Holiday Meal Planning

Thanksgiving is over – but the Christmas holiday is only just beginning.  Stores are packed, UPS and FedEx are working overtime and holiday baking is in full swing.  Amidst this exciting, yet often chaotic time of year, it is important to remember to stick to a healthy overall meal plan, to keep your energy levels up and immunity strong.  Nourishing yourself with healthy foods, along with getting regular moderate intensity physical activity and plenty of sleep and relaxation time are usually your best bets to warding off sicknesses, managing stress and maintaining your energy levels.

Speaking of immunity, if you still have Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator, it is past time to throw them out.  According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), cooked meat and poultry leftovers are only fresh in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.  Cooked stuffing is fresh about 3-4 days, too.  Gravy is only good for 1-2 days, so definitely throw any away if it is still lingering in your refrigerator.  For more information on food storage safety, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov.

As for the rest of your meal plan, too often, Americans throw a healthy meal plan out the window when the holidays arrive.  However, try to avoid the “all or nothing” mentality.  You can still enjoy a few indulgences here and there, while sticking to an underlying healthy meal plan.  For instance, it is fine to sample the holiday treats that local stores may offer, such as hot chocolate, cookies and pastries.  And, it is even fine to purchase a few for you and your friends or family to enjoy together.  Your body will best manage these discretionary (extra) calories if you are healthy and managing your weight with a basic healthy meal plan.

So, starting your day with a balanced breakfast is a good way to begin.  Think whole grains (in cereals, English muffins, breads, bagels), fruits and proteins.  Combining proteins with carbohydrates at all meals and snacks is the best way to manage hunger and satiety levels, reducing the changes that you will have strong cravings or urges to overeat later in the day.  Popular, healthful breakfast proteins include lowfat dairy products (i.e. milk, yogurt and cheese), dairy alternatives (i.e. soymilk), peanut butter, eggs and egg whites, lean meats and meat alternatives (i.e. soy sausage).  You also get some protein from grains.  Many grain products like cold cereals and breakfast bars contain extra protein (often from milk or soy protein ingredients) and fiber, too.  Fiber is especially helpful in preventing disease and managing satiety levels.

So, as you prepare for a day at the office, at the mall or at home doing chores, remember to keep your breakfast balanced.  Continue to eat healthfully throughout the day, too, and know that in moderate amounts, your body will be able to handle some discretionary calories along the way.  As with any time of the year, we should all focus on balance, variety and moderation to keep us healthy.

Be well,

Julie

Recent Research Reveals Sugar More Addictive than Cocaine

Hi everyone, Kimberly Krueger, here In a recent issue of the Los Angeles Times, there was an article about the addictive nature of sugar. I think the research findings are important and fascinating, so I’m going to share it with you.

Researchers have learned that rats overwhelmingly prefer water sweetened with saccharin to cocaine, a finding that demonstrates the addictive potential of sweets.

Offering larger doses of cocaine did not alter the rats’ preference for saccharin, according to the report.

Scientists said the study, presented this week in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, might help explain the rise in human obesity, which has been driven in part by an over consumption of sugary foods.

In the experiment, 43 rats were placed in cages with two levers, one of which delivered an intravenous dose of cocaine and the other a sip of highly sweetened water. At the end of the 15-day trial, 40 of the rats consistently chose saccharin instead of water.

When sugar water was substituted for the saccharin solution the results were the same, researchers said.

Further testing subjected 24 cocaine-addicted rats to a similar trial. At the end of 10 days, the majority of them preferred saccharin.

“Intense sweetness is more rewarding to the rats than cocaine,” said coauthor Magalie Lenoir of the University of Bordeaux in France. “Excess sugar could increase levels of the brain chemical dopamine, leading to a craving for sweets,” she said.

Lenoir said mammalian taste receptors evolved in an environment that lacked sugar and so were not adapted to the high concentrations of sweets found in the modern diet. Cocaine also increases dopamine, but through a different brain mechanism.

So, there we have it folks, the research is in: eating sugar causes cravings for more sugar.  *Tiffany Brown, MS, LPCA-A coordinator of the Weight A Second weight management program at Southlake Center suggests the following tips to decrease sugar cravings:

      1.    Frequent Meals. Eating meals at regular intervals will prevent drops in blood sugar that trigger cravings.

      2.   Eat Whole Foods. Fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains contain some naturally occurring sugars, but they also offer dietary fiber and important nutrients to help balance blood sugar.

      3.   The More Natural, The Better. Choose an orange, rather than orange juice. Not only will you get less sugar, but you’ll also benefit from more nutrients.

      4.   Beware Of Fat-Free Labels. These foods actually contribute to health and weight problems. What the labels don’t tell you is that these products contain more sugar – sometimes two or more times that found in the “regular” versions.

      5.   Assess.  Are you actually just thirsty, or sleepy?  Oftentimes sugar cravings are just misread signals for other needs.

Hope these suggestions help.  And if you would like to know more about saying No to Diets and Yes to life, be sure to contact us at Southlake and we’ll get you started right away.

Be well,

Kimberly

*Tiffany Brown, MS, LPCA-A is certified through ACE as a personal trainer and group instructor.  She is also certified through the NCBDN as a weight loss/nutrition instructor. Tiffany is provisionally licensed by the NC Board of Licensed Professional Counselors.  She is Southlake’s newest team member and is coordinator for Southlake’s Weight A Second Weight Management Program.

Holiday Tips for Managing Your Weight and Hunger

The holiday spirit is in the air.  And, for many people, just the thought of the holiday season brings on anxiety related to food.  Many worry about the upcoming holiday parties, extra treats around the office, gift baskets filled with chocolates and cheese and of course all the free samples of holiday fare at your local grocery stores.

You can, however, take comfort in the fact that it is possible to stick to a healthy meal plan over the upcoming weeks.  The holiday season does not have to inevitably bring with it a fluctuation in your body weight.

To help you reduce your anxiety, here are some tips to help manage your weight and hunger, this season:

  • Try to maintain a healthy, balanced meal plan from day to day, even if you know you are going to a party or have extra treats around the office or home.  This will ensure that you do not fill up on nutrient-poor, high sugar, high fat foods.  If you are hungry for a treat, dessert or extra snack, you can fit it into your meal plan, as long as you have eaten well balanced meals and snacks that day.
  • Resist the urge to skip meals.  This will only lay the foundation for increased hunger and cravings later in the day, therefore increasing the possibility of overeating later.
  • Balance your carbohydrates and proteins at meals and snacks.  For instance, if you are going to have a piece of pie, have a small glass of lowfat milk with it.  Or, if you choose the cheese appetizer, have some whole grain crackers or fruit with it.
  • Prepare meals with lowfat dairy, lean meats, whole fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned), whole grains and healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds).
  • Lighten traditional holiday recipes by reducing fat, sugar and sodium. This can be done by using egg substitutes instead of whole eggs, lowfat dairy products rather than whole fat versions, using lean cuts of meat and decreasing the amount of added sugars and salt you add to recipes and meals.
  • An average amount of 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day will help increase your fiber intake and ensure you are getting plenty of phytonutrients (plant compounds that help prevent disease).  Depending on your personal nutrient needs, you may need slightly more or slightly less fruits or vegetables daily.  A dietitian can help you determine your personal needs. Choose colorful produce for the best nutrient balance.  Great produce options include broccoli, berries, spinach, tomatoes and winter squash.
  • Try not to classify foods as “good” or “bad”.  Most foods can fit in healthfully to a balanced meal plan.  Placing foods into positive or negative categories can be detrimental to your overall meal plan, leading to feelings of anxiety if you break out of what you consider safe and unsafe foods for your diet plan.  In other words, it is better to set goals to increase your fruit intake, for instance, or to decrease mindless grazing on food, rather than to require yourself to eat one apple a day or to avoid all desserts.

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area.  Reach her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

Food Allergies on the Rise

More than 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies.  Young children make up the highest percentage by age, with about one in 17 children under the age of 3 (5.6% of that age group) currently dealing with a food allergy.  Children aged 1 to 18 represent about 4% of cases and adults represent a slightly lower 3.7% of cases, according to the Federal Register.  And, while no cure has been officially found, there is new hope with current research that cures will be found in the near future.  Duke University, for instance, is having good results with therapies to eliminate peanut allergies.  And, luckily for many, most milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies are outgrown with age.

As a dietitian, I am seeing more and more clients trying to manage a food allergy…and it seems there is more to the story than just a higher diagnostic rate.  There actually seems to be an increasing number of individuals developing food allergies.  The CDC reports food or digestive allergy increased 18% among young people between 1997 and 2007.  And, between 1997 and 2002, childhood peanut allergies doubled.

Theories about why food allergies are on the rise include (but are not limited to):

  1. genetic susceptibility;
  2. the “hygiene hypothesis”(overuse of antibiotics, vaccinations and antibacterial cleaners leaves our immune systems open to attack other perceived toxins, such as foods);
  3. a lack of vitamin D, which plays a role in the immune system;
  4. an imbalance of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids;
  5. and, the way foods are heavily processed.

Food allergies occur when the body mistakenly identifies a particular food as a health threat.  Unlike a food intolerance which causes a digestive response, an allergy involves a complex immune response.  Ranging from mild to life-threatening, the severity of a food allergy differs depending on the individual.  For some, a minute amount of food ingested or inhaled (perhaps if a child smelled a nut) can cause a reaction – even anaphylaxis (multi-factorial body response that can be fatal).  For others, it takes a larger volume of allergenic food for a reaction.

Food allergy causes about 30,000 ER admits and 150 deaths annually, according to the FDA.  Peanut and tree nut allergy represent the leading causes of fatal and near-fatal allergenic reactions.  And, although there are more than 160 foods that can cause an allergic reaction in humans, the top eight allergenic foods include peanuts, milk, eggs, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.  The top eight cause about 90% of reactions.  New evidence points towards sesame as the 9th most allergenic food.

Sensitive individuals may react with hives or an eczema flare from skin contact.  In others, eating an allergen could trigger runny nose, coughing, wheezing, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, a drop in blood pressure or a change in heart rate.  If someone has asthma, it increases the risk of a severe response.

Although there are different types of immunological responses, one of the most common causes the body to produce antibodies to attack the allergenic food protein.  These types of allergies are also called immediate onset, type 1 hypersensitivity or IgE-mediated food allergy.  They cause symptoms within seconds or up to a few hours after eating an allergenic food.  These allergies can be diagnosed with the usual medical tests such as skin prick test or RAST blood test or via an elimination diet (where the potential food is avoided for 1-2 weeks and then re-introduced to determine if a reaction occurs).  This type of food allergy is often inherited.

One type of immediate onset food allergy is Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS).  This condition is caused by the cross-reactivity between pollens and the certain raw fruits and vegetables upon which the pollens are found.  Itching, burning, tingling and sometimes swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue and throat can occur.  In severe cases, it is possible to have an anaphylactic reaction.   Common foods implicated with OAS include: apples, almonds, apricots, bananas, carrots, cherries, cucumbers, hazelnuts, kiwis, melons, parsnips, peaches, plums, potatoes, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, various spices and zucchini.  For the estimated 36 million people with ragweed allergies, for instance, it is important to be aware about OAS.

In the “delayed onset” or “non-IgE-mediated food allergy”, delayed onset of symptoms occurs after a food is eaten (usually 4 to 24 hours).  While there are several types of this allergy, symptoms often exist in the first few months of life (infancy) and most are outgrown in one to three years.  An infant may refuse food, have failure to thrive, seem colicy, pull legs up or have reflux, diarrhea or blood in the stools.  Diagnosis is achieved with an elimination diet.  If an infant is breastfed, the mother would need to eliminate trigger foods from her diet (or use a hypoallergenic or amino acid-based formula).  Elimination of milk products is usually done first.  Since at least half of infants with a milk allergy are also usually allergic to soy, it may be recommended to a nursing mother to avoid both milk and soy.

Other types of food hypersensitivities (allergies and intolerances) exist and involve varying responses from the immune and/or digestive system.  Several GI disorders have been linked with food hypersensitivities, including irritable bowel syndrome, eosinophilic esophagitis and celiac disease.  Additionally, other diseases and conditions, including fibromyalgia, atopic dermatitis, migraines and even depression may have connections with how our bodies respond to certain foods.

Various therapies and/or treatments exist to manage food hypersensitivities.  If you or your child suffer from food hypersensitivity (or suspect one), here are some tips:

  • Work with a specialist, such as a board certified allergist to do appropriate testing in order to get a correct diagnosis.
  • Work with a dietitian specializing in food allergies to develop a safe eating plan.
  • Read food labels diligently to ensure you know what is in your foods.
  • Choose cosmetics like California Baby and high quality supplements (such as Nature Made vitamins) that do not contain allergenic ingredients like milk, soy or nuts.
  • Research! Learn about treatments and educate yourself.

Excellent sites to learn more:

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

Fight the Fear of the Freshman 15

Many college freshman worry about gaining the dreaded “freshman 15”. What they fear, in fact is that they will somehow gain 15 pounds during their freshman year at college, unintentionally.

When I counsel college students, I often encourage them to overcome the fear of weight gain and replace it with a sense of self assurance. When you understand your body does not intend to trick you or get out of your ideal body weight range, it can become easier to trust your body.

Unfortunately, an individual’s relationship with food can be a very complicated one. How many people do you see day to day who seem unhappy with their body? Or, perhaps it is the seemingly harmless comments like “I can’t eat that,” “I am so fat,” “That food is so bad for me,” or “I wish I could eat that.” None of these comments give respect to one’s body and in a sense, put a sort of distrust in one’s own ability to be healthy.

Combine that with the situation of a young man or woman embarking on the college path, leaving home (perhaps for the first time) and being confronted with countless choices and opportunities. Take it to the cafeteria or campus gym and you can often see anxiety escalade. Comparisons to other students (be it eating styles, study styles, workout routines, or the like) or even a desire to be so far different from usual can often lead individuals to an unknown place—where losing touch with one’s body signals and true self becomes the norm. And, it can be tough…to keep in touch with your true healthy self, especially if you are not sure who that true self really is or who it wants to be.

So, let us bring it back to the point of contention—how to avoid the freshman 15. Assuming that a college freshman is at a healthy weight (or even overweight) from the start, I can offer a few suggestions to help avoid unnecessary weight gain. And, even though the true weight gain someone might experience freshman year is likely to be less than 15 pounds (research points to a 2-5 pound gain, on average), these tips can help students make healthy choices during their college years.

Eat at regular mealtimes. Avoid going longer than 3 to 4 hours in between meals. Snacks help bridge the gap between mealtimes – especially when classes interfere with traditional mealtimes. Don’t let class get in the way of you eating breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Meet with a campus or local dietitian for an assessment of your dietary habits and for help making healthy food choices on and off campus.

Avoid frequent late night eating. While it is common to stay up late in college, be sure you eat according to your hunger levels rather than just because food is available. It can be tempting to overdo it on “free” food or food that you might not normally have ever eaten so late at night. However, frequent events like this can lead to unhealthy eating. Granted, it may be needed to have one or two pieces of pizza if dinner was at 5:00pm and you are still up studying at 10:00pm. Try to keep portion sizes in mind and mix up the routine. One night might be pizza, another might be yogurt and granola.

Stay hydrated! Many people often confuse hunger and thirst. Your brain needs water, just as much as it needs food.

Continue (or begin) incorporating regular physical activity into your schedule. A healthy balance is important – too much or too little exercise can interfere with healthy weight and stress management. See what clubs or classes are available, too. Classes like yoga and pilates are great, as they incorporate mind and body balance.

If you find yourself eating or restricting food in response to stress or anxiety, try to become more mindful about eating. Mindfulness is about being conscious about why you are eating. Are you hungry? Tired? Bored? Sad? The moment you begin to capture the true feeling of what is going on inside you, you can become more mindful about when you are hungry and when you are satisfied (not starving or painfully full).

If you struggle with separating food from your feelings, you are not alone. Seek out someone on or off campus to discuss your situation. Counselors, therapists, doctors and dietitians can all play a role in helping you to achieve life balance. There should be no stigma associated with seeking out someone to help you. Most people benefit from guidance—so seek out the options available to you!

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her atjuliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

Fashion Industry Taking Steps to Promote Healthy Body Image Among Women

In an effort to promote healthy body image, the French fashion industry has passed a charter of good conduct regarding the use of models in promoting healthy body size. The charter, supported and signed by the French minister of health, recommends the fashion industry to promote “diversity in the representation of the body, avoiding all form of stereotyping that can favor the creation of an aesthetic archetype [ideal body image] that is potentially dangerous to [youth]”. Those members of the fashion industry who signed the charter also are pledging to participate in preventative actions that would discourage idealization of unhealthy body sizes and also plan to increase public awareness about the “risks linked to extreme thinness.”

In addition to the charter, French parliament is considering a law project aimed at preventing anorexia. Possible implications of the law include fines and jail time for individuals involved in promoting eating disorders, such as on pro-anorexia (“pro-ana”) websites or in fashion ads.

Other countries have begun to address the weight of top models in the fashion industry. Spain, for instance, has banned from fashion shows models with BMI’s (Body Mass Indexes) less than 18. Milan (in Italy) bans models less than a BMI of 18.5.

The World Health Organization and other health agencies classify a healthy BMI as 18.5-24.9. Someone who is 5’8” tall with a BMI of 18.5 would weigh 121 pounds. However, ideal body weight for a woman with medium/regular bone and muscle structure is around 140 pounds. So, there is considerable variation in what might be classified as healthy. And, it is important to note that BMI is not the only determinant for the diagnosis of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are multi-factorial, life-threatening mental and physical illnesses that involve a complex interlay of emotional and physical issues. Many individuals with eating disorders (or simply disordered eating) go undiagnosed or untreated and may suffer with a life-long battle with food and weight issues.

Here are some facts that may surprise you:

  • In the US, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
  • Millions more are suffering from binge eating disorder.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder – the majority of deaths are due to physiological complications.
  • An estimated 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
  • Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.
  • An estimated 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.
  • The majority of people with severe eating disorders do not receive adequate care.

For more statistics, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

For eating disorder/disordered eating treatment in the area, contact the Southlake Center

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

Published April 20, 2008 in the Statesville Record and Landmark.

Healthful Weight Gain is Possible

While many individuals struggle with trying to lose weight, others struggle with trying to gain weight.  Whether someone seeks to recover from an eating disorder, manage a long-term illness (such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, an autoimmune disorder or food sensitivities/allergies), gain weight for sport or simply aims to try to gain a healthy body weight, healthy weight gain can often present many challenges.

For one, an individual may not wish to gain weight, but needs to do so for health reasons.  Perhaps this is someone with an eating disorder.  If the individual is a minor, a parent is often the one seeking out healthful ways to encourage his or her child’s weight gain at an appropriate rate.  In these situations, it is imperative to work with a team of health professionals who specialize in eating disorders, including a physician, psychotherapist, dietitian and perhaps psychiatrist, as well.  In this way, the parents do not become the “food police”, interrogating children at every meal and snack, nor do they choose unhealthy ways to gain weight (such as forcing unhealthful foods into a child’s diet).  Additionally, the team can address underlying concerns and focus on whole body recovery, rather than just the weight restoration.

Another reason someone may be struggling with weight gain is simply a side effect of having an illness.  Be it Alzheimer’s, where an individual forgets to eat or forgets how to eat, or cancer, where the body’s reserves are being depleted at an accelerated rate.

Men, often, (but, women, too) can struggle with putting on weight, while trying to achieve high muscle mass for sport.  With intense exercise, it is essential to be consuming enough calories to not only avoid unwanted weight loss, but also to achieve healthy lean muscle mass.  Working with a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition is helpful in this situation.

Then, a situation may arise where unachievable weight gain occurs for unknown reasons.  In this case, it is also important to work with a team of health professionals and get appropriate lab testing in order to determine the cause.

No matter what the reason, if you seek to gain healthful amounts of weight, here are a few ideas to consider incorporating into your eating plan.  Remember, though, each plan should be catered to an individual, with individual needs and preferences addressed:

  • Incorporate nutrition supplement foods and beverages such as Boost, Ensure and Carnation Instant Breakfast into snack time, to supplement one’s regular eating plan (rather than replace a meal).
  • Mix nonfat dry milk powder into liquid milk to make a more nutrient dense beverage.
  • Use plant oils (such as olive, canola or nut oils) in cooking or food preparation to incorporate healthful unsaturated fats each day.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but not at the expense of other foods.  Be sure to consume enough grains/starches, proteins and fats, as well.  For instance, rather than having an entree salad with a little protein, have a side salad along with your protein source and a starch or grain.
  • Drink 100% juice or milk instead of water, at some meals or snacks.
  • Switch to whole fat milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream if you normally choose fat free or lowfat versions.
  • Select dried fruit and raw nuts for nutritious, energy-rich snacks.
  • Select sandwich spreads such as guacamole, hummus, cream cheese and omega-3-fatty-acid-rich mayonnaise.
  • Natural cheeses can be used on sandwiches, salads, tacos, quesadillas or as dips.  Consider cheddar, ricotta, blue cheese, feta, goat cheese and gouda.
  • Sprinkle wheat germ or ground flaxseed on cereal or salads and in yogurt or smoothies.
  • Granola is more energy-dense than regular cereal (usually due to the sugar and fat content).
  • Consider nut butters as a great dip for fruits, vegetables and whole grain crackers.
  • Restaurant milkshakes and smoothies can be an easy, on-the-go treat, where children, especially, may enjoy the flavor, so therefore resist less than a nutrition supplement drink.
  • Store bought trail mix, yogurt covered pretzels/raisins/nuts or chocolate can fit in appropriately, as well.  Select dark chocolate if possible, with natural ingredients, to promote intake of phytonutrients that promote health and reduce risk of disease.
  • Consider your exercise.  Very physically active people have higher nutrient needs.

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.

Managing Digestive Discomfort Possible with Good Nutrition

Do you suffer from any type of digestive disease or discomfort? If you do, you are not alone. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 60 to 70 million Americans suffer from some type of digestive disease or condition. Some of the more common include constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, heartburn and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As far as nutrition, there is a lot you can do to prevent or manage digestive problems. Since less than 50 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of daily dietary fiber, this is one place you can start. Fiber helps to keep our gastrointestinal tract clean and regular. It helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancers and helps prevent constipation. In general, proper fiber intake is an important step in the fight against most digestive diseases. In addition, dietary fiber helps with satiety, which means it keeps us fuller longer. In this sense, dietary fiber can help to maintain a healthy body weight – which then, of course promotes healthy digestive health. Being underweight or overweight can exacerbate digestive problems. In order to get the recommended amount of 25-30 grams of dietary fiber per day, include whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.

Besides fiber, there are other ways to foster a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Below is a list of things you can do to become more proactive in your digestive health:

Stay well hydrated – Non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages are best. Also, avoid beverages made with high fructose corn syrup like sodas and many fruit drinks. Examples of healthy beverages include water, milk or milk alternatives, non-caffeinated teas and 100% juices.

Include prebiotics in your daily diet – Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria, thus improving gastrointestinal health. Examples include artichokes, soybeans and raw oats. Kraft LiveActive cottage cheese is a new product containing prebiotics.

Also, include probiotics daily – Probiotics are food supplements containing beneficial bacteria or yeast that work synergistically with prebiotics. Examples of foods containing probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and Kraft LiveActive natural cheese.

Try to get protein from lean sources and choose whole grains over refined, high fat versions (i.e. cookies, pastries, fried chips), since high intakes of fats – most especially the unhealthy saturated and trans fats – can lead to digestive problems. Include fish, tofu, white and skinless poultry, dried peas, beans, lentils, nuts and eggs.

Educate yourself by reading websites like the following:

Julie Whittington is a Registered Dietitian in the Lake Norman area. Contact her at juliewhittingtonrd@yahoo.com.