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Associates in Nutrition and Sports Specialty

Florida and Worldwide

Nutrition Articles


Alzheimer’s Nutrition. Where do I start?

You better watch out: understanding your BMI 

Eating healthy on the go






Alzheimer’s Nutrition. Where do I start?

By: Elaine Hastings, Registered Dietitian


It’s highly likely that you know someone who has or is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease; it’s the most common type of dementia.  Four million Americans have the disease, most of which are over 65.   The loss of mental function has a direct bearing on the nutrition of the individual who has the disease.  

In early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may be able to feed himself but cannot eat in a setting that’s not familiar.  In this situation, verbal cues are important for reassurance, so that proper nutrition is maintained.   As the disease progresses, however, the issues become more serious.  Love ones may forget how to perform certain functions relevant to eating, such as how to hold silverware, how to chew, when to swallow . . . all of which can mandate the need for mealtime coaching.   In its final stages, Alzheimer’s robs our family members of the ability to swallow, and with less consumption of food, there can be, of course, a serious lack of nutrients for the body. 


Nutritionists don’t have a set plan we follow individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Certain things can be more helpful, such as incorporating finger foods, to prolong independent eating.   Therapeutic diets relevant to other chronic diseases are usually considered, because dietary intake is key:  weight loss and low body weight are predictors of morbidity.  Offering his or her favorite foods and a variety of textures and flavors decreases the likelihood of “food fatigue.”  At all times, and through all dietary challenges, the family member’s dignity must also be considered.  Without dignity, the will suffers, and willpower is key to survival.

Victims of Alzheimer’s also build intolerance to change; new routines are hard on them, as are new environments.   If your loved one has been transferred to a hospital or assisted living facility, then, is then they will especially be prone to higher frustration levels over diminishing ability to perform simple tasks.  A formerly simple act, like opening a container or carton, can create actual rage in a new setting, so mealtimes are particularly treacherous during and after a transition.  

In this situation, refusal to eat can actually be stemming from frustration over packaging or mechanics, without it being verbalized that way.  Unfortunately, 75% of those with Alzheimer’s are admitted to resident care facilities within 5 years of diagnosis, so the gauntlet of a new environment is hard to avoid.   At least be prepared by understanding that the sufferer’s abilities are environmentally impacted.  

There are a couple of nutrition-related myths surrounding Alzheimer’s.  One has been hanging on since the 1960s, when it was suspected that drinking from aluminum cans could lead to the disease.   While experts have failed to find any evidence that this is true, the resulting “fear of aluminum” spread, and people have wondered about the safety of aluminum pots and pans, antacids and even antiperspirants.  Again, no evidence has been presented which justifies these fears, although as a registered dietitian and nutritionist I would prefer you drink nearly anything other than sodas, which are nutritionally devoid and can have high sugar levels.  

The thought of diet sodas leads me to the second Alzheimer’s myth:  that Aspartame causes memory loss.   While all sorts of health concerns have come up about the artificial sweetener found in Equal and NutraSweet, the FDA’s findings – based on experiments by 100 clinical studies – find no evidence of an Alzheimer’s connection.   The subject of sugars and sweeteners is one I’ll save for another day.   

©2009 Associates in Nutrition Therapy. All Rights Reserved.


You better watch out: understanding your BMI 

By: Elaine Hastings, RD, Nutrition Expert


The holidays are gaining on us. Be careful, or the pounds will follow close behind. While you should enjoy the holiday season, keep a watchful eye on your calorie intake and weight by checking the scale. Another useful tool for tracking your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI).


Do you know if you are within a healthy weight range, overweight or even obese? Do you know how your weight measures up according to your height? BMI is a fairly good indicator of a person’s body fat based on height and weight. It also is used to assess your risk of certain weight-related health conditions.


To calculate your BMI, you will need to divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiply that by 703. The formula is: weight / (height in inches)2  x 703.

A safe range for most healthy people is between 18.5 and 25. A number below 18.5 could indicate that you are underweight or even malnourished. If your number is above 25, you may be overweight. A BMI over 30 indicates that you could be obese. This does not take into consideration different body types, including body builders who accumulate an increased weight due to muscle. Because BMI is used to calculate weight and height, someone with large muscle mass and a low percentage of body fat may have the same number as someone who is obese.  Also, it could underestimate body fat if there is a lack of muscle mass in elderly people as well.  It is good to keep in mind that this is just one factor to help measure weight. Additional factors to consider include waist circumference, physical activity, diet and lifestyle habits including smoking.


As your BMI increases, so does the risk of developing diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Along with tracking your BMI, people can measure their waist to help determine if they are overweight or obese. Those who have a waist size of more than 35 inches for women, or more than 40 inches for men, have a higher risk of developing obesity-related health problems. Other risk factors for disease include family history, diet, blood pressure, cholesterol and activity levels.


While gaining a few pounds over the holidays is common, the pounds can quickly add up. Tracking your BMI is one of several important tools to help you understand your weight and potential risk of developing disease. If your BMI is in the overweight or obese range, you should consider contacting a professional to help you. Regardless of your BMI, if you are planning to change your diet or exercise routine, you should consult a registered, licensed dietitian or your physician. For an at-home resource, you can track your healthy habits by visiting www.virtualnutritionists.com for your free personalized diet profile, including your BMI and daily caloric needs.

 ©2009 Associates in Nutrition Therapy. All Rights Reserved.


Eating healthy on the go

By: Elaine Hastings RD, LD/N

Are you always on the go?  Do you frequent the drive thru, resigned to make unhealthy eating choices?

What if I told you that some simple planning can go a long way in building healthier eating habits into a busy lifestyle? It really doesn’t have to be complicated and doesn’t require you to spend long hours preparing meals in your kitchen.  When you know that you are going to be in a car most of the day, you can pack some essentials into a cooler ahead of time, avoiding the need for that fast food fix. Select healthy snacks that will give you an energy boost during the day and prevent you from overeating at meals. A few suggestions are frozen grapes, protein bars, hard boiled eggs, orange slices, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sliced apples. For an easy lunch, pack 1 cup of yogurt, 1-2 oz low-fat string cheese, a small cucumber, 1cup of strawberries and about 40 pretzel sticks.  Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. If you drink water throughout the day instead of soda, you will cut out many empty calories.What if you forgot to pack lunch (or didn’t have time to grocery shop) and fast food is your only option? Luckily, thanks to an increasing demand from health-conscious customers, more restaurants are offering healthier choices. If you are going to a drive thru, always avoid deep-fried foods and high-calorie sauces.

Following are some better choices, which will fill you up without packing on the pounds:

Actually, all of the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A come in below the 500-calorie mark, but the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich is the lowest in calories at 270. If you ask for no sauce, you can save another 60 more calories. Just remember to skip the waffle fries and substitute the fruit cup for only 100 calories and/or the side salad with only 70 calories without the dressing. For a drink, opt water, unsweetened tea or diet lemonade, which is made with Splenda.  Eating on the go certainly can be challenging to anyone who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, it can be done with some simple planning and by making good decisions. Chick-fil-A and many other fast food restaurants provide complete nutritional information in their stores on their Web sites, so you can figure out how many calories and how much fat are in your favorite meals.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition & Sports Specialty in Florida and Worldwide. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association.   A "nutrition entrepreneur," she works contractually and is also a writer, motivational speaker, product researcher, counselor, sports-nutrition and eating disorder advocacy. 

 ©2009 Associates in Nutrition Therapy. All Rights Reserved.