SparkPeople Nutrition Expert and Registered and Licensed Dietitian
Becky Hand earned a bachelor's degree in food, nutrition and dietetics from Marian College and a master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. Becky has more than 25 years of nutrition experience in hospital and community settings. She is passionate about improving the health and wellness of people in her rural community as well as the lives of people throughout the world via SparkPeople. Becky is involved in numerous food, nutrition and health education activities, including nationwide presentations for SparkPeople conventions. A licensed and registered dietitian with a certificate in weight management from the American Dietetic Association, she also teaches weight-management classes for children and adults, conducts cooking classes and food demonstrations, and assists school districts in implementing wellness policies. Becky hosts a weekly nutrition radio talk show, writes articles for newspapers and magazines, and provides food and nutrition coverage on television.
Whether Becky is talking to schoolchildren, a scout troop, college students, high school athletes, a women's club, church group, or corporate America, she wants her nutrition messages to be practical, easy to apply and fun! She utilizes humor and hands-on activities to involve the audience in her presentations and assists them in setting realistic goals and action plans.
As SparkPeople's Head Dietitian, Becky stays on top of the most current nutrition research and provides nutritional recommendations for the SparkPeople websites. She also advises members by writing and reviewing food and nutrition articles and answering questions on the message boards.
Becky also blogs for Huffington Post Healthy Living. Read her posts.
More from Becky: The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body HealthSparkPeople's Ultimate Grilling Guide: 75 Hearty, Healthy Recipes You Can Really Sink Your Teeth IntoThe 8-Week Diabetes Weight Loss Challenge from SparkPeople
Read More of Becky's Blogs:
"I'm fat because of Oreo cookies!" screamed the woman as she entered the weight-loss class I was coaching last week. In hand, she waved the press release from Connecticut College, which blared the warning, "Oreos are just as addictive as drugs!"
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"I am addicted to certain foods, just like those rats were addicted to Oreo cookies," she continued on. "It's supposed to be worse than being addicted to cocaine. How am I ever going to be successful with my weight loss?"
The Fourth of July is a time for flags, fireworks, food and fun! It’s also a time to remember that safe and convenient food has not always been readily available in our country. Today, the average person spends about 50 minutes in the kitchen each day preparing meals—about five minutes for breakfast, 15 minutes for lunch and up to 30 minutes for dinner. In colonial America, cooks would slave away over the stove for hours. Talk about your American Revolution!
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However, some of our modern dining habits actually do bear similarities to those of our colonial ancestors. Beef, chicken, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables and baked products would have been familiar foods in colonial times. Colonial cooks used some of the same cooking methods we still use today, like frying, baking, broiling and boiling. And while the colonists enjoyed their coffee, tea, and hot chocolate like we do, they didn’t have a Starbucks in every neighborhood!
Not much else was the same. While we may not know exactly what George Washington ate for dinner on July Fourth, we do know several things about the preparation of foods in 1776. Here are a few highlights:
I’ll admit it up front: I am a snacker. In fact, I have a snack twice a day. My body screams for food around three p.m. every day, even though I make a point to eat breakfast and lunch. If I ignore the hunger, I end up grabbing and devouring handfuls of chips or cookies as soon as I get home around five p.m. Therefore, I plan ahead and have a non-perishable snack stashed in my desk drawer at all times, usually homemade trail mix.
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My second snack attack hits in the evening, and is not related to true belly hunger at all. In the evening, I want to eat food for comfort. You know what I’m talking about. At the end of a long day, all I seem to want is chocolate ice cream along with my favorite TV show, book or magazine.
There is nothing inherently wrong with snacking. In fact, snacking can help with weight loss by warding off afternoon and evening binge eating. However, the snack should be factored into your total calorie intake for the day, and should contain about 150 calories. A balanced snack should have about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates and three to five grams of protein.
Unfortunately, this type of healthy snacking is NOT happening in America, for children or adults. While I know you are probably not really surprised by this statement, you may be surprised at the numbers.
People often ask me what foods they should be eating. I think they expect that as a dietitian, I'll tell them they have to eat pricey, trendy health foods to lose weight. No way! I'm passionate about spreading the word that you can lose weight and get healthy as a family while sticking to a budget. That's why I'm so excited to share today's blog with you! It's a great resource for those of you who are new to healthy cooking or who don't know what to put in your cart at the supermarket.
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What a great feeling! You’re driving home from work and automatically know that you have the ingredients in your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer to whip up a meal for your family in mere minutes. No need to waste time or money with another trip to the grocery store or fast food joint. Ah! Sit back, relax and enjoy the music.
The foods picked for this pantry list are ideal choices for weight loss--lower in calories, yet packed with nutrition. They are also commonly available, budget friendly, familiar to most, and liked by many. Their flavors and textures mesh well for tasty food combinations. These "mix and match" marvels will have you making magic in the kitchen in minutes.
I've divided my list into food groups for easier shopping and included serving suggestions, too.
"Weight loss is really hard---but maintaining that weight loss is even harder!" If anyone out there agrees with this statement; please raise your hand.
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That’s what I thought. There are lots of hands held high. It seems that most people struggle with the yo-yo syndrome: lose the weight, gain the weight, lose the weight, gain the weight. But, what’s a dieter to do? Perhaps it is time to put the cart before the horse.
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine recently conducted a "switcharoo" when it came to weight loss and weight maintenance. They took 267 overweight and obese females and divided them into two groups. The control group went through a traditional 20-week weight-loss program followed by an eight-week maintenance phase.
The test group went through the eight-week maintenance phase first, and then focused on weight loss for 20 weeks. The results were surprising to say the least, and significant. While each group lost about the same amount of weight--17 pounds or 9% of their initial body weight--the "maintenance-first" group only gained back three pounds at their one-year follow-up but the "weight loss first" group had gained back seven pounds, on average.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it! But guess what? Those women who first spent eight weeks mastering the tools, techniques and skills for weight maintenance were better equipped mentally and physically to handle the day-in, day-out struggle of their toxic food environment after the 28-week program was completed. Are you itching to discover how?
Spring is right around the corner, and as I glance around my home, I see that a thorough cleaning is in order. Dust bunnies are multiplying under my bed, spider webs are glistening on my chandelier, and a layer of dust has settled on all places too difficult to comfortably reach.
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As I strategically plan my upcoming cleaning project, I start to wonder if my body is also in need of a cleaning, so to speak.
Like many of you, I tend to go into hibernation mode during the winter months. With less daylight hours and physical work to do outside, along with an influx of sugary treats and comfort foods, my body has been insulated by an added layer of fat. I'm surely not alone in feeling this way, judging from the number of questions we field on the site about detox diets this time of year.
While the idea of cleaning out harmful toxins in your body or removing body fat quickly may sound tempting and even beneficial, is a detox the answer?
Before you jump on the raspberry ketone bandwagon, there are a few things you should know about this over-priced, proclaimed weight-loss miracle in a bottle. I tell you what they don't want you to know about raspbery ketones, in my latest blog on Huffington Post. Click here to read it.
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For years, the Mediterranean "diet" has been touted by many nutrition experts as a way to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and more, but the advice had been loosely based on the results of "observational studies." People living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, tend to have a lower risk of those diseases. These folks consume a bounty of fresh and wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
However, the evidence favoring a Mediterranean-style eating plan just got much stronger. A major clinical study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine found that about 30% of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented with a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Test subjects for this experimental study were selected if they had risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as type 2 diabetes, smoker, hypertension, elevated LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, overweight or obesity, or a family history of premature heart disease. The scientists randomly assigned the 7,447 male and female subjects (ages 55-80) into one of three groups:
- Mediterranean diet plan plus 4 tablespoons olive oil daily
- Mediterranean diet plan plus a 1 ounce mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), or
- A low-fat diet plan
The Mediterranean-style eating plan clearly provided a protective boost for these test subjects who had risk factors for heart disease.
The results of this study now position the Mediterranean diet as a powerful eating plan when it comes to the prevention of heart disease. If you want to compare your daily diet to the Mediterranean plan used in the study, here's the checklist:
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Recently my teenage son and I found ourselves killing time at the grocery store while waiting for the pharmacy to fill a prescription. Surrounded by an array of protein supplements and energy drinks, my typical "tell mom only what is absolutely necessary" son was full of questions and comments.
Our discussion about energy drinks was interesting--and somewhat disturbing--on several levels. As any mom knows, it is important to not pass judgment or show signs of shock if you want the conversation to continue. This little discussion led me to the following conclusions:
- Energy drinks are very popular with teens and young adults (no surprise there)
- It is a generational thing: I have my coffee; they have their energy drinks.
- Shop-lifting the energy shots (the small, concentrated bottles, including 5 Hour Energy, which I've written about in the past) is common. Some stores are placing these under lock and key.
- Savvy marketers have convinced our teens and young adults that energy drinks can provide them with a mental and physical edge. Therefore they are being used in large quantities both on a daily basis and before academic testing and sporting events.
All this got me thinking again about the energy drink phenomenon. This fast-growing beverage category now reaches more than $10 billion annually
. But what is the impact on the health of adults, teens and children?
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For the first time in its 14 seasons, the hit weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser is featuring obese children. If you've seen the show, you know that the producers have made some changes to the show's formula for these kids.
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Find out my thoughts on this change to the show--and get tips to help your own family--in my latest blog on Huffington Post Healthy Living.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE BLOG
What do you think? Should children under 18 be allowed to participate in shows such as these?
Thanks for your thought-provoking comments on my last blog for Huffington Post, about how downplaying the obesity epidemic harms public health. I appreciate your continued input and insight to this community and my blogs.
I've started blogging over at Huffington Post Healthy Living, where twice a month I'll write about the latest headlines in nutrition and weight loss.
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This week I'm addressing the issue of downplaying the severity of the obesity epidemic in the media. I'd love it if you could read the blog and let me know what you think:
Why Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic, Even in a Single Story, is Hazardous to Public Health
I turned the corner and headed down aisle #6--the baking section of my local grocery store--eyes peeled for the "new kid" on the shelf. The new zero-calorie sweetener, Nectresse from the makers of Splenda. There it was, in canister and packet form. The label read: "100% natural" and "made from monk fruit." Really? 100% natural? Made from monk fruit?
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Now, it was time to investigate.
What is monk fruit? Monk fruit (a dark-green, plum size fruit) comes from the plant, Siraitia grosvenorii, which is native to southern China and northern Thailand. The fruit also goes by the names Swingle fruit, Buddha fruit, luo han guo or luo han kuo. This fruit is noted for its intense sweetness, which comes from naturally occurring sweet constituents called mogrosides. In pure form, mogrosides are up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. There are five different mogrosides, numbered from I to V, with mogroside V being the desired component. To remove the interfering components and aromas, manufacturers used an ethanol solvent solution.
How do they extract the sweetener? The end product is a powdered concentrate of mogroside V which is about 150 times sweeter than table sugar (depending on the mogroside V concentration). This non-nutritive sweetener is calorie-free and diabetic-safe, as it does not raise blood sugar levels. The powdered concentrate is very soluble in water and ethanol, heat stable, and can be stored for long periods of time without changes in taste, smell, or appearance.
Is it safe to eat? It is classified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). Therefore, it can be used as a tabletop sweetener, as a food and beverage ingredient (gums, baked goods, snack bars, candy, drinks, etc), or as a component in other sweetener blends (since it may have an aftertaste at higher levels on its own). There is very preliminary research investigating possible health benefits—anti-cancer properties, antioxidant activities, benefits for diabetes with insulin production. However, much more research is needed before any health claims can be made.
What is in Nectresse? And is it 100% natural?
It hit the airwaves in December 1975 and became the number 1 song by February 1976. I was a freshman in high school, and although I didn’t have any experience in the "leaving a lover" department, the catchy lyrics of the Paul Simon hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” sure stuck in my head. No disrespect to Mr. Simon, but with the new year quickly approaching, I tweaked a few lines of his hit song to inspire you in coming up with your own “50 Ways to Lose Your Blubber.” Heck, I’ll even help you get started by sharing the first 15.
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You make a new plan, Stan
Count calories too, Sue
Cut the sugar and fat, Pat
Weighing portions is key.
Use a smaller plate, Kate
Just mindfully crunch and munch
Watch less T.V., Lee
And set your fat free!
In 2013, I resolve to…
The wassailers arrived on stage during the local production of the Boar’s Head Yule Log Festival. Their voices boomed, yet blended beautifully.
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Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.
Sitting in front of me was a little girl. She turned to the woman sitting next to her: “Mommy, Mommy,” she asked. “What’s a wassailer?”
Back in the day, the Christmas season made the rich a little more generous. Therefore bands of peasants and beggars would dance and sing their way through the streets of England in hopes of obtaining drinks from the wealthy's wassail bowls, which contained a hearty combination of hot ale, beer, apple slices, and spices. 'Twas a perfect brew to warm a frozen nose and tingling toes, and these singers would head from home to home searching for more.
Since those carolers were walking door-to-door, they probably expended the wassail calories and didn't worry much about packing on the pounds. Today however, this is probably not the case. Not only can we blame alcohol for our weight gain, but many of us are drinking our calories instead of reaching for nutrient-dense foods.
A recently released data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported on the calories consumed from alcoholic beverages by 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007-2010. This information was obtained from adults, ages 20 and older, using 24-hour dietary recall interviews. The results are shocking!
Fasting has long been touted as a healthy process with many benefits such as cleaning the system, ridding the body of so-called toxins, benefiting the intestinal track, boosting metabolism, and jumpstarting weight loss. However none of these notions is true, nor is any of them backed up by medical research.
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While a short-term fast probably won’t harm most people, it could be quite dangerous for others, depending on their medical conditions, health histories, and medication use. I strongly urge you to talk to your physician before ever starting or considering a fast.
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