Read today’s News-Column: Enjoy the holidays, eat healthy at same time

Posted December 29th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

In my last article, I wrote about how most consumers abandon their diet and healthy habits during the holidays. As a result, most people have a difficult time getting back into a routine and end up gaining between seven and 14 pounds during the holidays.

Just because you are celebrating and enjoying special treats, you do not have to give up on your commitment to healthy eating.

Here are some practical ways to cut calories without missing out on the festivities.

- Eat smaller portions to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding inches to your waistline and hips.

- Substitute high calorie ingredients with low-fat options.

- Use smaller plates; the eye tricks the mind into thinking that you are eating a great deal more food than you really are.

- Whip up mashed cauliflower in your food processor in place of traditional mashed potatoes.

- Use those low-fat or fat-free versions of yogurts, mayonnaise, ricotta and sour cream when you are making holiday dips.

- Use rum extract if you want the flavor of rum in an eggnog beverage without the extra calories.

- Cut cholesterol and calories by substituting two egg whites for one egg.

- Phyllo dough makes a great crust for pies, quiches and tarts and the light, flaky taste is so delectable no one will know that it is a low-calorie treat.

- Baked chips are a better choice than fried chips.

- To make a low-calorie salsa dip, add three tomatoes, a teaspoon of vinegar, a dash of hot sauce and a habanera pepper into a blender and process the ingredients for 30 seconds. This is also a spicy, delicious topping that you can add to tacos or tortillas instead of using those high-fat avocado or cheese toppings.

With these low-fat and low-calorie substitutions, you can reduce your dietary fat intake during the holidays, avoid the extra pounds and still enjoy the festivities.

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

Healthy alternatives to holiday leftovers

Posted December 28th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Monday, Meal Tips

After the holidays, do you find yourself stuck with a refrigerator full of leftovers?  Here are some helpful tips:

-If food was left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours it is susceptible to harmful bacteria – toss it.

-Use leftover meats to make soups, salads or low-fat snacks or meals. For example, use fat-free or low-fat mayonnaise for a leftover turkey sandwich.

-Another idea is to use egg substitute or egg whites for a ham or turkey omelet. Throw in some colorful veggies and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese for added flavor.

-Leftovers should be tossed a day or two after the meal for safety.


Healthy Holidays!

Posted December 25th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Uncategorized

Wishing you a healthy, happy holiday!

Read today’s News-Column: Trim the holiday fat, not the flavor

Posted December 22nd, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

This is the time of year when candies, cookies, cakes, homemade yeast rolls, cinnamon buns and pies are tempting all of us. You can’t visit the mall, or even walk along the city streets without inhaling the aromas of a number of delicious, freshly baked goods. At times, you can almost feel yourself gaining weight just from the delightful, intoxicating scents of cinnamon, sugar, honey and chocolate.

However, creating holiday goodies that are both delicious and good for your health and waistline is easier than you may think.

Did you know that the majority of health conscious consumers abandon their diets during the holidays? It seems that most people believe that it is impossible to enjoy holiday treats without the resulting fat and calories.

Here are some substitutions for making more nutritious holiday goodies:

• Use dried fruit as a substitute for nuts (the fruit has fewer calories).

• Replace heavy cream or whipping cream with evaporated skim milk.

• Substitute fat-free evaporated milk or fat-free half and half for whole milk.

• Applesauce or pureed bananas can be substituted for cooking oil in a number of recipes for baked goods.

• Instead of calorie-rich baking chocolate, trim back by using a tablespoon of cooking oil and three tablespoons of your favorite cocoa powder.

• Experiment with reducing high-fat ingredients. Does your favorite cake recipe call for a stick of butter? Try making it with three-quarters or a half of a stick of butter instead.

• Use canola oil in place of butter or other oil blends.

• Use ingredients that contain little or no unhealthy trans fats.

• Switch those chocolate chips for golden raisins or a sprinkle of toasted nuts when you are making your favorite chocolate chip cookies.

• Use 100 percent fruit puree, low-fat yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese as a spread for toast and other bread products.

Here is a simple, low-fat, low-calorie recipe for sugar cookies to help you enjoy a traditional holiday treat while getting you started on the path to healthier eating:

• 5 tablespoons of butter (room temperature)
• 12⁄3 cup of all-purpose flour
• 21⁄2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
• 2 egg whites
• 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
• 1 level teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 level teaspoon of baking powder

Beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is creamy. Add the beaten egg whites and vanilla. Mix well. Whisk the salt, baking powder and flour together lightly in another bowl. Add the flour mixture (to the butter, sugar, egg whites and vanilla) a little at a time. Using your hands you can shape the mix into a big ball and wrap it in some plastic wrap. Allow the dough to chill in the fridge for at least two hours. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees once the dough has chilled properly. Roll the dough out onto a surface that you have lightly floured. When the dough is about 1⁄4-inch thick you can use your favorite holiday cookie cutters to create the shapes that you want. Line a cookie sheet with some parchment paper, place the sugar cookies on the parchment and bake them for 7-10 minutes. Cookies are done when you notice that the edges are beginning to lightly brown.

These delicious treats only have about 65 calories per cookie. It will take you 6 minutes of walking to burn the calories in one cookie.
Enjoy and happy, healthy holidays.

— Elaine Hastings is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition and Sports Specialty in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at or by visiting Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy at

Healthy holiday food gift ideas

Posted December 21st, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Monday, Meal Tips

Forget standard gift giving such as gift cards or socks. Instead, opt for a present that is both personal and good for you. From spiced nuts to homemade sauces, you can give something creative and special to those on your list.

It’s all in the presentation. Fill gift baskets with culinary products, along with special baked goods or other treats. For an extra special touch, personalize it with hand-written notes, gift tags and a recipe card so your recipient can make it too.

Have a safe and healthy holiday!

Fit in fun on Friday and stay active around the holidays!

Posted December 18th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Uncategorized

It’s tempting to ditch your workouts as your days fill up with holiday preparations, parties and errands, but now more than ever, you need to stay active. Exercise will help you deal with added stress and give you energy for everything you need to accomplish. It will also help you manage your weight through the maze of parties and gatherings you’ll be attending. If you have trouble sticking with your usual routine this time of year, come up with a new one. Forget the rules, lower your standards and do whatever you need to do to keep moving:

Shorten Your Cardio. Pare down your cardio routine to whatever time you have, even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes. Choose activities that are easy to do at a moment’s notice: walking, running, jump roping or cycling. Get the most out of the time you have by working at a high intensity.

Read Today’s News-Column: Obsession with healthy eating can lead to increased health problems

Posted December 15th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

With obesity rates rising and health officials touting the importance of improved nutrition and exercise, it may be surprising to learn that an increased fixation on healthy eating can actually lead to an increased risk of health problems.

 When your concern over the nutritional value of all your meals becomes an obsession, you may be at risk for developing orthorexia, an eating disorder characterized by an excessive focus on healthy eating. Unlike anorexics who are fixated on weight loss, orthorexics are overly concerned about the purity of food.

This disease can look a lot like healthy behavior at first, and may be hard to identify. Some warning signs of orthorexia include spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food, planning the day’s menus more than 24 hours in advance and taking more joy from how “good for you” a meal is than from the experience of eating it.

Orthorexics may obsess over nutrient ratios, become compulsive calorie counters and plan their meals meticulously by charts. They may avoid eating out or eating food that other people make. They often pay more attention to their food than to work, family and hobbies.

Many orthorexics experience a decrease in their quality of life as they become increasingly focused on improving the quality of their food intake. As a result, orthorexics often avoid activities they once enjoyed for fear of encountering “bad” foods. They may feel guilty if they deter from their healthy eating plan.

Just like those suffering from anorexia, orthorexics perceive that if they can control their diet, they can have more control over their life.

What can be done about orthorexia?

If you or someone you care about has one or more of the traits described above, please seek consultation from a medical professional such as your physician or a registered dietician. For most sufferers, psychological help from a caring and understanding professional is the key. The process can be a long one, because its combating ingrained beliefs. It can be hard for people with this problem to comprehend that their “healthy” diet is actually hurting their bodies, and the complications can be as serious as other eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa.

By cutting out too many foods from their diets, some sufferers are at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies or even starving themselves to death. Others may lose muscle and bone mass, permanently changing their bodies and their metabolism.

If you believe that you or someone you love may be obsessive about healthy eating, it might be time to get help.

- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition and Sports Specialty in Florida. Hastings can be contacted at or by visiting

Top Three Foods for 2010

Meal Monday:

Here are my top three recommendations for nutritious foods to include in your in 2010 meal planning:

1. Broccoli: This leafy green vegetable is a good source of Vitamins A and C, antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from damage. Broccoli provides calcium, potassium, folate and fiber and contains phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. An added bonus – broccoli contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium, unless added during cooking.

2. Almonds: These nuts contain nutrients such as riboflavin, magnesium, fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin E, a natural antioxidant. Because almonds are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, eating small servings of almonds can help lower cholesterol levels. They are considered a “heart-healthy” source of fat. Almonds also contain vitamin E and phytonutrients, just like broccoli, and may help prevent against cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

3. Apples: Apples have no fat, cholesterol or sodium and contain small amounts of potassium, which may promote heart health. Eating apples can also help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels and a healthy weight. They are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber such as pectin actually helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus reducing the incident of arteriosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber provides bulk in the intestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system. Don’t skip the skin; almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Eating the skin also increases insoluble fiber content.

Fit in fun Friday – Seasonal fitness tips

Posted December 11th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

Don’t put off physical activity until after the holidays, use this time to bond with family while staying active and keeping fit. Here are a few seasonal fitness tips:

-Instead of driving to look at holiday light displays, park your vehicle and enjoy a walk through a well-lit community. Be sure to bring a flashlight or wear reflective clothing for safety!

-While holiday shopping, park your car further away so you have more opportunity to walk and burn calories! Be sure to park in a safe, lighted area.

-In preparation for guests or parties, clean the house! Get the entire family involved in sweeping, vacuuming, dusting and mopping. You’ll be surprised at how much faster the job gets done and how many calories you will burn!

Enjoy the season and stay fit!

Read Today’s News-Press Column: Health risks, medical costs tied to obesity increase

Posted December 8th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

As obesity rates in the United States continue to rise at an alarming rate, so do the medical costs associated with weight-related illnesses. Obesity is linked to many of the top chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many forms of cancer. The treatments for these illnesses routinely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to a 1998 study, obesity accounted for 9.1 percent of all medical expenditures or approximately $78.5 billion. With one in every three American adults diagnosed as obese, the health risks and associated medical costs continue to increase.

Health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol are more common in people who are obese, so these factors have contributed to an increase in doctor visits and hospital admissions for these patients. People are defined as overweight if their body mass index is 25-29.9 and obese if their BMI is greater than 30.

Overall, medical costs for a person within a normal weight range are estimated at $3,442 per year, while a person diagnosed as obese spends an average of $4,871.

Given the disparity of these costs, one can argue that obesity may be one of the most significant reasons for the increase in medical costs in the country. The average American is now about 23 pounds overweight, so reducing this health crisis should be a priority. As a country, the United States is an estimated 4.6 billion pounds overweight.

Simply put, obesity is an epidemic that is increasing the number of associated medical conditions and the resulting rise in health care costs. As a result, the U.S. surgeon general is calling upon the nation to work together in finding solutions and has provided the health care community with guidelines for evaluating and treating overweight and obese patients, including safe and effective weight-loss principles.

Policy and environmental change initiatives that make healthy choices in nutrition and physical activity available, affordable and easy will likely prove most effective in combating obesity. In addition, behavioral changes such as adopting healthier eating habits and establishing an exercise routine are very important for people identified as overweight or obese.

These patients should seek the support of their doctor or a registered dietitian who can provide them with proper nutritional guidelines and recommend a fitness program. Prevention and education are critical to reducing the high rate of obesity and associated health risks and costs.