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"Let Food Be Thy Medicine"
January 2016 
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Jean Varney
Jeannie Varney
 Nutrition Consultant


Happy New Year!  I hope you had a wonderful holiday and were able to slow down enough to relax, visit with family and friends and reflect on the past 12 months.  I did and so enjoyed an intermission from the daily grind.  Our children filled our home for more than a week and despite the additional dishes, loads of laundry and clutter, I treasured the time spent with them engaged in stimulating conversation on politics, social issues and "must read" books. We lingered over family dinners, prepared healthy meals together and participated in family workouts.  However, the holiday reprieve is over, they've returned to their respective homes in LA and NYC and I'm back to doing what I love - helping people understand the power of their dietary and lifestyle choices on their health and wellbeing.  January is always busy for me because for many of us, the New Year is an opportunity to start afresh and renew one's self. And while everyone's resolutions are different, a common theme is to take better care of ourselves by exercising more, eating better and dropping those unhealthy and unwanted pounds.
Great aspirations!  Improving your diet and lifestyle can increase your energy, assist in weight management, sharpen mental function, and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, type II diabetes and many cancers.  David Katz M.D., M.P.H., the founding director of Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, says, "Healthy lifestyle habits can lower your risk of these chronic diseases by 80%, if not more."   But in order to reap these benefits, the changes need to be permanent.  Unfortunately, after just a few short weeks of avoiding sweets, going to the gym and climbing into bed earlier, our enthusiasm for our new routines often wanes and we quickly resume old habits, bringing about feelings of guilt and frustration.  Are we really incapable of change or are the changes we try to implement too severe, stressful and unsustainable?  I believe the latter.  Bad habits take months to develop and will take months to alter.  Set realistic goals and allow yourself time to establish new, healthier patterns.  Below I've listed some simple changes you can gradually incorporate into your routine in order to improve your health, feel better about yourself and make your New Year's resolution a habit worth keeping.

Are You Biting Off More Than You Can Chew?
I love that each year the top New Year's resolution is to get healthier.  However it's discouraging that 54% of Americans will abandon this goal before spring arrives. It's no surprise.  Most of us gallantly try to make too many changes at once, often get overwhelmed and simply resort back to our old ways before the snow melts.  I encourage you to make this year different from years past.  Modify your diet and lifestyle slowly so you don't feel deprived of your favorite foods and activities.  In my experience, when you add healthier options gradually, they are more likely to replace the bad habits and become the norm.  This of course is the goal and the key to success - permanent results require permanent changes!  Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

1. Forget the no carb, low carb trend and choose healthy carbs instead:  The type of carbohydrates you eat will have a greater impact on your weight, energy and overall health than any other food group.  Foods made with refined flour and sugar are empty calories that contribute to weight gain, fatigue and chronic disease.  Getting your carbs from fruits, veggies, legumes (see below) and whole intact grains (like quinoa, oatmeal or wheat berries) is the ultimate goal, but for now start to substitute your bagels/bread, cereals, crackers, baked goods, and pastas that are made with white and wheat flour with those that are made with  "whole" grain flours such as whole wheat or whole rye flour.  Tips: Switch to whole wheat breads or wraps with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice, mix your white pasta with whole wheat pasta, nibble on Triscuits instead of pretzels, chips, Cheez-its or rice crackers, twice a week, replace your refined breakfast cereal with PLAIN oatmeal topped with fruit, nuts and cinnamon and swap granola for unsweetened muesli in your yogurt.

2. Get legumes into your diet weekly:  Beans and lentils are nutritional powerhouses.  They're loaded with healthy carbs, lean protein and fiber and are associated with lower cholesterol and body weight.  Make legumes your meal once a week and a side dish 2-3 times a week.  Tips:  Add canned beans or lentils to your pasta sauces, soups or salads.  Enjoy bean spreads such as hummus or black bean dip with veggies instead of cheese and crackers or on your burgers and in your sandwich instead of ketchup and mayo. If you like cottage cheese, mix steamed, shelled edamame and cherry tomatoes with it for a quick snack or breakfast.

3. Cut down on the calories you drink by increasing your water consumption:  Alcohol, flavored coffees, sports drinks, "green juices," smoothies, sodas and fruit juices (even 100% fruit juice) are loaded with sugars that spike your blood sugar and convert to fat quickly in the body while wreaking havoc on your energy, hunger and weight.  Tips:  Agree to cut in half the amount of these beverages you consume daily.  At the same time, commit to drinking 10-12 ounces of water when you first get up and again between meals.  Keep a water bottle at your desk or in your car and sip on it periodically throughout the day.

4. Stop multitasking while you eat.  Be Mindful and eat slowly.  We consume anywhere from 250-400 more calories per person, per day than we did 30 years ago.  These extra calories are the main reason nearly 70% of Americans, 20 and older, are overweight or obese. Our hectic lives often encourage us to eat while traveling to and from appointments, in front of our computers and TVs or at a restaurant.  Eating under these circumstances often leads to overindulgence, more calories and less satisfaction.  Our minds have a difficult time registering calories eaten while standing up, walking or even driving, returning emails, or watching TV.   Tips: When you eat, SIT DOWN, turn off the television and computer and set aside your smart phone, so you can focus on your meal.  Do not eat in the car or "on the go."  Most importantly, stop eating when you are no longer hungry, rather than continuing to eat until you are full.  Chew each bite at least 15 times before swallowing.  Slowing down will help you realize when you have eaten enough to satisfy your hunger.  Portion sizes have become increasingly larger, so if you're dining out, consider sharing an entree with a friend or taking half of your meal home in a doggie bag.  At home, serve your meals on smaller plates and wait at least 20 minutes before getting seconds. 

5. Eat fish at least twice a week in place of poultry and red meat (pork, beef, and lamb) especially sodium-rich, nitrate-filled processed meats like cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, sausage and pepperoni.  Diets high in fish are linked with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and several cancers.  Not a fish lover? Enjoy shrimp, scallops or mussels frequently.  Tips:  Add canned tuna or packaged wild salmon to your salad instead of ham, turkey or cheese.   Commit to ordering fish when you go out to dinner instead of pasta or meat.

6. Include a vegetable every time you eat a meal or grab a snack.  Enjoy 1-2 pieces of fruit a day as well. This is a great trick for getting more produce into your diet while hopefully reducing the types of foods that are less healthy.  Tips:  Add onions, peppers, and spinach to your eggs or a piece of fruit to your plain yogurt.  Enjoy a handful of carrots and sugar snap peas with a low fat cheese stick instead of cheese and crackers for a snack, eat a large bowl of salad before pasta or a piece of pizza, grab an apple or pear with your handful of chips or nuts.  Better yet, add vegetable soup and a salad as a meal once a week instead of a sandwich or a burger or  swap rice for a bed of sautéed veggies and top with a breast of chicken or  a piece of fish.

7.   Get off your tush!  Our bodies were meant to move not sit.  Research continues to show exercise is good for the mind, body, and soul.  Most importantly it protects us against age related mental decline, heart disease, type II diabetes and depression.  Assess how active you are throughout the day.  If your life is predominately sedentary, commit to getting on your feet more often.   Tips:  Get a fitness tracker or pedometer and track your steps.  Increase your steps weekly until you reach 10K steps a day.  Use a headset and pace while you're on the phone, find a ledge that allows you to stand while using your laptop, get off the subway a few stops early and walk home, use the stairs whenever possible, meet your friends for a walk instead of lunch, carry your clubs while playing golf, or add a game of singles to your tennis schedule.  Exercise comes in many forms - finding one you enjoy is the key to making it a sustainable habit.  Biking, walking, zumba, swimming or simply walking a couple times a week is a great start to becoming more active.  Eventually you should build up to doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week - for weight loss it's more like 300 minutes a week. 

8. Stop eating 2 hours before bed.  Eating right before bed can disrupt your sleep.  Restless sleep contributes to weight gain, cravings for unhealthy foods and often less exercise.   Tips:  After dinner immediately brush your teeth or chew a piece of sugarless gum. Retreat to your bedroom or other part of your home that is away from the kitchen to relax and wind down.

9. If weight loss is your goal, track your food: Recording your daily intake of food and drink will help you identify where those extra calories are coming from.  It's amazing how many calories we inadvertently eat when we grab a handful of crackers or nuts every time we open the pantry. Do you nibble off your kids' or spouse's plate while cleaning up?  Enjoy several bites of dinner while preparing it?  These innocuous nibbles add up quickly and can contribute to unwanted weight gain or unsuccessful weight loss.  Tips: Record your food as you eat it.  Relying on recall at the end of the day isn't accurate. Chew sugarless gum while preparing meals and ask your loved ones to clear and wash their own dishes.  Store troublesome foods out of sight.

Whether your New Year's Resolution is to improve your health, protect yourself against chronic disease or lose weight, following these simple steps should allow you to achieve and maintain your goal year in and year out.
Food Focus - Cabbage
Whether red or green, cooked or raw, napa or savoy -- it doesn't matter.  Incorporate this inexpensive, extremely low calorie,  and deliciously satisfying cruciferous vegetable into your diet.  All varieties of cabbage will delight your taste buds and benefit your health.  Here's how:
  •   They're loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients that can reduce cholesterol and protect the heart.
  •   They contain indoles, a class of powerful nutrients, known for their detoxifying and cancer fighting properties.
  •   They're rich in fiber, which keeps your digestive tract stimulated and your waistline trim. (Click here, to see how fiber can assist in weight loss)
  •   They're abundant in Vitamin C, which supports your immune system.
While red cabbage has a slightly better nutritional profile than traditional green cabbage, don't let your quest for perfection get in the way of eating something that is really, really good for you.  Add whichever cabbage you prefer to soups, stews or stir-frys or simply eat it raw in slaws, salads and sandwiches. Better yet, use the leaves as you would bread or a wrap and add your favorite filling.  Check out the recipes below for easy and tasty suggestions. 

What's your favorite way to eat cabbage?  I love my purple cabbage grilled, with peppers, onions, fennel, and zucchini, or perfectly raw, chunk by chunk.  Try it!
Recipes of the Month
Sauteed Cabbage and Mixed Vegetables


Thai Peanut Cabbage Slaw 


Cabbage Hemp Salad 


Cabbage Soup 


About Jean Varney 
Jean Varney is the founder and president of Eat Right, Be Fit, Live Well LLC, a health and nutrition consulting firm committed to empowering men and women to improve their health through sustainable changes to their diet and lifestyle.  Based in the Washington DC metropolitan area, Jean coaches clients nationwide by phone and in person.  She focuses on helping individuals make smart choices about the foods they eat in order to maintain high energy levels, avoid unwanted weight gain and decrease their risk of heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes and other chronic illnesses.  Jean received her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City.  To learn more about her practice, please visit her website at: