Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

8 Steps to Surviving Holiday Weight Gain

Posted by deborah neiman on Sat, Dec 07, 2013 @ 10:48 AM

Check out this great article from Cleveland Clinic on how to avoid holiday weight gain.

Get a head start this year and schedule a consultation with Dr. Neiman TODAY! (908) 470-2235.

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How to avoid holiday weight gain

It seems to happen every holiday season.

You attend parties and office gatherings to share a few festive moments with family, friends, colleagues and lots and lots of food. But when the holiday season is finally over, the bathroom scale reveals that you’ve gained some weight again, much to your chagrin.

Research studies show most adults gain some weight over the holidays. But don’t despair because this year can be different.

“I recommend to my patients that they just try to keep their current weight, as opposed to focusing on losing weight,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation. “Even though it’s hard to resist temptations all around you, there are simple steps you can take that can keep the extra holiday pounds off.”

How can you try to maintain your weight and heart-health during such a tempting time? We’ve conjured up these tips to surviving the holiday hoop-la that is sure-fire success – this season and in the future ones to come.

1. Get moving

One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity (*).To burn off those extra calories, kick up your exercise. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, increase it to 45 minutes. If you exercise three times a week, move it up to five times a week.

Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year (remember those iced reindeer cookies you had with lunch?). Here are some ideas to get you moving:

  • If you have a stationery bicycle or treadmill at home, dust it off and put it in front of the television or radio for some background entertainment while you’re exercising. Why not watch your favorite television show and exercise at the same time?
  • Go to the library and get a book on tape or CD, listen to it and read (so-to-speak) as you exercise.
  • Haven’t used your gym-pass in awhile? Hire a personal trainer to teach you effective calorie-burning techniques, or join that kick boxing class you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Go for a morning or evening walk alone or with a friend.
  • Put a little kick in your cleaning technique. Fire up some music and dance while you clean. Who ever knew cleaning could be so fun?
  • Have bad knees or other joints? Don’t worry – water aerobics or swimming is your answer! The water prevents your weight bearing down on the joints and is an effective way to burn calories.

(*) If you haven’t exercised in at least 6-months, check with your doctor first before starting.

2. Aim for seven-a-day

Making sure you eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. When compared to other snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies, gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and tons more nutrients. What’s more – the fiber in fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than traditional snack foods. Pack your refrigerator with bags of cut-up vegetables and whole or cut-up fruits. Grab a bag while on the go or at work. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll eat your five-a-day before you snack on any cookies or other holiday treats. You’re sure to take in fewer calories overall.

3. Control the risk for temptation

Controlling even the slightest chance of coming in contact with ‘tempting’ foods is one way to effectively reduce your intake. While you won’t be able to control all situations, focus on the many ones you can. For example, do you keep candy or cookies at your desk or workspace? Do you frequent the dining room table or pantry where you store all your holiday goodies? Make a mental note of tempting places and try to control them. For example, make a pact with co-workers that goodies will be kept solely in the break room, not at the front desk or in various offices. Mentally plan out how you will avoid tempting situations. If you can’t avoid them entirely, see number 4.

4. Limit to one-a-day

While you can’t control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. If you aren’t confronted with holiday foods that day, just skip your one-a-day – but don’t compensate and double-up on your serving the next day.

5. Always plan ahead – Never go to a party hungry

Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres.

“If you’re going to a potluck dinner, bring a healthy dish to share such as a salad, veggie or fruit tray, or a low-fat pudding, Jell-O or fruit dessert,” says Zumpano. “That way, you’ll know you have at least one healthy item on the table spread.”

6. Be in charge of your party choices:
  • Small plate, please
    Be wise when choosing appetizers – a small portion of some appetizers may help you from overeating at dinner.
    “Pick up a small plate, and stick with vegetables, but limit or avoid the creamy dips,” advises Zumpano. "Restrict your intake of butter crackers, chips, cheese and meats. If you must have a deep-fried appetizer, eat only one small serving. Never go back for seconds. For dinner, fill half of your plate with salad and vegetables, one quarter with meat, and the final quarter with starch,” Zumpano says.
  • Avoid the sauce
    Avoid sauces made from cream, half-and-half or meat drippings. For salads, use oil and vinegar, vinaigrette or low-fat dressings. Broth -based or vegetable sauces are fine.
  • What about desserts?
    The best low-calorie choices are fruit, Jell-O, pudding, an unfrosted mini muffin, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or angel food cake. If you must have a dessert with frosting, butter cream, cream cheese, or chocolate chips, limit yourself to one small cookie or one thin slice of cake.
  • Watch the drinks
    “Besides restricting your alcohol to one or two servings, you also need to restrict the type of alcohol,” says Zumpano. “For example, instead of high-fat eggnog, have a light beer or wine. After that, stick with calorie-free drinks such as water, unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee.”
7. Say No Politely

Many times you feel forced to eat foods because people keep putting it in front of you. Learn to say no politely, such as "No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious", or "I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful". You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.

8. Focus on socializing

Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. Conversation is calorie-free.

Remember, the holidays are meant to celebrate good times with family and friends. Enjoy the holidays and plan effective strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Achieving what you sought out for will give you one more good reason for holiday cheer! Happy Holidays!

Tags: Personal Weight Loss, Exercise, diet, Diet and Nutrition, healthy eating, Dr. Neiman, Doctor Supervised Weight Loss, Step Ahead exercise classes, healthy thanksgiving recipes, Healthy, Healthy Meals, Physician Weight Loss, Healthy Recipes, Prevention Heart Disease, online nutrition, Physician Weight Center, OptiFast, Doctor, motivation, holiday weight loss, Healthy Halloween, wellness, healthy entertaining, Step Ahead Wellness Center

“Chew your food more before swallowing.”

Posted by deborah neiman on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 @ 11:34 AM

Did you know that chewing more may be one way to reduce food intake and potentially help with weight management? Check out this great article below for the scoop.

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Chewing More Could Mean Eating Less

Author Info

Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

Chewing food more was shown to reduce total food intake in a group of normal weight and overweight people

November 14, 2013

(dailyRx News) When midday hunger hits and it's time to eat, you might not be thinking about how much you chew your food. But by doing so, you could end up eating less.


A recent study found a significant decrease in the amount of food eaten when people chewed their food more.

The authors of this study noted that chewing more may be one way to reduce food intake and potentially help with weight management.

Chew your food more before swallowing.

This study was led by James H. Hollis, PhD, of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. The research team examined whether increasing the number of chews before swallowing food affected meal size in normal weight, overweight and obese people.

Dr. Hollis and colleagues analyzed data from 45 people between the ages of 18 and 45 in Ames, Iowa.

People were excluded from this study if they had previously used or were currently using tobacco products, were underweight, had a history of gastrointestinal disease, were on medication that altered appetite, were dieting or restricting calories, were allergic to the test foods or were pregnant or lactating.

At the beginning of the study, participants were given five servings of Tostino’s pizza rolls and asked to report how many times they chewed their food before swallowing. A researcher sat with each participant to confirm this number.

After this assessment, participants attended three test sessions during their usual lunch time. Each test session was seven days apart.

On each test day, participants were asked to eat their usual breakfast and to avoid alcohol or strenuous exercise for 24 hours before the test session. They were also told not to eat or drink any food after breakfast, with the exception of water, until the test session began.

During the test session, each participant was given 60 Tostino’s pizza rolls. They were told how many times they had to chew before swallowing. Some participants were told to chew their food the same number of times that they chewed at the beginning of the study, some were told to increase their number of chews by 50 percent and some were told to double their number of chews.

Food intake, meal duration, average eating rate and appetite ratings were recorded at the end of every meal for all test sessions.

The researchers found that participants who increased their number of chews by 50 percent ate 9.5 percent less than participants who were told to chew their food the same number of times.

Participants who doubled their number of chews decreased their food intake by about 15 percent compared to those who were told to chew their food the same number of times.

The researchers also found that increasing the number of chews increased meal duration and reduced eating rate.

The researchers did not find a significant difference, however, in appetite ratings between the groups.

The authors of this study noted that normal weight participants had a slower eating rate than overweight and obese participants, which supports previous research. They concluded that more studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of increased chewing on body weight.

This study was published on November 9 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The study authors reported no competing interests.

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Lose Weight With Your Smartphone!

Posted by deborah neiman on Thu, Nov 07, 2013 @ 12:29 PM

Step Ahead's Nutritionist shares her favorite nutrition and exercise apps of the week.....CalCutter, Meal Makeovers, and Moves! 

1- CalCutter

PLATFORM: Android and Apple
SUMMARY: Developed by the New York Department of Health, CalCutter calculates the estimated calories per serving in personal recipes and serves up healthy cooking tips. Recipe entry is easy, and recipes can be adjusted for different serving sizes. The app includes helpful information on topics like the impact of oil and zero-calories ingredients on recipe nutrient data, but the ingredient database is limited. 
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PLATFORM: Apple and Android
SUMMARY: Moves is a pedometer app that uses activity and place recognition algorithms to track steps taken or walking, running and cycling miles (when the mobile device is on the users person). The app can track calories burned based on users' anthropometric data, and it records weekly and daily summaries. But unless disabled, the app runs continuously, draining device battery life. 
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3- Meal Makeovers

SUMMARY: From the kitchen of registered dietitian team the Meal Makeover Moms, Meal Makeovers is a recipe app that features healthier, more nutrient-rich versions of family favorites. With an easy-to-use interface that allows users to share recipes and save favorites, tips to tweak recipes to a family's taste preferences and basic nutrition information for all recipes, this app makes meal planning easier for families on the go. 

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Happy Halloween Everyone!

Posted by deborah neiman on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 @ 01:00 PM

Happy Halloween from all of us at Step Ahead! Below you will find 10 living healthy naturally tricks and treats for a healthy Halloween. Enjoy! 

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Healthy Halloween Tricks

1. Create a sugar budget.
We have talked about the importance of budgeting sugar in past articles, but this is extremely important at Halloween. Sugar weakens the immune system, making us all more vulnerable to colds and other viral infections. (1) Children and adults should keep total sugar under 6 teaspoons per day, or 40 grams. Remember that is the amount of sugar in half a can of coke or in a quarter of a cupcake.

In the days leading up to Halloween, help your children decide where their sugar budget will be spent. We use the concept of "sugar dollars" to help maintain our sugar budget. After trick or treating, put candy away and limit amount consumed per day. Creative ideas include trading candy in for money, giving candy away to those less fortunate and creating a neighborhood "candy bank" that can be used for specific gatherings.

2. Eat before trick-or-treating or parties.
Attending the festivities on a full stomach can prevent overindulgence during trick or treating or holiday festivities. Getting plenty of protein, water and fiber before leaving the house will help control cravings for high sugar foods.

3. Walk throughout the neighborhood.
Make Halloween an active holiday, by walking throughout your neighborhood. Exercise helps to metabolize sugar and activate digestive enzymes. Daily exercise through the holiday season, will prevent excessive weight gain, while boosting immune function. (2) This is true for children and adults.

4. Buy treats other than candy.
Giving out a variety of treats, including toys, crayons, gift certificates and candy will help to minimize everyone's exposure to sugar. Try to pick candy with fewer dyes or artificial sweeteners, since some children may have reactions.

5. Create a neighborhood Halloween / holiday action committee.
Working together in the neighborhood to minimize sugar exposure may also help prevent your children from a candy coma. Maybe only two houses give out candy, while the others give out other treats.

6. Start your cold-and-flu prevention strategy now.
There are many natural herbs and supplements that build immunity and decrease our chances of catching viral infections. My favorite is astragalus, a Chinese herb,that acts as an antiviral and antibacterial. I recommend taking this every day, but increasing to three times per day at the onset of cold symptoms. The average starting dose is 500 milligrams for adults and 250 milligrams for children. Increasing vitamin D3 supplementation may also help. Most adults benefit from daily supplementation between October and March with 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, while children should be supplemented with 1,000 IU per day.

7. Begin juicing.
Juicing is another great trick-and treat to boost immunity and energy. Juicing increases the concentration of antioxidants in the body, resulting in a higher oxygen state. When juicing, I often advise my patients to have fun: mix colors and different types of fruits and vegetables, but always pair any bitter with a sweet fruit or vegetable. My favorites are apple, pineapple and honey or apple, carrot and ginger. I recommend juicing at least four times per week.

8. Prepare your spice cabinet for cold-and-flu season.
So many great herbs and spices keep our immune system balanced and have antiviral properties. Garlic and onions are powerful antivirals, found also in a homeopathic remedy, allium cepa. Soups with garlic and onions often seem to help colds by increasing antiviral activity. Turmeric and cayenne pepper are anti inflammatories and can help thin nasal secretions. Keep these stocked in your kitchen and add in your favorite recipes.

9. Create a stress-management plan.
With holidays, stress often increases and many of us will neglect our self care rituals. Finding 15 minutes per day to "zone out" or relax can help boost immune function. Regular acupuncture, massage and yoga provide immune support by lowering cortisol, our stress hormone.

10. Sleep.
Sleep, finally, is the ultimate protector of the immune system. Both children and adults should maintain consistent sleep schedules through the holidays. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep, while most children need 10 hours. "Sleeping in" does not compensate for an irregular sleep cycle through the week.

This Halloween, begin treating yourself to a proactive healthy regimen using these living healthy naturally tricks. Starting now, as we prepare for Halloween, guarantees a healthy winter.

Tags: Personal Weight Loss, Health Halloween Recipes, healthy eating, Dr. Neiman, Fitness, Healthy, Physician Weight Loss, Doctor, Weight Loss Center, Healthy Halloween, healthy entertaining, lose weight fast, Step Ahead Wellness Center, Skinny Halloween