3 Reasons You Should Kick Your Diet Soda Habit

Soda.jpgYou kicked your regular soda habit, and now you’re sitting on cloud nine. But if that cloud is made of diet soda — a replacement for the real thing — you may have just created new problems.

Switching from regular to diet soda may offer a short-term cut in calories, but your body won’t be fooled for long. Research suggests it reacts to certain nonnutritive foods, including the artificial sweeteners in diet soda, in ways that may harm your health.

Here are three reasons to kick your diet soda habit for good.

“Quitting a habit is never easy. But for my patients — and for you — I recommend kicking soda all the way, whether it is regular or diet.”

1. “Diet” soda is associated with weight gain

Current research suggests the brain reacts to artificial sweeteners much like it does to sugary sweets. Ingesting them frequently may result in an increased desire for high-calorie foods such as sugary treats, putting you at a greater risk of both weight gain and consumption of low-nutrient-density foods.

One study even found that overweight individuals who switched to diet soda were more likely to consume more calories in food than overweight individuals who drank regular soda. Further, those who drank diet soda had a higher BMI than their counterparts. And other research has suggested that the rise in diet soda consumption positively correlates with increases in our weight as a nation.

2. Diet soda may cause insulin confusion

The brain normally associates “sweet” with calories. In the realm of human physiology, that’s a good thing. It drives your body to release insulin as sugar’s chaperone to the cells to create fuel. In the past, people assumed this process could not occur when we consume artificial sweeteners because calories don’t follow the sweet flavor.

However, a 2013 study found the process could very well happen. In the study, individuals who consumed a specific artificial sweetener (sucralose) had increases in both insulin and blood glucose levels. Further research is needed, but the findings were significant. Why? Because frequent rises in insulin have been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

A more recent study in mice resulted in similar findings related to glucose intolerance. And past research has associated artificially sweetened sodas with increased risk of stroke and a greater chance of being obese.

3. Diet soda may change your brain’s reaction to sweetness

A 2012 study compared MRI results in college students who drank diet soda (averaging at least eight per week) with those who drank regular cola. Both groups activated similar reward areas in the brain. But students who drank the most diet cola each week had the least amount of activity in an area of the brain associated with the desire to consume “palatable” foods — often those high in fat and sugar. Put simply, those who drank the most diet soda seemed to alter their brain’s sweet-sensing reward center. That could change how the brain reacts to cravings for high-calorie foods.

So is it better just to drink sugar-sweetened soda in the first place? Not so fast. There is abundant data that tells us that sugar (even when it’s “real”) is not necessarily a sweeter alternative, at least where health is concerned.

If you crave caffeine (in moderation, of course), you are likely better off with plain coffee or tea. If you savor flavor, try freezing raspberries, blueberries, cucumber, mint, lemon or lime pieces in ice cubes to add zing and a hint of sweetness to water. You can even use them in soda water to recreate soda’s bubbly appeal.

Quitting a habit is never easy. But for my patients — and for you — I recommend kicking soda all the way, whether it is regular or diet. Doing so can have profound effects on both your weight and your health.

Source: Cleveland Clinic Blog

Do you have nagging thigh or hip pain?

Bursitis.jpgDo you tend to bump the car door shut with your hip? Don’t be surprised if your bursa complains.

Bursae are small sacs of fluid cushioning the bones, tendons and muscles near joints. Acute injury, overuse, or degenerative arthritis in the hip or back can lead to bursitis.

This painful inflammation of the bursa and surrounding tissue commonly targets the hip and its many bursae. Typically, the bursae cushioning the greater trochanter, or outward portion of your upper thigh bone, are affected.

“Trochanteric bursitis can affect anyone. Middle-aged and elderly women are especially prone to it, but people with very physical jobs, such as carpenters and house painters, are also at risk,” says Scott Burg, DO. “Hobbies and activities that involve repetitive twisting or rapid joint movement, or acute or prolonged pressure on joints, can also lead to bursitis.”

Gardening, raking, jogging, bicycling long distances, and playing tennis, golf or even a musical instrument can increase your odds of developing bursitis.

What bursitis feels like

Trochanteric bursitis brings warmth, swelling and pain to the outer thigh that can spread down to the knee. Walking intensifies the pain, limping is common, and climbing steps can become difficult. Tenderness on the side you’re lying on may interfere with sleep.

“But everyone’s response to pain is unique,” notes Dr. Burg. “Some people feel minimal discomfort that annoys them, while others sense pain more intensely. That’s why some people don’t need much anesthetic when a tooth is pulled, while others need a truckload.”

Home treatment with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories can help. It’s also important to avoid any activities that cause pain, including excessive standing.

When to seek help

Most trochanteric bursitis resolves on its own after two weeks. If home treatment hasn’t relieved your discomfort after two weeks, it’s time to see a doctor. A specialist in orthopaedics, rheumatology, 0r physical medicine and rehabilitation can help.

You doctor may ask you questions like:

  • Do you remember bumping your outer thigh or hip?
  • When did the pain begin?
  • Did you scrape your skin?
  • Did you get a fever?

Sometimes, physical therapy can be prescribed. If that doesn’t help, steroids can be injected into the bursa to relieve the inflammation.

Injections aren’t for everyone

“Injections can bring long-lasting and sometimes permanent relief,” notes Dr. Burg. “But they won’t be effective if you keep doing the work or activity that caused your bursitis in the first place. You have to eliminate the source of the problem.”

In the rare cases where trochanteric bursitis persists after 12 months of medical therapy, surgery can be considered.

But chances are, with proper care, your bursa will stop complaining long before that.

Source: Cleveland Clinic Blog

Yoga with Jessica: Savasana

corpse-pose-2Can you believe it’s January 2017? A new year is upon us- a new year to begin anew or to continue the journey. Whether this is your year for a healthier lifestyle, conquering those financial barriers, mastering yoga or one of the many other challenges life throws at us, open your heart and mind, and be receptive to the lessons you may learn.

This month, I would like to focus on the practice of savasana, or the corpse pose. Savasana is used at the end of your yoga practice, and it symbolizes the death of your current yoga practice.

Physical Benefits:

  • Ability to lower your blood pressure
  • Ability to relax and rejuvenate your body
  • Ability to reduce fatigue

Mental Benefits:

  • Ability to reduce stress
  • Ability to reduce mild depression and anxiety
  • Ability to reduce insomnia
  • Ability to calm and center your mind

For some people, this is the most difficult yoga pose because it asks you to surrender, to be still and to be present in the moment. Once we reach the end of our yoga practice and come to savasana, many let their thoughts wander back to the to-do lists, meetings the following day, or the next sporting event for their child.

I ask my students to bring their attention and awareness to their breath during savasana. I ask them to witness their breath- each inhale and each exhale- while they are in savasana. If you are focusing on your breathing, it is much more difficult for your mind to wander to those other thoughts.

You do so much for others throughout your day and week. Why can’t you devote an hour to yourself? It’s not selfish by any means. It’s giving back to yourself and nurturing, revitalizing and relaxing your body.

To end this month’s blog, I’d like to quote an old yoga saying. “Yoga is in the present. Yoga is presence. When the past and the future dissolve into what’s here, right now. It’s coming into a place of peace and calmness and integration.”

Namaste.

Recipe: Skinny Chocolate Cream Pie

Recipe: Skinny Chocolate Cream PieThis heavenly dessert is also surprisingly healthy thanks to fat-free half-and-half and dark cocoa powder — offering unexpected calcium and antioxidants.

Ingredients

Crust

10 whole chocolate graham crackers
2 tablespoons light butter, cold
1 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten

Filling

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 teaspoons light butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

1 1/2 cups reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed
chocolate curls (optional)

Preparation

Crust

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Coat a 9-inch pie pan or plate with nonstick spray
  3. Process graham crackers in food processor until finely ground
  4. Add butter, pulse until coarse crumbs form
  5. Add egg white, pulse until evenly moistened
  6. Press crumb mixture evenly and firmly over bottom and sides of prepared pan
  7. Bake 8 minutes and cool on a wire rack

Filling

  1. In a bowl, whisk cocoa powder and cornstarch, add 1 1/2 cups of the half-and-half and whisk
  2. In saucepan or a double boiler, heat remaining 1 cup half-and-half and the sugar over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved
  3. Whisk in cocoa mixture and melted chocolate
  4. Cook, stirring, until filling begins to bubble
  5. Continue to cook, whisking, until very thick, about 2 minutes longer; use caution as this mixture can easily scorch
  6. Remove from heat, whisk in butter and vanilla
  7. Spread filling in crust
  8. Place plastic wrap onto surface of filling; refrigerate at least 4 hours
  9. To serve, remove plastic wrap; spread whipped topping over filling

Nutrition information

Makes 8 slices
Serving size: One slice

Calories: 260
Total Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Sodium: 90 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 41 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 5 g

Source: Cleveland Clinic Blog

Taco Salad with Beef and Avacado

" Recipe: Taco Salad With Beef and Avocado"Who doesn’t enjoy a good taco salad? This version asks for grass-fed beef cooked in cumin, coriander, chili powder and oregano. It tops a delicious, nutritious mix of greens and veggies.

Ingredients

1 tablespoons coconut oil
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 garlic clove
juice from 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
7 to 8 cups mesclun
2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 carrots, scrubbed and shredded
1 large tomato, cut into large chunks

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, warm the coconut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and cook, stirring frequently and breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the cumin, coriander, chipotle powder, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the avocado, olive oil, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, cayenne, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup of filtered water in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth, about 45 seconds. Transfer the dressing to a small serving bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the mesclun, cabbage, carrots, and tomato and toss to combine. Divide the vegetables among four plates and top with the beef mixture. Serve, passing the dressing on the side.

From the book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, by Mark Hyman, MD

Source: Cleveland Clinic blog

Yoga with Jessica: The Tree Pose

dreamstime_32841657I’m sitting at home on this cold, quiet Saturday morning. The sun is shining bright and the ground is white with snow. As I gaze out my windows at the woods behind our house, the majestic trees remind me of the tree pose. The tree pose replicates the graceful, steady stance of a tree.

How much thought do you give to the trees you see each day? Personally, I never gave them much thought before yoga. They were just always there, part of the landscape, and taken for granted like so many other things.

The tree:

  • stands tall, reaching toward the sunlight and toward the deep blue skies
  • has a strength that withstands strong winds, changing temperatures, seasons and disastrous storms.
  • is flexible as its branches are able to sway gracefully with the wind
  • is giving, providing shelter, shade, activity (think climbing a tree), scent (think Evergreen or Cedar trees) and beauty.

The tree pose:

  • strengthens the arches, ankles, calves and thighs
  • lengthens the spine
  • improves balance
  • opens the shoulders, chest, thighs and hips
  • improves circulation
  • brings balance and equilibrium to the mind, therefore, calming the mind
  • cultivates poise and focus
  • improves concentration

The tree pose is considered a balance pose. As we age, our balance tends to become unsteady. Regular practice of tree pose can help revive that balance. Don’t let this picture scare you off. There are modifications and props that are always available to help you slowly achieve this pose. Like a real tree, you start off small and grow stronger and stronger. The tree pose gives us strength and slowly but gracefully gives us what we need at the exact moment we practice it.

Discover, rebuild and expand your strength and balance through the simple practice of tree pose. Namaste my yoga friends. Have a blessed holiday season.

Egg & Bacon Mini Casseroles

Egg & Bacon Mini CasserolesMake a grab-and-go breakfast using egg, spinach, bacon, cheddar cheese and leftover bread. These mini casseroles bake up as complete meals that you can quickly reheat for breakfast.

Egg & Bacon Mini Casseroles

Ingredients

  • 1 (10-ounce or 280-gram) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 4 slices (35 grams per slice) 100% whole-wheat bread, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup (110 grams) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onion stalks (35 grams), chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices (110 grams) cooked bacon, chopped
  • 5 large (50 grams each) eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (305 grams) low-fat milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray one 12-well muffin tin (or two 6-well muffin tins) with cooking oil spray, and set aside.

Put thawed spinach into a mesh strainer, and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Set spinach aside.

In a large mixing bowl, coat cubed bread with olive oil. Add spinach, cheese, green onions, garlic powder, salt, pepper and bacon. Toss the bread mixture until well combined. Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin-tin wells.

In the same bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the milk. Pour the mixture over the bread in the muffin tin, trying your best to evenly divide the egg-and-milk mixture into each muffin well.

Bake the casseroles for 30–40 minutes, or until the bread on top is golden and crispy and the centers are set. Test by poking a skewer into one of the casseroles, and see if it comes out clean.

Allow casseroles to cool before serving.

Nutrition Information

Serves: 6 |  Serving Size: 2 mini casseroles (70 grams each)

Per serving: Calories: 300; Total Fat: 20g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Monounsaturated Fat: 8g; Cholesterol: 206mg; Sodium: 538mg; Carbohydrate: 14g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 17g

Nutrition Bonus: Potassium: 369mg; Iron: 11%; Vitamin A: 123%; Vitamin C: 22%; Calcium: 32%

Source: MyFitnessPal

Maintain, Don’t Gain

maintain-dont-gainCelebrate a healthier you this holiday season by taking charge of your health and weight. According to some articles, Americans gain one to five pounds over the holiday season; however, the average gain is actually closer to one pound. Yet, according the National Institutes of Health researchers, that one pound may never come off, and those pounds can add up over time.

Yes, it’s important to make time to celebrate and enjoy the good company of friends and family at holiday parties and festivities. Just because you are trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you need to avoid holiday celebrations or fall prey to a few extra pounds. You can work healthy eating into the holidays by being calorie conscious and focusing on balance and moderation. Here are some tips to help keep the scales from creeping up on you:

  1. Be realistic. Trying to lose weight during the holidays may be self-defeating. Focus on weight maintenance.
  2. Calorie bank. Eat small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can enjoy party foods without overdoing your calorie intake for the day.
  3. Never go to a party hungry. Eat a small, low-fat snack before you go. Feeling hungry can sabotage even the strongest of willpowers.
  4. Quench your thirst. Ask for sparkling water and a lime twist rather than wine, champagne or a drink. This can help save on those empty calories.
  5. Potluck. If you are bringing a dish, make it healthy, delicious and low calorie. This way you know you will have something with fewer calories to help fill up on.
  6. Forget the all-or-nothing mindset. Depriving yourself of special holiday foods will either make you crave them or feel guilty if you do eat them. (Not a healthy eating strategy).
  7. Get creative with substitutions. When you are entertaining, modify your recipes to create lower calorie, lower fat options. Chances are your guests won’t even notice.
  8. Give yourself time to exercise. Physical activity is a good way to burn calories before you go to a celebration and will help you feel less guilty when you are enjoying your favorites.

Find support. Create a “Maintain, Don’t Gain” team to help you stay strong throughout the holiday season. It’s pretty simple to do. Simply schedule a weigh in before Thanksgiving and check in with one another each week to swap healthy eating tips and provide support. You could even schedule gym time or walks/runs with each other to help increase your activity over the holidays.

Why Do I Get a Pain in My Side When I Work Out?

Why Do I Get a Pain in My Side When I Work Out?“Side stitches” are painful spasms of the diaphragm, a powerful muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen.

Side stitches are common. In one study of 965 athletes, side stitches affected 75 percent of swimmers, 69 percent of runners, 62 percent of horse riders, 52 percent of aerobics participants, 47 percent of basketball players and 32 percent of cyclists.

There is no single reason why side stitches occur. The leading theory suggests increased blood flow to the liver and spleen. Another theory is that pain is caused by internal organs pulling down on the diaphragm. (This doesn’t explain why side stitches frequently occur in swimming, though.)

There is also the chance that an imbalance of electrolytes in the blood, such as calcium, potassium, and sodium, contributes to side stitches.

To avoid a side stitch when you work out, do the following:

  • Regulate your breathing.
  • Warm up before starting your activity.
  • Be mindful of food before a run.
Source: Cleveland Clinic Blog written by exercise physiologist Christopher Travers, MS.

Are you making one of these baby safety mistakes?

Surprised baby girl with parents handsWhen it comes to baby safety, there are quite a few rules you probably know well: Put baby to sleep on his back, no bumpers or loose bedding in the crib, store poisonous items out of reach, never leave baby unattended on an elevated surface. The list goes on and on. Even though you do all of those things (and more), you may still be making mistakes that put your baby at risk. Right these wrongs to keep your baby safe.

Your baby sleeps in his car seat or swing

The last thing any parent wants to do when a baby falls asleep in the car seat or swing is to wake him up by moving him. However, a 2015 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that letting infants and children up to 2 years of age sleep in so-called “sitting devices” can lead to injury or death. When a baby sleeps in a car seat or swing, his head can fall forward, which can cause him to not get enough air or to be strangled by the straps, says Katie McPeak, M.D., medical director of primary care at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. If your baby falls asleep in the seat while you’re driving, it’s not a big risk, as long as the car seat is secured in the car properly, and he’s buckled in correctly. Once you make it home, though, take him out of the seat and put him in his crib. The same thing applies if he falls asleep in the bouncer, swing, sling, or stroller. Relocate him to the safety of the crib.

You go down the slide together

You may go down the slide with your baby or toddler because it’s fun, she needs a little coaxing, or you want to make sure she reaches the other end safely. But going down in tandem could be risky. One study looked at pediatric shin bone fractures over an 11-month period and found nearly 14 percent happened when the child was going down the slide on an adult’s lap. “The child’s shoe or foot can catch on the slide, and then because the parent’s weight is coming down behind the child, it can cause the leg to twist or break,” says Tracy Mehan, manager of translational research in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio. The better option: Let your child go solo. “Lift her up to the halfway point and have her slide from there,” Mehan says. If your kiddo is afraid to go without you, choose a different activity until she’s ready.

The brake on your stroller doesn’t get enough use

We all know we’re supposed to apply the brakes on the stroller every time we take our hands off of it, but many parents don’t, Mehan says. All it takes is turning your head for one second, and then somebody bumps the stroller, an older sibling pushes it or depending on how big the baby is, her wiggling can make it move, she says. That can be especially dangerous if you’re on an elevated surface, or if the stroller rolls into traffic, parked cars, or it flips over. It’s also crucial to use the brake when you are putting your child in or taking him out of the stroller, or if you need to access the storage basket under the stroller. Make it a habit to apply the brakes every time you remove your hands, even if it’s only for a second. To help, remember this quick phrase: “Hands off, brake on.”

You use a head support with the car seat

If it didn’t come with the car seat, don’t use it. After-market car seat products like head and body supports and strap covers are a safety hazard. If an item wasn’t designed specifically for that particular car seat, it wasn’t safety-tested for that seat and could alter the performance of the car seat in the event of an injury, Dr. McPeak says. The same is true for fluffy winter coats and blankets. “They can make the distance between the baby and the straps wide enough that the baby could be ejected from the car seat in a crash,” Dr. McPeak warns.

To keep your baby warm, she recommends putting the blanket or coat on top of the straps, not on the baby. If you want to use head or body supports, check with the car seat manufacturer to see if there are any add-ons made (and safety-tested) specifically for your seat.

Your child eats (and drinks) on the go

We get it: Giving your toddler a snack or sippy cup decreases crying during car rides. But if your baby chokes, you won’t be able to see her in a rear-facing car seat, and you may not hear her since choking typically has no sound, says Melanie Potock, co-author of Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater. Even if you notice choking, it’s dangerous to try to quickly maneuver through traffic to be able to help her. In addition, “Hard-spouted sippy cups or hard plastic straws can cause facial lacerations should you need to hit the brakes quickly,” Potok says. Your best bet: Use a straw cup with a soft, silicone straw. Plan trips so that your child is able to have a sit-down meal before or after the ride. If you have to feed her on the road, pull over to a safe spot and get in the backseat with her. If she must have something and you can’t pull over, an o-shaped, non-sugary, meltable cereal is best.

Your toddler loves to “greet” dogs

We all know little kids, babies included, love animals. So when your toddler sees a cute, fuzzy doggie, her first instinct is to run up and give him a rub, which isn’t a good idea. Animals (all, not only dogs) are unpredictable. When you pair that with a small kid, who might do things or move in ways the animal perceives as a threat, things could get dicey fast. Even at this early age, you should begin teaching your child how to interact with animals. “Let your child know, ‘Every time you want to approach an animal, you need to be with an adult and ask first,” Mehan says. Then, she says, calmly walk towards the owner, ask for permission, and ask how the dog likes to be approached. Some dogs want to see your hands in front of their face; others prefer you stand by their side so they don’t feel threatened. Show your child how to pet the dog—the ASPCA advises taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head—and talk to her about always being gentle. Once she’s done, teach her to thank the owner and say goodbye to the doggy.

You cover the stroller to protect your baby from the sun

If you have to go out on a scorching day, you probably cover your baby’s stroller with a blanket to reduce his sun exposure. But according to researchers in Sweden, this simple act—with even the thinnest blanket—can be quite serious because it reduces air circulation and the temperature in the stroller can get dangerously high, putting your baby at risk for heat stroke, suffocation, and even SIDS. “Babies can overheat in a much shorter time than adults, so it’s never a good idea to cover a baby’s stroller,” Dr. McPeak says. To protect your baby from the sun and heat, stay in when the temperatures are high (if possible), use a stroller that has a canopy, or use a parasol (an umbrella that clips on the stroller). Also, check on your baby frequently for signs of discomfort or heat exhaustion.

Source: Parents.com