Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Breakfast: the Most Important Meal of the Day

This can’t be more true and I’ve addressed this in other entries about weight loss and maintenance.

Because the body is basically an energy burner, like a coal stove, the burn stops when the energy source (fire) stops. Never mind how much coal (i.e.-fat) is sitting in the stove. Get the picture?

Breakfast comes (duh!) from two words, cleverly put together. “Break” the “fast.” The “fast” part is when the fire goes out, while you are sleeping. To kickstart that fire (your metabolism) again, you need to add fuel in the form of a healthy breakfast. The key word is “healthy.” Not a slice of white bread with jelly. A good, solid breakfast ideally has something from at least 3 food groups. A protein, a fat and a whole grain carb will keep  you satisfied until lunchtime. Use portion control as well. Learn what a portion looks like. (I’ll review this in a subsequent post.) Add a mid-morning serving of fruit so you arrive at lunchtime hungry, but not starving. After a healthy lunch, have a id afternoon snack so you are not famished at dinnertime. A healthy afternoon snack would be a palm-sized handful of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews pr pistachios (or any other nuts), or a plain yogurt with some fresh fruit added for sweetness. Stay away from flavored yogurts which are high in sugar. Some brands are now featuring lower sugar content. Look for 10 or fewer grams of sugar per serving.

The extra bonus of eating a healthy breakfast is that yo continue to burn calories at a higher rate throughout the entire day! Skip breakfast and your body remains sluggish, stubbornly holding onto that unneeded mass.

If you are not great in the morning, prepare your breakfast the night before. Some ideas:

  • A whole wheat muffin spread with peanut or almond butter, topped with whole fruit spread, not jelly.
  • Prepare quick-cooking steel cut oats, put in the fridge and reheat in the morning (watch it warm up in the microwave so it doesn’t overflow the bowl). Better still cook the real kind – enough for a week, and reheat with a splash of water each morning. Add raisins or craisins and a tablespoon or two of nuts for a very filling and healthy breakfast.
  • Cheese and crackers. Watch portions.
  • Trail mix. Make your own with low sugar cereal, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, raisins, cashews or other nuts. Also good for a snack on the run.
  • Low fat cottage cheese, fruit and a slice of whole grain bread.

Hydrate with water, skin milk, coffee or tea or a 4-6 oz. portion of fruit juice.

A few other tips to make your meal nutrient dense (packed with goodness, not junk!)

  • Make your grains whole.
  • Read the bread labels and look for whole in the ingredient list.
  • Use fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. Canned are loaded with sodium and/or sugar.
  • Make your dairy low fat
  • Watch portion size
  • Read labels
  • Have moderate portions of healthy fats. These are easily recognized by being liquid at room temperature
  • Strive for fresh over processed. Always a better choice.

Mushroom Barley Soup

P1010325 (1)What could be better on a wintery day than a nice hearty, savory soup? I love making huge pots of soup in the winter and freezing family meal size portions to pop out of the freezer or to give to a sick friend. This one is filling enough for a meal with some bread and a salad. IF you prefer vegetarian, use vegetable broth. Enjoy!


  • 2 lbs of mushrooms. Chop one pound finely and slice the other pound into thin slices. You can use any kindof mushrooms you like. Mixing varieties makes it interesting.
  • 1 Cup of pearl barley
  • 2 Quarts of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1/2 bunch of chopped, fresh dill
  • 1 cup of sherry or other wine of your choice
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Oil to brown herbs


In a stock pot, sauté onions and garlic until just beginning to caramelize. Add chopped parsley, stir and remove from heat. Add the stock and wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any sticky onions. Add dill, salt, pepper and barley. Cover pot; bring to boil then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for one hour, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot every 10 minutes. After an hour, check the barley for doneness. If it is still hard, you can continue cooking the soup until the barley is tender.

There are many types of barley. Some take as little as 40 minutes to cook and some take 2 hours If you know how long your barley will take, adjust cooking times appropriately. You want the mushroom soup to cook for at least an hour but it can cook longer. If the barley is quicker cooking, add it later in the process.

Optional additions: chopped carrots, shopped spinach or kale to add extra goodness and nutrition.

The New Year and Resolutions: Change the Paradigm

The most common greeting this time of year is “Have a happy and healthy new year.” Is this just a knee jerk reaction to the overindulgence of the holidays or a well intentioned attempt to just pay attention to our health since we are a year older and a year closer to death?

However well-intentioned our resolutions are, they are often short-lived. Life is busy, stuff happens, you lose motivation when you lose only 2 pounds a week, etc. This doesn’t mean that there is no way to achieve a healthy weight. It just means you are either going about it the wrong way or that you have unrealistic expectations. Here are some tips to help you achieve your health goals in 2013.

1. REPEAT AFTER ME: There is no magic diet that will sustain weight loss

Even bariatric surgery doesn’t work if you don’t comply with a rigid protocol. While there are many who do well on this program, it is by their choice – not because they had a “magic” operation. Diets are temporary. Lifestyle is permanent. Change your lifestyle – change  your health.

2. Health is more than eating right. While diet is an important part of good health, so is exercise, not smoking, and getting enough sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation messes with your hunger and satiety hormones, making you crave bad foods and disconnecting the “I’m full now, stop eating” button. Exercise improves all bodily functions regulating appetite, metabolism and sending oxygen to all you cells. It also reduces stress – another trigger for poor eating (think “comfort food”). Muscles built by exercising utilize more calories than fat. Yes, if you sit on the couch after a workout, your body will burn more calories than if you stand around while unfit.

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your mother was right. Your body has been at rest for 8 or more hours since last being fueled. Your metabolism has slowed down. A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism for the whole day! That’s right! Skip breakfast and your body never revs up, keeping metabolism slow all day, to protect energy (and fat). A healthy breakfast includes a protein, a carb and some fat. Protein and fat keeps you satisfied longer so you aren’t hungry for lunch prematurely. Carbs are needed for brain and muscle  function. (Did you know that your brain lives on glucose, broken down from carbs?) Just make your carbs healthy ones – whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat, bran flakes, etc. Look at the labels to be sure the grains are whole. “Multigrain” does not mean whole. The ingredients must say “whole” to derive all the nutritious benefits of a whole grain: protein, fiber and the slow release of carbs, keeping your blood glucose from spiking.

4. Drink, drink, drink. Dehydration is more common as we age because our thirst mechanism starts to fail. Don’t rely on thirst to be sure you get enough fluid. Even a small amount of dehydration affects your ability to perform well at any task, may lower your blood pressure to unhealthy levels and make you constipated. Also important is that the need for fluids often masquerades as hunger. You reach for food when in fact you need fluid. The amount of fluid needed varies from person to person but a good rule of thumb is 8 glasses per day. All liquids count (even coffee and tea) and many foods contain fluid. Fruit contains a lot of fluid (think oranges, watermelon, etc.). BUT BEWARE. Not all drinks are created equal. Those flavored mocha latte whatevers have a high calorie and fat count. Be smart about how you get your calories. Reserve them for foods that also carry nutrients with them – not empty calories like junk foods.

5. Eat slowly. People who eat slowly consume fewer calories because they give the body a chance to register fullness. Scarfing down your food before the signal comes means you are already too stuffed.

6. When you eat out, order a takeout container when you order your meal. Putting aside half the meal before you even dig in will cause you to stop before the plate is empty.

7. Use smaller plates. Psychologically, a full plate is more appealing. Loading a large plate with a reasonable portion may make you feel less satisfied. Go ahead, fill that bread and butter plate with healthy food and you can clean it without guilt.

8. Eat more meals. Eat three modest meals each day, with a small, nutritious snack between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. You will be less likely to overeat at any meal because you won’t be as hungry. Skipping a meal has the double negative impact of making you ravenous and slowing your metabolism. Don’t skip meals to manage weight. Studies have shown time and time again, that those who eat small, frequent meals and eat breakfast, weigh less than their peers who starve and binge.

9. Read labels and record what you eat. I can’t emphasize this enough. Awareness of what you are putting into your mouth is the secret of those who lose weight successfully. We think twice before downing a handful of nuts when we know how many calories and grams of fat are in them. If we choose to eat them, and record them, we have a better handle on what we can consume the rest of the day.

10. Follow the 80/20 rule. If you are careful about what you eat 80% of the time, you can safely indulge the other 20% of the time.

Have a happy and healthy new year!


Heat and Hydration

Much of the United States is experiencing a heat wave this week, so it’s a good time to revisit the issue of hydration.

With temps in the high 90’s and humidity making it feel even hotter, it is best to limit time outdoors if possible. But when you must be exposed to the heat, it is imperative that you drink much more that you would normally. If you are working or exercising outdoors, you may need a sports drink as well. Don’t reach for the sports drinks routinely however. While they have their place, they add sugar and calories you may not need. Athletes engaging in continuous, strenuous exercise need the sugar to fuel their muscles. If you are not exercising, the sugar will just be stored as fat. Electrolytes in these drinks are needed if you are sweating profusely, as that is when you lose them. For the average person, water alone would be best.

How much? On a normal day, a good rule of thumb is 8 (women) to 12 (men) glasses. That is what we lose through perspiration, normal metabolism and elimination. On a hot day, you need more, depending on how much you sweat.

Thirst not a reliable indicator of need for water. By the time we feel thirst, we are already dehydrating. Also, the thirst mechanism fails with aging.

Be safe. Drink water throughout the day. Eat fruits and yogurt, which have high concentration of water. And only consider sports drinks when you are exercising your muscles and sweating a great deal.

Water, Water Everywhere . . . . .

It is HOT today. How hot? How about in the 90’s, but it feels over 100 degrees due to high humidity. An air quality alert is in effect as is a heat alert. “Cooling centers” are open in public spaces like libraries and senior centers, some schools, etc. Take your time shopping at the Stop and Shop, where it is always cold. We’re in for several more days of this, so listen up!

When we were little, we learned that our bodies were comprised of about 90% water. I thought, “How could that be? Wouldn’t we just fall like a shapeless heap? Bones can’t be made of water; they hold us upright.”

Well, I learned since then, the number is more like 60% (still quite a lot). Water is one of the essential nutrients, as is protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. Water is essential as it carries nutrients and wastes through the body, is needed for metabolic functions, is a solvent for water soluble vitamins and minerals, and supports the molecular structure of body cells. It lubricates and cushions the joints, regulates body temperature and maintains blood volume. Because it carries the electrolytes sodium and potassium, it is important to proper heart function. Are you listening now?

Most people are in a constant state of dehydration. We, as a nation, don’t drink enough. By the time we are thirsty, assuming the thirst mechanism is working properly, we have lost 2% of our body fluid volume. Add to that that many of our thirst mechanisms don’t function well, particularly as we age, and it can spell trouble.

Dehydration can be serious. If you lose 1-2% of body fluid, you experience thirst, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite and discomfort. At 3-4%, your physical performance is impaired, your mouth is dry, urine output is reduced (leaving more toxins in your body), your skin flushes and you experience apathy and/or agitation. At 5-6%, you can’t concentrate, may get a headache, will be irritable, and sleepy. Your respiratory rate will rise, putting strain on your cardiovascular system and your body will be unable to regulate temperature. At 7-10%, dizziness, muscle spasms, loss of balance, delirium and collapse are likely. When thirst is not motivating you to take in fluids, you can pass through these stages quickly.

Water needs vary by person, but a good rule of thumb for an average person is to take in 8-12 cups of water form all sources. Juicy fruits like watermelon provide a lot of water, vegetables have some, all drinks count, but don’t use sports drinks as they contain high doses of sugars and sodium They are best only when exercising vigorously, for an hour or more. Be sure to increase your intake when exercising, especially if it is in hot weather. Do your outdoor exercise early in the day or late in the evening to lessen the risk of dehydration.

Water is essential. As essential as air. We can’t live without it. Be aware of how much you are taking in. Don’t wait until you are thirsty as it is an unreliable indicator of need. By the time a normal person is thirsty, s/he has already lost 1-2% of body fluid. In the elderly, it is especially critical to drink on schedule, as thirst is a function that declines with age.

Respect your body’s need for water. It is the MOST essential nutrient!

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