Associates in Nutrition is back on the Blog scene! Follow us and blog with us as we up date you on news and information to better your nutrition, fitness, wellness and sports.

Posted September 14th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Events, Exercise Tips, health, In The News, nutrition, sports, weight loss

Soon I will have a NEW wellness portal, where you can keep track of your own daily nutrition and exercise.   Keeping track of what you eat and when you exercise really helps if you have a goal, like more energy, weight loss, muscle gain, or whatever.

I will look for you there!

Elaine

Beware Nutritional Trap of Salad Dressings

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in health, nutrition, weight loss

This week, a little 411 on salad dressings (and share this with any friends in the restaurant business).

Ahhh, salad. Low calorie roughage, healthy veggies … sounds healthy. Intentions are great, but guess what? If you add “regular” salad dressing, you might as well skip the salad and just eat the burger you really wanted. Salad dressings are a real nutritional trap.

Let’s look at restaurants. A typical salad dressing ladle holds 2 ounces, or 4 tablespoons of dressing. The average restaurant uses two ladles, or eight tablespoons of dressing on your salad.

I normally recommend only 2 tablespoons of dressing, which would be one half of one ladle. Remember, a typical restaurant is giving you FOUR TIMES as much. You’ll see, by the chart below, that the low-cal or fat-free dressings make a measurable difference in how your week stacks up, nutritionally.

Keep in mind that an average woman needs to hold her daily fat intake to less than 60 grams of fat, and a man, to less than 80 grams.

    2 tablespoons of salad dressing (my recommended portion)

Ranch Regular -148 calories, 15.6 g fat (4x = over 60 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Ranch Lite (low-fat) – 80 calories, 6 g fat

Ranch Fat-Free – 48 calories, 0.3 g fat

Creamy Italian – 110 calories, 12 g fat (4x = 48 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Lite Italian – 50 calories, 5g fat

Fat-free Italian – 20 calories, 0.3 g fat

Balsamic Vinaigrette – 90 calories, 8 g fat (a better choice)

Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette – 45 calories, 3.5 g fat

Bottom line: one salad, with two ladles of dressing, once a week, can easily be the equivalent of a whole day’s worth of fat intake. Ingest a little fat at breakfast and from your other meal, and that salad dressing can take you over your daily allotment – the exact opposite of your intentions.

Instead, ask for salad dressings “on the side” and order the “low-fat” version. Then either dip your fork or salad in the dressing rather than pouring it on. You’ll save hundreds – or thousands – of fat grams in a year.

How can you guesstimate the 2-tablespoon serving size I’m recommending? The top of your thumb is equal to about 1 tablespoon. A ping-pong ball or shot glass or an Oreo cookie is about 2 tablespoons. At that quantity, even the biggest offender – regular ranch – is only one fourth or less of your daily recommended fat allotment.

Restaurants average 10 cents in cost per 2 tablespoons of regular dressing. Two ladles is thus .40 cents worth; a 2-tablespoon serving on the side would save .30 per salad (and 45 g of fat, per salad, per customer).

If, for example, 94 restaurants implemented salad dressing awareness they could save customers 38,070,000 grams of FAT and $296,100.00 in just 30 days. One restaurant has potential quarterly savings of $9,450 (and saves its customers 1,215,000 grams of fat).

I declare August, not only back to school month, but Salad Dressing Awareness month!

Summer Vacation Helps the Body; Make Yours Healthy

Summer is vacation time. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian, I advocate for all the facets of healthy lifestyles, and near the top of the list is substantial time off from the daily grind. Don’t underestimate the importance of a vacation; your body actually needs the break, no matter what your circumstances are.

Daily life hurls all sorts of small stresses at us. The hormones released during short-term stressful situations actually help us to make quick decisions and avoid trouble. But too many of those hormones can actually deteriorate the cardiovascular system.

If you’re already at risk for heart disease, or have some risk factors working against you, the last thing you want to do is stay on the stress train. Most doctors will tell you your body needs a vacation. And by this, they don’t mean hanging out at the mall near the house, with your cell phone. A complete change of scenery and routine is what’s required to help the body rejuvenate and heal.

If you’ve got a Type A person in your world, put this article in front of that person and recommend a true getaway: no office politics, no irritating neighbors, no repairs that need to be made.

Next, don’t set up yourself for added stress when you get home. One week of weight gain can take months to lose, and every time you button tight pants, you’ll feel a twinge of disappointment in yourself.
Make a commitment to having a healthy vacation. Get in the mindset that you’re leaving for health reasons, and you want to feel as good as possible upon your return.

This is not to say you can’t indulge a little bit – an occasional “cheat” day is a good idea even at home. But promising yourself true rest, some form of pleasurable exercise and relatively healthy food can really start an exciting (and beneficial) new phase of your life.

Here are some tips which will help you avoid vacation weight gain. If you’ll have access to a kitchen, take your George Foreman grill and electric skillet and go to the grocery store. You’ll save a fortune, which you can spend on activities and attractions.

In many hotels, you can request a mini fridge and microwave, even if they’re not normally in the room. During a recent Orlando conference, the Ritz-Carlton charged me next to nothing for both. So I had all the health foods and drinks with me that I wanted, and spent far less eating out.

Odds are high you’ll patronize restaurants on vacation. Commit three rules to memory and they will make a big difference in your waistline over the coming years.
1. Never, never, never get regular salad dressing. Request a low-fat dressing.
2. Always, always, always ask for the salad dressing on the side.
3. No no no fried foods; order baked, boiled, broiled or blackened. Fast food is a trap – avoid it if possible, but if not, steer clear of fried foods, cheese and fatty condiments.

If you’re staying in a hotel with free continental breakfast, stay away from the pastries, doughnuts and hash browns. Instead, choose whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits, and eggs (a good source of protein). Keep in mind you can still make oatmeal with the in-room coffee maker.

Also plan your vacation to include physical activity. If you’ll be in an urban area, check online for Ys, family parks or a family rec center. We try to plan activities within our vacation that are fun physical components, such as bike riding. Take a hike, play basketball, do a quick workout, and try something new. Even things you’re bad at (badminton, anyone?) create fun family memories while setting a healthy pattern.

Extra Protein Benefits Most; Liquid Collagen my Choice

In my last column, I explained that whey protein is often a problem for lactose-intolerant people who are using a protein supplement. It’s easy to assume that a protein supplement is beneficial for only extreme athletes such as bodybuilders, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Protein has many uses and supplementation is beneficial for a wide variety of users. They include the elderly; those with joint or degenerative diseases, or orthopedic conditions; the overweight; people who do heavy manual labor in their work, sport or hobby; those going through growth phases; people in physical rehab; men and women doing intensive training for a sport or competition; adults who work out on a regular basis; teen athletes who are trying to build muscle and strength; people taking symptomatic treatment for pain relief or inflammation; and anyone with pain resulting from excessive joint stress. Hardly anyone you know doesn’t fit onto that list somewhere.

The trick is getting that extra protein without absorbing a lot of extra calories, fillers or dairy products (as in the case of whey protein powder).

Collagen is a great way to get added protein. Did you know that collagen is the second-largest component of the human body after water? It’s a protein, and one found in muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, bones and more.

Historically, physicians have used collagen to treat skin trauma, such as burns and wounds. But collagen also affects the hair, nails and overall healthy appearance of skin, which is why you see it advertised in high-end skin care products.

As we age, our bodies stop producing collagen protein, and sadly, it’s collagen that gives our skin elasticity. So the appearance of dry, wrinkled skin is really the lack of collagen. Supplementing your diet with a natural source of collagen protein doesn’t just make you more youthful looking, however. Collagen builds lean healthy muscle – the muscle of youth – as well as healthy joints and bones. Can you think of a better supplement to give the special elders in your life?

Collagen protein also helps aid in the repair of muscle tissue. Because a good workout or physical exercise is actually breaking down the body’s muscles, collagen protein assists in the rebuilding process. Collagen makes it possible to heal faster, simultaneously building leaner muscle, following a workout. Some will even find they sleep more soundly when taking collagen protein. Sounds better all the time, doesn’t it?

You may wonder why a person can’t just eat more protein and gain the same benefits. It’s about bioavailability. Protein in food form has calories, of course, and a healthy daily diet only contains so many. The bioavailability of the protein also comes into question. By the time your body works to chew and digest the food, you’re not getting nearly as much protein as the amount you started with on your plate.

A powder form can provide extra protein without as much work for the body, but comes with the added calories of what it’s poured into. A liquid protein is your best bet. Find one that’s small in calories, and better yet, hydrolyzed – or “predigested” – which simply means that you ingest it in its smallest form, with no extra work for the body to break it down.

I encourage you to join me – and my husband and my teenage son – and add a low-cal collagen protein supplement to your diet. You could be amazed at the changes you experience. See the developing abs on the teen in the photo? That’s my son Cody, who drinks a liquid collagen protein supplement and works out regularly.

- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian, sports nutrition authority, and and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers, Florida. She can be contacted at Elaine@eatrightRD.com or by visiting Associatesin Nutrition.com.

Eliminate Triggers to Manage Migraine Headaches

Migraines are the tsunamis of headaches. Commonly described as “the worst headaches ever,” migraines can be managed, to a degree, with nutrition, but their cause is still being studied.

Fat-laden diets, medications, skipped meals, extremes in food temperatures and consuming large quantities of headache-risky foods have all been known to trigger migraines. Unfortunately, so have bright lights, weather, smoke, stress, menstruation, estrogen levels and physical activity.

Migraines are a painful puzzle three times more likely to affect women, and they run in families. If you know you’re susceptible, you may have learned that trigger foods can be more dangerous when combined with other triggers, and a headache can result hours or even days after a trigger food is ingested. You might do well to keep a food diary for a month, and look for your own patterns.

In the meantime, let’s look at what foods lessen the likelihood of an onset of a migraine, as well as what to ingest should you fall prey. Most experts agree on the triggers, so you’ve got a good starting point for migraine management. Picture migraines as the bull, intent on hurting you. A few specific foods can act as red capes, egging him to roar toward you with mal intent.

The first suspect is chocolate. Chocolate contains the nonessential amino acid tyramine, which also makes the list. Tyramine is thought to trigger headaches because it reduces serotonin levels in the brain, which affects blood vessel dilation. Because women crave chocolate during menstruation and hormonal changes, it is doubly suspect.

Chocolate is also intimately connected to stress, another trigger. Property values, visiting relatives, work deadlines and teens with attitudes can have us all reaching for a big slab of Hershey’s finest. Rethink this if you suffer from migraines, at least on a three-month trial basis.

Tyramine is produced when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down. Aging, fermenting or storing foods increases their tyramine levels. So aged cheese, cured meats, sauerkraut, fermented soy products and yeast all contain tyramine.

What you might never guess is where tyramine also hides: in fava beans, lentils, avocados, citrus, overripe bananas, nuts, peanut butter, seeds, pork and venison, bouillon cubes, canned soups and meat tenderizers.

Scientists thought that red wine was a trigger because of its tyramine levels, but now they suspect phytochemicals called phenols act as the trigger in vino rosso. Because alcoholic beverages of all kinds can trigger an attack, they add fuel to the serotonin-depletion argument.

Remembering that serotonin is called the happy hormone may inspire you to avoid things which deplete it, or at least consider doing them in moderation. Consuming large quantities of trigger foods or beverages is risky for sufferers, whereas they might “get away” with small indulgences.

Ingesting too much caffeine is another suspect trigger, but to underscore how confusing migraines are to scientists, some claim that too little caffeine can also cause problems. With the abundance of tasty decaffeinated drinks on the market, eliminating caffeine is logistically easy, if not physically. A registered dietitian can help you find supplements that will increase your energy levels and make up for that jolt upon which you’ve relied.

Lastly, food additives such as nitrites, nitrates and MSG (monosodium glutamate), are considered common migraine triggers, by increasing blood flow to the brain.

I hope, of course, that this column finds you pain-free and fully enjoying the southwest Florida lifestyle.

— Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at info@ElaineHastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Follow @ElaineHastings on Twitter for daily nutrition tips.

Kitchen Wall Color has Diet Impact

Your kitchen is the center of your nutritional hub. It’s where you make your decisions on how (and how often) to fuel your own body, and the bodies of others you may be responsible for feeding. For some of you, it’s also the place where meals are served and consumed: at a bar or island, for example, or a casual kitchen table.

You’ve already taken control of what goes in your refrigerator; now summer’s your chance to take control of the mood your kitchen sets. Believe it or not, the color of your kitchen walls can have an impact on your diet. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate how you want your kitchen to make you feel, and seize the day.

First of all, there’s a reason that McDonald’s, Burger King and every fast food restaurant known to man incorporates red and yellow in their logos and décor. Want to guess why?

Let’s start with yellow. This cheery hue is good for optimism and hope. But it also stimulates the appetite, pure and simple. You just thought you wanted a salad … now you want a Big Mac with fries.

Yellow is happy, but to overweight people, it can also be a tad dangerous when applied to kitchen walls. Better to let a good workout stimulate the appetite than the mere presence of a color. Unless, of course, you are underweight.

Need to beef up? Head for the yellow section of the paint store and slather it on. Think butter, egg yolks, lemons … mmm, I’m getting hungry already. But yellow helps the memory, so it could be useful if mom’s not available for a recipe consult.

Orange stimulates learning. If you’re a new cook, or aspiring chef or nutritionist, opt for orange.

As for red, it is a complex color, perhaps the most of all. Red engages us and brings out our emotions. Here’s the amazing thing about this color: to calm people, it is exciting, in a good way, a little thrilling. But for folks who are more anxious in nature, red is disturbing. The last thing you want is to be disturbed eight to 12 times a day, so be honest with yourself about your nature, and that of others with whom you may live.

Red walls trigger the release of adrenaline (which can be good for cooking, I suppose). And like yellow, it also stimulates the appetite, while simultaneously stimulating the sense of smell. Red walls can also increase your blood pressure and breathing rate.

Blue is opposite of yellow, on the color wheel, and in terms of appetite. It decreases blood pressure, the breathing rate, and the desire to eat, as do indigo and violet. So if you’re determined to drop 20, 30, even 40 pounds … coat your walls in hues of blueberries, grapes or plums. This will also remind you to eat antioxidants, which is a good thing. You win on two counts!

Pink is also proven as a winning weight-control color, at none other than prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical University in Baltimore.

Violet is known for its ability to create balance. So as you’re planning your menus or dishing out portions of lean protein, fresh veggies and multigrain bread, look to your walls for inspiration. (Violet is also good for migraine sufferers).

This brings us to green, the color of all things fresh and good for our bodies. Green is relaxing, and also creates a sense of balance. It relaxes the body, and helps those who suffer from nervousness, anxiety or depression. Green may also aid in raising blood histamine levels, reducing sensitivity to food allergies. Antigens may also be stimulated by green, for overall better immune system healing.

Placing your sunlit fresh herbs near a green wall brings the outdoors in. That might also make you think about starting a garden, going for a walk or run, or cycling around the neighborhood.

Brown enhances a feeling of security, reduces fatigue and is relaxing. Black is a power color. If you have six-packs and you know it, raise your hand. Gray is the most neutral of all colors for the kitchen: not much happening there. Brighter hues inspire creativity and energy, while darker colors are peaceful and lower stress. Beige and off-white are “learning” colors.

Make good choices, on your walls, as well as your plate. What color should your kitchen be?

Simple Changes at Home Encourage Nutrition

Posted May 27th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in nutrition

Q: What are some simple changes to make at home, which encourage better nutrition and health?
(in terms of shopping, habits, or schedules)

First and foremost: remember that kids mimic adults!
Your children will do what you do, eat what you eat!

With that in mind, here are some simple changes to make, which give the whole family a healthful advantage:

Don’t buy sodas
Don’t buy sugary breakfast cereals
Eat breakfast every day
Keep fruits and veggies on hand
Don’t let kids eat standing up: be mindful of each meal
Plant a garden at home with your kids
Grow or keep herbs in pots in the kitchen
Take walks after dinner or early in the day – a great time to talk (and listen)
Declare one day a week as treat day, when candy or dessert is allowed……..?

Get Creative and Grill Your Way to Healthier Meals

Now that summer is almost here, it’s a perfect time to fire up the grill instead of the oven. May is even National Barbecue Month.

Barbecuing also offers plenty of health benefits, depending upon what you’re throwing over the flames. Groceries and farmers markets are full of fresh, locally grown produce, and Southwest Florida is blessed with an abundance of seafood.

But no matter what your favorite protein is, one thing always holds true: Grilling lends itself to a healthy diet.

Veggies never taste better than when grilled. That fresh, flavor-bursting taste is complemented by that magazine-cover grilled veggie “look” and it’s all good. It’s also nearly impossible to ruin a vegetable on the grill, so relax and experiment. You’re likely to wind up with a flavorful al dente version of corn, zucchini, peppers, onions or even something more unusual.

For something different, try grilled endive. (Joseph’s Table in Taos, N.M., serves a delicious version, with a gorgonzola sauce).

Marinating is a wonderful way to enhance veggies; they tend to caramelize when marinated. Use a large Ziploc-type bag to give them this advantage, if you have the time and inclination.

But once you’re ready to grill, avoid coating veggies (or anything else) with anything too sugar-intensive. Ingredients such as molasses, brown sugar and fruit juice tend to make foods burn in high heat. Most vegetables do best when cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch-wide pieces.

You can choose to put your vegetables directly on the grill – including speared on kebabs – or you may opt to put them in foil and lay that on top of the heat. Experiment and see what suits you.

Also, adding a dash of salt to veggies really draws out the flavor by drawing out the moisture inside them. Add the salt and any other seasonings you choose, after brushing them with a little oil. Then grill; veggies only need a few minutes.

Chicken with the skin on has a much higher fat content than that without: nearly double. So take it off before you marinate. Leaner cuts of meat can also trim up to half the fat calories overall, while still providing that yummy grilled taste. This frees you up to “spend” your calories on salad dressing, a cocktail, a simple dessert or something else.

Leaner cuts will require a marinade, however, as they can be tougher. Opt for thinner cuts of meat; marinade will penetrate only to about a quarter of an inch. Score the meat before covering it in marinade. And choose something with higher acid content, to help break down the fibrous nature of the meat.

Fish is always lean. Grilling is a great time to add salmon or tuna to your diet (tuna doesn’t want to be grilled for long). It’s very important to keep fish on ice or refrigerated until ready to grill in order to avoid food poisoning.

Depending on your meat, here are four low-calorie choices of marinade: Worcestershire sauce (2 tablespoons has only 30 calories); low-sodium soy sauce (2 tablespoons contain 120 calories), or tomato paste (2 tablespoons contain 40 calories), work really well.

For chicken, I like a tropical marinade of stone-ground mustard, honey and Key lime juice.

The sides that typically accompany a grilled dinner are where you can run into trouble. Save a lot of calories by avoiding creamy salads such as cole slaw, macaroni or potato salad; try brown rice or whole-meal pasta instead. If you plan to use bread, avoid white breads and pick up a nice whole-grain option. Fresh fruit salad is also a great substitute for potato salad, and can double as dessert.

Grilled pineapple is another delicious dessert option. Brush it with a little oil the same way you do with veggies and enjoy this delicious treat. For something really different, grill bananas!

Make sure any kids in your household understand how to be safe around a grill. And then get them involved in the process: shucking corn, skewering veggies, brushing on marinade or oil. This fun activity can become a lifelong habit, one that enhances nutrition and health.

Copyright 2010 Elaine Hastings, RD. Heath and Wellness, Nutrition Expert
Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition and Sports Specialty in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at info@elainehastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy: AssociatesinNutrition.com/wordpress. Take the Challenge, Change your Life!

Be patient with picky eater – it pays off

Posted March 31st, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, nutrition, Nutrition for Kids, Wellness

We all know that eating a variety of foods is important to promoting growth and establishing good nutritional habits for the entire family. But if you have a picky eater in your household, mealtime can be a source of frustration and battles.

Fortunately, most kids get the proper nutrition in their diets throughout the day. Children’s taste buds and food preferences mature over time, so introducing new foods can take time and patience.
Picky eaters beware – here are some tips to encourage your children to try new foods.

- Try and try again. It may take up to 10 times of trying a new food before your child likes it. It is normal for children to be cautious at first.

- Involve your child in choosing foods at the grocery store. Trying new foods is more fun for children when they pick them.

- Let your child help prepare the food. Whether it’s stirring the ingredients, cracking an egg or washing vegetables, let your child become familiar with the new food. As you prepare it together, you and they can talk about the color, shape and texture of the food.

- Try one new food at a time. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many new foods at once. Make small changes and try serving new foods alongside some of their favorite, more familiar foods. Broccoli may be more appealing if it is served with a side of macaroni and cheese.

- Minimize distractions. Turn off the TV, don’t allow toys during meals and eat at a table.

- Don’t force your child to eat. Respect their preferences. Children sometimes do not like to eat food they have never seen before. Keep serving the food to your child. As they become more familiar with it, they may decide to taste it.

- Get creative with preparing new foods in different ways. If your child doesn’t like cooked carrots, try serving it with a low-fat dip such as ranch dressing or hummus. Another option is to purée fruits and vegetables and add them into casseroles or other prepared foods. For example, add chopped vegetables into sauces or top cereals with fruit.

- Set a good example. If the adults in the family avoid eating a variety of foods at the table, then it really shouldn’t surprise you that your little shadows are following the example that you are setting. With fast foods so readily available, it is only logical that healthier options are easy to pass up.

- Don’t be a short-order cook: Serve everyone the same meal. If everyone is eating the same thing as the rest of the family, it becomes easier for children to model after healthy choices.

Meal time should be about spending time together as a family, not a battleground over what’s on the plate. However, if you are concerned that your child’s eating habits are compromising his or her growth or health, consult your pediatrician or a registered dietitian.

Research shows children who eat healthy in their early years will carry those habits into their adulthood. Keep trying, be patient and eventually your child will surprise you.

Nutrition Notes: Tips for Fueling Body Well

Posted March 9th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, nutrition

By March, many people find their good resolutions for healthy eating and exercise have fallen by the wayside. Statistics show that just six months after the New Year, more than half of those who made resolutions have broken them. Fortunately, you can still resolve to change; it is never too late to renew your commitment to improving your health.

If you have fallen back into your old habit of grabbing a quick doughnut or pastry treat early in the morning for convenience, remind yourself one doughnut contains more than 300 calories and is high in carbohydrates, fats and sugars. That one seemingly innocent treat can send your blood sugar soaring.

Your body may feel a sudden energy surge, but this will be spent quickly. Then your system will go through a rebound that can make you feel extremely tired and out of sorts.

This is the beginning of a seesaw effect in your body that is often fueled by snack foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. Remember how difficult it was to balance a seesaw perfectly on the playground? This balancing act is what you are forcing your body to do when you eat foods that contain no real nutrition, but are heavily loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars and simple carbohydrates.

So just exactly what do you need to eat if you want to get back on the path to good nutrition and health? For starters you need to avoid fad diets and stay clear of foods filled with empty calories, sugars and fats.

Here are a few basic guidelines to get you on the right track.

- Opt for a dietary program that is packed with whole grains, fruits, veggies as well as some healthy fats and oils.

- Be sure your daily meals contain good carbohydrates such as whole grains; do not eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet.

- Include plenty of fiber by eating a variety of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

- Choose lean, healthy protein sources such as poultry, nuts, fish and beans.

- Limit saturated and trans fats; choose oils that come from nuts, fish and plant sources.

- Select calcium-rich foods such as skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and vegetables.

- Add color to your plate by choosing a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

- Limit your use of salt and enjoy the rich, luscious flavors of the foods or add salt-free seasonings to enhance natural flavors.

- Plan ahead by creating a healthy shopping list or selecting restaurants that offer nutritious selections.

- Track your meals, exercise and medical information online or through a food diary such as the Get Fit Lee program, a local health initiative challenging Lee County residents to collectively lose one million pounds of body fat, GetFitLee.com.

Often, making changes slowly can help you be more successful in creating new habits. Try incorporating one or more of these recommendations into your lifestyle each week. Over time, you will find that these nutritious choices will give you more fuel for your day and help improve your chances of successfully reaching your goals.