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Ask Mr. Pedometer about Healthy Choices for Snacks:

Ask Mr. Pedometer about Healthy Choices for Snacks:

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

May 22, 2019

Q: Making healthy choices for snacks or quick meals can be difficult.  Many so called “Healthy Choices” aren’t really healthy.  Some may even pose dangerous health risks. How do we choose?

A: Reading labels and doing some research is a good start to rule out unhealthy snacks.  Some foods sound healthier than they actually are so it’s good to remember that what advertisers “put on a box” may not be exactly what is “in the box.” The June 2019 edition of Consumer Reports on Health ( issued the following warnings, along with suggestions for healthier snack choices:

  • VEGGIE STICKS – According to Joan Salge Blake, Ed.D., R.D.N., clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University, these “produce pretenders” are not much better than potato chips because of their high Air popped pop corn is a healthy choices for snackscalories and sodium and very little vegetable powder or fiber. Better choice:  Air-popped popcorn is a healthy choice, for whole grains, fewer calories, and more fiber.  Better still if you sprinkle it with herbs instead of salt.

  • RICE CAKES – “Even though they’re made with whole-grain brown rice, they provide little fiber, which helps curb your appetite. And like other rice products, they may contain arsenic which may pose a dangerous health risk.”  Flavored varieties may add lots of calories and sugars.  Better choice:  Choose a fiber-rich cracker and top it with healthy foods (such as peanut butter and sliced banana, or hummus with sliced tomato and cucumber) to make your snack more satisfying.

  • SPINACH WRAPS – They may look green, but they don’t really count as green vegetable intake, since that hue may be due less to spinach powder than to food coloring, according to Whitney Linsenmeyer, Ph.D., R.D., nutrition and dietetics instructor at St. Louis University. Better choice: Choose a multi-grain wrap instead, for more fiber, then use plenty of veggies in the filling.

  • PROTEIN POWDER – Protein powders are unnecessary, because we get enough protein from food, says Linsenmeyer. Also, some brands contain “concerning levels of heavy metals and other toxins which may pose dangerous health risks.” Better choice:  “Greek yogurt, silken tofu, tahini, or peanut butter can add a reasonable amount of protein to your smoothies and supply additional nutrients.”

  • GROUND TURKEY – A turkey burger may not be much better than a beef burger if the ground turkey contains dark meat and skin. Better choice:  Select ground turkey breast, which contains neither dark meat nor skin, therefore containing less fat.

  • BRAN MUFFINS – Beware of large bran muffins that may be loaded with sugar. Better choice: Pair a small bran muffin with a serving of yogurt and berries for a more balanced breakfast, or skip the sugars in the muffin by layering plain yogurt with fruit (such as bananas and berries) and a high-fiber cereal (such as Original All-Bran).

  • GRANOLA – Despite a mixture of oats, fruit, and nuts, many granolas have lots of calories and added sugars and fats – and even surprising ingredients such as whey protein concentrate.” Better choice – Use granola as a topping to a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal (such as Shredded Wheat), or sprinkle it on plain yogurt to add some crunch and sweetness.

  • INSTANT OATMEAL – “Packets and cups [of instant oatmeal] tend to have far more sugars than you’d add to oatmeal yourself.” Also, processed oats can cause a spike in blood sugar more than rolled oats.  Better choice:  Consider cooking a batch of steel-cut oats in the evening to have for breakfast for the next few days.  “Microwave a serving, add fruit, a little nut butter, and cinnamon or nutmeg.”

I hope these suggestions will help you snack more healthily.  Reading food labels is always a good idea.


How much sugar should we consume in a day?

How much sugar should we consume in a day?

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

April 10, 2019

Q: Mr. Pedometer, How much sugar should a healthy person eat (or drink) in a day? pic of a food nutrition labelThe nutritional labels on foods generally tell not only the quantity of each nutrient, but also the percentage of the recommended daily amount. The exception is sugar. The label tells how many grams, but not how much that is toward a daily amount. 

A: Your question spotlights one of the biggest problems in Americans’ eating habits. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that most people should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of “free sugars” (any kind of sugar added into a food or beverage product) per day. However, that amount is found in just one cup of apple juice or a small fruit yogurt!

The Globalist Quiz in our local newspaper recently reported, “In the United States, almost three-quarters of the population consumes more than the recommended amount [of sugar] per day. (The U.S. average is 22 teaspoons per day, close to four times higher than the WHO recommendation.)”

That has alarming consequences for health in this nation, since excess sugar can lead to both obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Some researchers believe that sugar can be “chemically addictive,” with many of the problems associated with other types of addiction.

Reading nutritional labeling on food is a good practice. What can make it confusing, when reading ingredients, is that terms such as “corn syrup” and “fruit juice concentrates” may not be obvious as names for sugar additives.

The good news is that more and more consumers are choosing healthier foods. Major global food processing manufacturers are being impacted. The article noted that “companies such as Kraft Heinz and Coca-Cola are experiencing continued decline in sales. Coca-Cola’s soft drink sales reached a 31-year low in 2017.” Perhaps this will persuade those large companies to reduce sugar additives? Meanwhile, consuming fewer processed foods seems to be the healthiest option.


Fast Way to Make Food Healthier

Fast Way to Make Food Healthier

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

March 20, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, you encourage us to “eat right,” but do you have some suggestions on a Fast Way to Make Food Healthier?

A:  Consumer Reports on Health for April 2019 includes an article entitled “The Fast Way to Make Food Healthier:  Expert tips and tricks to help you put together nutritious and delicious meals and spend less time in the kitchen.”  Sound impossible?  Here are five suggestions:

  • PACKAGED GRAIN MIXES – These are a great Bowl of Wild Rice to help eat healthierstart, just requiring boiling water and adding a seasoning packet, but Susan Saffel-Shrier, M.S., R.D., and certified gerontologist and associate professor at University of Utah, says they become much healthier with these tips:

    • Choose a product with whole grains (such as wild rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat couscous)

    • Use only half the seasoning packet, to get flavor, but with less sodium
    • Add protein by mixing in chopped chicken, beans, or tofu, then top it off with almonds or sesame seeds
    • Stir in a bag of stir-fried or steamed cauliflower rice to stretch the grain while retaining its consistency
  • CANNED OR BOXED SOUP – Stretch one soup into more than one healthy, complete dinner :

    • Add a bag of microwave steamed frozen vegetables, such as cauliflower, peas and carrots, or spinach
    • Mix in a can of low-sodium beans (like chickpeas or kidney beans) for fiber and protein

    • Serve it on top of half a cup of a whole grain, like brown rice or farro
    • Add a cup of water to dilute the sodium. With the addition of other ingredients above, this can become two meals.
  • SANDWICHES – “Any meal that doesn’t require silverware to eat definitely falls into the ‘easy’ category,” the article notes, and what could be easier than a sandwich? However, notes Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D.N, chair of the nutrition department at the University of North Florida, “Many times veggies and fibers are missing from sandwiches, while they can still be high in calories, salt, and fat.”  Here’s the fix:

    • Start with whole-grain bread, not only for heart-healthy fiber but also to help the meal feel more satisfying

    • Reduce the amount of cold-cuts (which may be high in sodium) and add instead cucumbers, sliced peppers, shredded carrots, spinach, or, of course, lettuce.
    • Substitute mashed avocado or hummus for mayonnaise (which “adds calories and fat but little valuable nutrients”). The substitutes add flavor, texture, and nutrients (including fiber and potassium).
  • FROZEN DINNERS – Sure, they’re easy and may be tasty, but beware of the amount of calories, salt, and fat they contain “Look for meals that have between 300 to 500 calories, less than 4 grams of saturated fat and 600 mg of sodium, while containing 5 or more grams of fiber and 10 to 20 grams of protein,” says Wright. Then…

    • Serve it with a big side salad
    • Add a bag of frozen, non-starchy vegetables (such as zucchini) that you have steamed or microwaved – and possibly mix it right in with the frozen meal, in a larger bowl, to extend the sauce and add extra fiber and nutrients without adding many calories

    • Finish the meal with fruit, like an orange or sliced watermelon. These are high in potassium “which helps your body excrete sodium and therefore can help keep your blood pressure low.”
  • COLD CEREAL – Okay, who hasn’t used this as a quick meal? “Cereal is a grain, so to make it a complete meal, add protein and fruits or veggies,” Wright says.

    • Choose a whole-grain cereal with little, if any, added sugars
    • Add fruit, such as defrosted frozen blueberries or a slicked banana

    • Sprinkle on nuts or seeds, like almonds or pumpkin seeds, for crunch and protein
    • Use cereal as a base for a parfait, by layering it with yogurt, berries, and flax seeds

I hope one or more of these suggestions will help you “eat right” without an enormous amount of effort.  We all need to…


Walking to help lower high blood pressure.

Walking to help lower high blood pressure.

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Jan 16, 2019

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, I know you encourage us all to walk frequently, but I am wondering, will that help those of us with high blood pressure?

A:  An AARP Bulletin reported last January that high blood pressure is just one of half a dozen ailments that can be improved by taking regular walks – but at different speeds and durations.

Here is an excerpt from the article by Sara Altshul, describing what walking can help:

  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – “Shoot for at least 1.75 miles at a moderate rate (3-4.5 miles per hour) most days of the week to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, says Paul T. Williams, a life sciences researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.”  woman in walking shoes that are orange and teal

  • ARTHRITIS – It may seem counter-intuitive that people with joint pain can feel better if they walk more, but that is what the research shows. Start with 5 minutes and build up to 30 minutes per day of walking at a leisurely pace for 5 days per week, suggests Leigh F. Callahan, assistant director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, U. of North Carolina.  “If the pain is worse two hours after the walk than it was before the walk started, take a less intense walk the next time.”

  • DEPRESSION – Walking fast “increases the production of serotonin, dopamine, and other brain chemicals that lift your mood, says John B. Arden, author of The Brain Bible. “Start with 10 minutes of strolling, then walk briskly to 75 percent of your maximum effort – a pace that makes talking difficult.  Keep that up for 2-3 minutes, then resume a strolling pace.  Repeat these intervals for 20-30 minutes.”

  • INSOMNIA – Exposure to daylight can help. “Bright light inhibits the body’s secretion of melatonin, our natural sleep agent,” says Donald W. Greenblatt, M.D., director of the Medicine Sleep Center at the U. of Rochester, New York. “When you block melatonin in the morning by walking outside, it then bounces back later in the day, helping to promote sleep.”  Late afternoon walks also can be effective.  Try for daily walks at a comfortable pace for 15-30 minute, finishing your walk at least 3 hours before bedtime.  “Be patient:  some evidence suggests that it can take a couple of weeks to get the full benefit of exercise, so don’t be disappointed if you are not experiencing an immediate effect, Greenblatt says.”

  • OSTEOPOROSIS – Did you know that walking helps preserve bone? Walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can make a difference.  “Three 10-minute walks a day are as bone-strengthening as one 30-minute walk,” says Andrea Singer, M.D., of the national Osteoporosis Foundation.

  • TYPE 2 DIABETES – “Walking after eating sweets can prevent a blood sugar spike. Walk for 15 minutes at an easy pace about a half-hour after breakfast, lunch and dinner.…Because people with diabetes can develop foot infections due to reduced blood flow to the feet, it’s important to get properly fitted for walking shoes.”

So, you see, that’s even more reason why you should…





10 Steps to a Healthier New Year

10 Steps to a Healthier New Year

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

Q: Mr. Pedometer, it’s January 2019 and I know I need to make some changes in my life to get healthy this year. I just don’t know where to start. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Since most of our health changes have to do with nutrition and exercise, start with this great article by Shereen Lehman, MS, found on the Very Well Fit website. Go through the questionnaire and be honest with yourself. Then instead of trying to change everything at once, pick one thing to change, i.e. decide to get up a half hour earlier each morning and go for a walk before diving into your day. Once you have established one change, go on to another one. Change 1 Thing at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed and give up.

See the “Change 1 Thing” article below for the steps that will help you to make changes more possible.

10 Steps to a Healthier New Year

1. Take a look at what your diet and health have been like for the last 12 months. Think about these questions and write down your answers in a notebook so that you can look back at them again a year from now:

  • How does your weight compare with a year ago?Notebook for New Year's resolutions
  • Do you feel healthy and have a lot of energy or are you tired all the time?
  • Do you take vitamins or other nutritional supplements?
  • Do you eat at home most of the time? If so, what types of foods? Whole fresh foods, boxed foods, or TV dinners?
  • Do you dine out frequently? What types of restaurants do you like and what kinds of foods do you choose?
  • How physically active are you? Do you exercise regularly?
  • Do you eat healthy portions, or do you stuff yourself with every meal?
  • Do you smoke?
  • How much alcohol do you drink each week?

It’s important to take an honest look at your health and dietary habits so you can set goals for the next year.

Set Your Goals

Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to be able to run up and down the stairs without getting winded? Do you want to reduce cholesterol or lower your blood pressure? Decide what you want to achieve over the next month, and over the next year.

One possible goal for your first month could be a resolution to take your lunch to work four days per week for each week this month instead of eating lunch in restaurants every day. Another example of a monthly goal would be to walk for 30 minutes four days per week each week this month.

Start with your statistics. Take body composition measurements and make your goals. Then write down your goals in a notebook or in the food diary you are going to create in step seven.

Determine Your Dietary Needs

  • Check your weight.

Here are some ideas you might want to consider:

  • Do you have high blood pressure? If so you may wish to reduce sodium in your diet by avoiding canned and packaged foods.
  • Are you overweight? You need to decrease your calorie intake or increase your amount of physical exercise. You can choose a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet, just be sure to watch your calories and portion sizes.
  • Do you have diabetes? If so, then you need to reduce your sugar intake.
  • Do you have high cholesterol? Increase your intake of soluble fiber like the fiber found in oatmeal. It will help lower your cholesterol levels.

Reduce your intake of saturated fats and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax, walnuts, and canola oil.

Consider Dietary Supplements

  • Supplements in bottles

A healthy diet should give you all of the vitamins and minerals you need, but many people take vitamins just to make sure. There are several formulations available, but all you need is a simple multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement. Speak with your health care provider before you take any additional supplements or if you have any health conditions.

Design Your Healthy New Diet

  • Eat more healthy salads.

Here’s what you need to know to design your new diet:

  • How many calories do you need to eat each day to reach your weight gain or weight loss goal?
  • How do your eating patterns fit your lifestyle?
  • Do you feel better with three large meals per day or five smaller meals per day?
  • Will you continue to eat in restaurants often?
  • What types of fruits and vegetables do you like?

A healthy diet should give you five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, five or six ounces of protein per day, and a small amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids. To stick with your new diet, you’ll want to include foods you enjoy. If you love hamburgers, that’s OK. Make them at home with whole grain rolls and cut down the size of the burger patty, or use ground turkey. Add lots of lettuce, onion, and tomato. Serve your burger with a salad instead of fries.

More Tips:

  • Choose crunchy raw green beans instead of chips and serve them with a little of your favorite dip.
  • Replace high fat hot dogs with soy dogs.
  • Choose whole grain bread and pasta instead of white bread and white pasta.
  • Skip the sugary desserts and have a small dish of fresh berries with a dab of whipped cream or non-fat whipped topping, then add a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.
  • Use lemon juice instead of oil for a salad dressing.
  • Choose low-fat ground turkey instead of high-fat ground beef to cut back on saturated fat. (But remember to read the label—not all ground turkey is low in fat.)
  • Use these tips for finding healthful foods on a restaurant menu.

 Shop and Cook

  1. Couple cooking in kitchen
  2. Make a grocery list before you go shopping. Stay away from the snack food aisles and the prepackaged foods aisles when you shop. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, lean meats, fish, and legumes. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, sodium, trans-fats and sugar.
  3. The best cooking methods are essential for healthy nutrition, too:
  4. Sautéing is better than deep-frying. Frying foods adds fats and calories and doesn’t add any nutrition.
  5. Steam your vegetables instead of boiling them to mush. Steaming will preserve the vitamins found in the vegetables.
  6. When you cook your healthy meals at home, be sure to make extra to take to work or school the next day

Keep a Food Diary

If you’re serious about changing your diet, losing (or gaining) weight, and improving your health, you’ll find that keeping track of things is key to your success in a simple food and exercise diary. This will help keep you motivated and help you get back on your diet if you have a temporary setback.

Be sure to note the portion sizes and write down the calories you eat every day. Add up the number of calories per day and your total for the week. If you need to lose weight, decrease the number of calories you need to eat each week by 500. For most people, that adds up to one pound per week.

You can make your own food diary or keep track of your healthy new diet online.

Get Fit

  • Join an exercise class.
  • Mr. Pedometer includes getting outside in the fresh air and taking a walk.

Good nutrition is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Another component of health and fitness is exercise. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you need to get out and get moving. If you want to lose weight, it is important to increase aerobic activity like walking or running. If you need to increase your strength, then you need to start resistance training such as lifting weights.

  • There are health clubs, gyms, and personal trainers, as well as at-home equipment to get you fit and healthy.
  • Do you smoke? If so, you’ll do yourself a favor by quitting. Smoking has been connected to many chronic diseases, plus you will save a lot of money over the next year if you quit smoking.
  • How much alcohol do you drink? One drink per day has been shown to be beneficial. More than one drink per day can be detrimental to your health, however. If you find yourself drinking more than four ounces of wine, two ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer each day, then you may need to decrease your consumption of alcohol

Reduce Your Stress

  • Stress relief is important for your health.

Stress is detrimental to your health. Stress includes daily events like constant deadlines at work; long drive times with excess traffic; more activities than time to do them; and emotional trauma like death or divorce.

Stay Motivated

  • Counting calories diary

Sometimes getting started with a new healthy diet and fitness plan is the easy part. Many of us hit occasional roadblocks due to busy schedules, loss of motivation, or weight loss plateaus.

Those are the times when we feel like we do everything right, but the scale doesn’t seem to budge. When this happens, don’t give up. Think back to why you made the goal in the first place and find the inspiration you need to get back on track. Be sure to celebrate your small successes too!

Portion Control is the Most Important Aspect of Healthy Eating

Portion Control is the Most Important Aspect of Healthy Eating

Ask Mr. Pedometer and Friends…

December 12, 2018

Q:  Mr. Pedometer, you have said that portion control is the most important aspect of healthy eating.  Can you elaborate on that?     

A:  Sure!  Everyday Health recently offered the following advice in their newsletter on this topic:

Twenty years ago, the average blueberry muffin was 1.5 ounces and 210 calories. Today, most muffins are 5 ounces and 500 calories.  A bagel used to be 3 inches and 140 calories, but now is 6 inches and 350 calories or more.

When eating out, you can estimate serving sizes by comparing them to familiar objects — for example,

  • One cup is about the size of a tennis ball, and
  • One serving of meat, which is about 3 ounces, should be the size of a deck of playing cards.
  • A serving of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal should equal the size of a small computer mouse.

It’s easy to grab a big bottle of juice and chug it down without thinking — and without reading the nutrition label first. But it’s important to read food labels carefully when monitoring portion sizes. Start with the calorie count, but then look beyond that.

Many beverage and food packages contain more than you might think. What seems like a single serving might actually be two. And if it contains two servings, the number of calories in the container must be doubled as well.

Common sense should tell you that all-you-can-eat buffets are a bad idea for everyone.  dinner plate with portions drawn on itWith big plates and the ability to endlessly refill them, portion control becomes a losing battle. If confronted with this type of dining experience, vow to use at most only two plates.

  • Choose low-calorie, low-carb foods like shrimp and raw veggies for the first plate to help take the edge off of your hunger.

Follow your usual meal plan for the second. This second plate will typically include more non-starchy vegetables,

  • A fist-size serving of a grain and
  • An open-palm size portion of fish or chicken.

Buying smaller plates or using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate are good options.

This is a tangible portion control method that’s hard to circumvent. Be sure to fill half your reduced-size plate with vegetables or salad, one-quarter with a starch food, and one-quarter with protein. This is a great way to monitor portion sizes and trick your eye into thinking you’re eating more because the plate will look fuller.

Asking for a doggy bag when eating out is an easy way to practice portion control.

With so many restaurants taking a bigger-is-better approach to portion sizes, you’re left to rely on nothing more than willpower for portion control. Taking leftovers home is a good idea, but don’t wait until the end of the meal — ask your server to package half your entrée before it makes it to the table or cut it in half yourself before starting to eat to remove temptation.

  • Sharing a meal with a friend and
  • ordering an appetizer instead of an entree are other possible ways to avoid overeating.

Supersizing is a supersized danger when it comes to portion control. Avoid it at all costs. The average soda today is 20 ounces and 250 calories — Compare that to 20 years ago when it was 6.5 ounces and 82 calories. Don’t get carried away with bigger portion sizes just because it’s a good deal for your wallet. Your waist and health will pay for it.

Another reason to say no to sodas is their notable lack of nutrition. Many beverages tend to deliver empty calories.  Beverages don’t satisfy hunger…. Choose water or diet beverages instead. If you occasionally indulge in a regular soda or juice, read the label for the portion size information and practice portion control.

Especially during this holiday season, practicing portion control is a healthy habit!

If you’re looking for more information about portion control, check out Mr. Pedometer’s Blog