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Shereen Lehman, MS

Nutrition Blog


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Three Nutrition Lies We Tell Ourselves

Wednesday May 14, 2014
Rachel Gurevich, our Infertility Expert at About.com suggested I make a list of lies we tell ourselves about eating -- basically how we stretch the truth about certain beneficial foods to justify our over-indulgences, even when we have the best of intentions. Here are three that I can think of:
  1. If a little olive oil is good, a lot is better, so you can eat more.

    Olive oil is good for your heart because it's rich in monounsaturated fatty acids called oleic acids. When you replace some of your saturated fat intake with monounsaturated fats, you're doing your heart a favor. But here's what makes it tricky. First, you need to reduce some of those saturated fats, not just pour the olive oil on top of your regular saturated fat intake (if it's high). Also, all fats are high in calories, coming in at 9 calories per gram, so consuming a lot of olive oil can add too many calories, which leads to weight gain. Which can be bad for your heart when you become obese.

  2. Chocolate is a health food, so you can eat more.

    Cocoa contains polyphenols that could have health benefits. The problem is that we rarely consume plain cocoa (although I'm waiting for a shipping of ground cocoa beans as I write this). Chocolate is a combination of cocoa, sugar and fat, usually a tropical fat, that melts at body temperature so we get that fabulous mouth feel as it melts in the mouth. So, while the sugar and fat make chocolate delicious, they pretty much overtake any heart-health benefit.

  3. Frozen yogurt is better than ice cream, so you can eat more.

    Yogurt is good for you because it's low in fat and an excellent source of calcium, protein and probiotics that help keep your digestive system healthy. Frozen yogurt is probably better than regular ice cream because it's so low in fat, but it still has lots of sugar, so you still need to watch your serving size. It might not have as much of the beneficial bacteria either. The best way to enjoy yogurt is to stick with plain yogurt and add some berries or maybe a little honey.

You may notice I didn't include any of the controversial stuff about artificial sweeteners or fad diet ideas because one side's lie is always the other side's truth. Any more food lies we tell to ourselves?

Tiny Tastes -- Helping Picky Eaters

Saturday May 3, 2014
Parents can often help picky eaters by offering small tastes of new foods. The key is to offer the foods over and over and over until your kid gets used to it. It takes at least ten tries before most picky eaters will start to like new foods.

I already knew this, but knowing something doesn't always make it easier -- I really didn't have any new ideas for helping parents deal with their picky kids. Then a couple of months ago I found out about Tiny Tastes.

Tiny Tastes is a tasting game -- kids try teeny tiny bites of foods they don't normally like and they get stickers when they eat the foods. the pack comes with instructions, a chart and stickers. I think Tiny Tastes can help a lot of parents -- and they also have research evidence using the game -- which is something I also like.

Each kit sells for 5.99 (about $10.00), plus shipping.

Obesity - What Was the Tipping Point?

Friday May 2, 2014
Right now in the US, about one-third of the population is obese. This wasn't the case 30 years ago. Sometime between then and now, we changed the way we eat. So what happened?

We know why so many people are obese. Too much food, with lots of calories, over-processed with lots of sugar and unhealthy fats. And lack of physical activity is also takes part of the blame.

But why did this happen? What was the tipping point that turned us into a bunch of chubby lemmings ready to plummet off the cliff into an abyss of obesity-related chronic disease? And more important now -- what is the tipping point that will get us back to a healthy weight?

Think about a typical day, How many people ...

... start the day with sugary cereals, maybe some frozen things that heat up in the toaster? Maybe just grab a cup of coffee or a bottle of Mountain Dew and a donut? Eeww. What a way to start the day.

... eat too much at work? Vending machines offer fattening snacks, and it is easy to eat a candy bar or snack cake with your morning coffee. What about lunch? Off to the closest fast food joint for artery-clogging burgers and fries.

... give up on dinner? It's been a long day at work and now it is time to make dinner for the family. Ugh. Maybe just stop for take-out, grab a bucket of fried chicken or order a big pizza. After dinner it is time to veg out in front of the HDTV where we are barraged with ads for snacks, sodas and more fast foods. Off to the kitchen for a bag of Doritos anyone?

What else has changed over the last thirty-something years? When I was a kid we filled the car's tank at a gas station. Now we stop for gas at a convenience store and while there, we fill our own tanks with some of the worst junk foods. It's just too easy to step inside for a donut, a slice of pizza or a giant soda for the ride.

Portion sizes have increased too. We drink soda in 20-ounce bottles instead of 12-ounce cans, restaurant portions are huge and I think a lot of people have just gotten used to eating more food at each meal.

What about physical activity? When I was kid in the 70's, we had physical education in school every day. That isn't the case anymore. Plus more kids play video and computer games in the house, instead of going outside.

Maybe we aren't as active at home either. Thirty years ago, we didn't have remote controls for our TVs so we had to get up and walk across the room to turn the dial. And we didn't have a cell phone in our pocket -- we had to run to answer the phone in the other room. But did those little bits of activity make much of a difference in our calorie burning back in the day? Maybe, if you add them up over time. Something certainly was different - it wasn't common to belong to a health club and we didn't have VCRs yet -- Buns of Steel and other exercise tapes were a long way off.

I Love Smoothies

Friday May 2, 2014
I think fruit and protein smoothies are an awesome way to get good nutrition. There are so many varieties of fruit and protein smoothies that you can have a different smoothie every day and not get tired of them.

Make a simple smoothie by putting a banana, some berries, a little yogurt and milk in a blender and blend until it's smooth. Or you can dress up your smoothie with exotic fruits like mango, and add a protein boost with protein powder. If you love your chocolate, you can add cocoa powder or use chocolate flavored protein powder.

If you've never tried to make your own smoothie, start with a basic recipe and once you have the idea, you can experiment with any fruits, yogurt, protein powders, antioxidant powders and even peanut butter.

Here are some ideas and tips for delicious and healthy smoothies that I've found on About.com:

If you're really into smoothies, you might want to buy a heavy duty blender, especially if you like adding frozen fruits or ice cubs -- many standard blenders leave big pieces of ice in your smoothie.

Mangos All Year Long

Friday May 2, 2014
I received a box of fresh mangos from the National Mango Board, along with a few notes on how to use mangos all year long. I like mangos, but I usually just eat them as they are or buy mango juice, so I'm looking forward to trying some of the Mango Board's ideas, especially the Mango, Pineapple And Raspberry Yogurt Snack Cup. There's a recipe for Turkey Burger and Mango Pita Melt there as well, and now I'm wondering how mango would taste with a veggie burger. Anyway, take a look at the Mango Board's lengthy list of recipes to learn more ways to enjoy mango.

Mangos are more than delicious, they're also good for you. They're full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, plus they're high in fiber. Oh, but what if you're shopping for mangos and not quite sure how to choose the perfect mango? It's easy -- give it a little squeeze. A ripe mango should be slightly soft like a ripe peach or avocado.

Mango Recipes on About.com

Super Seeds

Thursday May 1, 2014
Flax Seeds

Flax seeds contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). They also have lignans, which are phytochemicals that might help restore hormonal balance. You can buy whole flax seeds, milled flax seeds or just buy the oil (which doesn't have the fiber). The whole flax seeds keep fresh the longest and you can grind a spoonful or two of seeds easily in a coffee grinder. Store flax seeds and flax seed oil in your refrigerator.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are put on a lot of superfoods lists because they're high in fiber and, like flax seeds, they contain omega-3 fatty acids. They may help you lose weight or improver your heart health, but we don't know for sure because there isn't enough research yet. You can find chia seeds in health food stores and they're probably be in regular grocery stores sooner or later.


Quinoa is another seed that makes most superfoods lists. It's a seed that's high in protein and fiber. It tastes really good too, as long as the seeds are rinsed thoroughly. Quinoa is available in many grocery stores. It's used like rice for pilafs or you can cook some up, let it cool and use it in salads.

Andean Lupine (Chocho)

Andean lupine may be the next superfood super seed, but like chia, there isn't much research yet. It's a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. You may not find it in your local grocery store, but you can order it online.

Ten Things That Aren't in My Shopping Cart (and Shouldn't Be in Yours)

Monday March 24, 2014
I might be sort of weird because I actually like to go grocery shopping. I usually start out with a list and I may stick to it, or I may veer off of it a little bit if something good is on sale, or if there's any interesting seasonal stuff available. It isn't all nutritional perfection; chocolate or other treats might find their way into my cart. Plus, I like to buy some convenience items, like frozen fruits and vegetables or canned chickpeas and black beans, and jars of artichokes. But, there are some foods I just can't handle. Here are ten things you won't find in my shopping cart:

Fake Cheese

Yeah... I lived in Wisconsin for a good number of years and I'll indulge in the real deal, but no fake squirt-it-from-a-can cheese for me. Not only is it mostly unhealthy, it tastes nasty and looks creepy. Give me a bit of 10-year-aged chedder instead.

Pork Rinds

I mean, this is animal fat that's been deep-fried. It's deep-fried fat, with lots of sodium and probably some weird preservatives on it. I know it was technically acceptable for the original low-carb diets, but... um, yuck. No thanks. It makes bacon almost look like health food.


Spring Forward or Fall Back: Foods Can Help You Adapt

Friday March 7, 2014
The change from to Standard to Daylight Savings Time in the spring and back again n the fall can mess up your sleeping pattern. Your body will adjust, but it helps to pay closer attention to your diet. Here's what I do when the time changes.

Go easy on the caffeine. A cup of coffee or two in the morning is fine, but consuming too much caffeine later in the day may disrupt your sleep.

Don't skip breakfast. Even if you're groggy in the morning, you need to get some fuel in your body before going to work or school.

Avoid heavy foods or spicy foods, especially at night. Or any foods you know that may cause heartburn, making it difficult for you to sleep.

Don't drink too much alcohol. Over-consumption of your favorite adult beverages may cause a very restless uncomfortable night.

Eat cherries. Not only are they rich in vitamins, cherries contain melatonin, a substance also found in the human body that helps regulate sleep. Eating fresh or dried cherries before you go to bed at night may help you sleep better.

Got a nutrition question? Ask me!

Eating for January

Monday January 6, 2014
This is the time when many of us are focusing on cleaning up our diets -- usually to lose weight, but also to feel healthier and more energenic. Good January foods are low in calories but high in nutrients, and if you're in the colder latitudes, you'll probably want some dishes that are nice and warm.

It's a great time for soups and stews, with a little whole grain bread on the side (maybe time to bring out that old bread making machine?). But not any old soup will do, be sure to choose soups that are clear broth based and if you're sensitive to sodium, like me, you might want to stay away from most of those canned soups, unless you choose the ones that have reduced the sodium content.

It's easy to make your own soup. All you need is some broth, some vegetables and maybe a sprinking of salt, pepper and your favorite seasonings. Put everything in a slow-cooker, maybe add some meat for protein and let the soup simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Add a salad or a colorful vegetable side dish, some whole-grain bread and your low-calorie dinner is ready to serve.

Here are some of my favorite soup recipes and tips to get you started:

Holiday Diet Tips

Tuesday December 3, 2013
I know that people don't want to think about healthy eating all the time during the holidays. In fact, it's a time of year that gets a little quiet for us nutritionists, but I've decided to give 7 quick tips -- do one each day for a week. I'm hoping if you do just that one thing, and then the next thing the next day and so on, that you'll have a healthier holiday and your New Years resolutions won't be so daunting.

Holiday diet tip #1 is share your dessert. Basically, cutting your dessert in half cuts out half the fat, sugar and calories and hopefully minimizes the health damage it does.

Holiday diet tip #2 is to eat something at home before you go shopping. If you're hungry and you have a full day of shopping ahead of you, you might fall prey to the fast foods at the mall food court or on the ride back home. Take the time to eat a healthy meal or snack before you go. Or take something healthful, like some homemade protein bars, with you.

Holiday diet tip #3 is to drink more water. It helps you feel better after you've indulged into too many adult beverages that can leave you feeling dehydrated the next day. Water is important for normal functions, but you can mess up your fluid balance just a bit when you consume too much sodium or not enough potassium. So if you've eaten more ham and casseroles and fewer fruits and vegetables than usual, pour yourself a big glass of water.

Holiday diet tip #4 is to not skip meals. I know it sounds like a good idea -- skip a meal so you can eat more later. But that's the problem. You will eat more later, and probably a lot more.

You might think you're saving calories for later, but because you're hungry, and probably a little excited, you're going to go overboard. If you've got big plans for tonight, then be careful with what you eat today. Like I said, don't skip a meal, but make your meals low cal and nutritious. Eat more fresh fruit and green and colorful vegetables.

Holiday diet tip #5 is to bring your own dish to the party.

This doesn't work for dining at a restaurant, but it's a good one for a holiday party at a friend's home. Offer to bring a side dish and bring one of your healthy favorites. This way you can load your plate with your healthy fare and introduce to your friends and family to a delicious dish that's good for them.

Holiday diet tip #6 is for the buffet.

Rather than loading up on everything, just choose a few new foods -- preferably some things you've never tried before. It's fun and you wont waste calories on stuff you eat at every other holiday party.

Holiday diet tip #7 is to avoid sugary foods. Easier said than done if you're surrounded by cookies and cakes and other assorted goodies. But, try to cut back on the sugars today -- and the rest of the holiday season.

Sugar and Sugary Foods

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