Eat The “Dirty Dozen” Fruits & Veggies & Be Healthier For It

It’s that time of year again – spring – when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes it’s “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue. It’s also when I’m reminded that fear sells and facts are more boring (but more essential!).

Many fruits and veggies on this list are popular favorites:

1. Strawberries                                 7. Cherries
2. Spinach                                          8. Pears
3. Nectarines                                     9. Tomatoes
4. Apples                                           10. Celery
5. Grapes                                           11. Potatoes
6. Peaches                                         12. Sweet Bell Peppers

This list always gets a ton of media attention (probably why the EWG keeps issuing it) but it fails miserably at giving context, and that’s unconscionable for an issue that’s so important.

As a practicing clinician of some 33 years, what concerns me most about this list is that it can put already confused consumers off of eating produce. It’s exactly what shouldn’t happen, but research suggests it’s exactly what DOES happen. This study – not industry-funded, please note – found that:

“Messages naming specific FV with pesticides shifted participants toward

‘less likely’ to purchase any type of FV regardless whether organically or conventionally grown.”

Exactly what no responsible health professional wants.  The amount of solid, scientific evidence indicating the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables is overwhelming and indisputable.  That research – all of it – was carried out with conventionally grown produce.

Pesticide Residues: Perspective & Context

The issue of pesticide residues has been scrutinized by the feds for ages. The EPA is extremely conservative in setting allowed levels of pesticides. Indeed, many countries follow our lead on this.
Strawberries were ranked #1 on the Dirty Dozen list. Yet, EPA has found that a typical 3½-oz portion of strawberries had maximum residues that were about 1/100th of allowed levels.

Cutting to the chase: You’d have to eat about 22 pounds of strawberries daily – for life – to reach the EPA threshold levels.

Another perspective: Take two Olympic-sized swimming pools, both bone-dry. You throw a drop of water into pool A and 100 drops of water into pool B. You can accurately say:

• Pool B actually has 100 times more water than pool A.

Now, in context:

• You won’t drown in either pool.
• You won’t even get wet in either pool.

Organic ≠ Pesticide-Free

Reality bites: pesticides are allowed on organic crops.  If you like eating organic and can afford it, go for it, but know it’s still not pesticide-free — and that’s OK.  Some other facts about organic that most people don’t know:

• There are several HUNDRED “natural” pesticides that USDA approves for organic farming.

• Even some synthetic pesticides are allowed on organic crops. Check the feds’ complete list here.

• Pesticide residues on organic crops aren’t monitored as thoroughly as they are on conventionally grown crops. The National Organic Standards Board has 15 people. Only one is a scientist.

ALL produce deserves cheers, not fears. So read the Dirty Dozen list if you like. When you know the facts, you won’t worry. You’ll do what I do: yawn — and grab an apple.

MORE: Want to know if corn is a vegetable? Do Beans count as veggies, too?  Want about canned/dried/frozen fruit?  I have you covered.  Get the answers here.

Growing Up With Cacao Trees in the Backyard?

Maribel Lieberman did, so it’s no wonder she went on to found MarieBelle Chocolate and Cacao Market by MarieBelle in New York. We were both guests together on the show “Nutrition and Exercise” on Doctor Radio, (Channel 110 on SiriusXM), and she agreed to chat with me later to tell more of her story.

Born in Honduras, Maribel said “It was usual to have cacao trees in the backyard, so yes, I grew up with cacao trees.”. Those trees weren’t a direct line to chocolate making however. “My mother was a very passionate seamstress and my idea was to become a designer and continue with my mother’s tradition.” This led her to come to New York’s Parson’s School of Art and Design, intent on becoming a fashion designer.

“When I arrived in New York, I was absolutely in love with the city and its culture,” and finding herself mesmerized by all the different food cultures that have always been part of the city. “This is when I started experimenting cooking with unfamiliar ingredients,” and how she learned to combine them into unique flavors.  As her interests evolved from fashion into food, she bought lots of cookbooks, learning to be a chef.  Maribel eventually started a catering company, maintaining it for 5 years.

It’s during this period that she learned a lot about chocolate. “I experimented making truffles and really loved it,” but combining and fusing different flavors with chocolate is what fascinated her even more.

Bean-to-Bar with Women Farmers

The vast majority of the cacao Lieberman uses comes from Hondouras, “although sometimes from Nicaragua or El Salvador, also.” Most of her cacao beans are Trinitario variety — a hybrid of the more common Forastero and the uber-delicate Criollo beans.  She travels to Honduras several times a year. “I have a relationship with the growers, most of them are women farmers, I have about 60 women that I buy cacao from,” but from other farmers as well. “I work very closely with the Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola.  The non-profit FHIA provides her with a wealth of knowledge about cacao, and “they help me pick the best quality bean.”

Maribel’s shop offers about 50 different flavors of chocolates and truffles. Spices figure prominently in her ganache chocolates, with the cardamom flavor being one of her favorites.  For me, a couple of her ganache truffles and a cappuccino make an excellent  dessert.  Not high in calories either (given their size, figure about 70 calories per truffle), and just enough indulgence.  With the cap (I’ll take a decaf, thanks, and I know I’m in the minority here) supplying some protein and dairy nutrition, it’s one way to make dessert or an afternoon snack really work.

Sugar-free chocolate her way 

She also entered the sugar-free market, sweetening her 70% bar is only with organic whole milk powder. “I think it works well” and I agree. It has the creaminess of milk chocolate, but the intensity you’d expect from a 70% bar.  Added sugar? Zero.  Protein?  Yes — a little over 5 grams in a 40-gram portion (about 170 calories).  She’s currently developing one sweetened only with raspberries and blueberries.

Her ganache chocolates have unique airbrush designs on them. Some are her husband’s designs, other are the work of her in-house designer. All are whimsical and have their own explanations that come with the “paperwork” in each box sold.  She’s obviously figured out that people eat with their eyes, too.  Smart.

Does all the “business” of cacao make her less interested in eating it? Not a chance. “I eat cacao every day,” she said happily. “Sometimes when I travel and didn’t bring any with me, I end up buying it at the local store.”

Chocolate fans, I’d say she’s “one of us.”

YOU’LL BE “CRUCIFER-IED” FOR EATING THESE FOODS!

“I can’t stand cabbage but I only have to eat it once a year, on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Cabbage gets a bad rap because it’s so often boiled with corned beef. While corned beef needs to be boiled for a long time, cabbage just loses flavor the longer past al dente it cooks. If your only other exposure to cabbage is that poorly made deli-style coleslaw the above sentiment is justified, as it would be for most veggies eaten that way.

If St. Patrick’s Day is the only time you ever eat cabbage (save perhaps for the mayonnaise-laden coleslaw at the deli or maybe some super-salty sauerkraut on a hot dog) then it might be worth another look at this incredible food.

Not a cabbage fan?

No big.  Mother Nature provides many ways “up the mountain”. Cabbage is just one in a family of “cruciferous” vegetables, which research has shown to have cancer-fighting compounds called “glucosinolates”. These are the sulphur compounds that give the veggies much of their distinct taste and “aroma” but these veggies are loaded with other antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals. There are lots of delicious options to cabbage:

• Broccoli                                   • Collard greens
• Brussels sprouts                    • Mustard greens
• Bok choy                                 • Radishes
• Cauliflower                             • Turnips/turnip greens
• Chinese & napa cabbages    • Watercress

How tastes change

Never in my wildest days did I ever think Brussels sprouts (also a “cruciferous” veggie) would be an “in” food. Ditto kale. Indeed, kale got so “in” it’s now almost out (but the nutrition stays). Of course, like cabbage, if you’ve always associated Brussels sprouts with boiled-to-death soggy spheres, you’ll hate them. Tossed with olive oil and roasted however, maybe with some walnuts or pine nuts at the end, makes them a whole other ball game. Even better for kids, sliced or “shaved” disguises them completely and turns them into a great stir-fry with onions and any other veggie.

All those great healthy compounds in cruciferous veggies are also a source of flavor. They just need some herbs and spices to complement them. Stir-fries have done wonders to awaken people to the flavor of cruciferous veggies.  Here’s my recipe for my fool-proof “Quick, Colorful, Cruciferous Stir-Fry Medley”.  Delicious, fast, and super-healthy.

Roasting cruciferous veggies, like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli makes them almost irresistible, and they take added herbs and spices like garlic, oregano, and cardamom very nicely. Of course, there’s always my go-to addition, grated parmesan or pecorino. Even just a teaspoon amps up the umami quotient.

Kids love finger food, and roasted veggies make great finger food.  Get them eating these veggies with their fingers, then deal with etiquette issues later.

Bonus: What’s St. Patrick’s Day without soda bread?  Get “My Mistake Brown Irish Soda Bread” recipe that I tweaked from Cook’s Illustrated’s version.

“MY MISTAKE” BROWN IRISH SODA BREAD TURNED OUT DELICIOUSLY!

I love Cook’s Illustrated and their recipe for “Brown Irish Soda Bread” looked great.  Their primary focus is on taste, not nutrition, but this recipe caught my eye. It’s loaded with whole wheat flour but has added bran and wheat germ. By mistake, I ended up adding a about ¾ cup of wheat germ instead of the called-for ¼ cup and less wheat bran, as it was all I had. I deliberately reduced the salt from the original one teaspoon, figuring there would be enough sodium in the baking soda and baking powder (and I don’t like too-salty bread).

Bonus: it’s just dry ingredients and buttermilk – no eggs or added fat. I mixed the dry ingredients the night before to save time in the morning.

My Mistake

I kept wondering why I had to add more buttermilk to get it to the needed consistency.  By the time I figured out my mistake, there was no going back, so I went with it and hoped for the best. And I got a delicious soda bread, not too salty-tasting, either. Just right.

No wedges for this bread, it holds up to slicing. Tastes hearty but not too heavy, and it goes well with most cheeses – I paired it with a firm goat cheese from our local farmer’s market, but a good cheddar or Stilton would also be fine (and probably more authentic!).  Cheese brings complementary flavor to this bread, but also more protein and calcium than butter.  With fresh fruit it made a nice whole-grain breakfast.

“My Mistake” Brown Irish Soda Bread

• 2 cups whole wheat flour                    • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
• 1 cup all-purpose flour                        • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
• ¾ cup wheat bran                                • ¾ teaspoon salt
• ¾ cup wheat germ                               • 2¼ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375⁰. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Whisk together all the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Gradually add the buttermilk and mix until it’s one mass. Transfer it to a smooth counter and form it into a round that fits into your cake pan. The surface will be “craggy” but no worries. With a serrated knife, cut a “cross” on the tip, about half an inch deep.

Into the oven for about 40-45 minutes. It’s supposed to reach 185⁰ internally, but mine never quite made it. If the surface is browned, it’s probably done (mine was). Invert it onto a wire rack and then invert again so it’s “right-side-up.” Cool it for a good hour before slicing. It’s awesome.

HATE CABBAGE? NOT THIS QUICK, COLORFUL”CRUCIFER-IED” MEDLEY!

If you hate cabbage or eat it only on St. Patrick’s Day, boiled to death with corned beef, you’re really missing out on a great tasting and healthy veggie.

Corned beef can stand up to boiling — it actually needs long, moist heat — but that same cooking method kills the taste of veggies dead in their tracks.  Then there’s the smell of cabbage: it’s those sulphur-containing “glucosinolates”, real workhorse phytochemical compounds that fight cancer cells and have anti-inflammatory benefits.  The baggage they bring however, is their “aroma”.

No big.  Stir-frying them and adding some flavorings, even just a little salt and pepper, tames all that and makes cabbage dishes delicious.  Example: before thinking you don’t like cabbage, do you ever get “moo-shu chicken” from your local Chinese take-out?  It’s absolutely loaded with cabbage — usually napa cabbage, but it’s one of the cruciferous veggies, nonetheless, and a great one.  See what some flavorings can do?  That’s often on the oily side though, and you don’t have to have all that added oil for cabbage to taste good.  This recipe uses very little and makes a lot.

Quick, Colorful& & Cruciferous Stir-Fry Medley

Recipe: serves 4 if you use 3 cups of shredded veggies plus the onion.  I even bought pre-shredded veggies – it’s colorful. It’s a little more pricey, so I usually do my own chopping, slicing, and shredding, but last night the convenience really felt good.  I only had to slice the onion.  Ahhh…

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil per 3 cups shredded (or thinly sliced) veggies, tightly packed. Use one type or a combo of these:  red and green cabbage, carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale. I like color so I used red and green cabbage and carrots.
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly.
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds.
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the oil on medium, then add the onion and cook, stirring and tossing, until they “sweat”.  Add the rest of the veggies and toss to coat, then keep stirring them up, until they’re the desired degree of tenderness. Add salt and pepper – but taste first though – you’ll need less salt than you think.

Optional substitutions for caraway seeds:

• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1 tablespoon of hoisin, plum, or soy sauce
• 1 or 2 cloves of smashed garlic (add during cooking so it doesn’t burn)
• 1 tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino

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DRINK BEER, LIVE LONGER, MORE OR LESS

But maybe a little less than you thought.  Lots of people see holidays like St. Patrick’s Day as the a day when getting drunk doesn’t seem so awful, because:

a) it’s tradition to do it,
b) people almost EXPECT to do it, and
c) you feel almost left out if you DON’T do it.

I had a patient once who recalled his family’s St. Patrick’s Day tradition, “it’s a rule: you go to the parade, then you come home and abuse yourself.” A case of beer PER PERSON (that’s four 6-packs or 24 cans) during the course of the day was not unusual, “and that wasn’t the only stuff we drank, either.”

Moderate drinking seems to be fine (see below) but there’s no way this kind of drinking is moderate and certainly not healthy, even if it’s “typical” for some St. Patrick’s Day.

What’s “moderate drinking”? There really are definite numbers here. The feds describe “moderate drinking” as: 2 drinks for a man, one for a woman. What’s “one drink”?

• 12-ounce can or bottle of beer
• 5-ounce glass of wine
• 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

So that case of beer should have last about 12 days for a man, and 3-1/2 weeks for a woman. That’s the bad news for beer drinkers. For wine drinkers, you may want to check your pour. Five ounces is likely less than you think – it means 5 drinks per average bottle or white or red.

Booze: The good news

Moderate drinking, as defined above, seems to be associated with a longer life. The 90+ study was initiated in 2003 to study the common factors about people who live to be 90 years and older. There’s reason for this study – the nonagenarians are a fast-growing group. Baby boomers will likely contribute to their expansion in the years to come.

The 90+ year-old folks who have one or two drinks per day tended to live longer than those who abstained. Ditto for moderate coffee drinking, which has been defined as two to three cups daily. As for why moderate drinkers live longer, that’s till up for grabs.

This is an “association” study – it cannot show that moderated drinking of booze or coffee CAUSE you to live longer. Studies like these can only generate a hypothesis. Still, at least drinking moderately isn’t associated with negatives like earlier death.

It could be that people who drink moderately also aren’t taking take medication that is incompatible with alcohol. Therefore, the alcohol consumption acts as a screener or “marker” of people who are healthier to start. Same with coffee drinking. If you have high blood pressure, you may be told to stay away from caffeine, associating abstainers with poorer health.

“Beer-Bank”? It’s No-Deposit, No Return 

With booze, unfortunately there is no “banking” your beers ahead of time so you can enjoy a big blast on St. Patrick’s Day – or on any random Friday night. It’s two drinks per day, use them or lose them. If you know you’re going to drink more than that, keep it to no more than one drink per hour. The liver just can’t metabolize alcohol more quickly than that. Even at that rate, you may still not pass a breathalyzer, so don’t drink and drive. Period.  And please, holiday or not, legal drinking only, not for kids.

By the way, plenty of other factors were also associated with longer life, including daily exercise and working on hobbies of interest. Sounds like those who are enjoying themselves more also tend to live longer.

Silver lining for moderate drinkers/teetotalers

Keep your drinking sensible and instead of kissing the Blarney Stone, you’ll kiss hangovers good-bye and feel great the next day.  Cheers!

I TRIED “POT” & GOT A LEAN, HEART-HEALTHY BEEF DINNER!

No cannabis involved.  I’m talking about making my first pot roast and it turned out great.

I’ve written earlier about my “grill-phobia” and how I conquered it. Pot roast was my next cooking obstacle to overcome.

February is Heart Month

It’s also cold, we’re tired of winter, and we’re getting grumpy. We really want comfort food. And we want the kind of comfort food that doesn’t require too much prep work, either. But we need heart-healthy, too.

I mentioned this dilemma to my 90-year-old mother and she suggested a pot roast. I always loved the one she made but figured it was beyond my culinary skills.

Pot roast checked all my boxes though – it’s good comfort food, for sure. Thanks to some great info from the Beef Checkoff folks, at www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com, I learned it was lean (go for a boneless shoulder roast). As for the fuss-factor, the prep time was only about 30 minutes, then the oven does the rest. “Value added”: it lasts for more than one meal, tastes even better the next day, and has lots of veggies, so even more heart-healthy.

I decided on a recipe from the New York Times that we’d clipped out several years ago but never made. It was “adapted from Gavin Kayser” but I adapted it further, based on what I liked and what I had on hand. Here’s how I tweaked it:

• I cut some fat. Instead of 3 tablespoons of canola oil to brown the meat and 3 tablespoons of butter to sear the veggies, I used one scant tablespoon of olive oil for the meat and a dash more for the veggies. I grew up in an olive oil home and I see no reason to change.
• Instead of 8 cremini mushrooms, I used a  10-oz package. Mushrooms add lots of umami and leftover raw mushrooms might go to waste anyway.
• I  only had a cup of red wine instead of the called-for 1½ cups, so I didn’t open another bottle.  And it was merlot, not cabernet. It worked.
• 4 cups of beef broth would have overflowed the pot, so I made do with about 2 cups instead, unsalted.  I’d salt to taste later.

One more little tweak: I added ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon. Mom said, “When you cook with tomatoes, add a little cinnamon. It really adds flavor.” Done.

Recipe: Dr. Keith’s Pot Roast

A 3-pound boneless beef shoulder roast (that I got on sale!) works well.  It’s lean, stands up to long, moist cooking, and doesn’t need baby-sitting. Here’s the procedure, and don’t be afraid to change it. It’s forgiving:

Chop your veggies:

  • 2 red onions, cut into quarters
  • 4 carrots and 3 celery stalks, and 2 medium parsnips, each cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 rutabaga (yellow turnip), about a pound, peeled and cut into about 12 chunks. Not too small or they’ll break up.
  • 10-oz. cremini (a.k.a. baby portabella) mushrooms, halved
  • 1 head of garlic: cut the top off to expose the cloves but keep the head intact

Get your seasonings and flavorings together:

  • ¾ cup (a 6-oz can) of tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of red wine – use what’s open
  • 2-3 cups of unsalted beef broth

HINT: Do the above prep the night before.  I did — it made the actual cooking faster & a blast!

  • Sprinkle the roast with 1½ teaspoons of salt and a good amount of pepper.
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large oven-safe pot (I used a 6-quart Dutch oven) to medium-high heat, and add the meat. 3 or 4 minutes on each side sears it. Remove the meat and set it aside.
  • Add another modest dash of olive oil and lower the heat to medium. Add the vegies, including the garlic, and stir it around to coat it and then occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and mix it in well. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes.
  • Add bay leaves, rosemary, wine, and broth and stir occasionally, until it seems like there’s a thick gravy, about 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.
  • Add the meat back, including any meat juices on the plate. (Hint: I removed about half the veggies before adding the meat, then added the veggies on top, so the meat was really surrounded by veggies top and bottom.)
  • Cover the pot and cook for about 2½ hours. Then let the roast sit for at least 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary and squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and back into the pot.

The tomato paste (super-nutritious) and broth worked their magic here for a tasty, rich sauce. Salt to taste, but not until you’re ready to serve it — there’s so much flavor you won’t need to add much.  Since the oven was on, I roasted a bunch of veggies to go with it.  Meal’s complete!

Would I make this again?  Big “yes”, in a healthy heartbeat.

Find even more recipes for pot roast and other lean beef dishes at: https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/recipes

IF YOU FORGOT TO BUY CHOCOLATE, YOU MAY NEED TO EAT MORE!

If your significant other likes chocolate, you probably give it on Valentine’s day, but some science says eating it every day might help your brain function better. Chocolate and its components have been studied a fair amount in recent years, from its effects on blood flow through arteries to performance on cognitive tests.

What exactly does chocolate do to our brains?

This scientific review looked at studies on chocolate’s effects on our mood and found “very reliable effects of chocolate and chocolate components” on lessening mental fatigue and negative moods. Even better: the best effects came from eating “whole chocolate” rather than in pill form or in a supplement-type drink.
The review also looked at studies that showed acute effects of chocolate on brain function. Performance on cognitive tests that measured factors like working memory, attention, and reaction time were improved after giving test subjects single doses of “cocoa flavanols” – the antioxidants in chocolate. Not all studies showed such benefits, and to be fair, most studies used a fairly high dose of cocoa flavanols.

There is also a host of population studies that show “associations” between chocolate consumption and better health, less heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc., but these are non-specific and just serve to generate clinical trials.

How does chocolate do all that?

The exact mechanism is still unclear. What we DO know is that eating flavanol-rich chocolate and cocoa improves things like blood flow, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity. Cocoa flavanols also have been shown to stimulate areas of the brain that deal with working memory, so they appear to be biologically active, and positively so.
It’s also possible that the caffeine and theobromines in chocolate are involved. Although caffeine can increase blood pressure, but theobromine seems to overcome this effect, helping reduce blood pressure.

Cocoa flavanols have long been known to improve blood flow. Better blood flow to the brain may be responsible for the cognitive effects. Improved circulation may also contribute to improved insulin sensitivity, among other benefits. Still, there’s a lot more we need to know before saying anything conclusive, but it’s good to know chocolate has some good things going for it besides taste.

What chocolate has the most antioxidants?

Definitely it’s plain, unsweetened cocoa powder, and not the type that the label says was “processed with alkali” or “Dutched”. That process pretty much destroys the antioxidants. Cocoa powder has almost no fat in it, either, so it’s also pretty low in calories. I use it in my homemade hot chocolate (I use about double what’s called for in most recipes!). Aside from it’s use in baked goods, you can add it to smoothies and try adding a tablespoon of add cocoa powder to chili (intensifies the flavor and I highly recommend it!).

As for solid chocolate, the darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant level – usually. Not all 70% chocolate will have the same amount of flavonoids, but again, the darker the better.

The presence of milk seems to reduce the absorption of the antioxidants. This study found that having a glass of milk when eating dark chocolate reduced the antioxidant absorption by 46%. Eating milk chocolate alone? The plasma antioxidants were reduced by a full 69%.

Cut-to-the-chase advice on chocolate

If you like chocolate, have it! Yes, it has calories, about 160-170 in an ounce, but with a cup of coffee or tea it makes a better snack or dessert than most. All those antioxidants make getting your cocoa on a good thing. Having milk with it cuts your absorption of the antioxidants, but it’s so loaded you’ll still get a good dose.

Me? Oh, I’m in.

BEST DIETS: THESE 2 TIED FOR GOLD

It’s January, and that means US News has issued its “Best Diets” rankings. Out of the 40 diets ranked, both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet tied for first place – again.

Why? They have the most research behind them and they’re both great for your health. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) was created to reduce high blood pressure and the Med diet is intended for heart health – two very common health conditions.

Both diets emphasize plenty of fruits and vegetables. The main difference is that DASH also emphasizes at least 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy foods daily. The Med diet is strong on heart-healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fish, like salmon, because of its high omega-3 fat content. The Med diet can be a bit low on calcium, due to the modest intake of dairy foods.

“Flexibility” Gets a Bronze!

The Flexitarian Diet approaches vegetarianism but not obsessively so. I like this approach. It takes the best from the vegetarian diets but the only thing it banishes is the absoluteness. You don’t have to choose a camp here. For many people, veg is fine – but not all the time. This diet , and so supports this thinking, and so do I. Plus, it’s actually very healthful.
What I love about the DASH, Mediterranean, and Flexitarian diets is that they’re basically eating styles. You can lose weight on them, but they can be a way of eating for the whole family, even the kids. This is ideal for families where one person is trying to lose weight, but doesn’t want to make, or eat, different food from the rest of the family. These diets are all about healthy (and tasty) eating. They also take no special work, don’t require exotic food, and have enough options for everyone.

>>>Cut-to-the-Chase Eating Style: A “MediterDASHean Diet”<<<
Here’s my short-order combo of the DASH and Med diets:
• All fruits and veggies – and 5 portions of them (at least!) daily.
• Low-fat dairy foods of the DASH diet Aim for 3 servings but at least 2 (that’s still an improvement for most).
• Extra-virgin olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, and sure, a glass of wine (if you drink).
Basically a Med diet with more low-fat dairy foods. More inclusive, flexible, less limiting – IOMO.
Up next: The Worst Diets (NOTE: this could get ugly)

JANUARY 1 IS FOR EVOLUTIONS, NOT RESOLUTIONS!

New Year’s resolutions are well-intended, but most resolutions fade away after a few weeks.

Every year, our number one resolution is always to lose weight, and it’s probably why gyms can offer such great deals in January, knowing that most people will never use the full membership.

Stop “resolving” and start “evolving”.

Resolution implies bold, massive change. Evolution is all about baby steps. What gives them impact is consistency. Be consistent with any effort and it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go – you’ll get there. Indeed, “evolution” is more focused on the journey – a good thing – because that’s where we’ll spend most of our lifetime!

Many of our daily routines and poor habits didn’t just happen — they evolved gradually – through baby steps – to become part of our lifestyle. That’s what makes them hard to break.

Slow – but steady – wins every race. If our resolutions are too extreme, we don’t keep them. Then we feel like we failed, but the resolution failed us, because it was too giant a step when baby steps would have been better, and more productive. Bodies aren’t technology. Accept that our bodies, behaviors, and attitudes will change more slowly than our phones.

Ultimate Success Starts With Good Prep Work

A gradual build towards better eating styles, more satisfying life and happier habits starts with good prep work. Below are some little changes that appear at the outset to have nothing to do with weight or even eating habits, but they definitely impact the choices you make during the day.

Here’s a start:

Make only the changes you KNOW you can make.  Success is guaranteed if you break everything down into steps you are sure you can manage. Even small successes are so motivating and can happen often.
Get more sleep. Do you get up every morning wishing you had just 30 more minutes of sleep? Get it. Make a deal with yourself for just one night (baby steps!) to get to bed early, so you can get at least 7 hours of sleep. See how good you feel. Then do it again and again.
No screens for an hour before bedtime. This 2017 study suggests light exposure from various electronic devices – in the evening – “may have detrimental effects on human health and performance,” and was associated with greater sleepiness during the day. Go old-school and read a book before bed instead.
MOVE MORE. Even thin people need to be active, so everyone plays here, regardless of weight. Benefits: it’s a proven mood-lifter, and you often make better food choices when you’re active daily. Start walking even five or 10 minutes each day, or as often as possible.
Re-connect with non-food pleasures. Make this a priority. Food is such instant gratification that other pleasures get pushed to the side.  Let’s remind ourselves that pleasure isn’t always about food.  Some ideas to consider:

  • Take that class you’ve wanted – yes, even the tap-dance class, or the weaving one, or the ceramics lesson. (Notice how these are NOT screen-friendly?)
  • Join a film, book, or hobby club. You’ll be more accountable to the other members – and you’ll find they value your voice, a reward in itself.
  • Take a day-trip on a bus or train. You’ll be back at the end of the day tired but happy.
  • Do something touristy – even take a “tour”.

These are just suggestions, but think out of the box and go for your own.

Evolution happens over a year, not overnight. Commit to a new baby step every month. Next January 1, we’ll be twelve steps ahead of where we are now (and we’ll deserve that New Year’s toast!)