Read my News-Press column: Nutrition Notes: Online data aids health effort

Posted January 27th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

With the recent launch of Get Fit Lee, a local health initiative challenging Lee County residents to collectively lose one million pounds of body fat, the concept of tracking your meals, exercise and medical information online or through a food diary can benefit participants or anyone needing nutritional and fitness support and guidance.

How it works

Most programs offer a quick view, summarizing your latest meal and caloric intake, calories burned and medical information. Online meal planning offers thousands of pre-built meal plans. Look for programs developed by registered dietitians that utilize a large database including popular brand-name and restaurant foods. In addition, many programs allow you to create your own plan according to your taste and needs.

For example, the wellness page on, an online tracking system, provides a quick view, summarizing your latest meal and caloric intake, calories burned and medical information. Daily tips and inspirational messages help you along the way.

The meal planning and tracking page will give you thousands of meal plans developed by registered dietitians.

The large database includes brand-name and ethnic foods and fast food restaurants.

If you prefer, you can use physician-recommended programs or create your own plan according to your taste and needs.

With online nutritional tracking programs, you have the ability to:

• Access information from a large database of foods including recipes, ethnic foods and fast food chains.

• Calculate exercise duration to burn excess calories.

• Monitor your health on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

• Upload data directly from your glucometer, an at-home blood sugar monitoring device.

• Monitor the effect that foods and exercises have on your health.

• Work with your dietitian, nutritionist, educator or personal trainer online in real-time.

• Benefit from knowing your information is 100 percent private and secure.

• Create shopping lists.

• Customize your meal plans.

• Get access to thousands of pre-built meal plans.

• Get nutritional facts on your recipes calculated for you. 

• View and print detailed reports in table or multiple graphic formats (blood glucose, blood pressure, pump entries, weight, height, caloric intake and expenditure)

• Log your progress in an online journal.

Whether you choose an online resource for tracking nutrition and exercise or you simply use a pen and paper, keeping track of what you eat is important, including calories and portion sizes, number of calories burned and emotions or feelings.

Food journaling is one of the most successful tools for people trying to lose weight. In fact, a recent study found that dieters who tracked their food intake lost twice as much as those who did not track their food.

By logging when and how much you eat, along with your physical activity, you can better monitor your eating habits and nutritional deficiencies, control binge eating and connect eating to emotions.

In general, you can hold yourself accountable for your fitness and nutrition.

Whether you track your progress online, participate in the Get Fit Lee or another fitness program, making small lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on your health.

FREE Nutritional Seminar – Everyone invited!

Posted January 26th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Uncategorized

I hope you can join me on Thursday, Jan. 27.  I’m hosting a FREE nutritional seminar. This informal event will discuss the dietary needs of people exercising on a regular basis.  Members and non-members are welcome. Refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, January 27th
10:00am & 6:15pm
Fitness on the Move
13010 Metro Parkway, Fort Myers

Don’t Miss This Event!
For more information, call Kelly Hawley, 239-634-4050 or

Read today’s News Column: Add appeal to diet resolution

Posted January 19th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

As 2010 begins, healthy eating generally tops most people’s list of resolutions. As time goes on, it gets harder to stick to your good intentions. After a day or two of munching carrots and dry rice cakes, those high-calorie foods become more tempting than ever.

Slowly but surely, we begin to sneak those slices of pies and servings of yummy, cheese-covered casseroles back onto our plates.

In general, most people want to take better care of their bodies and shed unwanted weight. What most of us don’t want is to eat boring “rabbit” food and tasteless, unappetizing snacks. It is the lack of knowledge about food options, not necessarily an unwillingness to change, that sabotages the majority of healthy eating resolutions.

Instead of adding more salt and oil to give flavor and excitement to your meals, “fierce flavor” combinations make for a more satisfying and delicious meal that rank high in taste and visual appeal, without the high calories and fat. Here are some suggestions.

Spices are spectacular: Learn how to use a variety of spices to create some incredibly tasty, low-calorie dishes at home. Ground black pepper and garlic are common kitchen spices, but discover the difference that using more exotic ingredients can make. Saffron, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, celery seed, curry powders, basil, fennel and dill can add zesty flavors to meats, salads, soups, stews and casseroles.

These intoxicating ingredients are as good for your body as they are for your taste buds. Even steamed carrots can become a favorite family dish when you add a bit of freshly grated ginger to the recipe.

Look for African and Middle Eastern spices and herbs such as harissa, berbera and charmoula to use in your cooking. Asian spices and herbs include items such as Chinese five spice, star anise, lemon grass and Japanese seven spice or shichimi-togarashi. If Eastern Indian cooking is one of your favorites, explore the possibilities of using ingredients such as sambar or garam masala.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and remember that fresh and high quality spices pack the most flavor and punch.

Powerful peppers: Never overlook the power of using a variety of peppers to spice up the taste of foods. Chili peppers very commonly are used in many recipes, but there are many other choices to consider.

Try flavoring up some of your favorite dishes with Anaheim peppers, baby bells, sweetly roasted red peppers, rocotillo varieties, banana peppers, poblanos or the insanely fiery power of the Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Most people have no idea that there are so many varieties of peppers available and even fewer realize that the spicy rocotillo pepper also has a sweet, fruity taste.

Choose colors: Make the most of the great assortment of produce that is available in 2010. Why settle for orange carrots and white cauliflower when you can bring vibrant color to your healthy veggie dishes? and try using a white plate, look for more in restaurangporslin.

Forget boring and bland foods. You and your family will be curious and excited to sit down to a low-calorie meal that includes a salad made with orange cauliflower and lemony, yellow-skinned cucumbers. You might also try a savory stew with multi-colored beans.

Another option is sweet and deliciously different white, yellow, red and purple carrots that are as fun to look at, as they are to eat.

With a better understanding of balancing options and adding flavor to healthy foods, there is no need to put off making more nutritious choices. By incorporating some of the small changes suggested above, you may find yourself an inch closer to meeting your healthy goals for 2010.

Read my News-Column: Small changes in eating mean big gains in health

Posted January 13th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Meal Tips

For many people, the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. The New Year is a good time to make a commitment to focus on living a healthier lifestyle. Even small changes in your eating habits can make a big impact on your health.

In addition, incorporating more exercise is important too. Simple tips that can make a difference in your health include parking farther from the building so that you have to walk more and burn more calories, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or cutting out all sugar drinks and drinking water instead.

When implemented daily, these easy lifestyle changes can help you get closer to reaching your goal of a healthy weight and feeling better.

For some, more significant changes must be made to get on track for healthy living. If you are thinking of starting a fad diet, be sure to do some research and consult with your physician to see if the diet is a safe and effective option for you.

Unfortunately, many diets deprive you of nutrients and can have a negative effect on your long-term health. In fact, consuming healthy food more often can actually help you drop those additional pounds. Be sure your diet includes plenty of complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables. Five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily are highly recommended.

In addition, find ways to reduce salt, fat and sugar intake. These are commonly found in fast food and processed food. Modify cooking methods to reduce the use of oil in cooking. Steaming, boiling, grilling and baking are good cooking methods. Avoid deep frying whenever possible.

Also, eat more moderately by monitoring your portions. Start cutting your quantities in half; you’ll be surprised at how filling and satisfying smaller portions can be.

To develop a healthy eating routine, plan ahead. Start off each day with a hearty breakfast.

Trade your breakfast bran muffin for a bowl of bran flakes. You can potentially save 83,000 calories per year. Follow your breakfast with a lunch and light dinner. Eat soup for lunch instead of a sandwich. This may help you save another 50,000 calories per year.

Be sure to eat nutritious snacks in between meals. Avoid junk food by replacing a candy bar with fruit. This small change can help you avoid gaining an extra 5 pounds per year. Eat more vegetables and fruit for snacks.

By eating less at meals and adding healthy snacks in between, your body will burn the calories quicker without storing as much excess fat. This also helps to keep your metabolism running efficiently all day long.

As always, drink plenty of water. Water works as an appetite suppressant and helps to ward off food cravings. It also helps to metabolize the fats in your body and keeps you properly hydrated.

In addition to making these small changes, one of the best ways to lose weight is to develop a support system. Get your entire family involved and start off with some simple little changes in your diet.

Stay the course and soon you will begin to see the results of your resolutions for the New Year.

May you have a healthy and happy New Year!

Enter the Get Fit Lee County $100,000 Challenge!

Posted January 11th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips

I am teaming up with Bill Davey and inviting Lee County to “GET FIT” and lose 1 Million pounds of fat and gain 250,000 pounds of muscle in a 12-week health and fitness challenge. Top male and female prizes of $15,000 will be awarded! In addition, a portion of the registration fees are going directly to support our local Lee County Ronald Mc-Donald House, Homeless & Hunger Coalitions, and Volunteers in Medicine, impacting the lives of thousands of people in our county. Take the Challenge…Change your Life! Register today at:

Fit in fun on Friday! Workout resolutions for 2010

Posted January 8th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

If you are like many Americans, you pledged to improve your physical activity in 2010. One of the best ways to stay on track is to recruit a support system to get family and friends involved and to cheer you on. Here are some ways to involve family, friends, neighbors or co-workers:

-Find a training partner at the gym and spot each other during weight lifting or attend exercise classes together to stay motivated.

-Walk with a neighbor, friend or family member. Set a schedule to stay on a routine. Start off by walking and gradually increase your distance and endurance. Set goals including charity walks such as a local 5k to benefit cancer research.

-Keep it up! It can take up to 12 weeks of routine exercise to notice results. Exercising as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day is enough to begin improving mood, health and level of fitness. By developing a routine, you can build on the next exercise session and begin to notice improved strength, stamina, endurance and sense of well-being.

Nutrition Tips for 2010

Posted January 4th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Monday, Meal Tips

As you start the New Year, resolve to find ways to improve your nutritional health. Tips for a healthier 2010 include the following:

-Add heart-healthy foods to your diet including:

  • Beans, peas and barley
  • Soybeans, other soy-based foods (not soybean oil)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel
  • Red grapes and purple grape juice
  • Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts
  • Green or black tea
  • Onions, scallions, shallots, garlic and leeks.

-Maintain or improve your weight: The more excess fat you have, the greater your risk for disease. Losing weight can also help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.

-Get active and stay active! Physical activity offers many rewards, from heart health to strong bones and stress relief. Regular, moderate activity helps keep your blood cholesterol levels normal. It helps lower blood pressure, helps your body control stress and helps control body weight as you burn calories. More vigorous exercise actually gives your heart muscle a workout, too, which ultimately helps your whole cardiovascular system work more efficiently.

For more information on heart-healthy eating, consult a registered dietician or visit

Happy New Year!

Posted January 1st, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Uncategorized

Wishing you health and prosperity in the New Year!