Fit in Fun Friday! Burn off holiday pounds!

Posted November 27th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Fit In Fitness Friday

As much as we look forward to the feast, family and friends, we could all do without the pounds that sometimes come along.

Here are some ideas to help you and your family burn some holiday calories:

  • House cleaning for guests
  • Food preparation
  • Flag football
  • Clearing dishes from the table
  • A hike after dinner
  • Loading and unloading suitcases, groceries and kids
  • Mowing lawn
  • Playing a game of catch
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Making holiday crafts

If you are finding it hard this time of year to fit in the gym, these simple holiday chores or family activities will help you avoid holiday weight gain while enjoying time with family and friends.

Read Today’s News-Press Column: Plan ahead and avoid packing on unwanted holiday pounds in ’09

Posted November 24th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, The News-Press Column
With parties, family dinners and other holiday happenings, hosts are likely to find their refrigerators stuffed with extra helpings. Eating leftovers can contribute to adding unwanted pounds during these festive times.

To help prevent weight gain during the holidays, you may want to avoid indulging in high-calorie leftovers by planning ahead and creating healthy snacks and meals.

Make the most of your leftover ham, turkey and trimmings by creating nutritious meals and snacks to keep them from weighing you down. As a host for holiday meals, plan ahead and buy plenty of plastic containers to send your guests home with food to limit the amount of extra food in your refrigerator.

In addition, you can take a few containers into the office for your colleagues to enjoy. If you prefer, keep some of the lower-calorie options such as fruits, vegetables and white meat from the turkey for you and your family. These leftovers can be used to make healthy meals or snacks over the next several days.

There are several simple ways to use your holiday leftovers.

Be creative and seek out healthy, low-carbohydrate and low-fat recipes. For example, use low- or fat-free tortillas to wrap up turkey and vegetables for a healthy lunch. Add a small amount of cranberry sauce to give your turkey wrap more festive flavor.

Use turkey, ham or other meat on top of greens and vegetables to create a healthy salad. Add fruit, low- or fat-free cheese and a few nuts into the salad for a scrumptious mix.

For a high-protein breakfast, use egg whites, turkey or ham, vegetables and a hint of low-fat cheese. It’s also a great time of year to make homemade soups using extra meats and vegetables.

In addition, you can make nutritious snacks such as vegetable trays and turkey and cheese on whole grain crackers.

Another way to prevent overeating during the holidays is to control the portions you serve yourself and guests. After dishing out appropriate serving sizes to your friends and family, you can immediately put the leftovers into a container and place them into the refrigerator or freezer.

Be proactive and dish out a serving size that equals approximately 200 calories or less to control your portion sizes. By removing the food from the table, you can curb the temptation for a second helping.

While it is often tradition for guests to move from the dining table to the couch to watch football or take a rest, invite the group outside for a stroll around the neighborhood or engage them in a friendly game of football. Encouraging guests to be active will limit the urge to overeat while burning some of those high-calorie helpings they’ve enjoyed.

By serving your guests appropriate portion sizes and providing them with the remaining food to create healthy meals and snacks, you can help your loved ones avoid those extra holiday pounds. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. Hastings can be contacted at or by visiting Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy:

Here are some tips on planning a healthy holiday meal

Posted November 23rd, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

Need some ideas to help you keep your waist trim and avoid the trimmings during your Thanksgiving or another upcoming holiday meal? Here are a few tips to help you with planning a healthy, delicious meal:

  • Buy and cook with lower-fat or fat-free ingredients
  • Avoid self-basting turkeys that contain added fat
  • Instead of stuffing, choose fruit, herbs or vegetables
  • Serve healthy alternatives for dessert, such as pies made with graham cracker crust or fruit
  • Buy plastic containers so you can send your guests home with leftovers

Fit in fun on Friday – burn off those extra holiday calories with a ‘turkey trot’

Posted November 20th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

With the holidays upon us, indulging in festive foods including turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie often motivate people to rev up their fitness goals. As you make your holiday plans, schedule time for exercise. Community “turkey trots” offer families a great way to exercise over the Thanksgiving weekend. The traditional “turkey trots” usually include a one or three mile family fun walk, as well as several options to participate in more competitive jogging events. Check your local newspaper listings or online for more information on events in your community.

Read Today’s News-Press Column: Body mass index useful to gauge healthy weight

Posted November 17th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

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 bodybuilders 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 NETThealthyDiet. com for your free personalized diet profile, including your BMI and daily caloric needs.

Eat Your Veggies: Fresh or Frozen?

Posted November 16th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Monday

Americans typically eat only one-third of the recommended daily intake (three servings instead of nine) of fruits and vegetables. While a vegetable in any form is better than no vegetable at all, fresh is generally better than frozen. When vegetables are in-season, I recommend they be purchased fresh and ripe but “off-season,” frozen vegetables still give you a high concentration of nutrients. Choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color; vegetables of this standard also tend to be more nutrient-rich than the lower grades “U.S. No. 1” or “U.S. No. 2.” Eat them soon after purchase: over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. Finally, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.

Fit in fun Friday: Making exercise a daily habit for families

Posted November 13th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

Take time this weekend to evaluate your family’s fitness goals. Creating a routine that works for the entire family is the best way to stick to your exercise goals and improve your health.

Here are a few suggestions to make exercise a part of your family’s routine:

  • Plan to exercise at a certain time every day, so it becomes part of your schedule.
  • Write up and sign a contract, where you agree to exercise.
  • Mark your family calendar with a daily appointment for exercise.
  • Keep a diary of all of your exercises. Log everything you do, and your progress.
  • If you need support, have your doctor write out an exercise prescription, including how much exercise you should do and how often.
  • Try joining a health club or gym. Paying a membership fee may prompt you to get your money’s worth and go more frequently. Many gyms offer family memberships. If you have children, find a gym that provides daycare for young ones or offers fitness programs for older children.

By getting the entire family involved, you can support one another and make fitness more fun!

Read today’s News-Press column: You’ll be thankful if you don’t overeat on Thanksgiving

Posted November 10th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips, The News-Press Column

Thanksgiving Day meals are often referred to as a “feast” among friends and family. The hosts strive to outdo themselves in the culinary arts as guests oblige and indulge.

For many, Thanksgiving is a day we allow ourselves to eat as much as we want or take a “cheat day” from routine balanced meals. Unfortunately, after the feast, many people find themselves feeling miserable about overeating.

While turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are all considered staples in Thanksgiving cuisine, these traditional favorites can be filled with unhealthy fat and calories. The average Thanksgiving dinner has more than 2,000 calories – a real challenge if you are watching your waistline or trying to keep within a recommended daily calorie intake.

Fortunately, there is a way to enjoy the Thanksgiving Day feast with plenty of simple, delicious recipes that will leave you satisfied. Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal that’s lower in fat and calories requires a little planning and research to find recipes that are healthier and lower in calories and fat, but well worth it.

For those responsible for planning and cooking the meal, you can reduce calories by substituting butter and cream sauces with lower-fat or fat-free ingredients such as fat-free sour cream, fat-free cream of mushroom soup and fat-free cheese.

Whole milk can be substituted with 2 percent or skim milk and whole eggs replaced with egg whites.

If you plan to serve turkey, select the turkey breast rather than the whole bird because breast meat is lower in calories. If you do buy a whole turkey, avoid “self-basting” turkeys, as they often contain added fat. Rather than rubbing the skin with butter or oil, use fat-free cooking spray and season it with salt, pepper or a favorite seasoning.

Resist the old tradition of filling the turkey with breads and stuffing. Instead, stuff the cavity with halved onions, lemons, apples and sprigs of fresh herbs. To make healthy but tasty homemade gravy, use vegetable oil instead of turkey drippings to limit saturated fat and cholesterol.

For those who insist on adding stuffing, consider using wild rice and grains, which are more nutritious than bread stuffing. Add roasted nuts instead of meat for added flavor.

Instead of sweet potato and yam casseroles, baked whole sweet potatoes are a low-calorie alternative. Fresh vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus, beans or salad are nutritious options compared to traditional vegetable casseroles filled with heavy creams and sauces.

Make a healthy cranberry relish instead of a sauce to cut down on the sugar. Because most of the fat in pies is found in the crust, use a reduced-fat graham cracker crust or make a crust-free pie. To reduce calories even more, offer fruit, sherbet or frozen yogurt for dessert.

If you are a guest and cannot control the preparation of the meal, simply limit yourself to smaller portions. In addition, guests can forgo appetizers or bring a vegetable tray to share and enjoy. Raw vegetables are filling and can reduce the risk of overeating during the meal.

Another way to limit calorie intake is to drink lots of water, which is both filling and hydrating.

In addition to proper hydration and portion control, staying active can help you avoid overeating and feel better. Take a walk around the neighborhood or engage the family in a game of football. Avoid eating and sitting, which can contribute to overeating and weight gain.

With a little planning, discipline and increased activity, you can enjoy the Thanksgiving meal and time with family without the guilt. Thanksgiving Day is a great opportunity to create healthy new traditions with family and friends.

Meal Monday: How to start a food and exercise journal

Posted November 9th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Monday, Meal Tips

Recording your daily calories and exercise can help you meet or maintain your nutritional goals. Diaries can be created in a notebook or tracked online. There are numerous programs available. Generally, food diaries are meant to be used for a whole week, but studies have shown that keeping track of what you eat for even one day can help you make changes in your diet.

A diary should include the following:

-Include amount and type of food you ate. Estimate the size. Online diaries will populate the calories.

-Write the time of day you ate the food. Keeping track of meals and snacks can help you monitor your intake.

-Include the location where you ate the food such as a kitchen, restaurant or in your car.

-Include your daily activity or exercise. Write down the activity, the intensity level (low, medium or high) and number of minutes. Online diaries can help track your calories burned.

Some basic rules to remember:

Write everything down: Keep your diary updated, including everything you eat or drink. A piece of candy, a handful of pretzels, a can of soda may not seem like much at the time, but over a week those calories add up!

Do it now: Don’t depend on your memory at the end of the day. Record your eating as you go.

Be specific: Make sure you include “extras,” such as gravy on your meat or cheese on your vegetables. Do not generalize. For example, record french fries as french fries, not as potatoes.

Estimate amounts: If you had a piece of cake, estimate the size (2” x 1” x 2”) or the weight (3 ounces). If you had a vegetable, record how much you ate (1/4 cup). When eating meat, remember that a 3-ounce cooked portion is about the size of a deck of cards.

After tracking your activities for a week, review your calorie intake and exercise level. If you feel your calorie intake is too high or low or you need additional support to increase your exercise, schedule an appointment with your physician or a registered dietician. Be sure to bring your diary or print out your online diary to review at your appointment. By tracking your habits, you can make small but effective changes to improve your lifestyle.

Fit in fun on Friday – get those kids moving!

Posted November 6th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Fit In Fitness Friday

While it may be a challenge to get kids away from the television and computer,

studies suggest that short bursts of exercise – as little as 15 minutes – can dramatically reduce your child’s risk of Type 2 diabetes. For adults, 30 minutes a day or more of exercise is recommended to reduce yours.

Need ideas for fitting in fitness? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Enjoy a canoe trip
  2. Plant a garden
  3. Explore a local park
  4. Roller skate
  5. Shoot baskets
  6. Play catch
  7. Take walks after dinner
  8. Clean the house in time to music
  9. Walk on the beach
  10. Visit a museum