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Rather than Resolutions, Establish Healthy Habits

I’m all for a new year to spark good intentions, but the group of 100+ gym members that magically appear in January and hijack my stair climber only to stand at the top and text have proven again that the majority of these resolutions only last through February. That’s good news for my quads, but rather than brainstorm overly ambitious feats, why not establish healthy, realistic habits that everyone can carry out through next Christmas?

Healthy Weight

Let’s resolve to the BMI instead of the cover of People magazine to determine what a healthy weight is.

BMI (body mass index) calculation uses weight and height to determine one’s relative risk of disease. This number correlates with body fatness, but it’s important to remember that it is not a direction measure as it reflects both muscle and fat. (Click here to calculate your BMI.)

BMI is an inexpensive, quick and easy to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems. However, it doesn’t take into account frame size, bone density, muscle mass (highly trained athletes have high BMIs due to increase muscle mass), or body fat (women have more body fat than men, also older people have more body fat than younger).

Ideal Body Weight

So the BMI is one method for determining what your risk is at your present weight. What about if you want to know what your ideal weight range is? I recommend using this method (known as the Hamwi method):

  • Men: 106lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 6lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 10” = 149-183 pounds
  • Women: 100lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 5lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 3” = 104-127 pounds

Like using the BMI, you have to consider the interpretive standards for this calculation also. If you consider yourself to have a small frame, then use the lower end of this range; whereas if you have a large frame then you would use the upper end of this range.

How do you achieve an ideal weight?

If we want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, consuming a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity is essential.

What is a Healthy Diet?

It took me 4+ years and an expensive degree to develop a confident answer to this question…but to save you time and money, let’s look at the straightforward responses of two of my favorite authors:

Five Healthy New Year's Resolutions for Men and Women

I'm a family doctor at Swedish's South Lake Union Primary Care Clinic - if you're into new year's resolutions, here are five healthy ones to try:

(Listen to the end for a 'bonus' resolution)

Healthy Holiday Drinks

As we enter the holiday season, it usually means we're running to more parties and more opportunities to indulge in tasty treats and drinks. But did you think about what exactly is in your holiday cocktails?

Dr. Lindquist from Swedish Weight Loss Services has some tips for eating at holiday gatherings.

And he offers some tips for preventing holiday weight gain:

Chef Eric has some tips for healthy holiday drinks, and you can make them yourself with the recipes below!

Spiced Nuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 Tbs water
  • ¼ cup organic cane sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown cane sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cayenne (+/- per preference)
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • 2 cups mixed raw nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275F.
  2. In large bowl, whish egg white until foamy.
  3. Add cold water, sugar, salt and spices and whisk. Add nuts and coat completely.
  4. Spread in single layer on ungreased baking pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, then use a metal spatula to lift from pan and stir.
  6. Return to oven for additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant.
  7. Remove from oven, mix again and let cool in single layer on metal wire racks.

Preparation Time: 45minutes total.
Yields: 8, 1/4 cup servings (nutrition facts is for one ¼ cup serving).

Recipe Adapted by Tarynne Mingione from Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living, 2005.

Thanksgiving Table Talk

During this time of year the talk at the dinner table is so entertaining that we remain seated for hours, dishing up more extraordinary conversations and your third “taste” of pie as the wine evaporates. But which holiday foods have the most nutritional benefits? I’ll highlight some of your favorite holiday foods so you have something to bring to the table this Thursday.

History of Thanksgiving 1.0

The important stuff was taught in elementary school, but in case your memory needs a boost: the pilgrims had a bit of a rocky start (battling crop failure and disease) following their arrival to Plymouth in December 1620. With help from Native Americans, the crop the following year was one to be celebrated. The three day celebration featured boiled pumpkins, berries, dried fruits, seafood (fish, lobster, clam), corn and venison. Fast forward 2.5 centuries. Today, you can thank the gentleman on the US penny for proclaiming Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863 (for those of you only familiar with plastic, that would be Abraham Lincoln).

Enough with the history lesson, let’s get to the next course on tastier stuff!

Traditional Foods Today

Sweet Potato (with marshmallows) Casserole

Did the Pilgrims have a successful crop of jet-puffed marshmallows in 1621? Nice try. How did these little sugar clouds end up dancing with our sweet potatoes today? I have no idea. Hate to break the news, but the marshmallow package lies - these little bullets contain no derivative of the marshmallow plant. Plant? Yes – it does exist, and was first used in confections in France in the early 19th century by sweetening and then whipping the sap of the root. It was labor intensive, so manufactures figured out a way to make it easy – adding gelatin and corn starch (solution to everyone’s problem – right?). Nutritional value? Zero.

Let’s instead focus on the antioxidant packed potatoes tucked beneath this sugary fluff. But did you know: sweet potatoes aren’t actually potatoes! They are members of the morning glory family. There are over 400 varieties of sweet potatoes – big picture is that they contain carotenes (vitamin A), vitamin C, manganese, copper, fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. Vitamin A is fat soluble, so eating it with a little healthy fat (as in organic olive oil) helps absorption. So go ahead and enjoy this dish that has snuck into the traditional lineup, just dig deep for the nutrient rich stuff on the bottom!

Turkey

Post-turkey naptime! Pardon the honesty, but it might be all the wine, plummeting blood sugar levels, fatty foods, and the 3rd serving you knew you shouldn’t go for, but yes, there is a little (as in close-to-no) chip of chemistry behind this claim. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan – the precursor for serotonin. Serotonin induces sleep. Being the foodie detective that I am, using a reputable software program I found the following:

Genuinely Sweet Cranberry Sauce Recipe

A sweet side dish with antioxidant rich cranberries and a unrefined cane sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup
  • 2 Cups Pomegranate Juice
  • Cranberries, washed and rinsed
  • ½ Cup Sucanat
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • Pinch
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • Orange zest

Directions:

  1. Bring pomegranate juice to a simmer over medium-high heat in a saucepan.
  2. Add cranberries and stir often for about 10 minutes or until cranberries first begin to pop.
  3. Add sugar, spices and salt and continue to stir for a minute more.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest.
  5. Add in toasted pecans, walnuts or currants for additional texture.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes total
Yield: 2 ¼ cups.

Original Recipe by Tarynne L. Mingione, 2011

Recipe Notes:
Sucanat is unrefined cane sugar – meaning the cane juice is extracted from the sugar cane, then dehydrated and granulated. It is less refined than white sugar and retains the mineral-rich molasses- hence its dark color and sweet taste.

Dinner before dark

Daylight Savings Time ended November 6th. Yay, you gained a whole extra hour (on a weekend!) Bummer, you have been robbed an entire hour of daylight now through December 22nd.

If you’ve already stashed your superhero cape in the attic from Halloween and have accepted that it seems impossible to serve up a healthy dinner during the week, then let me offer a few tips to see if we can make dinner before dark a reality. (Ok, lets be realistic and forgo the catchy title, and agree to sit down to dinner before (please not during) Dancing With the Stars.)

Let’s start here.

Pick the most appropriate description of your culinary expertise:

a. I think I can locate the start button on the microwave and preheat an oven.

b. “Boil, bake, sauté” – No problem!

c. I could appropriately use the following in a conversation with Padma Lakshmi: chiffonade, julienne, mirepoix, bouillon. I’m ready for something seasonal, refreshing and exciting, yet simple enough that I don’t have to bulldoze my entire evening’s schedule to prepare.

Some solutions for every expertise:

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