Smart Bytes®

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

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How to Get a Handle on Healthy Habits: Tips from Research

“Ultimately, people do not decide their future. They decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.” So says John C. Maxwell in The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential, a book I’m on my third time through as an audio book to accompany me on walks.

Ah, you say, but where do those habits come from? Do health-promoting habits seem hard to establish and easy to lose, while it’s amazingly easy to fall back into unhealthy habits?

Here, in Part 1 of a series, Rebecca Krukowski, PhD, provides perspective on how “self-monitoring” can play a role in creating healthy habits. Dr. Krukowski is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, where she conducts research on behavior-change interventions for weight loss.


Following the video, read on for practical take-home tips on different options for using self-monitoring to help you create habits to lose weight or achieve other health goals – or to avoid the all-too-easy path back to unhealthy habits in the months ahead.


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Foods that Fight Inflammation

Research on how our eating habits may bring anti-inflammatory health protection is now widespread. The problem is that you can read one headline from a study that proclaims “X” food fights inflammation, yet have no idea how that statement fits in the big picture. Is this a food that many studies show –in humans — is anti-inflammatory? Or is it a fluke finding?

In Part 1 of this video series, Susan Steck, PhD, MPH, RD, provided background on inflammation and shared thoughts on how we approach “anti-inflammatory diets”. Here, in Part 2, she discusses some of the foods that came up with strongest and most consistent findings in analysis of worldwide research on diet and inflammation. Dr. Steck is a registered dietitian and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Following the video, read on for clarifying details.


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Anti-Inflammatory Diet: As Hot as It Seems?

A search for “Anti-Inflammatory Diet” brings up more than 1000 books. A broader search across the Internet brings up more than 7 million hits on the subject. Amidst all the noise, where is today’s research about the link between chronic inflammation and diseases like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes? And is there really research behind an anti-inflammatory diet?

Here, in Part 1 of a series, Susan Steck, PhD, MPH, RD, provides background for discussing inflammation and shares insights on weeding through today’s abundance of “anti-inflammatory diets”. Dr. Steck is a registered dietitian and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is researching diet’s role in inflammation and the chronic diseases to which it is linked.

Following the video, read on for more on the story.

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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?

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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