat the heat. Order or make a smoothie that has low-fat or fat-free yogurt and fresh fruit. This will keep fat and sugar in check while providing protein and other vitamins and minerals to help keep you more satisfied.

If you choose a fruit juice-based smoothie, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice. However, even with 100 percent fruit juice, you may be consuming more sugar than you think and not as much protein. Remember to watch your serving size.

Coffee drinks can range tremendously in their nutrition content. Many lattes and frappuccinos have enough calories for half (or more) of your recommended daily intake and are loaded with sugar (ranging from 40 to 70 grams). Some coffee drinks can have more than 500 calories. For example, a 16-ounce frappuccino made with whole milk can range from 300 to 500 calories, while a frappuccino made with skim milk and without whipped cream is closer to 150 calories.

The first thing to consider is your portion size. Order a small, and you can save yourself anywhere from 50 to 350 calories, and half the sugar. Add skim or 1 percent milk.

Whether it’s from the bottle, fountain or in ice cream (such as a root beer float) soda-based beverages will add significant calories and sugar without providing much in terms of essential vitamins/minerals. Keep these to a minimum or try a diet soda.

There are many low-calorie or calorie-free powders or liquids available that can be added to your water to give a bit of extra flavor. The flavors are plentiful and may be a good option if you are trying to watch your overall calories from liquids. If you have a difficult time with water, try adding lemon to make it more refreshing. Homemade unsweetened tea with a little bit of mint and lemon is also a refreshing drink that is low in calories.

Alcohol comes in many forms and can also contribute significant calories if you are not aware of how much and what types of beverages you are consuming. Wine contains approximately 120 calories per 5 ounces, beers can range from 60 to 200 calories and mixed drinks can reach 600 to 700 calories. Do you like pina coladas? Twelve ounces of this drink will cost you close to 700 calories. (That’s more than a large fast-food burger).

Be sure to keep track of the types of beverages you are consuming, and drink responsibly.

Read your labels. Nutrition information is more readily available to consumers than ever before, so take a look and compare what is offered. Many restaurants and chains will have brochures available or list the calorie/nutrition information next to each item. If the store cannot provide the information, look online. Try and

Consider your lifestyle. Are you spending a lot of your summer days exercising, or are you more sedentary? Water is always the best choice to help keep you hydrated. If you are exercising for longer than 60 minutes a day, consider a beverage that will help you replenish electrolytes, like a Gatorade or Propel.

Many drinks that sound healthy are loaded with sugar and calories. If your drink claims it has many vitamins and minerals but is also loaded with calories, sugar and fat, consider getting your vitamins from fresh summer produce and whole grains instead.

Instead of focusing on things to avoid completely, remember that calorie budgeting and portion sizes are keys to success. Ordering a smaller size or preparing drinks yourself with lighter ingredients can make all the difference. Try to keep overall calories from liquids to a minimum and focus on getting most of your calories from nutrient rich foods that will satisfy your hunger and give your body the energy you need to be active this summer.

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

July 13, 2011

Obesity and nutrition: Food deserts might be less relevant than burger swamps

A grocery store alone won't make you much healthier.

A new study argues that access to grocers alone isn't enough to make people eat healthy. More relevant than grocer access or lack thereof -- the latter known as a "food desert" -- were proximity to quantities of what the industry likes to call "quick serve" restaurants. (My phrase of choice is "burger swamp.")

Income was also a big factor. From the Los Angeles Times:

Better access to supermarkets — long touted as a way to curb obesity in low-income neighborhoods — doesn't improve people's diets, according to new research. The study, which tracked thousands of people in several large cities for 15 years, found that people didn't eat more fruits and vegetables when they had supermarkets available in their neighborhoods.

Instead, income — and proximity to fast food restaurants — were the strongest factors in food choice.

Continue reading "Obesity and nutrition: Food deserts might be less relevant than burger swamps" »

Posted by Patrick Maynard at 10:14 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Nutrition

July 8, 2011

Finding local, fresh food

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Here's a bonus post from Rachel Ernzen, RD CNSD, on local produce.

Did you know there are more than two million farms in the United States? Almost 13,000 are located here in Maryland, and many sell directly to consumers.

If you enjoy fresh produce, consider buying locally. Local food is usually picked just a few days before you receive it, maximizing taste and nutritional value. It also keeps your food dollars circulating in your community. Farmers' markets,stands, U-pick farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are all common local food outlets.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an arrangement or partnership made between community members and a particular local farm. This type of arrangement can be started by the farmer (farmer directed) or by a group of consumers (participatory).

Most commonly, a certain number of “shares” are offered to the public. Cost for a share can be required upfront or as installments over time. Many CSAs also allow shareowners to work on the farm for a lower membership fee.

In return, a share of seasonal produce or other farm products (eggs, cheese, and meat) is distributed weekly over 20 to 33 weeks. Each CSA farm sets prices, product mix, and delivery schedule. Be aware severe weather, insects or other unexpected events can affect the harvest which in turn affects the amount a shareholder receives. This idea of “shared risk” affects both the farmers and members. Shareholders visit the farm or go to another pickup location at a scheduled time every week to get their food.

If you are thinking about joining a CSA ask yourself:
Am I willing to accept “shared risk?” How much food am I expecting to receive? What will my reaction be if the harvest isn’t abundant?
Do I like to cook? Do I have time to make homemade meals most evenings?
Will I find fun in using unfamiliar vegetables? What will I do with extras?

What to ask when choosing a CSA:
Inquire about experience level and last season’s yield. Filling a member’s basket with weekly garden-fresh vegetables requires an advanced set of skills.
Are all the items given in weekly shares grown on their farm? If they aren’t, find out what is grown elsewhere, who grows it, and how they grow it. To learn more about growing practices (organic, natural, etc.) visit:
Request references. Talk to a few members before committing.

Your local farmers' market, farm stand or CSA is just a few clicks away. Find fresh food near you at:

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

July 6, 2011

Beating bad habits at the beach

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. This week, Amanda Tauber weighs in on beach eats.

Heading to the beach doesn’t just mean sitting on the sand. It’s also about exploring what the area has to offer. If you are vacationing at Maryland’s resorts, Delaware beaches or the Jersey shore, a visit to the boardwalk is likely in your plans. With choices from ice cream to pizza to fudge, healthful eating at the boardwalk can be a problem. However, with some planning, having a healthier boardwalk experience is possible.

Stick with seafood

Do some online research before heading to the boardwalk and peruse restaurant menus online. Since seafood dishes are popular, remember that seafood that’s baked or broiled is a more healthful choice than fried. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side, and if portions are large, ask for half of your food to be put in a to-go box before it’s even brought to the table. Stick with salmon or halibut for heart-healthy omega 3s.

Snack substitutes

Smells from boardwalk stands selling fudge, soft pretzels, popcorn, etc., are enticing, but eating too many of these foods is clearly not beneficial for the waistline. If you can’t resist, split the treat with family or friends. Many ice cream places offer real-fruit smoothies. Choose a small smoothie made with fat-free or low-fat yogurt. Orange Julius offers a selection of “light” smoothies sweetened with Splenda and made with fat-free milk. Rita’s Italian ice and custard stands offer sugar-free ices and “Slenderita” fat-free frozen custard. If you can’t stay out of the candy store, try saltwater taffy. According to, a health-themed website supported by the Lance Armstrong Foundation, five pieces of saltwater taffy have 170 calories and 3 grams of fat. Six pieces of the sugar-free varieties have only 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Popcorn, a whole grain, can be a healthier option if you opt for the caramel popcorn. Three-quarters of a cup of Fisher’s caramel popcorn has 110 calories, 2 grams of fat and 1 gram of saturated fat. For those who love french fries and funnel cake, beware: An 8-ounce serving of funnel cake packs 760 calories, while a 6-ounce serving of french fries has nearly 600 calories.

Add activity

If you happen to indulge, take advantage of the mileage the boardwalk has to offer. Take a long walk before or after dinner, or go for a jog in the morning when the boards are less crowded. Bike riding on the boardwalk may also be an early morning option (check the boardwalk’s rules on the website). If you’re going to be at the beach all day, swim, surf, body board or play volleyball or Frisbee to burn off extra calories.

Although it seems nearly impossible to eat nutritious foods on vacation at the beach, more healthful options are available if you know where to look.

Posted by Kim Walker at 11:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

June 29, 2011

A red, white and blue holiday menu

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on nutrition. This week, Elaine Pelc weighs in on Fourth of July barbecues.

Gearing up for some epic Fourth of July barbecues? Planning to incorporate dishes that exemplify that patriotic spirit? Many typical barbecue sides and snacks are full of fat and calories. Popular dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, dips and chips are the most common forms of fatty comfort foods, but, as any American can attest, the list goes on. Try swapping those high-fat favorites with healthful versions enhanced with a fun holiday theme. In this case, what could be more perfect than a red-white-and-blue color scheme?

Eat the rainbow

In summer, plenty of fresh produce is available in gardens, grocery stores, roadside stands and farmers’ markets. Take advantage while planning your holiday barbecue. Look for bright and deep colors in fresh fruits and veggies, as the different hues and density of color typically come from the varying vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants each food has to offer. When you choose to eat a variety of these foods, you get the benefits from each color of the rainbow. Along with powerful nutrition, fresh produce also provides a good source of fiber, which helps to fill you up on fewer calories and is important for intestinal health.

Red, white and blue

Red is an easy color quota to fill with red bell peppers, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, red grapes, beets, kidney beans, watermelon, apples and tomatoes. Coming up with the white and blue healthy food options may be a bit more challenging. For your white treats, consider cauliflower, jicama, egg whites, garlic, onions, ginger, turnips, shallots, parsnips, mushrooms, white beans, white asparagus, pears, nuts, tofu and fish. For the all-American blues, consider blueberries, eggplant, blackberries and blue potatoes. Get creative.

Side dishes

Try a healthier spin on potato salad by mixing blue potatoes with their red-skin cousins and using low-fat Italian salad dressing. Or try a low-fat pasta salad with mozzarella, purple grapes and cherry tomatoes. Or serve oven-roasted blue potatoes, sweet red peppers and cauliflower with a touch of garlic, pepper and sea salt. Instead of the typical chips and dip, try your hand at homemade baked blue potato chips for a lower fat option. Pair them with a Greek yogurt-based dip dotted with roasted red peppers or some fresh tomato salsa. Pair your main dish of grilled white fish with some broiled, roasted or grilled eggplant and tomatoes.

Flag-friendly finish

Dessert can be on the more healthful side, too. Try mixing up a fresh fruit salad of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, and serve it with low-fat whipped cream or a slice of angel food cake for a lighter, more refreshing option. Or add white nuts or peeled pear chunks to cherry and blackberry cobbler.

Barbecues and holiday celebrations can include food options that taste as good as they look. Use these foods to brighten and lighten up your holiday meal while adding a few nutrients, too.

Posted by Kim Walker at 11:42 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

June 22, 2011

Don't let bacteria take over your summer BBQ

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Erica Schmitt, dietetic intern, (pictured) weighs in on picnic food safety.

As the hot summer months rapidly approach, you may be starting to plan your first picnic with family and friends. Loading up the car with your favorite summertime foods to spend a day in the sun may sound perfect after a long, cold winter.  It may have been quite a few months since last picnic season but don’t forget about practicing good food safety to prevent food-borne illness.  To keep your picnic or outdoor barbecue from becoming a fiesta for harmful bacteria, use these tips.

Wash your hands
Hand-washing is an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of bacteria. Bringing soap and bottled water (if water is not available at your picnic site) should be just as important as remembering the hamburger rolls. If you find yourself at a picnic where there is no soap or water to wash your hands properly, carrying a pocket-sized bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer or keeping a package of moist towelettes handy are inexpensive ways to be prepared. And remember: wash your hands before AND after handling food.

Safe food preparation
When planning your menu, remember it is important to defrost meat the correct way.
Meat may be defrosted in the refrigerator, under constant cold running water, or in the microwave immediately prior to cooking. Never leave meat on countertops to defrost or in the hot summer sun at your picnic site. Leaving food to warm unevenly to room temperature (or warmer if in the sun) will cause bacteria and germs to grow.

Keep it separate, prevent cross-contamination
Cross-contamination can occur when raw meats come into contact with ready-to-eat foods such as salads, fruits and other foods not requiring further cooking. To prevent cross-contamination, keep raw meats thoroughly wrapped and separate from prepared foods. If possible, use one cooler for raw items and another cooler for ready-to-eat foods.

Further, to prevent germs from raiding your picnic, bring plenty of extra plates, cooking utensils and separate cutting boards. Using one set for raw meats and another for handling cooked foods will eliminate cross-contamination from ruining your summer BBQ. Using disposable items also makes for easy cleanup.

Continue reading "Don't let bacteria take over your summer BBQ" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

June 16, 2011

We have a winner!

The winner of the “Deadline Fitness” book stepped up to claim it.

The book went to Jen!

Posted by Andrea Siegel at 5:48 AM | | Comments (1)

June 15, 2011

Summer slim-down tips

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Christine Dobmeier (pictured) weighs in on summer diet tips.

Although summer hasn’t officially started, it certainly feels like it. Along with the warmer weather comes bathing suit season, and many people want to shed a little of that winter weight. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the summer, get more active and take off a few pounds at the same time.

Size your servings right

Many of us have become accustomed to larger serving sizes and accepting those as “typical.” A great way to cut calories is to limit added fats, portion your starches right and load up on low-calorie, filling vegetables. For help in portioning your plate, check out the guidelines at

Fit vegetables and fruit into your diet

Speaking of those vegetables, summer is the ideal time to incorporate all those fresh choices into your meals and snacks. Add some color to your salad with fresh tomatoes, grilled squash and peppers. Incorporate summer staples such as watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, all excellent sources of potassium. Swap out a higher-calorie processed snack for some fresh berries — save on calories, and bring on the antioxidants!

Focus on lean proteins

Good choices include skinless chicken breast, skinless turkey, pork tenderloin, center-cut pork chops and beef that is at least 90 percent lean. By choosing the lower-fat proteins, you are cutting calories as well as fat. For example, a 5-ounce burger that is 80 percent lean protein (80/20) provides 348 calories and 23 grams of fat; switch that out for a leaner 93 percent ground beef (93/7), and you’ll be down to 200 calories and 9 grams of fat for the same size burger.

Continue reading "Summer slim-down tips" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:27 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

June 8, 2011

Breakfast bars a good option for morning meal

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Ellen Loreck weighs in on breakfast bars.

Are you frantically racing out of the house in the morning instead of preparing a healthful breakfast? If your answer is “yes,” then a breakfast bar may be a viable option. Eating breakfast is an important strategy for weight control, according to the National Weight Control Registry. In addition, eating breakfast may help you focus better in the morning. So a portable and easy-to-eat bar may help you establish a breakfast routine and get you on the road to better health.

As you peruse the grocery shelves for breakfast bars, the options may seem endless. You’ll see nutrition claims on the boxes like, “omega-3s,” “16 grams whole grains,” “no high-fructose corn syrup,” “contains yogurt,” “high in antioxidants” or “35 percent of the daily value of fiber.” What does this all mean?

Fiber up

Eating foods with fiber and whole grains is important because fiber helps with digestion and satiety. Most of us don’t get anywhere near the recommended daily intake of 25-35 grams. Eating a breakfast bar with 9 grams of fiber (35 percent of the daily value) offers a great head start to reaching that daily goal.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we make half our grains whole. Examples of whole grains include oatmeal, rolled oats, whole rye and wheat. Look for a whole grain listed as the first or second ingredient or look for at least 8 grams of whole grains, if noted, in each 1-ounce serving of bread, cereal or other grain. The example of 16 grams of whole grains in a breakfast bar helps you to reach this goal.

Raise the bar

The calories in breakfast bars are generally in the 90-140 range, which is fairly low for a meal. To lower your intake of added sugars, look for bars with 10 grams of sweetener or less. Types of added sugar are: table sugar (granulated or white sugar), brown sugar, cane sugar, raw (or turbinado) sugar, malt sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, fructose sweetener, honey and molasses.

The saturated-fat content of most breakfast bars is also fairly low, typically in the 0.5-4 gram range. Stick to bars with 2 grams of saturated fat or less. You’ll likely get most of your saturated fat from lunch or dinner, so save your fat allotment for another meal.

Most breakfast bars only have 1-2 grams of protein per serving. Protein helps you feel fuller longer, so add a protein food to go along with your breakfast bar: string cheese, yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good, on-the-go choices.


Some bars advertise antioxidants, omega 3s and yogurt. You can get these nutrients by eating other foods: antioxidants from fruit and vegetables and omega 3s from fatty fish. Eating a container of yogurt will give you the biggest nutrient bang for your buck. A breakfast bar may not be your best choice for these added nutrients and ingredients.

Bottom line: Eat breakfast. A high-fiber (and lower-sugar) breakfast bar, along with some protein, is a fine choice to start your day. You’ll get a great jump-start on your daily nutritional needs and will have more energy and focus for your day.

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:46 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

June 3, 2011

Healthy marinades for the grill, recipe too

This is the time of year when we love to make dinner on the grill. But watch the marinades. They can be full of salt, sugar and grease, as well as the calories you’ve been trying to burn off.

“What I encourage folks about making a tender marinade without adding salt and fat is to use flavored vinegars, fresh herbs, onions and garlic,” says Ann Caldwell, registered dietician at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Whisk in barely a tablespoon of olive oil, and brush some olive oil on the grill, too.

Can’t make your own? She suggests grabbing a bottle of fat-free Italian dressing and turning that into a marinade for chicken, fish or meat.

This marinade is one of Caldwell’s favorites on chicken.The recipe is from the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Blueberry Marinade with Tarragon and Ginger

1 c. Fresh Blueberries
2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 tsp. Honey
1 ½ tsp. Dried tarragon
1 tsp. Fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 Garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. Ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and puree for 10 seconds.
Pour in jar with tight lid – let stand for 15 minutes to let flavors meld.
Shake vigorously and then pour over poultry or fish, coating all sides.
Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 30 minutes; turn at 15 minutes.

Remove from marinade and place on grill over medium-high heat

Posted by Andrea Siegel at 1:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Diet, Newbies, Nutrition

June 1, 2011

Fitness and aging

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post. This week, Deb Schulze weighs in on fitness and aging.

You’re never too old to adopt a fitness routine. People’s bodies are continually breaking down, repairing and then building the proteins that make up their muscles. At some point, people break down more protein than they build, and muscle loss occurs. Sarcopenia is the loss of lean muscle mass that starts at age 40 and accelerates after the age of 75.

“Muscle is the absolute centerpiece of being healthy, vital and independent as we grow older,” according to Miriam Nelson, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston. “It keeps us strong and mobile.” However, we can slow muscle loss and actually build more muscle. Before starting in a new fitness regimen, it is important to consult with your health care provider to find out what limitations you might have.

Prevention of muscle loss

Exercise. Include 30-60 minutes of exercise every day, including strength/resistance training.

Consume adequate protein. Make sure you consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. Example: a 150 pound person would weigh 68 kilograms, therefore 68 times 0.8 is 54 grams of protein per day.

Eat a healthy diet. Current recommendations include the DASH or Mediterranean diets. Make sure to eat a well-rounded diet with adequate Omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for two servings per week of fatty fish such as salmon or tuna.

Examples of daily activities

Cardio-respiratory includes walking, swimming, dancing, skating, hiking and biking.

Strength building includes chair exercises, lifting weights, carrying laundry or groceries, working in the yard, washing the car or scrubbing the floor.

Flexibility activities include stretching, yoga, tai-chi.

Enjoy the benefits

The merits of regular physical exercise are hard to ignore. According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits are yours to enjoy regardless of age, sex or physical ability. They include:

Prevention of chronic diseases. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and certain types of cancer, exercise is important in managing and preventing symptoms.

Weight management. Exercise can boost metabolism and help lose weight.

Improvement of mood. Brain chemistry responds positively to exercise.

Sleep better. Research has shown that people who exercise fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly than those that do not exercise.

Building muscles. Exercise increases muscle activity and thus burns calories.

Strong bones. All weight-bearing activity will help strengthen bones, which is especially important as you age.

Immunity. Exercise boosts the immune system by causing the blood to circulate more freely. It can reduce the frequency of flu, colds and illnesses.

Improvement in cognitive functioning. Research has shown that exercise delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain.

Strong heart and lungs. Exercise increases the rate of blood and oxygen through the circulatory system and makes the heart and lungs stronger, more resilient and efficient.

Improved quality of life. Studies indicate people report having better moods, sex lives, interpersonal relationships and overall health than those who do not exercise.

Starting an exercise program

Start slowly by choosing mild to moderate intensity activities that you enjoy.

Gradually increase the time spent by adding a few minutes every few days until you can perform at least 30 minutes per day.

As your regimen becomes easier, gradually increase the length of time or increase the intensity of the activity. Remember your limitations per your health care provider’s recommendation.

Vary your activities to broaden the range of benefits.

Acknowledge and embrace your accomplishments.

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

May 25, 2011

Benefits of nuts and seeds

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. This week, Amanda Tauber (pictured) weighs in on nuts and seeds.

If you’re looking for a great snack with healthy fats and a good source of protein, don’t overlook nuts and seeds. Throwing some walnuts into a salad takes little effort and adds a lot of great nutrition to your meal. There are many different types of nuts and seeds that can be used in a variety of recipes or be eaten by themselves.

Nuts and seeds are great sources of key nutrients the body needs to function properly. According to the American Dietetic Association, nuts and seeds are an important source of fat, containing mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and raise your HDL “good” cholesterol. Nuts and seeds contain alpha linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid). Omega-3’s are important in reducing your risk for heart disease.

The majority of calories come from their fat content. The other bit of calories comes from protein, which can help build muscle and keep your appetite satisfied. As far as the micronutrient content, potassium, vitamin E, zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and folate are also found in nuts and seeds. Fiber is another heart-healthy benefit of nuts and seeds.

Since the fat content of nuts and seeds is high, it’s important to watch your portion sizes. One serving of almonds (about 160 calories) is equal to one-third cup, which can be one handful for some people, so be sure to pay attention to how many handfuls you take. Three handfuls of nuts can amount to nearly 500 calories (400 calories coming from fat alone). If you’re trying to gain weight, nuts and seeds can be an easy way to add calories without eating a lot of food. A serving of sunflower seeds is only one-quarter cup but provides 205 calories. Be sure to check food labels for each individual type of nut or seed since calories, fat and protein content may vary. Also, some varieties come with added salt, so examine packages to find raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.

Eating nuts and seeds by themselves can get a little boring after a while. So add some walnuts to your salad for added omega-3 benefits or topping your yogurt with almonds for added protein. You can even make trail mix at home for a healthy on-the-go snack. Check out the American Heart Association’s website for its recipe “Take a Break Snack Mix.”

Nuts and seeds are easy to eat, take little to no preparation and come in many varieties to try.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

May 18, 2011

How to choose a healthy yogurt

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a post on nutrition. This week, Elaine Pelc, MS, RD, CNSC, LDN, (pictured) weighs in on yogurt choices.

Is yogurt a healthful option or a pitfall in disguise? With so many choices — whipped, fruit on the bottom, with granola, in tubes, as shakes, Greek-style — it is easy to be overwhelmed.

Yogurt can be a healthy snack option or meal component, but you need to be careful what you choose. Some yogurts have a fair amount of sugar and fat.

The nice thing about yogurt is that, for the most part, it can be a perfect meal or snack on its own due to its nutrient profile. Yogurt typically provides a combination of fat, carbohydrates and protein; the trick is to choose the products with the better balance of these nutrients.

Good bacteria?

Yogurt is a great way to include probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are micro-organisms that are naturally occurring in yogurt that help maintain the balance of good bacteria (flora) in your intestines. This can be especially beneficial for people who have gastrointestinal issues.

Snack attack

In general, snacks shouldn’t exceed 100-150 calories, and it is beneficial to choose a snack that combines carbohydrates and protein. Look for light or low-fat yogurts that have 80-100 calories, 0 grams of fat and about 5 grams of protein.

Going Greek

Greek yogurt is all the rage right now and for good reason. The fat-free versions typically provide 90-130 calories and contain about 13-17 grams of protein. This type of yogurt is processed differently from traditional yogurt, removing some of the carbohydrates and leaving behind a thick, creamy, protein-packed treat.

Greek is tart, similar to sour cream, but it also comes flavored. You can doctor up the plain with some fresh green grapes or a half ounce of honey. Other options include fresh fruit and dry cereal for crunch, or some Splenda and unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate treat. Greek yogurt can also be a great substitute for higher-fat cooking and baking ingredients.

Shopping hints

Choose low-fat or fat-free options.

Look for yogurts with less than 150 calories.

Avoid yogurts with fruit on the bottom or those with granola, which add calories.

Watch out for yogurts high in sugar, and read the labels of those targeting children, which are often flavored like their favorite sugary cereal.

Choose Greek yogurt for its high protein value.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

May 11, 2011

Dos and don'ts for post-workout meal

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthful eating. This week, dietetic intern Lauren Martin (pictured) weighs in on post-workout meals.

While it is important to fuel your body with the right foods throughout the day, perhaps the most important time to pay attention to what you eat is after a workout. Nutrition plays a role in replacing glycogen stores, preventing fatigue and recovering for future workouts. When you work out, your body burns calories, loses electrolytes through sweat and breaks down muscle tissue. It is important to refuel your body after exercise to replace the glycogen, protein and fluid lost.

What to look for

Within the 30 minutes following a workout, your body needs three things: Fluids to replace the water and electrolytes your body loses in your sweat. For each pound you lose from exercise, you need 16 to 24 ounces of fluid. Protein to repair the muscle tissue broken down during a workout and to stimulate new tissue development. Only a small amount of protein is needed after a workout to enhance glycogen replacement and provide the amino acids needed for the repair of muscle tissues. While a serious weight lifters has higher protein needs than someone running for an hour, a balance of protein with carbohydrates will help recovery.

Carbohydrates to replenish the fuel (glycogen) used by your muscles. Within 30 minutes after exercise, you need 0.5 to -0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight to adequately replace the glycogen lost. For example, after 60 minutes of vigorous exercise, a 150-pound person might need as many as 75 grams of carbohydrate.

What to avoid

Fat. While fat is an important part of the diet, it slows digestion. Right after a workout, you do not want to slow the digestion of carbs and protein. Try to choose snacks and meals that are relatively low to moderate in fat content. Simple sugars and sweetened beverages, unless you are working out vigorously for more than 60 minutes. Otherwise you are just adding back empty calories that are not helping your body recover adequately.

Snack and meal ideas

Low-fat chocolate milk: An easy, delicious way to replenish fluid, carbs and protein. Low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. Yogurt provides a good source of both protein and carbs. Homemade fruit smoothie made up of yogurt, berries and low-fat milk. This is a combination of the first two suggestions. You again get all three things you body needs post-workout. Stir-fried chicken breast with fresh vegetables over brown rice. This is great if you want to eat more of a meal after a workout. The chicken is a good source of protein, and the rice is a healthful source of carbs, fiber and B vitamins. Pita with turkey and hummus and a glass of low-fat milk. The pita provides your carbs, while the turkey and hummus give you protein. The milk gives you all three.

For more information, check out: Look under “For the public,” “Food and nutrition topics” and then “Sports nutrition.”

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

May 4, 2011

When dining out, mind the salt

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthful eating. This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas weighs in on sodium.

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home: It’s time to toss the salt out of your diet. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines urge people to cut way back on salt and sodium. Since eating out can account for up to 50 percent of meals for some people, it is critical to target these salty food sources. If you have already cut back on added salt on homemade foods, start looking at store-bought, pre-made, frozen, canned and delivery items.

Lofty goals

The new guidelines limit total daily sodium to 1,500 milligrams up to 2,300 mgs per day. This is about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt daily from all foods. A sample day of eating out could be much more than that:

Egg/bacon/cheese breakfast sandwich (1,200 mgs) plus cheeseburger/fries/cola (1,200 mgs) and a spaghetti dinner (2,200 mgs) equals a daily total of 4,600 mgs sodium.

To peruse the sodium content of your favorite foods, go to At, you can download a useful app for making smart fast-food choices wherever you go. For details of your individual goal, visit the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion website at

Excess sodium makes more work for the heart, blood vessels and kidneys, upping a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. Despite the natural sources of sodium (meat, milk) and what you add from the shaker, the bulk of your salt intake comes from processed and commercially prepared food.

Flavor saver

Though the flavor of salt is intense, we notice it less the more we indulge. So more is not better. Our love affair with salt is a learned behavior and one we can break. If you cut back gradually, you won’t miss the salt, and your taste buds brighten to new flavors.

Swap the salt shaker and bouillon for pepper, vinegar and lemon juice. Switch all salt-laden seasonings to sodium-free versions and add more herbs (fresh and dried) to foods. Exchange salt-based spices for salt-free seasonings or make your own salt-free blends. Buy fresh herb plants and use in place of salty spices. Retrain your tastes to live with less salt for life.

Continue reading "When dining out, mind the salt" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

April 27, 2011

The what’s what about protein supplements

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a post on nutrition. This week, dietetic intern Kaitline Cottone weighs in on protein supplements.

The dietary supplement market has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, creating new products to help improve athletic performance and the boost the effectiveness of regular exercise. Some of the most popular dietary supplements are protein supplements. There are thousands of different protein supplements on the market today. But knowing why, how much, when and which protein supplement to use is often overlooked. Below are some frequently asked questions when it comes to supplementing protein.

How is protein used during exercise?

While carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body, protein plays an important role in exercise. Protein is used to create, sustain and repair muscle cells. The metabolism of protein during exercise is affected by many factors, including age, gender, type of exercise, intensity and duration.

So how much protein do I need?

According to the American Dietetic Association, the daily protein recommendation for a healthy adult is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. So, for example, a 150-pound adult would need about 54 grams of protein a day, which can be met by eating 6 ounces of chicken. For endurance athletes, the daily protein recommendation increases to 0.55-0.64 grams/pound because of the increased protein turnover during exercise. The protein recommendation is also increased for strength-training athletes (0.55-0.77 grams/pound). This additional protein is needed, along with adequate energy intake from carbohydrates, to sustain muscle stores and support muscle growth. These protein recommendations can be met through diet alone by consuming foods high in protein, such as lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, soy, milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese.

When should I consider using a protein supplement?

While adequate protein intake can be achieved from whole foods, there are some benefits to using protein supplements. Protein supplements are a convenient way to ensure that you meet your protein needs. These are especially useful when you don’t have time to go home and prepare a meal after a workout or if you have trouble eating before an early morning trip to the gym.

How do I know which protein supplement to choose?

As far as deciding between whey, soy or individual amino acid supplements, it is important to get protein from a variety of sources. Also, a person using a single amino acid supplement may lack other essential amino acids, which can increase the risk for deficiency. In addition, certain individual amino acids, such as serine and proline, can have adverse effects on your health. Keep in mind that health claims posted on labels are not tested for validity, and under the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines, it is the manufacturer that’s responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed.. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, protein supplements run the risk of being contaminated with substances that are banned by the association. A few of these substances include dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), human growth hormone (HGH), ephedrine and androstenedione. For a complete list of banned substances, visit

Continue reading "The what’s what about protein supplements" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

April 20, 2011

Hearty, healthy hiking

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a post on nutrition topics. This week, dietetic intern Lynsie Daras, (pictured) weighs in on foods for hikes.

Taking a hike is a perfect way to start moving and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you are going for a leisurely walk on a local trail or backpacking on a strenuous mountain range, it’s important to stay hydrated and bring the proper nutrition to fuel your hike. When deciding on which snacks to bring along with you, it is important to keep in mind that your food should be durable, nutritious and portable.

Staying hydrated
It’s important to drink enough while hiking, especially during the hot summer months. Your body is made of mostly water and needs plenty of fluid to work properly. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include excessive thirst, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, dizziness and little to no urination. Drinking plenty of water helps to lower your body temperature and replace any water you lose through sweating. It’s not only important to remember to drink more than enough fluid during your hike, but to drink plenty of fluid before and after your hike too.

Healthy snacks
When deciding what to pack for your hike, choose foods that will help fill you up and give you the energy you need. Your snacks should contain a healthy balance between carbohydrates, protein and fat. Aim for snacks that are mostly carbohydrate, these foods break down to glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy. Try choosing complex carbohydrates, such as whole grain breads and cereals. You may feel fuller longer and your blood sugar may be more stable throughout the day. Protein, such as meat, cheese and nuts, is needed for building and repairing muscles. Eating too much protein can cause dehydration and may be stored as body fat. On the other hand, eating too little protein can cause weakness and muscle damage. Finally, dietary fat is an important nutrient for energy and is metabolized during exercise. Fat provides energy during long periods of low to moderate exercise and helps reserve protein stores for muscle.

Some healthy, energy-filled snack ideas include:
Trail mix: avoid commercial brands that are heavy on candy. Try making your own trail mix using an assortment of nuts, popcorn and dried fruit.

Granola with nuts: Look for brands lower in fat and sugar.

Peanut butter on vegetables or whole-wheat mini bagels — full of healthy fat, protein and complex carbohydrates.

Fresh fruit with low-fat string cheese: Fruits, like grapes and watermelon, are full of water. And fruit gives you energy and helps add to your hydration needs.

Energy bars: Choose bars with a good mix of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Avoid packing energy bars made with chocolate as they may melt during hikes on warmer days. Also, limit your consumption of energy bars with sugar alcohols in the ingredients (ie. xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, erythritol) as these may have laxative-like effects.

Continue reading "Hearty, healthy hiking" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

April 6, 2011

Step into fitness at work

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Robin Rudner, RD, LDN, (pictured) weighs in on workplace fitness.     

If you stare at a computer all day or have a sedentary job, you may believe it is simply impossible to achieve your health and fitness goals while at work. After all, your day is extremely busy, filled with lots of phone calls, paperwork and other administrative duties. Who has time to take long breaks from work anyway, right? What if staying fit at work didn't take as much effort as you thought? Below are some fun and easy ways to stay on track with your day-to-day health and fitness goals.

1. Get up and fidget more often. Are you emailing or texting your coworker who is down the hall or in the cubicle on the other side of the office? Try walking over to his/her cubicle instead. Remember that every step counts. Research shows that people who fidget and move more throughout the day burn more calories than their counterparts. A pedometer is a great way to stay motivated and get extra steps in. Your goal is to aim for 10,000 steps each day.

2. Take the stairs more often. You've probably heard this time and time again. This doesn't mean you have to take the stairs every time you come and go from your desk, but aim for taking the stairs at least half the time.

3. Journal more. There is a lot of research supporting the positive impact journaling has on your overall food intake each day. If you bite it, you write it. Practice this with exercise as well. Journaling holds you accountable and can help you see your progress. Keep your journal with you as often as possible and use it to track meals, beverages and exercise.

4. Don't keep tempting foods in your drawer or in sight. Make sure you create an environment that is going to support your health and fitness goals. If you have snacks calling your name from the drawer, you're most likely going to give in. Don't have them around!

5. Drink more water and focus on drinking as few calories as possible. Liquid calories don't fill you up the way solid food calories do. A 20 oz soda contains 250 calories and will not satisfy you the way a 250 calorie meal will. If you drink 20 oz of soda every day, you're consuming 91,000 calories which is equivalent to 26 pounds over the course of a year.

6. Keep motivating quotes or pictures in sight. Keep sticky notes at your desk and write your goal each day. If your goal is to sneak in exercise, write "MOVE" or "EXERCISE." If your goal is to take the stairs instead of the elevator, write "STAIRS." If the sticky note is in sight, you'll most likely think twice before you take another bite of something that will sabotage your hard efforts.

7. Planning is one of the most important factors in achieving your health and fitness goals. The more specific you are in your planning, the more successful you will be. For example, "I will take more steps in the day by taking the stairs 3 times today" vs. a more general goal of "I will be more active today."

8. Take a mini break every hour to stretch your legs and walk around. Remember that you don't have to do all of your exercise at once. Doing 10-15 minute increments several times a day is just as beneficial as one 30-60 minute session.

9. Go for a walk during lunch. Start a walking club or team up with one or more of your coworkers. The more support you have, the more likely you will stick with your goals. Having a buddy can help keep you motivated and encourage you to stay on track. Try a friendly competition in your office- who can take the most steps each day?

10. If you sit at a desk try to tighten your abs, move your calves or tighten your buttocks.

Remember when it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals, it takes perseverance, dedication and consistency. Be as specific as you can, but don't be too hard on yourself. If you get off track one day forgive yourself and get right back on track. Remember that each day you are one day stronger, more fit and closer to your goal.

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: General Fitness, Nutrition

March 30, 2011

How to make fiber work for you

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Deb Schulze (pictured) RD, LDN, weighs in on fiber.    

Fiber, a complex carbohydrate also called roughage, is part of the plant matrix that your body can’t digest or absorb. Therefore, it passes relatively intact through your digestive system and out of your body. While its journey seems relatively uneventful, it actually provides several important benefits to overall health.
What Can It Do For You?
Digestion. Adequate fiber intake helps in the treatment of constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome by promoting  digestion, elimination and absorption of nutrients.
Weight Loss.  It helps you feel fuller, which may curb appetite and promoting weight loss.
Heart Health. Soluble fiber can lower cholesterol, blood pressure and your risk of coronary heart disease.
Blood sugar. Soluble fiber can delay the absorption of sugar, which helps improve glucose control for people with diabetes. Fiber intake has also been associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.   
Cancer prevention. Research continues on the role of increased fiber and colorectal cancer prevention.
Not All  Fiber is Created Equal
Fiber is classified into two categories: soluble fiber which dissolves in water and insoluble fiber which does not.
Soluble fiber forms a gel like material and can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. It can be found in items such as oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, barley, carrots and psyllium.
Insoluble fiber assists in the movement of material through your digestive tract and thereby increasing stool bulk. This can be a benefit to those who experience irregular stools or constipation. Many good sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, whole-wheat flour and many vegetables.
How Much Do You Need?
The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine along with The American Dietetic Association recommend:
Age 50 and younger
Women: 25 grams
Men: 38 grams
Age 51 and older
Women: 21 grams
Men: 30 grams

Continue reading "How to make fiber work for you" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

March 18, 2011

Dump Your Plump winners

He's the biggest winner and biggest loser: Leonard Frett, a Fort Meade pet care worker, got an armload of goodies for being the overall and individual male biggest loser in the military base's Dump Your Plump contest. He couldn't be happier, and not just because this week he was awarded an iPad, gym bag and more.

Frett, 30, lost 24.8 percent of his body fat and 65 lbs in the 2-month program. And since the last weigh-in earlier this month, he dropped another 10 lbs. Now at 251 lbs, he says he has about 50 to go.

"I got up and 4:30 every morning so I was at Gaffney, the gym, at 5 when it opened. I ran and walked 2 miles on the treadmill," he told me. "Then I did 30 mins on the bicycle and 30 minutes on the elliptical." That was "very hard," but seeing results and staying ahead in a friendly competition with his manager kept him focused.

Top female winner: Air Force Master Sgt. Kat Collins. 17.8 percent of her body fat and 25.4 lbs -- gone. This was the third year of the DYP challenge.

Continue reading "Dump Your Plump winners" »

Posted by Andrea Siegel at 5:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: General Fitness, Gym, Newbies, Nutrition

March 15, 2011

Mini meals = mini me

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on breakfast and snacking. 

One of the most common questions asked daily of dietitians in the hospital from nurses, doctors and therapists is how many meals a day should I eat?  And will I lose weight if I skip breakfast or eat only one meal a day?  If medical professionals are asking these questions, then it may be reflective of the general population.

Without getting too scientific, eating small meals throughout the day may help a person lose weight. The important word in that sentence is SMALL -- not large quantities of food multiple times a day!  So you must be aware of your portion sizes.  When a person consistently waits all day to eat one meal, the body feels like it is being starved, deliberately having food withheld. Your body doesn’t know when you will feed it again and compensates by slowing down metabolism, causing weight gain - completely counterproductive to your overall goal.

One thing that must be mentioned is the absolute importance of breakfast. To get your day off to a great start you must give your body fuel to run. If you are not normally a breakfast eater think about how much food you ate the night before. Did you pig out late last night or have multiple second helpings at dinner? When you eat more than you need late at night you may not be hungry first thing in the morning. At night, instead of going back for a second or third plate, wait 20 minutes and see if you are really hungry; it takes that long for your brain to realize you have had enough to eat.  In the meantime do something so you aren’t focused on food, such as load the dishwasher, fold laundry or exercise. Then if you are truly hungry grab a piece of fruit or some chopped vegetables for an evening snack. Both choices are not only low in calories and fat but are full of water and fiber to help you feel full.  The next morning you should wake up a little more hungry than usual for breakfast.

You don’t need to go overboard with breakfast if you aren’t used to eating every morning.  Make yourself a smoothie or a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a slice of banana: two great ways to start the day. Trying to reverse your eating habits might be difficult at first but will be beneficial in the long run. 

Continue reading "Mini meals = mini me" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 4:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

March 12, 2011

Is caffeine actually good or bad for you?

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP, weighs in on caffeine.   

Consumers are often confused about caffeine since they may have heard or read news reports on research that associates caffeine to cancer, heart palpitations or osteoporsosis. However, no study has found a significant link between cancer and caffeine consumption. Moderate consumption of caffeine is safe for most healthy individuals, and some beverages that contain caffeine have been shown to have potential health benefits.

Is caffeine bad for me?

For most healthy individuals, moderate caffeine consumption at 300 milligrams per day (about 3 cups of coffee) is considered safe. Studies have demonstrated no correlation between caffeine consumption and heart disease mortality or incidence, but people with high blood pressure or heart valve disease may want to consider limiting their intake.

Although not directly related to caffeine, unfiltered coffee has been shown to raise total cholesterol levels with the most significant elevation in triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The elevation in total cholesterol results from a substance called cafestol, which is primarily found in French-press coffee and Turkish coffee. Studies suggest that limiting unfiltered coffee consumption to 6 cups per day may be beneficial to avoid elevations in cholesterol levels.

Individuals with reactions to methylxanthine compounds should avoid any food or beverage that contains caffeine. People with this reaction may experience panic attacks, vomiting, heart palpitations and headaches.

What are the side effects of caffeine consumption?

Every individual has a different tolerance to caffeine. Some people may feel jittery or over energized with a single cup of coffee.

If someone has irritable bowel or reflux, caffeine may lead to worsening symptoms. Studies suggest that there may be a correlation between coffee consumption and lower bone density; however, an adequate consumption of calcium-rich foods and beverages should counteract this effect.

Are there benefits to consuming caffeine?

Caffeine does increase alertness and has been found to help end asthma attacks by constricting bronchial muscles. Individuals who consume caffeine or coffee regularly have a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Certain beverages, like coffee or tea, contain antioxidants that may protect individuals from developing diabetes, cancer or heart disease.


Continue reading "Is caffeine actually good or bad for you?" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 7:35 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

March 8, 2011

Another case where fermentation isn't a bad thing

My wife just took me to Jessup's popular Blob's Park for the first time to celebrate Fasching, and they had some pretty good sauerkraut, served along with tasty Weisswurst and a bunch of other options. I'm looking forward to going back. (It was particularly good recovery food after 21 miles in the morning -- vote for a more sane running schedule here.)

It's with interest, then, that I read an article today about sauerkraut's positive qualities.

Continue reading "Another case where fermentation isn't a bad thing" »

Posted by Patrick Maynard at 12:54 PM | | Comments (0)

March 2, 2011

Salad bars: Savvy selections

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on salad bars.

With springtime and bathing suit season around the corner, many people gravitate toward the salad bar. But, hidden in plain sight are high-calorie, fat-laden foods that can throw off the most determined person’s diet and resolve to eat a healthy meal. Here are some hints and tips to choose the healthier foods but also how to add some of your not-so-great favorites.

Portion distortion
When deciding what you want to eat from the salad bar, be mindful when filling your bowl. The cheese is usually in chunks, with one serving being 1 chunk (1 ounce) of cheese. Pick only one type of cheese and add sparingly.  Croutons and Chinese noodles add a nice crunch but can also add extra sodium and fat. The exact portion size depends on how large or small the croutons are but usually run between 5 – 10 pieces. Sunflower seeds can add some good fiber, protein and fats, but keep the serving size less than 1 Tablespoon. The biggest source of unwanted calories can come from salad dressing. Compare the calorie and fat content on a serving size of 2 tablespoons of each of these popular dressings: Blue cheese (142 cal, 16g fat); Caesar (163 cal, 17g fat); French (146 cal, 14g fat); Italian (84 cal, 8g fat) and balsamic vinegar (28 cal, 0g fat). How many of us easily put four tablespoons of blue cheese dressing on our salad? That’s almost 300 calories and 32 grams of fat, just from the dressing!

Make it colorful
When choosing foods from the salad bar try to aim for 4- 5 different colors. This will ensure you will get a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants:

Red: Contains lycopene and anthocyanins, both antioxidants. Lycopene can be found in tomatoes and watermelon and may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Anthocyanins in red cabbage, strawberries, raspberries, and other red fruits and vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. These antioxidants are linked with keeping our hearts healthy, too. Good food choices: tomatoes, beets, red peppers, radishes, strawberries and watermelon. Sorry, but bacon bits cannot be counted in this color group!

Orange: Choose carrots and orange peppers as these foods are high in Vitamin C and carotenoids.

Yellow: Try some summer squash in your salad for an added dose of Vitamin C.

Dark Green: Pick dark leafy greens like romaine or spinach instead of pale iceberg lettuce.  Romaine and spinach are both high in Vitamin A and folate and spinach is also high in fiber and Vitamin C. Add some fresh broccoli to your salad for some extra crunch and additional Vitamin C, fiber and potassium.

Continue reading "Salad bars: Savvy selections" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 10:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

February 23, 2011

Calcium and Vitamin D: Fortifying bone health

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Ellen Loreck (pictured) weighs in on bone health.   

Is Vitamin D the wonder vitamin? Is it the cure all for cancer, heart disease and the flu? The verdict from the scientific community is not in yet. What is known is that the combination of Vitamin D and calcium play an important role in bone health and other body functions. Below are some frequently asked questions. For more information, visit the National Institutes of Health fact sheets on calcium and Vitamin D.

How can calcium and Vitamin D improve my health?

Calcium is a mineral. Your body needs it to maintain strong bones, to carry out nerve and muscle functions, and to release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in you body.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that enhances calcium absorption, which, in turn, improves bone health and plays an important role in most body processes. In addition, Vitamin D is needed for proper nerve and muscle function, and for your immune system to work at its best. You can get Vitamin D from food or your body can make Vitamin D from sunlight.

Over the long-term, if you don’t get enough calcium and Vitamin D, you can increase your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

How much do I need?


The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for everyone 19-50 years of age is 1,000 milligrams (mg)/day. Women ages 51-70 need 1,200 mg/day, and everyone 71 years and older needs 1,200 mg daily. As we get older, our body has a harder time absorbing calcium.

Vitamin D

The Institute of Medicine recently updated Vitamin D recommendations after an expert panel completed an extensive review of studies. Adults in the 19-70 year age range should strive for 600 International Units (IUs) of Vitamin D per day. Everyone who is 71 years and older needs at least 800 IUs. If you want to know your blood level of Vitamin D, ask your doctor if a test is right for you.

Continue reading "Calcium and Vitamin D: Fortifying bone health" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

February 22, 2011

Events for National Eating Disorder Week

National Eating Disorder week started Sunday, so this is a little late, but thought it'd still be good to let people know that the The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt will be holding free events, including free and confidential eating disorder screenings all week long.

All of the events are free, but pre-registration is recommended to reserve a space. To find a listing of events, check out the center's website.

Posted by Anica Butler at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

February 16, 2011

Vitamins: Who needs them?

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Amanda Tauber weighs in on vitamins.  

Minerals, vitamins and supplements are a huge market in the United States. With nearly 50 percent of all Americans regularly taking a vitamin each day, it is a business worth over $3 billion, according to the General Conference Nutrition Council. A vitamin is defined as "any of a group of organic substances essential in small quantities for normal metabolism, found in minute amounts in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced synthetically; deficiencies of vitamins produce specific disorders." But what if you get enough nutrients from the food you eat? Do you still need to take a vitamin?

For a person who eats a well-balanced diet, a multi-vitamin may not be necessary since you are receiving all of your nutrients from your food. However, the average American diet is high in protein and fat sources, but tends to be lower in fruit and vegetable sources and thus has overall lower nutritional quality since many key nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables. Other instances where a multi-vitamin may be necessary are during pregnancy, in someone who has chronic poor appetite leading to decreased food consumption, and/or when certain food groups are restricted or eliminated.

Continue reading "Vitamins: Who needs them? " »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

February 9, 2011

Dark chocolate: It's sweet for your health

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. This week, nutritionist Christine Dobmeier (pictured) weighs in on dark chocolate.

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, chocolate candy is everywhere we look, in many shapes and forms (of course hearts!). While many of us think of chocolate as an unhealthy indulgence, research is showing that dark chocolate actually has many benefits. Chocolate’s healthy kick stems from its rich flavonol content. The health bonuses associated with dark chocolate and cocoa include enhanced blood flow, healthy cholesterol levels and in some studies, reduced blood pressure.

What is a flavonol? Though it sounds like some kind of wacky flavor, it is actually a type of flavonoid. A flavonoid is something that helps protect plants by repairing damage from environmental toxins. Flavonoids occur naturally in plant-based foods and offer certain health benefits when people consume them. There are more than 4,000 various flavonoid compounds, and flavonol is the specific one found in chocolate and cocoa.

When we think of antioxidants and flavonoids, foods that often come to mind include green tea, red wine and berries. The good news on cocoa and chocolate? Just two tablespoons of natural cocoa has more antioxidant properties than four cups of green tea, one cup of blueberries or six ounces of red wine. One cup of cranberries has 419 milligrams of flavonols, and only 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate has 517 milligrams. There isn’t an official recommended daily allowance for flavonols, but research indicates there are health benefits with intakes from approximately 150-200 milligrams a day.

Why dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate? Typically dark chocolate is less refined, which allows its flavonol content to be higher. Most commercial chocolate is more processed, which decreases this healthy benefit. The good news is many chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavonol content higher to promote the healthy side of chocolate. When choosing chocolate for your sweetheart, look for a dark chocolate, and still remember that portion size is important. The serving recommendation to get the heart healthy benefit of dark chocolate isn’t yet established, but it’s thought that an ounce of dark chocolate 2-3 times a week is a good goal.

While dark chocolate is more heart-healthy, try to limit chocolate in forms such as cake, where it may have much additional saturated and trans fats, as well as items with a lot of extra caramel or marshmallow fillings. Instead, look for basic, rich dark chocolate or ways to mix dark chocolate with a variety of other anti-oxidant rich foods. Consider dipping cranberries or blueberries in dark chocolate for a healthy but delicious treat. Cocoa dusted almonds also make an excellent snack.

Enjoy a healthy dose of dark chocolate for Valentine’s Day, as well as to celebrate American Heart Month in February.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:31 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

February 4, 2011


VitaminWater has come under attack again.

The National Consumers League has fired off a letter to the Federal Trade Commission complaining about "deceptive advertising" and writing that one of the VitaminWater ads implies that drinking the beverage can so strengthen your immune system that a flu shot's unnecessary. It claims ads for the product are misleading, and it wants the government to put an end to the ads touting health benefits that it says aren't proven.

VitaminWater says its contents are right on the label for anyone to see.

Take that as a reminder to read labels. On this one, you'll see that a whole bottle has some vitamins as promised, but also 125 calories. And it's easy to gulp down a whole bottle when you're exercising and thirsty. Me, I drink water at the gym, and then when I'm back home and unwinding, have a cup of nice hot tea, which is after all, mostly water.

Last month, the Brits' agency that regulates advertising said the drink has too much sugar in it to be marketed as nutritious, and over here, consumer groups have whined about the beverage, mostly because of the sugar.

To read about the NCL complaint, click here

Posted by Andrea Siegel at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)

February 2, 2011

Food and the aging brain

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Deb Schulze (pictured) RD, LDN, weighs in on diet and fitness for seniors.   

Right now, there are about 77 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., which accounts for approximately 29 percent of our population. Sociologists define Baby Boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964. Regardless, one thing for sure is that none of us is getting any younger. Correcting dietary deficiencies may pay rewards later in life and now is the time to get started.

According to scientists, certain nutrients and chemical compounds are essential to human brain function. Recent and promising research presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease suggests lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and alcohol consumption can help prevent or slow the mental decline associated with aging.

Go for the Deep Colors

“Vitamins and minerals in plant foods provide protective antioxidants” says James Joseph, who heads the Neuroscience Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. “But fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains contain thousands of other types of compounds that contribute significantly to the overall dietary intake of antioxidants.” However, not all fruits and vegetables are created equal. To help pick the best with respect to antioxidant activity, Guohua Cao and Richard Cutler developed a procedure called the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay. ORAC can serve as a guide for which foods to include in your diet. The ORAC rankings show blueberries with the highest rating followed by black plums, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet cherries, avocado, navel oranges, and red grapes to name a few.

ORAC scores are showing up in charts and on some food and beverage packages and may be helpful in choosing foods to include in your diet. If you are unsure and do not have a ORAC score, “let color be your guide” since many foods that have a good deal of color are also very high in antioxidant activity.

Eat the rainbow, but don’t forget about the health benefits of less colorful white onions and garlic. Aim for 5 to 9 servings daily of fruits and vegetables, as well as high fiber whole grains.

Continue reading "Food and the aging brain" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

January 26, 2011

How much protein do you need?

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP, weighs in on protein intake.  

Do you really need a protein shake with 50 grams of protein per serving and that claims to help add 10 lbs of muscle in two weeks? Is eating that much protein really going to help with muscle growth?

Eating excess protein above your energy needs without including extensive strength training activities will only increase your calorie intake and lead to fat gain, not muscle. Americans consume more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for adults of 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight. For example, a 200 pound male needs 73 grams of protein per day, which can easily be achieved by eating the amount of protein in 3 chicken breasts without consuming any other source of protein throughout the day including: beans, eggs, milk products, nuts, grains, soy products, and lean meats/fish.

Protein intake does play a role in maximizing skeletal muscle adaptive response after exercise. Individuals who are endurance athletes or who regularly perform strength training activities require more protein.

In addition to protein, carbohydrates are important for resistance training to provide energy for muscle contraction. Consumption of carbohydrates spares using the amino acids from protein for energy and utilizes them for repairing and building muscle. It is important to eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet rather than focus on protein as a specific means to gain muscle mass.

Here are some tips compiled from American Dietetic Association, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook and Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group:

 1. Be realistic about weight gain goals and set a time frame to achieve results

2. Include 300-500 calories above usual calorie intake by increasing snacks or portion sizes

3. Aim to eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day

4. Consider consulting a professional to analyze your body composition to ensure that weight gain is muscle rather than fat

5. Muscle growth = extra calories + strength training

6. Try to consume your protein intake from whole foods rather than relying on protein supplements or powders

7. Aim for a high carbohydrate snack with 10-20 grams of protein before or after strength training, such as a turkey sandwich and a cup of low fat milk

8. The recommended protein intake per day for an individuals participating in strength training is 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day, which is 82- 166 grams of protein per days or 3 chicken breasts, 2 cups of skim milk, and 3 eggs without another source of protein

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

January 21, 2011

Deals on vegan plans

Groupon is offering a pretty good deal on vegan plans today: $49 for a $249 vegan nutrition plan.

I have mixed feelings on this.

Continue reading "Deals on vegan plans" »

Posted by Patrick Maynard at 11:43 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Nutrition

January 19, 2011

Diet 101: From Weight Watchers to Biggest Loser

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas (pictured) weighs in on diets. 

Want to go on a diet? Join the club. This is a club that really wants YOU! Just like college, all you need is motivation and cash. First, consult your doctor before starting any weight loss program. You’ll need to make diet decisions based on your goals and what you can live with. Many diet plans overlap, so you get more bang for your buck. Any diet can work short-term and most diets are safe for most people. To reach sustainable weight loss goals, however, can take months or even years. Consider if the diet omits whole food groups, if support services are included and if it’s got scientific evidence behind it. Many options exist: phone applications, online tools, live support, groups, clinics, programs, books and even camps. If your high school weight is your ideal, then hunker down and get ready to study: Here we school you on what’s out there.

Tried and true

These diets have real science, actual medical personnel and years of success behind them. They include the Mediterranean Diet, the Harvard University Healthy Eating Pyramid and book “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” by Willett, YOU: On a Diet, the American Heart Association No Fad Diet, and the Mayo Clinic Diet. Or meet with a registered dietitian and create your own plan: or your local hospital. These plans tend to be long-term and health-promoting.

Portion or Calorie Control

Not a bad way to lose it: fewer calories in equals lower weight on the scale. These weight-loss plans don’t omit foods or food groups. They follow the 1/2 to 2 pounds per week goal, often ideal for long-term loss maintenance. Many of these diets contain nutritious foods and focus on lifestyle or behavior change. Best Bets: Weight Watchers ( includes a new (high fiber) points plan, online support and tools, and a phone app; The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan (; Duke University diet (; Volumetrics (; and the book “Eat, Drink and Weigh Less.” All of these may be effective for both short and long-term loss. Other, less-scientific and more general options, include the: No-S Diet:; Carb Lovers Diet:; Best Life Diet (by Bob Greene aka Oprah’s dude:; Full Plate Diet:; Flat Belly Diet:;  Spark (includes lots of online support:; Biggest Loser Diet (from the “Hit TV Show!” with videos, online tools and phone apps; Eat This, Not That series:; The Skinny book; and The Fast Food Diet.  These can work, but use caution.

Food Combining & Hormone Control
Some of these diets explain away about 25,000 years of human evolution or turn your dinner into a science experiment, but they can work. Most eliminate or restrict food groups, focus on “balancing” hormones or suppressing appetite. These diets include: Master Your Metabolism:; and all the books that come with their very own websites (just add dotcom): This is Why You’re FatSouth Beach Diet; Zone Diet; Fat Resistance Diet; Sugarbusters; Glucose Revolution Book; Metabolic Diet; Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type; and the online Fat Loss 4 Idiots.  Many have found success with these plans in the short run.
Behavior Change
It’s not that hand-to-mouth issue that’s making you fat, but your lack of motivation. Change your brain or move your body and the pounds will fall off. That’s the consensus for this group of diets. There are 12-step programs (Overeaters Anonymous), exercise plans (, Fit Over 40, Turbulence Training, 30 Day Method and Body for Life), and Therapies (Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Loss Solution, Beck Diet, Naturally Thin, LEARN Program for Weight Control, Mindless Eating and Small Changes/Big Results). Some of the lessons here are valid, but be ready for long-term lifestyle changes. If you like religion with your veggies, consider the Hallelujah diet. Or consider the Imagined Eating theory, where you just pretend to eat.

Continue reading "Diet 101: From Weight Watchers to Biggest Loser" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Nutrition

January 13, 2011

What to eat before you work out

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP, weighs in on what to eat before you start a workout. 

It’s time to workout and keep your New Year’s resolution. Maybe you’ve just finished a long day at the office or are fitting in a lunch workout. You are starving and have no idea what to eat before working out or if you should eat at all.

Personal trainers, fitness magazines and websites have different opinions on what is the best pre-workout meal. Your personal trainer may suggest eating protein to build muscle, but your marathon runner friend may tell you to eat carbohydrates for energy. Other people think that working out on an empty stomach is the best way to burn fat stores; however, this approach will only be successful if you are working out at a low intensity, such as walking, for less than 30 minutes. If you are planning to perform high-intensity aerobic activity or weight train for more than 45 minutes, you may consider eating a high carbohydrate, low fat, low fiber meal with some protein.

All these opinions can be confusing, so I gathered some tips from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Continue reading "What to eat before you work out" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

January 6, 2011

A closer look at fad diets

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on fad diets.

Are your jeans just a little tighter after eating a few too many elegant holiday cookies, savory stuffing or rich eggnog? Or, are you a lifetime member of the “Need to Lose 50 or More Pounds Club?” Either way, if you want to slim down, you most likely will turn to a “diet book” for your weight loss advice. That’s when the confusion sets in. There is a dizzying array of fad diets to peruse. Which ones should you choose? Which ones are safe? Each month, we will break down some of these diets to help you make an informed decision. This month we look at the Atkins, South Beach and Cabbage Soup diets.

The Atkins and South Beach are both diets that restrict carbohydrates. Most foods contain carbs, either simple or complex, which your body breaks down and uses for fuel. The Atkins diet severely restricts refined sugar, milk, flour, and rice but allows you to eat any fat or animal products (protein). The theory behind the Atkins diet is that your body will burn fat, as opposed to carbs (your body’s preferred source), as fuel, encouraging weight loss. The first two weeks of the diet almost completely bans all fruit and bread products, supposedly to jumpstart the weight loss process. Slowly, high fiber foods are allowed back into your daily meals in the forms of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Banned for life are white potatoes, white rice, anything made with white flour (think bagels and cookies) and pasta. The Atkins diet induces weight loss because total calorie intake is lower, but the long-term safety of this diet is still in question. Short-term side effects may include constipation and foul breath, but long-term use could also promote heart disease due to increased intake of saturated and trans fats (the bad fats).

The South Beach Diet differs slightly from the Atkins diet by promoting healthy fats (unsaturated) rather than unhealthy ones, and suggests choosing carbs that have a lower glycemic index: foods that don’t cause your blood sugar to rise and fall sharply. There are three phases to the diet. The first two weeks almost all carbs are banned (just as with the Atkins diet), but low-fat or non-fat dairy is allowed. The second phase reintroduces certain foods such as pasta, fruit and certain high glycemic index vegetables (think carrots) but portion sizes are strictly enforced. The final phase begins once your target weight is reached. The South Beach diet initially induces weight loss but it most likely is water weight. However, the final phase strictly enforces portion control, doesn’t leave out any food groups and promotes exercise – a winning combination for weight loss and maintenance.

The Cabbage Soup diet is designed as a short-term weight loss plan and it guarantees you will lose 10 pounds. It is meant to last only 7 days but the diet is very restrictive as to which foods can be eaten on certain days. This is a low calorie but high fiber diet which can cause bloating or gas and doesn’t teach healthy habits. The weight lost will be mostly water weight and will return once normal eating is resumed. Taking a multivitamin during the week is a must since this diet is dangerously low in calories and nutrients.

Overall, any diet that promotes fewer calories in or more calories out (burned by exercise or increased physical activity), should induce weight loss. Deciding which diet to choose is difficult and there are so many options. Discuss your weight loss plans with your health care team and get the okay for any new exercise programs.

To find a registered dietitian in your area, contact the American Dietetic Association at or call one of the area hospitals.

Posted by Kim Walker at 8:39 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Nutrition

January 4, 2011

Do you get post-holiday sniffles?

Nearly every time, it's the same: We make it through the holidays just fine, only to have everything come crashing down in a haze-headed, sneeze-ridden mess right after January 1.

I know I'm not alone here. For the first couple of years after moving to Maryland, I thought it was just seasonal allergies, but lately, I'm not so sure.

Continue reading "Do you get post-holiday sniffles?" »

Posted by Patrick Maynard at 2:32 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

December 29, 2010

All about sweeteners


Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Amanda Tauber weighs in on avoiding sweeteners. 

Non nutritive sweeteners (sweeteners that do not provide any nutrition) are consumed on a regular basis in the United States. In fact, the American Dietetic Association reports that “up to 9 in 10 consumers in the United States buy or use low-calorie products, including sugar-free and reduced-fat foods and beverages.” Open up your cabinet and refrigerator and take a look for your own food purchases. Chances are, something in your house contains non nutritive sweeteners used to reduce the calories in that food product.

Whether it’s to help manage your blood sugars, reduce your risk for cavities, or just to cut down on calories, non nutritive sweeteners can be an easy way to reduce your sugar consumption. Below is some more information on sweeteners available in the U.S.

Neotame was approved by the FDA as safe for human use in 2002 and is 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than white sugar. It can be used in baking since it's not greatly impacted by heat and has a taste described as a “clean, sweet taste without bitter, metallic, or off flavors.” Neotame is being tested for its taste in beverages, gum, candy, frozen deserts, beverages, and for basic use as a tabletop sweetener.

Aspartame aka Nutrasweet or Equal is 160-220 times sweeter than sugar with the U.S. leading the world in consumption of this sweetener. Most aspartame is seen in diet drinks, but some is also found in pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Aspartame is not a good sweetener to bake with because it isn't capable of withstanding high temperatures and loses some of its sweet taste. Aspartame also contains the amino acid phenylalanine and should thus be avoided by people with an inborn error of metabolism called PKU, or phenylketonuria. That's why both Nutrasweet and Equal are labeled with “Phenylketonurics: Contains phenylalanine.”

Stevia is the sweetening agent in Truvia, one of the newest sweeteners on the market that is being found in many food products as well as a great way to sweeten your coffee or fruit. Truvia comes from the Stevia plant which is subtropical plant found in Paraguay and Brazil. Stevia is said to be 250-300 times sweeter than sugar.

Saccharin is most commonly known as Sweet and Low. It can be found in drinks and foods, used as a sugar substitute, and also used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. At one point, the FDA had labeled it a hazardous chemical because it was believed that it was capable of causing cancer. This decision was overturned at the beginning of the decade after further studies were released. More recently, the EPA removed the sweetener from its list of hazardous substances.

Acesulfame-K (Sunett, Sweet One) has been on the market for a number of years and has found success sweetening nearly everything. Since it's so sweet, very little needs to be added to foods to produce a sweet taste. It is not affected by heat and can therefore be used in baking.

Sucralose is one of the most popular sweeteners on the market and goes by the name of Splenda. But why is this sweetener so popular? It has a chemical structure very similar to that of sugar, therefore has more of real sugar's characteristics, but happens to be 600 times sweeter. Like Stevia, Splenda can be used in nearly everything and is a great substitute for regular sugar. 

Overall, non nutritive sweeteners can be a great addition to an all-around healthful lifestyle. Like any food, enjoy sweeteners in moderation and balanced with other healthful food choices.

Getty Images file  photo 

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

December 24, 2010

Fitness Expo

Mark your 2011 calendar:

The Severna Park Community Center, a not-for-profit, no-membership center, is having a free fitness fair Jan. 8. The center is still lining up vendors from around the region, Anne Arundel Medical Center is working with the center on this, and a schedule of classes, demonstrations and seminars is being finalized. The program includes fitness and exercise, health and wellness.

This is the second year of the Fitness in the Park Expo. Last year, more than 250 people came. This is a good way to sample different exercises without making a commitment and to check out new things on the market. Classes and programs at the expo include not only the ones that operate at the center, but those offered elsewhere in the area. Events for kids, adults, seniors -- they are all part of this. That might give you some good ideas and motivation for the new year. More info will be on the center's website as the 8th approaches.

The center also is home to a free exercise class on Monday nights. The idea is to get you started, whatever your level. Show up with your towel and bottle of water.

For the center's website, click here.

And if your organization has upcoming fitness events, tell us.

Posted by Andrea Siegel at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)

December 22, 2010

Navigating your salt choices

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on salt intake.

Salt is one of the world’s most common additives and has also been a precious commodity for centuries. It was used for food preservation as well as an offering in ancient Egyptians tombs. These days salt is found everywhere and can be hidden in a list of ingredients. For most Americans too much is consumed daily and can cause quite a few health problems, most notability high blood pressure. But for some extreme athletes higher salt intake is needed.

On the shelves at grocery stores or specialty markets you might see more than one choice; table salt, fleur de sel, sea salt, Kosher salt and salt substitutes (Mrs. Dash, No Salt, etc.). How do you know which one to choose? Just know that all of the different types of salt will provide the same amount of sodium, the cause of health issues. The only exception will be your salt substitutes since they are manufactured for people who have high blood pressure or heart disease. Some people like to state that sea salt is “natural” and a “healthier alternative” but just know it will cause the same effects as regular table salt. Even the fancy pink, grey and finishing salts are all basically the same; they just have a different flavor depending on where they were harvested from.

Some sources of salt can be hard to find if you don’t know the scientific language used on food labels. Monosodium glutamate, sodium chloride, monosodium chloride are all sources of salt. It can be found in soy sauce, baked goods, cheese and canned goods. Beware of the choices you make daily. Choose lower salt or no salt varieties when offered, especially with canned goods. Or, if you are able, prepare your own foods. This allows you to control the amount of salt added to recipes. Avoid placing the salt shaker on the dinner table, for some the temptation is too strong to resist.

Continue reading "Navigating your salt choices" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 9:59 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

December 15, 2010

How to commit to an exercise plan

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Rachel Ernzen (pictured), weighs in on beginning an exercise regime.

With all the extra calories and added stress of the December holidays, does losing weight and exercising top your New Year’s resolution list every year? If you’re like most people, chances are you won’t be able to keep up with your resolution past June.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans emphasize that all adults should avoid inactivity. Research has shown that some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.

The American Heart Association encourages at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, or 30 minutes, five days a week. Other benefits of regular exercise include improved immune function and mental clarity, better sleep, and strong bones and muscles.

Most people can and should exercise. However, there are those with injuries and unstable medical conditions who should check with their doctor before starting a fitness program.

Here are some tips to help you overcome the odds and turn a difficult resolution into reality.

Choose your attitude How do you view exercise? If the words “time consuming” or “boring” come to mind, try putting a positive spin on your outlook. Physical activity can boost energy, dissolve stress and release tension.

Find an environment that feels approachable for exercise. Explore early-morning mall walking, off-peak hours at the gym, exercise DVDs or fitness video games you can participate in at home.

Continue reading "How to commit to an exercise plan" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 7:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Nutrition

December 8, 2010

Avoiding holiday weight gain at social gatherings

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Sara Wittenberg (pictured) weighs in on holiday weight gain.

This time of year you are not only surrounded by joy and merriment, but food — and lots of it. From gingerbread lattes to eggnog, holiday parties with candy bowls, cookies, cakes, pies, hors d’oeuvres, turkey, ham, and bubbly drinks, the list could go on and on. All of these food and beverages combined with multiple servings may lead to holiday weight gain.

Here is an idea of how holiday munchies add up: 2 chocolate covered strawberries, 3 pigs in a blanket, 1 sugar cookie, several fresh veggies w/ 2 tablespoons of dip, just 2 crackers with 1 ounce of cheese, one 4-ounce glass of eggnog, and one 4-ounce glass of champagne adds up to 1,125 calories; and that’s just the beginning of the night. With the New Year right around the corner, get a jump start on that constant looming resolution to lose weight by avoiding the holiday weight gain. Here are some tips how:

Don’t skip out on exercise. Even if you can only squeeze in 20 minutes to your busy schedule, that is still better than nothing. Try to incorporate activity in other ways too: Park farther from the mall to get more of a walk in, or take the stairs wherever you can.

Never go to a party hungry. This can lead to eating more than you expected or wanted. Eat a small snack with fiber and a bit of protein before hand: for example, apples with low fat string cheese.

Bring a healthy dish to a party. That way you know for sure you have something healthy to nibble on while you socialize.

Continue reading "Avoiding holiday weight gain at social gatherings" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

December 1, 2010

Tips to curb mindless eating

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Faith Hicks (pictured) weighs in on mindless eating.

To honor the Thanksgiving food frenzy, I read a book titled "Mindless Eating" by Brian Wansink. The author has dedicated much of his career creating various eating scenarios to figure out what cues in our environment cause us to overeat. Here are some of Wansink’s tips to help keep our splurging tendencies in check:

Small dishes

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to use smaller plates to help curb how much you eat. However, did you know that serving from a smaller serving bowl might keep you from overeating? Another helpful hint is to dish up your food in the kitchen instead of at the table. You may be less likely to have that second helping of mashed potatoes if you have to walk farther to get it! Consider replacing your drinking glasses with tall, thin ones. You will pour a smaller serving into a taller glass than a short one.

Danger: Food + TV

Watching TV can be a doubly dangerous situation for eating quite a few more chips than you realize. Those vivid, saliva-eliciting food and restaurant ads can prompt a craving for something to munch on when you really are not that hungry. When you focus your attention on a TV show and you happen to be snacking, your brain is not registering the satiety from the snack, causing you to overindulge. Try putting your snack in a bowl, sitting at the table and enjoying it without other distractions.

Continue reading "Tips to curb mindless eating" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

November 24, 2010

Beat the bloat: Thanksgiving tips

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas (pictured) weighs in on holiday bloat.

Uncomfortably full, unable to lie down, stuffed — do these terms describe your Thanksgiving evening? Here are some defense maneuvers to avoid that post-meal bloat.

Bloat sources Gastrointestinal issues, sodium, certain foods and overeating can all contribute to indigestion, gas and swelling. Shop smart, plan, limit portions and be aware of the pitfalls that can stuff you like a turkey.

Good grocery Peruse food labels and read ingredient lists. Check if your turkey is pre-salted. Avoid foods with greater than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving. Choose bread and crackers with fewer than 100 milligrams of sodium per serving. Beware of cheeses, smoked fish, dips, salsa, gravies, dressing, condiments (soy sauce, ketchup) and sauces. Smoked, cured, brined and pre-salted items (bacon, ham, fish, pickles, olives), canned foods (meat, fish, soup, vegetables), boxed foods (pasta, rice, soup, meals), deli and store-made items are all high-salt. Make your own, find reduced-sodium or salt-free versions, or limit your intake. Try unsalted bread crumbs and butter, salt-free tortilla chips or nuts, and low-sodium hummus and vegetable juice in place of their originals. Make your own salt-free pie crust.

Unshake One teaspoon of salt has 2,400 milligrams of sodium. That should be most people’s max for the day. Those with heart conditions, kidney disease, diabetes or elevated blood pressure should aim for 1,500 milligrams or less of sodium daily. At the table, try pepper, herbs and salt-free spices instead of the salt shaker. Hidden sources of naturally occurring sodium include milk (100-150 milligrams per 8 ounces), baking soda (1,000 milligrams per teaspoon), seafood (shrimp: 190 milligrams per 3-ounce serving) and medications (ask your pharmacist or doctor). Desserts can also pack in the sodium: more than 420 milligrams per 2-ounce croissant and more than 300 milligrams per 5-ounce slice of apple, pecan or pumpkin pie.

Pre-feast Get a good nights’ sleep. Lack of zzz’s can raise certain hormone levels, making you hungrier during the day. Don’t skip meals the day before or that morning: Rebound eating at the holiday can result in overconsumption and bloat. Have a game plan for the Big Meal. Map out favorite food items to eat first, sip water or calorie-free beverages to start, choose fiber-rich vegetables and fruits as appetizers, and limit starchy items at dinner to save room for dessert.

Continue reading "Beat the bloat: Thanksgiving tips" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

How long do you have to be on the treadmill to burn off Thanksgiving dinner?

Last weekend I went to my Saturday morning spin class. Our instructor, Sandy, worked us particularly hard and there was a lot of huffing and puffing and a bit of whining. She said she was trying to build a calorie deficit for us in anticipation of Thursday, perhaps the biggest eating day of the year. It got me thinking, how many calories do I need to compensate for if I eat a typical Thanksgiving meal? Let’s assume the average Turkey Day dinner is about 3,000 calories. Here’s how long you will need to exercise to burn off those calories:

Continue reading "How long do you have to be on the treadmill to burn off Thanksgiving dinner?" »

Posted by Leeann Adams at 6:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Nutrition

November 17, 2010

Keeping it light on Thanksgiving

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, Karen Kolowski weighs in on holiday eating.

It’s the time of the year where sensible eating takes a vacation and unwanted pounds start to appear. Instead, you can plan a healthier Thanksgiving dinner. These tips can help guide you through the day without guilt.

Start your day right Thanksgiving morning, don’t skip breakfast thinking that you won’t “fill up” for the impending feast. Make sure you have a sensible breakfast that keeps you satisfied to thwart the cravings to sneak a taste while cooking. Some options: oatmeal made with skim milk and topped with fruit (frozen works well); an egg with whole wheat toast; or peanut butter and bananas on whole wheat toast. Be sure you make a choice with whole grain (oats, whole wheat breads) and some protein (meat, cheese, nuts and eggs). This combo will let you feel fuller for longer.

Keep it moving Most people in the United States gain at least a pound from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, which is not much, but most keep it on throughout the year. Try starting a new tradition by going for a morning run or brisk walk, which helps create a caloric deficit. After your family meal, fight the temptation to stretch out on the couch and watch football. Instead, play a family game of football outside. By teaching your kids good habits at an early age, you help them appreciate a healthy lifestyle.

Continue reading "Keeping it light on Thanksgiving" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

November 15, 2010

'Tis the season for eating

Last week I blogged about a Turkey Trot race you can run in Baltimore to earn your Thanksgiving Dinner.

But those who aren't planning to run, but who still worry about their caloric intake, especially over the holiday season, might want to check out this lecture at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt on Nov. 21. Author Evelyn Tribole will talk "about societal myths surrounding dieting and weight gain, and will give useful tips on how people can establish a healthy relationship with food," according to the center. 

Here's more:

As part of its annual fall community awareness event, The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt is pleased to present national nutrition expert and author, Evelyn Tribole. During her talk entitled "Intuitive Eating: Making Peace with Food," Tribole will educate attendees on the key principles involved in intuitive eating for individuals looking to strengthen or re-establish a healthy and peaceful relationship with food. ... Tribole's presentation will be informative, empowering and very timely given its close proximity to the holiday season, during which cultural pressures around food and dieting often intensify. After her talk, Tribole will take questions from the audience and participate in a book signing. Copies of her book will be available for purchase.

More information is available here. 

Posted by Anica Butler at 10:45 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition

November 9, 2010

Food safety is essential to holiday preparations

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas (pictured) weighs in on food safety.

Thanksgiving can be a both a stressful and joyful time. Don’t let food-borne illness make things worse. Food-borne illness can happen to anyone. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping or worse. Many foods can harbor dangerous bacteria, which can grow quickly at room temperature. Here’s how to avoid spending Black Friday in the bathroom or emergency room.

Plan Order your turkey in advance from a local farm or farmers’ market. Buy frozen turkey a few days ahead to allow thaw-time in the refrigerator, or get it earlier and keep it frozen. Raw foods must be kept at the correct temperatures to inhibit bacterial growth. That means 0 degrees for the freezer and less than 40 degrees for the refrigerator. Thaw turkey on a tray in the fridge, so juices don’t leak onto other foods. For fresh turkey that arrives more than four days before the holiday, consider brining, smoking or freezing it. Four days is the max for raw turkey in the refrigerator, so keep that in mind when buying.

Chill out Keep that turkey cold. The danger zone for maximum bacterial growth is between 40 and 140 degrees, so aim to keep all foods out of this zone. Frozen turkey thawing should occur either inside the refrigerator, in a cold-water sink bath or in the microwave. Allow time for this process; the larger the bird, the longer the thaw. Fridge thawing can take up to five days, and cold-water sink bathing can take up to 12 hours. And if you plan to nuke that bird, make sure it fits in your microwave. For frozen pre-stuffed turkey, keep it in the freezer and don’t thaw before roasting.

Continue reading "Food safety is essential to holiday preparations" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition

November 2, 2010

How to have a nutritious and sustainable Thanksgiving

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Mindy Athas (pictured) weighs in on the benefits of eating green.

Sustainable is about eating in season with foods grown naturally and raised humanely, ideally within a 100-mile radius of your home.  Health benefits come with choosing locally-grown, in-season foods. Without the need for long transportation, fruits and veggies can be eaten just-picked, at the peak of ripeness, ensuring freshness and maximum nutritional value. Organic, pesticide-free produce may also be higher in antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals and protect the body's cells from oxidative stress, assisting in disease prevention. Buying from a local farm also fosters a relationship between consumers and their food.  See

Some Earth-friendly tips when planning your Thanksgiving meal this year:

Go Local
Hit the farmers' market and order a fresh Thanksgiving turkey. Ask how the turkeys are raised: do they spend their days in pasture or only have "access" for a few minutes?  While there, fill your reusable bags with ripe seasonal fruits and veggies. Local foods are fresher, seasonal, delicious, and help to support the nearby farms.  You get to meet the person who grew your food and have a relationship with them.  Local foods also travel shorter distances from farm to plate, helping the environment too.  For a listing of Md. turkey farms see and for farmers' markets, see  

Be Green
Choose an organic, pastured, or free-range bird.  You can even have it delivered to your front door, fresh and unfrozen from places like South Mountain Creamery.  If you can't do the 20-pound pastured turkey, then go with the 10-pounder and add another entrée to the table.  Pastured and free-range birds may look and taste different from that Butterball you grew up with. Based on what it ate (bugs and grass), and the environment it lived in (amount of rain and sun), each bird will be unique. These Heritage, Heirloom or Standard turkeys may be higher in healthy conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids, and many are hormone and antibiotic-free. CLA has shown anti-cancer properties in animal studies, and also acts as an antioxidant. Potential benefits of more omega-3-rich foods include lowering inflammation and decreasing risks for chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.  Omega-3 fatty acids may also improve immune function and support the brain.  See

Animals raised locally can be bought post-slaughter, preservative-free and unfrozen. Free-range, pasture-raised and grass-fed animals will have higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids in their flesh (and milk and eggs), due to grazing in fields, eating a variety of grasses, green plants, worms and bugs. Commercially and factory-raised animals may be deficient in these nutrients due to their controlled environments and diets. Primarily corn-fed animals also tend to be higher in saturated fat. Factory-raised animals may also be routinely fed antibiotics and hormones. See

Continue reading "How to have a nutritious and sustainable Thanksgiving" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

October 26, 2010

Navigating the cereal aisle

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? E-mail This week, nutritionist Christine Dobmeier (pictured) weighs in on reducing cereal choices.

Navigating the grocery store’s cereal aisle in search of good choices has never been so tough. The options are endless. Here are some tips to make your selection a bit easier.

Head straight for the nutrition label While the labels on the front of the box might grab your attention, the side of the box printed with nutrition facts is where you can become truly informed.

Focus on low fat, high fiber Select a cereal with fewer than 3 grams of total fat (fewer than 2 saturated, no trans fats); and at least 3 grams of fiber. Ideally, it’s best for a cereal to contain at least 5 grams of fiber, and less than 5 grams of added sugar. With some of the higher fiber choices (5-10 grams per serving), the sugar content does tend to increase for added taste. Even though such cereals are excellent sources of fiber, try to limit the ones that have more than 10 grams of sugar.

Pay attention to portion sizes Portions for cereals can range from 1/2 cup to 11/2 cups, so this is important to consider when comparing cereals. Be sure to measure out your next bowl of cereal to see how much you are eating. With bowl sizes being bigger than ever, many of us, unknowingly, eat 2 cups of cereal as our serving.

Continue reading "Navigating the cereal aisle " »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Nutrition

October 19, 2010

Tricks to avoid calorie-heavy treats on Halloween

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Amanda Tauber weighs in on avoiding Halloween pitfalls.

Halloween is one of those holidays where eating too many sweets is common. From the 200 Tootsie Pops to the 50 Snickers bars you and your children will collect, it's easy to see how the extra pounds and cavities can develop. Below are some tips to set you up for a healthier (but just as fun) Halloween season.

Eat ahead of time. Having a dinner or snack rich in complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and unsaturated fats can cut down on post holiday candy consumption. Some great options include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a glass of milk, whole grain pasta with vegetables and grilled/baked chicken, or tuna salad in whole wheat wraps.

Think small. Buy a little bucket for trick-or-treating. Lugging around a giant tub is not only impractical, but holds more candy that will likely get eaten. A smaller tub will save you the backache of having to carry it around and means less candy. Buy mini or "fun size" candy if possible. Buying smaller pieces can lead to eating less candy overall, plus most prepackaged bags of candy contain miniature or fun sizes.

Give it away. After a few days, bring in extra candy to work, parties, or other social gatherings. If this isn't an option, consider throwing some of the candy out. Many places also accept donations of unwrapped candy.

Continue reading "Tricks to avoid calorie-heavy treats on Halloween" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition

October 12, 2010

Nutrition plays a key role in keeping your pace during a race

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP, weighs in on what to eat before, during and after the Baltimore Running Festival.

The Baltimore Running Festival kicks off Sunday Saturday with a marathon, half marathon, relay race, 5K and kids' race. Nutrition plays a key role in optimizing performance on race day. It is critical to track how you hydrate, fuel and recover as you train to perform your best, especially if you are running the marathon.

In the days prior to the race, make sure you keep your tank full. One of the most important eating habits of a person training for a marathon is to eat balanced meals containing grains, protein, fruit/vegetables and a small amount of fat every three to four hours in the weeks before the race. Hydration, adequate nutrition before and during the race day, and a recovery meal are essential to performing your best on race day.

The following tips will help you prepare as the marathon and half marathon approach.

Hydrate, Morning, Noon, and Night

Drink only plain water if exercising less than 60 minutes per day 

Use sports drinks (containing water, carbohydrate, and sodium) only if exercising more than 60 minutes

Drink 2 cups of water 1-2 hours before your run

Drink 6-12 oz of water every 15-20 minutes during your run

Weigh yourself before and after a run and drink 2-3 cups of water for every pound lost 

After a long run or race, continue to drink fluids until urine is almost clear 

Carry a water bottle with you everywhere 

Monitor for signs of dehydration while you train, such as thirst, weakness, dizziness, lack of coordination, muscle cramps and nausea/vomiting

Dinner before the Race

Limit alcohol, sodium and caffeine

Aim for drinking 2 cups of water per hour

Try a high carbohydrate dinner to spare muscle glycogen

Avoid high fiber and high fat foods since they are harder to digest

Choose foods that are low fat and low fiber

Some examples of dinner foods could include pasta with a tomato-based sauce, rice and vegetable stir-fry with a small amount of lean meat, grilled vegetable sandwich or sushi rolls.

Continue reading "Nutrition plays a key role in keeping your pace during a race " »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore Running Festival, Nutrition

October 5, 2010

Are your lunches as healthy as your child's?

Each week the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a post on nutrition topics. Have nutrition questions or ideas for future topics? Email This week, Karen Kolowski, RD, CNSD, LDN, weighs in on healthy lunches.

As you start to plan healthy school lunches for your children, let those good habits carry over into your own workday lunch. If you do a little planning, there won't be any scrambling to make lunch  in the morning.

Get Creative

How can you plan a winning lunch that won't end up being tossed for the donut tray in the snack room? First, start with making selections from at least three different food groups. Choices include: fruits, vegetables, dairy, (whole) grains, meats, beans, fish and nuts. Then play with the appearance, orange rings rather than slices, carrot circles instead of plain sticks or melon balls ... get creative and have fun!

Fun Finger Foods

Fun finger foods are favorites as well as classics with a twist. Mini carrots, baby corn and sugar snap peas are more fun when packed with hummus. Fruit cut up into cubes with yogurt can be a sweet dessert for any time of the year. Making "sushi" will make you the hit of the lunch table. Avocado, almond butter or cucumber rolled up in whole-wheat tortilla cut into bite sized pieces will be gobbled up. Hard-boiled eggs, grape tomatoes and blueberries are quick mouth poppers and smile makers as well. Think mini, such as muffins (homemade with the children's help) and bagels.

Don't Lose it: Use it

Don't forget about leftovers and hot meals. Buying a stylish yet sturdy thermos can help you eat healthy and warm meals throughout the cold months. Soup with whole wheat crackers or chili with a baggie full of low-fat cheddar cheese can both be winners. It's best if the soup is homemade, possibly from weekend leftovers, since it is usually lower in salt. Pre-packaged individual soups not only create more waste with a bigger carbon footprint, but usually have more salt content than homemade soup. You can also use your favorite dinner meal warmed up and stored in a thermos to make sure the food does not go in the trash.

Continue reading "Are your lunches as healthy as your child's?" »

Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Nutrition
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Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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