Smart Bytes®

Feeling nutrition info overload? I will help you sort through to find what’s important to you. Read more. . .

Subscribe to Blog

FREE Gift: Easy Nutrition Upgrades

Archives

Do You Need an Activity Tracker? How to Know, How to Choose

You’ve heard all about how important physical activity is for not just weight control, but for many aspects of health, and you’ve been trying to walk more often. So why would you want some sort of monitor to track your physical activity? That’s what I used to think. But now, for me and for many patients with whom I’ve worked, I know why.activity trackers show many Americans are sedentary

Yes, people have made headlines with reports that using a tracker led them to gain weight. However, there’s more to that story.

Although American adults are walking more, less than half of American adults (47%) reach the federal recommendation of at least 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking), or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination.  That’s unfortunate, since these guidelines note more than this minimum brings even greater health benefits.

Here’s the clincher: The statistics illustrate exactly why I know I need an activity tracker — only 16.3% of American adults reach the oft-heard recommendation to accumulate at least 10,000 steps a day. In fact, 36.1% of American adults qualify as sedentary, defined as less than 5,000 steps a day.

How can nearly half of Americans get 30 minutes of activity most days, yet accumulate steps so much lower than you might think? If most of your day is spent sitting and at a low activity level, it takes more intentional activity to reach levels of activity associated with health.

Will an Activity Tracker Make a Difference?

Continue reading

Healthy Eating: 4 Steps to Get Past Barriers You See

If you follow nutrition news, you’ve no doubt heard that whether your aim is lower risk of cancer, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes, or simply to protect overall health, recommendations with the most solid research base recommend a switch from the typical current American eating pattern to one that includes more plant foods. As simple as that is in concept, people sometimes tell me that actually making the swap in proportions of what’s on their plates is easier to talk about than to put into practice.

Plant-Focused Meals for healthy eating can be quick, easy, tasty

French Lentil Salad with Cherry Tomatoes
♦ Recipe below from
Sharon Palmer, RDN ♦
(Photo credit
© Heather Poire)

Today’s Smart Bytes® addresses that problem. I’ve asked my friend and colleague, Sharon Palmer, RDN, to share tips to surmount some of the barriers people commonly see to shifting to healthy eating patterns. Ms. Palmer is the author of two books loaded with information and fabulous recipes for plant-based eating. Her first book, The Plant-Powered Diet, has been a delightful part of my cookbook collection, and her new book, Plant-Powered for Life, will doubtless be the same. Her perspective combines the tastes of a “foodie”, the nutrition knowledge of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and the practical experience of a busy working mom who is “walking the talk” as she feeds her family.    Continue reading

The 10,000 Step Goal: 5 Key Questions

Activity trackers – wristbands and small clip-on devices you can wear to monitor fitness-related goals like how many steps you take each day – are making big news right now. What's behind the 10,000 steps/day goal?

Do these trackers help you live more healthfully? How helpful are they in weight management? We’ll look at research and people’s personal stories related to those questions in an upcoming Smart Bytes®. First, let’s step back and look at the central premise behind those activity trackers: What do we really know about setting 10,000 steps a day as a strategy to promote health and vitality?

Continue reading

How You Can Create a “New Normal” for a Healthy Lifestyle

Once established, lifestyle habits – including what and how much we eat and drink, how much we sit and how much we move – become so enmeshed with our day-to-day living, that it can be hard to imagine living any other way. Some might think that when a health scare or other “flashing lights” point at how a healthy lifestyle could make a significant difference and improve quality of life, changing habits would become easy. Not so, for many people.

How can you create a “new normal”?

In this, the final section of my video interview with Maura Harrigan, MS, RD, CSO, you’ll hear what she’s learned through years of working one-on-one with cancer survivors. Yes, even cancer survivors, having faced one of the most-feared medical diagnoses, turn out to have as much trouble as everyone else adopting healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, even though research increasingly shows the difference it can make.

Maura Harrigan is a registered dietitian who is a board-certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. Ms. Harrigan is a research associate at the Yale School of Public Health, and Nutrition Director of the Cancer Survivorship Clinic at Yale Cancer Center.  Since the last section of my Smart Bytes® interview with Ms. Harrigan, the Lifestyle, Exercise and Nutrition (LEAN) Study team at Yale received a lot of attention at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting sharing exciting findings about potential benefits of lifestyle change in breast cancer survivors.

You don’t need to be a cancer survivor to feel “stuck” in habits. Following the video, read on for a checklist that summarizes research-supported tips on creating healthful eating and other lifestyle choices relevant to us all.

Continue reading

For Healthy Eating, Do You Focus on Big Picture or Details?

How do you move from a vague goal of healthy eating to actionable steps you can take?For healthy eating, aim for overall pattern or small step choices?

Have you heard the expression, “The devil is in the details”? It’s a way of saying that the little details of how we do something can make a big difference in outcome. But what about the idea that sometimes “you can’t see the forest for the trees”? That’s referring to how easy it is to be so focused on details that you miss seeing the impact that comes from how the little things all fit together.

For me, the answer for eating choices that support health is not which view is better. It’s about how to go back and forth, holding both views in balance. As you think about this balance and the choices you make for a healthy lifestyle, here are a few recent studies you might find helpful.

Continue reading