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Contributing Expert


Contributing Experts

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD

Nutrition, Diet, Healthy Eating

3 Strategies to Overcome Cravings

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – September 27, 2013

They tend to occur about the same time each day or night. After lunch, midday or before bedtime, cravings can strike and lead to lots of unnecessary extra calories.

Controlling cravings is the secret sauce to keeping a lid on total calories. But sometimes fortifying your willpower is simply not enough to overcome cravings.

Here are my three strategies to put you in control:

  1. The ultimate control is to satisfy your cravings with exercise. Instead of reaching for that bag of chips, try distracting yourself with exercise. Research shows that 15 minutes of a brisk walk can short circuit food cravings. The payback is twofold, not only do you save the calories by not indulging in the sweet or salty snack, but you also burn calories and improve your fitness.
  2. If that craving needs to be satisfied, try satisfying it with healthier options. Crunchy, juicy foods full of water and fiber, such as fresh fruits or vegetables, are great low-calorie solutions to any craving. The crunch of fresh produce gives your mouth a workout and the fiber helps fill you up. Fruit helps satisfy sweet cravings and veggies with a low-calorie dip fill in nicely when you crave something salty.
  3. When nothing but a piece of chocolate will do, have snack size bars or portion controlled sweets on hand. Eat small portions mindfully, free of distractions, so you can enjoy it and savor every last bite. Freezing chocolate is a great way to slowly savor and extend that luscious taste.
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Tips to Make Your Diet Whole Grain Friendly

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – September 20, 2013

September is whole grain month and a good time to start weaving more whole grains into yours and your family's diet. The 2010 United States Dietary Guidelines recommend half your grains be whole grains yet only about 1 in 10 Americans consume 3 servings a day.

Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains may lower the risk of many chronic diseases. Why? Whole grains are loaded with nutrients, plant stanols and antioxidants that may help lower heart disease risk, promote weight loss and contribute much-needed fiber to the diet.

Our palates have become used to the mild taste of refined grains so it takes a little creativity and experimenting to help your family enjoy the taste of whole grains.
Here are a few tips to boost your intake of whole grains:

  • Start out with milder grains such as half whole wheat pasta and white whole wheat breads. Or blend your own mixture of half brown rice and half white rice. Foods that look and taste familiar are more likely to be accepted by children.
  • Experiment with grains such as quinoa, brown rice and barley. Cook up a batch, mix with sautéed vegetables and serve as a grain medley either hot or cold. Use remaining grain in soups or stews where it is not the main ingredient.
  • Start your day with a bowl of cholesterol-lowering oatmeal or whole grain cereal. Breakfast is one of the best opportunities to work more whole grains into your diet.
  • Snack on popcorn, whole grain granola bars or snack on ready-to-eat whole grain cereal.
  • Be label savvy. Look for the whole grain stamp or the word "whole" before the grain in the ingredient listing.
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Eating Health on a Shoestring Budget Webinar

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – September 13, 2013

We are delighted so many of you took time out of your busy schedules to join us and engage in "Eating Healthy on a Shoestring Budget" webinar. Hopefully you are now armed with lots of tips and ideas to eat healthy on a budget.

You won't want to miss my next webinar on "Meal Makeovers: Meal Planning, Shopping Lists, Storing and More?" on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 11:30 CST/12:30 ET.

Now for your questions

Dipping produce: Sometimes a dip helps people consume more fruits and vegetables which are a good thing. Use low-fat dips and eat more produce with a little dip.

Cooking techniques and vegetable water: Any cooking technique is fine except deep fat frying. When you steam or cook veggies, do it quickly and use the water in soups or stews to capture the lost nutrients.

Apps for weight loss: Many of you recommended the following apps: myfitnesspal; myfooddiary; and myplate. The benefit of using an app is to learn how many calories you are consuming each day.

Yogurts: Yogurts are super foods because they are loaded with nutrients. When choosing yogurts read labels to choose ones low in fat and sugar, but keep in mind the natural sugar (lactose) of yogurt is listed on the label but not of concern. Added sugars from flavorings and sweeteners are the sugars of concern that should be kept to a minimum. Check the ingredient list for the added sugars.

Dried fruit: It is another way to help meet your fruit recommendations but because it is dried, it is more concentrated in calories. Enjoy dried fruit but keep your portion small, if you want a larger portion, go for fresh fruit.

Cholesterol lowering plant sterols are substances that occur naturally in small amounts in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. They look like cholesterol and can prevent real cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. Manufacturers have started adding them to foods from margarine spreads, orange juice to granola bars.

Supplements: Choose a once daily for your age and sex; generic is fine. Even if your diet is healthy 80% of the time, a daily multivitamin is nutritional insurance. Remember, it is a pill to supplement your diet, not take the place of eating healthy. Supplements can be a problem when you exceed the recommended limits so proceed carefully if you take separate supplements.

Canned vs. dry beans: Both are great options. Canned beans are more convenient because they don't require long cooking. Choose low-sodium canned beans and rinse them thoroughly to reduce sodium.

Organic produce: This is a personal issue. If you are concerned about pesticides, choosing organic is the best option. Eating plenty of produce is more important than how it is grown.

Juicing: Blending fruits and vegetables in a juicer or blender does not reduce the nutrients but it does reduce the fiber a little. Blenders that allow you to consume the pulp and entire fruit or vegetable retain the most fiber.

Calories and portion sizes: is a great resource to track your diet, learn how many calories you need as well as proper portion sizes to plan your diet.

Fresh vs. frozen fruits and vegetables: Fresh is best, especially in season and when grown locally. Frozen is next best, and don't worry the freezing does not leach nutrients. Choose fruits and vegetables without any added ingredients.

Peeling produce: Peeling produce reduces the amount of fiber in edible peels but does not reduce the nutritional content of the flesh.

Improve insulin resistance: The best way to improve insulin resistance is to achieve a healthy weight and eat a diet high in fiber. Eating regular balanced meals (smart carbs plus fiber and/or protein) may also help regulate blood sugar.

Diet watcher's power foods: Yes, super foods and power foods are similar and among the healthiest and most filling foods. Power foods are chock full of nutrients and fiber while low in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium.

Cod liver oil: This oil is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D. It is a nutritional supplement derived from liver of cod fish.

Grains: Yes, we do need grains. In fact about half of your calories should come from carbs – grains, fruits, veggies and dairy. The preferred forms are minimally processed and fortified with nutrients. Eating too many refined grains is the problem which can lead to weight gain.

Wheatgrass: There is no scientific evidence that indicates wheat grass cures or prevents disease. Like other leafy greens, wheat grass does contain nutrients and antioxidants, making it a healthy addition to a balanced diet.

You can find my past webinars, weekly blogs, articles and videos.

UHC Television is another way to get your questions answered. Go to www.UHC.TV and click on "expert alley" to send me your questions or review my answers to a wide variety of food and nutrition related issues.

Recipes: Four Quick Meal recipes I discussed during the webinar. Looking for more healthy recipes? Check out our collection here:

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Bad Habits that Sabotage Weight Loss

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – September 6, 2013

Experts say your habits are tied to your environment more than you know. Breaking just a few bad habits can help you whittle your waistline.

Bad habit #1: Mindless eating. When you eat with distractions such as checking your phone, watching television or reading, you don't know when you are full and often fall into eating amnesia. Skip the routine distractions, sit down at a table, eat slowly, taste your food, savor the deliciousness and get in touch with the feeling of fullness. Eating slowly will give you more time to recognize when you are comfortably full.

Bad habit #2: Kitchen temptations. Studies show you are three times more likely to grab the first thing you see when you open the pantry or refrigerator. Ditch the calorie-laden foods, replace them with better-for-you options placed front and center so you are more likely to make healthier choices. Stash the treat or high calories foods in opaque containers toward the back of the shelves. Stock your kitchen with healthy options purchased in individual or normal sized containers, not jumbo bulk-sized containers that encourage larger portions.

Bad habit #3: Portion distortion. The average size of a dinner plate has increased over the years and naturally so has the amount of food on the plate. Use a 10-inch plate instead of a 12-in plate and you may cut up to 22 percent fewer calories. Using dainty dishware helps make smaller portions look normal. We eat with our eyes so trick your brain by switching to smaller glasses, plates and utensils.

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Snack Smart and Lose Weight

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – August 30, 2013

Some people avoid snacks altogether for fear of weight gain. But not all snacks are created equal and it all depends on the snack.

Choose the right snacks and they can actually help you lose weight. Healthy snacks can leave you feeling full and satisfied and ultimately may reduce the amount of food you eat at later meals and overall in the course of the day. Research presented at the recent Institute of Food Technologists meeting in Chicago suggests that controlling appetite with certain snacks wards off hunger and can help dieters slash calories.

Most of the snacks Americans eat are loaded with fat, sugar, salt and calories, which contribute to the obesity epidemic. Whereas if you eat snacks that are high in fiber and protein, the feelings of satiety can make you eat less at the next meal and even throughout the day. They can even help keep your hand out of the cookie jar.
Instead of avoiding snacks, just be selective about the type and amount of snacks you choose if you are trying to slim down. After all, who doesn't want to shed a few pounds?

Best high protein, high fiber snacks:

  • Peanuts, almost any type of nuts or beans
  • High fiber and protein cereal, cereal, granola or energy bars
  • Fresh fruits or vegetables paired with a source of protein like peanut butter, Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, bean dip, hummus, lean meat or fish
  • Popcorn
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Confused About Fruit, Fructose and Sugar?

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – August 23, 2013

Make no mistake about it; eating fruit is one of the pillars of a healthy diet along with vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, seafood, nuts and legumes. Fruit is good for you. It contains carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. And, it's low in calories and has no fat or cholesterol. Unfortunately most Americans don't meet the recommended 1-2 cups per day and maybe it's because they are confused.

Somewhere along the way, fruit has been maligned because of its sugar content. Yes, fruit does contain the naturally occurring sugar called fructose. These sugars are not the ones to be concerned about. They make eating healthy a pleasure.

Added sugars in the form of sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, molasses, agave and others are the ones most people need to pay attention to in their diets. Added sugars provide sweetness and extra calories without the nutritional goodness you get from fruit.

Whole fruit is best because it has all the nutrients plus fiber which fills you up, helps keeps you regular and may lower cholesterol levels. One hundred percent fruit juice is another nutritious option but needs to be limited because it is easy to overdo. Kids can drink a lot of juice because it tastes so good but it can be at the expense of other nutritious foods and beverages such as milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting 100% juice to 4-6 ounces for kids 1-6 years old and 8-12 ounces for kids 7 years old.

Frozen and canned fruit without added sugars are also healthy options, but limit sweetened fruits and juice drinks.

Satisfy your sweet tooth and fill up on whole fruit and let it squeeze out some of the less nutritious foods in your diet. If you want to cut back on added sugars, read labels and search for sugar terminology in the list of ingredients on packages.

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Scared of Seafood?

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – August 16, 2013

By now everyone has heard the ringing endorsement of eating more seafood. Rich in essential vitamins, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids, fish is nutritious and good for your heart.

But some people stay clear of fish because they don't know how to prepare it or they worry about the food safety.

The benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks of enjoying cooked fish in the US. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association recommends two, 3-5 ounce servings each week of fatty fish – rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Cooking Fish
Fish is quick and easy to prepare. Popular techniques include poaching, grilling, steaming and microwaving. The delicate flesh and subtle flavors of fish don't require fancy preparation to be delicious. Keep it simple. Salmon and most fish can be quickly marinated in citrus juices or teriyaki sauce. Fish cooks quickly and it is important not to overcook it. Be adventurous and give it a chance.

Fish Safety
When bigger fish are involved, there is greater concern about potential levels of mercury. Studies show that mercury can affect the developing brain of breast feeding newborns and in-utero during the third trimester. Large fish of concern include shark, tile, swordfish and king mackerel which may carry contamination and should be avoided by pregnant, nursing women and anyone with a compromised immune system. Raw fish should also be avoided by these groups.

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Lose Weight by Eating More Protein at Breakfast

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – August 9, 2013

You've heard it before – eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Breakfast may indeed be the most important meal of the day especially if it contains protein. It breaks-the-fast, provides fuel, sets the stage for a healthy nutrient intake and wards off chronic diseases.

But not all breakfasts are created equally. A cup of coffee and a donut won't cut it. Starting your day with a meal that includes ample high-quality protein like dairy, eggs, lean meat, nuts, beans or seafood is the secret to gaining health benefits.

Diets rich in high-quality protein have the potential to preserve muscle mass, reduce fat storage, regulate energy, promote feelings of fullness and enhance weight control. Enjoying adequate protein in the morning breaks the overnight fast and sets the stage for sustained energy levels.

Studies show protein at breakfast stabilizes blood sugar and can lead to more fat-burning.

Protein at breakfast can have lasting benefits. A recent study showed that eating a protein-rich breakfast reduced unhealthy evening snacking of high-fat and/or high-sugar foods and had a greater impact on controlling appetite control and controls food cravings throughout the day.

Power up your breakfast by complementing your smart carbs (high in fiber and low in sugar) with about two servings of protein rich foods such as:

  • Eggs
  • Egg whites
  • Low-fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or milk
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Lean meat, poultry or seafood
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Bring on the Berries

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – August 2, 2013

Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are at their peak of freshness and nutritional goodness during the summer months. And what better way to satisfy your sweet tooth and watch your waistline than with the naturally sweet taste of delicious berries. 

Not only are berries scrumptious, but they are also considered a nutritional powerhouse.

Research has shown that diets rich in berries provide a wealth of health benefits.  Berries are often referred to as super foods because they are rich in nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants, low in calories and high in fiber.

The sky is the limit when it comes to using berries in your menus.  Eat them by the handful or toss fresh or frozen berries on salads, yogurt, ice cream, cereal, pancakes and waffles or baked in crisps, cobblers, pies, cakes and desserts.  Smoothies and cold soups are a wonderful way to blend berries into yummy beverages.

Fresh berries are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal or snack adding flavor and nutrition.

Find healthy recipes with berries.

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Tips to Keep Your Picnic and BBQ Safe

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – July 26, 2013

Everyone loves alfresco dining and outdoor picnics and barbeques with family and friends. But when the temperatures soar, so do the chances for foodborne bacteria to thrive.

To make sure everyone has fun and to keep your food safe, follow these simple tips:

  • Fill your cooler with cold food from the refrigerator and ice packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Pack it tightly to keep it cold and store it in a shady spot. Try not to go in and out of the cooler until you are ready to eat.
  • Pack a second cooler with drinks.
  • Be sure to wrap raw meat securely and place at the bottom of the cooler to prevent any juices from contaminating other foods. Meats, poultry and seafood can be packed frozen to keep colder longer.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or moist hand wipes for cleaning your hands in case there is no sink for washing your hands.
  • Once you serve the food, do not let it sit out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F. When food is left out too long, bacteria can multiply and lead to foodborne illness. If it is left out too long, throw it out to be on the safe side.
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Summer Weight Loss Wonders

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – July 19, 2013

You don't need to starve yourself this summer to look better in your swimsuit. The secret to weight loss is to choose healthy foods and take in fewer calories than you burn. And nothing is easier during summertime when heavy, high-calorie dishes are less appealing. The best foods for weight loss in summer are light, refreshing while keeping you out of the hot kitchen.

Start by loading up on nature's bounty when produce is at its peak. Delicious fruits and vegetables abound at farmers' markets, in your back yard and local grocery stores. Besides being low in calories, produce is loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. When you choose fruits and vegetables you can enjoy and forget about portion control because it is hard to do much damage with these super-nutritious foods.

Here are some of my favorite summer weight loss foods that keep you hydrated, fill you up but won't fill you out:

  • Chilled Soups
  • Melons and berries
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Salads – all kinds including green, veggie, whole grain medleys and bean
  • Low- and non-calorie beverages – smoothies, sparkling water
  • Fruit-based desserts – frozen grapes or bananas, grilled peaches with frozen yogurt
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Nutrition is the New Wonder Drug Webinar

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – July 12, 2013

We are delighted so many of you took time out of your busy schedules to join us and engage in "Nutrition is the New Wonder Drug" webinar. Hopefully you were inspired to make changes in your diet and lifestyle to gain a wealth of anti-aging health benefits.

You won't want to miss my next webinar on "Eating Healthy on a Shoestring Budget" on Tuesday, Sept. 10th at 11:30 CST/12:30 EST.

Now for your questions –
Lots of questions about supplements – Choose a once daily for your age and sex, generic is fine. Remember it is a pill to supplement your diet, not to take the place of eating healthy. Supplements should not cause constipation, if so, discontinue use and try another or add more fiber and water to your diet. Supplements can be a problem when you exceed the recommended limits so go carefully if you take separate supplements.

Canned vs Dry Beans – Both are great options. Canned beans are more convenient because they don't require long cooking. Choose low sodium canned beans and rinse them thoroughly to reduce sodium.

Avocados, Olives and Coconuts – These are nutritious foods but they also contain fat. Avocados and olives contain healthy fats whereas coconuts contain the less healthy saturated fats. Enjoy healthy fats in moderation because the calories add up quickly, even if they are good for you.

Best Cancer Preventing Foods – John Farquhar, MD at Stanford Prevention Research Center recommends 5 foods with strong anti-cancer agents: soy protein (breast), onions, broccoli (colorectal), tomatoes (prostate) and blueberries (age-related cell).

Sleeping on Your Side – It is better to sleep on your back if you want to minimize facial wrinkles, according to beauty experts.

Colon Cleansing – Your body is equipped with its own internal organs designed to rid toxins from the body; therefore colon cleanses, detox diets and other such products are not necessary.

Pesticides in Fruit This is a personal issue. If you are concerned about pesticides, choosing organic is the best option. Eating plenty of produce is more important than how it is grown.

B12 Foods – Animal products are the best sources. These foods include snapper, calf's liver,  venison, shrimp, scallops, and salmon. Within the plant world, sources include kelp, algae, yeast, and tempeh, miso, or tofu – although these are not as good as animal sources.

Counting Calories vs Eating Healthy – Both are great ways to lose weight but I prefer the eating healthy approach with a mindful eye on portion sizes. Focusing on eating healthy is much easier to sustain long term than counting calories.

Wild or Farmed Fatty Fish – The AHA recommends 2 servings/week of fatty fish like salmon because it is rich in cardio protective omega 3 fatty acids. They do not specify wild or farmed because the benefits of eating fish are more important than where it comes from.

Calculate BMI Go to NHLBI site to calculate your body mass index. Healthy BMIs are less than 25.

High Fiber Foods and Beans can cause gas but if you slowly introduce them into your diet or use a product like 'beano' you will tolerate them better. The more you eat high fiber foods and beans, your body adapts and the flatulence is reduced. Drink plenty of water, start out slow, and eat with other foods.

Best nuts All nuts, including peanuts, provide a good source of protein, fiber and other nutrients. Almonds, for example, are great source of vitamin E whereas walnuts provide the plant version of omega 3 fatty acids. Eat a variety and remember to keep a lid on the portion size. Peanut butter is another healthy option, free of trans fats.

Juicing Blending fruits and vegetables in a juicer or blender does not reduce the nutrients. Blenders that allow you to consume the pulp retain more of the fiber than juicers.

Learn more from my past webinars, weekly blogs, articles and videos.

UHC TV is another way to get your questions answered. Go to www.UHC.TV and click on 'expert alley' to send me your questions or review my answers to a wide variety of food and nutrition related issues.

Looking for healthy recipes? Check out our Healthy Recipe collection.

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Learn to Love Physical Activity

Posted by Kathleen Zelman – July 5, 2013

Some people jump out of bed at the crack of dawn, lace up their sneakers and go for their workout or hit the pavement running while the rest of us hit the snooze button. It has never been easy for me to drag myself out of bed to go exercise.

But I am committed to regular exercise. My motto is to do something every day –even if it is only for 30 minutes.

My favorite form of exercise is playing tennis outdoors with my family or friends. My passion for tennis and love of the game makes it feel more like fun than drudgery.
Finding something you love is the secret to making physical activity a regular part of your life.

Consider classes, team sports, swimming, biking, hula-hooping, shooting hoops or dancing to your favorite tunes. What matters most is finding joy in your activity even if that means walking and talking with your bestie.

When tennis doesn't work in my schedule, I pop in a yoga tape or walk in my neighborhood with my husband or on the treadmill. Walking on the treadmill is my favorite way to catch up on all my recorded television programs.

The time is now to find your fitness passion. No excuses, just do it!

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