Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Aging Boomers and Lost Muscles

Just when you thought it was fine to relax with a glass of well earned wine and nibble on a few whole grain crackers, nutrition researchers are here to ask, “Did you have enough protein today?”
OK, we know you’re not into body building competitions but get a load of this mid-life reality check. You could be losing muscle mass and strength- a condition called sarcopenia- if you don’t consume enough high quality protein on a daily basis. Susan Hewlings, PhD, RD of Stetson University in Deland says, “We’re seeing sarcopenia, which commonly occurs in the elderly, in younger subjects in their early to mid-fifties.” Hewlings and other researchers presenting at the 2008 American Dietetic Association’s annual Food and Nutrition Conference shed new light on the connection between what we eat and the health of our aging muscles. Bottom line: research shows that to prevent and treat lost muscle mass you must consume 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. That translates to about 90 grams of protein a day for a normal weight man and would be less if you’re a tiny gal.
Don’t Save Up for a Big Steak Dinner
But, here’s where the real specific advice kicks in- you should be including sources of high quality protein such as eggs, milk and meats and balancing your protein intake throughout the day. “Typically people eat less protein at breakfast, a little more at lunch and then eat a lot at dinner. To optimize protein synthesis and prevent sarcopenia it needs to be more evenly distributed.” There goes that diet plan to starve all day and splurge on a big steak for dinner. Your muscles are hungry for amino acids found in protein foods all day long. In fact, Robert Wolfe, Ph D Professor of Geriatrics at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas warns that “When there are periods of the day when no amino acids are being absorbed from the gut, muscle serves as the only significant reservoir of protein.” That means your body starts robbing the muscles of stored protein to keep organs and other tissues humming along. So, make sure you’re eating protein containing foods every day and including protein in each meal. And that includes snacks. Something as simple as fresh apple slices topped with peanut butter is a good choice.
Hewlings emphasized that protein alone can’t do the job of preserving and building muscles as we age, “I call exercise the ‘poor man’s plastic surgery.’ And note that physical activity boosts lean body mass only if you’ve got enough protein in your diet.”
Protein On The Menu
Since foods are often a combination of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) chooses protein containing foods wisely with other health concerns in mind. For instance, a 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak is a great source of complete protein—38 grams worth but contains 44 grams of fat. The same amount of salmon gives you 34 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat- and it’s the kind of fat that’s good for you. For a complete list of protein foods to include in a healthy diet go to

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shop 'Til you Drop- Your Food Costs!

That's me standing in the produce aisle reporting this, "The hottest food trend hitting supermarkets now is how to save a buck!"
Old school tips on bargain shopping - from coupon clipping to reading unit prices-are in vogue with a vengeance. Here are a few smart ways to save on food dollars without sacrificing good nutrition. You've got to stay well nourished to ward off winter's colds and flus! The win-win here is that often the more economical humble heroes - such as beans, rice, canned tomatoes, soups, eggs and milk- are also the most nutritious choices in the supermarket, too.

Ready. Set. Shop ‘til you drop – your food costs!
· Leftovers: Wonder or Wasteful? Wonderful—think double duty meals. Roasted pork loin makes a great dinner one night and leftovers for tasty pork sandwiches or wraps the next. Or to save time, money and the urge to grab something quick at takeout, make a big pot of rice one night and use it the next day to go with a chicken and vegetable stir fry. And while you’re picking up the milk don’t forget the eggs – they’re both economical sources of high-quality protein. And eggs aren’t just for breakfast anymore. Set up an omelet bar for dinner or make a frittata or quiche.
· Comfort Foods: A) High Calories and Costly or B) Healthy and Affordable? B! Think meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, baked lasagna or cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. However, give these wallet-friendly crowd pleasers a contemporary nutrition makeover – serve the meatloaf with brown rice, use whole grain pasta for the mac and cheese, add some chopped broccoli or zucchini and mushrooms to the lasagna and use lowfat or fat free cheese for the sandwiches. Look up your old favorites recipes online to find new healthier twists, which can also save you a few bucks or check out my book “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!”for more of my tips and insights for you and your family.
· True or False: Fancy Vitamin-Enhanced Drinks are Worth the Extra Spend. False. False. False. Don’t be fooled by sports drinks, enhanced water or even vitamin D and calcium fortified orange juice, not one can stack up against the nutritional and economic value of a glass of milk. Milk offers the most bang for a quarter, with a full 8-ounce glass of nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, protein and potassium. Other beverages fall short on nutrients and can cost up to seven times the amount of one serving of milk.
· Are shopping lists a thing of the past? No, don’t forget the good old shopping list! With the price of gas today and of course your precious time, there’s nothing worse than getting home from the store to find you forgot one ingredient for a recipe. Or putting the groceries away and finding you were out of milk. Shopping lists help us plan what we need and avoid impulse purchases, as well. If chocolate covered donuts aren’t on your list then keep that cart moving. To focus your food dollar where it counts nutritionally, it might help to arrange your shopping list by the groups in USDA’s MyPyramid -- fruit, vegetables, grains, meats and milk and milk products. Once you built the foundation with these foods, you can decide if there’s some extra cash still available for snacks or other treats.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ship Shape Cruising

Dateline: Somewhere in the North Atlantic sailing on the Cunard liner QM2 from Southampton to New York.
It really was a trip of a lifetime; well the second trip of a lifetime. I was born in Scotland and when I was six months old I sailed with my mom, Jessie Maclean Robertson O'Neil, on the original Queen Mary from England to New York. Now, 50-uh- something years later I followed the same trans Atlantic itinerary on the QM2. This was a historic voyage for Cunard as well since this trip marked the 100th Atlantic crossing for the QM2. All that and plenty of Champagne, too!
Passengers, it's interesting to note, have always been into fitness when they travelled. Old photos from the Queen Mary boasted a small gymnasium and circa 1950's menus touted the chef's ability to create dishes for special diet requests. On board the QM2 today, fitness is a big focus with a Canyon Ranch Spa and fitness center complete with professional trainers. The menus for every dining room included light and healthy choices and always an array of deliciously unique salads.
Deck 7 was a popular spot. That's where you can run or walk or stroll around the ship on a promenade deck. Three trips around the QM2 and you've completed 1.1 miles. So you can decide how many laps to take based on how many laps you want to do at the breakfast buffet. But, the biggest fitness boost comes from taking the stairs and not the elevator to get around the ship. Up and down, down and up from deck 2 to deck 12- that's a cardio workout.
Yes, you can stay ship shape on your cruise!